March 13, 2016

Recipe: Shepherd's Pie (All-Vegan All-Star!)

Vegan shepherd's pie

One essential part of managing my stomach issues is managing my stress!  One big relief is not worrying about "what to eat" after a long busy work-day.  I also worry about good nutrition -- eating "right" takes time.  

(Even for the most efficient of us, right?  When your day is full of work stuff, commuting, household chores, family commitments, and trying to exercise/breathe -- it can be exhausting to squeeze in home-cooking, even with meal plans, organized buying, and quick kitchen hands.)

Casseroles are my go-to for quick and good home-made meals!  A few months ago, I decided I was going to master a vegan Shepherd's Pie.  I love the idea of mashed potatoes topping -- and all those greenmarket roots look so happy under there together.   After studying several recipes in my book collection (Moosewood, Veganomicon and others) and online (including the Minimalist Baker's pie), I ended up with my take on it.  

And, as an easy to digest meal for cranky guts -- this one is so comforting and easy to tolerate for me. 


SHEPHERD'S PIE (ALL-VEGAN ALL-STAR!)

Ingredients: 



Amounts can and may vary depending on what you have available.  Generally, this is my favorite ratio:

Vegetable filling:
2 large or 3 medium parsnips, chopped 
3 medium carrots, chopped 
1 large leek, thinly sliced 
2 medium sweet potatoes (yellow or white), chopped 
3 cloves garlic, minced/pressed 

Optional:  Celeriac (that knobby thing in the photo) really adds flavor and texture to the dish.  I've made this with and without and prefer the celeriac.  I also have added celeriac to the boiling potatoes and mash it along for the topping.

Middle layer:
2/3 C. - 1 C. coarsely chopped walnuts 
1 16 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed (or 2 cans if you want more "middle layer").  I like the Brad's Organic beans shown here or any BPA-free can (or dried beans if you have time to prep them!)

Potato topping:
4-6 potatoes for the mashed topping, or enough to cover your pan of choice.

I usually use 4-6 potatoes.  Yukon or other white potatoes look the most "professional," but I have experimented with adding red and/or purple potatoes as well -- though the result looks not so appealing for guests.  :)   You can peel the potatoes for a more polished look but I always leave the nutritious and tasty skin on my mashed potatoes.  

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. Prep the vegetables:  peel and chop the parsnips, carrots, leeks and sweets, and celeriac if using.  A uniform size is key, on the smaller side is ideal.  But you don't have to use a ruler or worry too much about it -- just get everything about the same size!

2. In a large skillet (cast iron is exceptional for this), add a few spoonfuls of water and the leeks.   Cover with lid.  Cook for a minute and add the rest of the vegetables and garlic.  Cover with lid to "steam sauce" until softened.  Stir occasionally, adding more water as needed.

Vegetables soften up during the steam-saute.  Don't forget to cover with lid. 
3.  While this cooks down, make the mashed potatoes.  I literally mean "mashed potatoes."  I boil them, drain the water, and mash them.  No salt, no vegan butter or oil of any kind, no soy milk or other liquid.  Just mash 'em.  I leave the skin on because I like the taste and "all the vitamins are in the skin," as we learned years ago.  I also like how rustic it makes the dish look.  

4. Make the middle layer/filling:  take rinsed can of kidney beans and combine with nuts.  Blend very well so beans get smooshed with the nuts.  I have found the best technique is to just knead this together with your hands.   I usually start with less nuts and taste as I blend to get the right flavor.    

5.  In an 8x8 or 9x11 pan, spread the softened vegetable mixture.

6.  Spread the bean-nut mixture on top of this.  I have used one can and it doesn't fully cover the vegetables, but you can use 2 cans for a more thorough cover.  Whatever you prefer!    You will see it doesn't look pretty while you are putting this together...
  
This will transform and look much better after it is cooked!

7. Toss the mashed potato on top.   Do not press down -- you want this to be "thrown" together so the potatoes are not flattened.  (You could use a fork to make interesting patterns, and help with browning, but I had a great result by just literally "globbing" on the potatoes. 



8. Put in oven, uncovered, and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.   Check to see if "browned" and cooked through to your liking.  (You could eat the whole thing already, without baking, but the oven gets the potatoes pleasantly dried out on top and makes the nut-bean filling "come together.")

BONUS:  This dish is even better the next day when ingredients have mingled.  AND it freezes very well! 

I like serving with roasted squash (yes, MORE vegetables!) or just eat on its own.  A complete meal in one!





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