Not-Your-Average Shepherd’s Pie

I’ve always thought that a vegan restaurant touting all of “the ol’ faves” would be a hit no matter where in the world it was located. Well, as long as the “ol’ faves” in question were geographically appropriate. As a relatively long-time vegan, nothing tickles me more than revamping and tweaking those tried-and-true recipes so that I can enjoy them as a vegan. Some are easier than others, Shepherd’s Pie being an excellent example. Now you could go the safe, easy route and just substitute the ground round with soy ground round (after sautéing and seasoning of course), but where’s the fun in that?  And what would happen if soy ground round wasn’t available? The answer, as usual, lies with the lentil. It’s cold and rainy here today, so I’m going to go with some old-school Radiohead to complete the mood – let’s listen to the Ok Computer album.

I think I'd actually add a bit more corn to this particular batch... You can never have too much corn!

Gather up the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tsp vegan Worchestershire sauce (optional because it’s not always easily available)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried sage
  •  2 bay leaves
  • 6 medium potatoes, roughly chopped into hunks (feel free to substitute regular potatoes for sweet potatoes, or a combo of the two)
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped into hunks
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vegan EarthBalance butter (see “staples“)
  • 1/4 cup soy milk (if you don’t have any on hand just use more butter.. yum yum yum)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • roughly 2 cups corn kernels (canned or frozen is fine)

Toss lentils, water, tamari, Worchestershire sauce, nutritional yeast, onion powder, cayenne pepper, sage and bay leaves in a pot, stir well and bring to a boil. Simmer with lid on for at least 45 minutes to an hour, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove bay leaves and set aside. Don’t drain (yet)!

While the lentils are cooking, wash and chop potatoes and the carrot into chunks. I try not to peel  much off my potatoes because it gives them a great chunky texture, but hey, we all march to the beat of our own drum. Toss them into a pot and add just enough water to cover the chunks. Add a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, with the lid on, and simmer potatoes for about 10 minutes or until the pieces are soft (depends on how big your pieces are). When they’re cooked, drain them, add butter, soy milk, salt,  pepper and nutritional yeast and mash to your heart’s content.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grab your lentils, drain off a little of the remaining liquid (but not all if you want your shepherd’s pie to be a saucey lil’ thing) and pour them into a baking dish (9×9 or 11×7 usually works), or if you’re in the mood for a little extra work, sauté the lentils in a frying pan with an already browned chopped onion and 2 cloves of garlic. You can also give them a bit of a mash if you prefer the “meat” layer to be a bit more cohesive than I show in the above photo. Either way is tasty, I assure you. Anyway, once they’re ready, put them in the dish and pat them down, then add the corn as a second layer. Finally, carefully add the mashed potatoes as the final layer and spread them out, doing your best not to uproot the corn in the process. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast and/or a few curls of butter across the top (both optional) and stick your soon-to-be delectable shepherd’s pie in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and let it sit for a sec before cutting into ginormous (optional) and hearty (not optional) portions. Best served with a lil’ squirt of ketchup for added pizazz.

Thanks to my Darling for showing me the beauty of the lentil.

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