Vegan Shepherd's Pie
I have experimented with a few vegan Shepherd’s pie recipes and all of them were alright but lacked a certain something in the flavour department. Without the meat, I think when your cooking something like this, you need to compound flavours to make it truly appealing and flavourful than just a meal that is going to fill you up.
I tried a version of Jamie Oliver’s Shepherd’s pie because I noticed he used a little extra spice along with a wonderful herby and citrusy topping that I think truly made the dish. I used a different combination of veggies according to what I had and I also used green peas instead of adding chickpeas. The chickpeas would be great though, as they will bring a different texture to the pie and that is definitely what you want in a vegan one. You need a variety of textures in it to give it body and also amp up the flavours.
Another thing Jamie adds that I didn’t have at the time but is a great add in is sun dried tomatoes and some of the oil they are packed in. I think that would be a fabulous idea to add in to the filling if you have them on hand. They would add a certain chewiness and ofcourse a bit of a flavour too. They pack sweetness and a bit of tartness that would go well with the dish. Another thing that is worth exploring is adding some harissa paste and also some sweet peppers and chili peppers to the filling. I think it would give this Shepherd’s pie a fabulous and delicious North African twist. I will be trying that the next time.
Ok let’s talk mushrooms next. Why does practically every vegan recipe include mushrooms? You guessed it - texture! They bulk up vegan and vegetarian dishes and add a chewy texture. Many of you hate mushrooms though so an alternative could easily be cubed extra firm tofu or even some diced eggplant. Although I think if you hate the texture of mushrooms you likely hate the texture of eggplant. Another note about the mushrooms though. I dump them into the veggie mix raw but if you like a firmer texture in your mushrooms you can pan fry them separately in a bit of oil or vegan butter in batches until golden brown and then add the balsamic to them before adding them into the veggie mix. Sometimes doing that helps with the slimy texture that is off putting to some. If it’s the actual flavour you hate, then definitely replace them with any of the alternatives above or extra veggies. The key is to bulk up the filling with delicious things, so feel free to be creative.
The ground coriander seed and the thyme really add warmth to the dish and the herby lemon topping over the mashed potatoes adds a nice brightness to the dish and extra flavour and crispy texture. I love it and will use it in my meaty shepherd’s pie as well.
Let’s talk about those mashed potatoes. I love using a combo of regular white potatoes and sweet potatoes which not only adds a little sweetness to the mash but also gives it a nice colour. As I mention in the recipe though feel free to use one or the other or both. Just keep in mind if you go all sweet potato it will sweeten up the dish quite a bit which is totally fine but just saying so you can expect it. That being said that would be a wonderful thing to play up using some maple syrup and sage in the mash and filing. Basically you can see where I’m going with all these options. This recipe is so versatile and can be made into all sorts of versions with many flavour and texture combinations. This is a classic combo and one of my favorites thus far although that harissa version is begging to be made. Do give it a try and be sure to add your twist to it! Enjoy!
for the mashed potatoes
5-7 medium potatoes peeled and chopped into medium to large cubes (I used a mixture of sweet and regular but you can do both or one or the other)
2-3 tbsp of vegan butter, dairy free margarine, cocoa butter, coconut oil or olive oil
½ cup of vegetable broth (can also use coconut milk if not opposed to a bit of a coconutty flavour in your mash)
Salt and pepper to taste
for the mashed potato topping
2 tbsp of olive oil
½ cup of bread crumbs or panko (gluten free breadcrumbs if preferred)
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 spring of rosemary leaves removed from stem and chopped
1 tsp of lemon juice
¼ tsp lemon zest
for the filling
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion chopped
2 large carrots chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
350 grams or approx 1 lb of mushrooms of choice (I used Cremini) cleaned and sliced
2 tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp coriander seeds ground in mortar and pestle (optional)
2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
Splash of red wine approx ¼ cup (optional)
1 tbsp of all purpose flour or flour of your choice
1 can of diced or crushed tomatoes
100 ml of broth or water plus more if needed to thin out sauce
2 cups cooked lentils or from a can
1 cup frozen green peas
¼ cup of fresh parsley chopped
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Place your potatoes in a large pot and fill with cold water covering them with at least a couple inches of water.
- Bring them to a boil and salt the water generously. Then reduce to a fast simmer for approx 10-15 minutes or until soft when pierced with a fork.
- Turn the heat off. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then put them back in the pot.
- Add the oil, vegan butter or whichever one you are using and stir until they are melted.
- Use an electric mixer at medium-low speed or a hand masher to mash the potatoes slightly right in the pot. Pour in the broth and continue mixing until creamy, about 1 minute. Do not over mix. If you want them a little richer then feel free to add a little extra vegan butter or cocoa butter or oil.
- Season with salt and pepper and set aside
- Heat oil in a large sized shallow pan or Dutch oven and add the onions, carrots and celery and garlic along with the ground coriander seed if using, and thyme and cook for approx ten minutes until veggies are tender and getting slightly golden around the edges. Season with salt and pepper to taste
- Add in the mushrooms and balsamic vinegar and cook for another few minutes until mushrooms start to release their juices and become tender approx 5-7 minutes.
- Add the wine if using and let it cook and reduce for another minute.
- Stir in the flour and cook stirring it into the rest of the veggies for a minute (like when you make a roux)
- Add the broth and can of chopped tomatoes stirring the whole time to get a creamy sauce going. Then stir in the lentils and peas and cook for 5-10 minutes until slightly reduced and thickened. Add more broth if needed and sauce is too thick.
- Season again with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley
- Transfer to a baking dish and the spoon over the mashed potatoes on top of the filling and then smooth them evenly with the back of a spoon. Or you can use a fork and scuff them up for a more textured mash.
- For the herbed topping: place the chopped garlic in a small bowl along with the rosemary, lemon juice, lemon zest, bread crumbs and oil and mix well.
- Sprinkle over the mash and place dish on a baking sheet and place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes uncovered and make sure to broil for a couple of minutes at the end of baking to get toasty browned edges on your mash.
- Remove from oven and let it sit for 10 min to cool and set slightly before spooning it out. I’m usually impatient and dig right in and that’s totally ok too!