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vegan shepherd’s pie

Now that Dylan has moved out of the house we’ve resurrected the tradition of Sunday dinners every other week. But because I have Sunday evening roller derby practice and Dylan’s job is evenings (so Sunday is the only evening he has free), we do Sunday lunch instead. This week we needed something soft, suitable for someone who just had their wisdom teeth out and can’t chew, and we thought we’d go with lots of starch and protein smothered in a puddle of fat, so it would have that old fashioned “Sunday dinner” feel.

I’ve made vegan shepherd’s pies before using a mixture of lentils and vegetables for the bottom layer, but have never been satisfied with the way that layer falls apart coming out of the pan. It seems to me that if something is going to be called “pie”, it ought to have a crusty, somewhat solid bottom. I decided to separate the lentils and vegetables into two distinct layers (this turned out to be GENIUS), and using this lentil loaf recipe as inspiration we came up with the best vegan shepherd’s pie we’ve ever had.

june 3 lunch

As with most things we cook, amounts are approximate, so I’m going to do my best to remember roughly what I did. You’ll want to tweak it to your own liking anyway.

Lentil layer:

-1 cup green lentils, cooked until tender (measured before cooking)
-two flax eggs*
-one clove of garlic, crushed
-about two tablespoons of tahini
-two tablespoons of tomato paste (yes, I KNOW, that’s half a can. What a waste!)
-one tablespoon each of: nutritional yeast, soy sauce, molasses (I use blackstrap; maple syrup, agave or whatever your preferred sweetener is would be fine)
-a couple of twists of the black pepper mill
-half a teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano

After the lentils are cooked, drain any excess water, mix in all other ingredients and spread it out in the bottom of your pan. I used a 9 x 12 inch non stick pan and didn’t have to grease it, but if you’re using glass or ceramic you’ll probably need a bit of oil.

Vegetable layer:

-one onion, diced
-half a head of cauliflower, cut in tiny, tiny pieces
-two carrots, cut in tiny, tiny pieces (or bigger if you want it more chunky; this was meant to be mushy to be easy on a sore jaw)
-two ribs of celery, also cut very small
-a few tablespoons of vegetable bouillon** or broth
-water (if using bouillon)
-a tiny amount of olive oil
-salt to taste, if using broth (my bouillon is very, very salty)

Start by cooking the onion in the oil until it’s translucent and beginning to brown, then add the bouillon, about a quarter cup of water, and the other vegetables. Let this cook down, on medium heat, until all of the vegetables are nice and tender, adding water or broth as needed to keep it from drying out. You don’t want this to be too wet. When it’s good and soft, spread it out on top of the lentils.

Mashed potatoes layer:

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how to make mashed potatoes, right? This is where ours wasn’t strictly vegan, as Peter used butter along with soy milk to get them extra soft and fluffy. You can use Earth Balance to make it totally vegan. Spread the potatoes on top of the rest and bake it all in a 375° oven for 40 minutes. While that’s cooking, make the gravy!

The gravy:

This is adapted from the yeast gravy recipe in The Grit Cookbook. The main difference between theirs and mine is that I don’t bother with vegan Worcestershire sauce, and instead use way more soy sauce than the original recipe calls for.

-1 cup Earth Balance
-3/4 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
-3/4 cup nutritional yeast
-2 cups soy milk
-1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 cups water

Melt the Earth Balance in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the flour and nutritional yeast and cook, beating with a whisk, for 4 minutes. This is a pain but necessary to break down the flour to where it can make a nice smooth sauce. Then add the soy milk and continue whisking for up to a minute, until the mixture thickens. Add the soy sauce and water and cook down, still stirring, until it’s at the consistency you want. Now pour it generously all over your delicious pie!***

* to make a flax egg, mix one tablespoon of ground flax seeds with two tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Let it sit for a few minutes until the consistency is disgustingly gelatinous. One tablespoon of flax is rougly equal to one egg in a recipe.

** I keep a container of this vegetable bouillon recipe in the freezer, made without the sundried tomatoes because I don’t like tomato in my soups. It’s got a strong flavour, and two tablespoons was plenty to add a lot of depth to the cooked vegetables.

*** at the table, I mean, not all over the whole pie in the pan. Keep that leftover gravy separate.

Posted by Jodi Green on June 4, 2012 at 5.07pm
Categories: mama's in the kitchen

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