A dinner consisting of Shepherd’s Pie was never a common occurrence for me as a child, and even my adult life didn’t see much of it. Even though Shepherd’s Pie is such a classic dish – and so common in North American households – it just wasn’t something I was exposed to.
A few years ago, I met someone who, quite frankly, made a great tasting Shepherd’s Pie, but it was extremely simple. They would use ground beef, mashed potatoes, and canned cream corn. There were a few other ingredients and seasonings, but that was the jest of it.
Fast forward to sharing a home with the vegetarian, and the ground beef is out of the question. Luckily, a good Shepherd’s Pie can still be had by substituting the ground beef with textured vegetable protein, or by adding lentils. You can really pile in the veggies when preparing this dish, and the more robust, rustic, root vegetables will work best.
Shepherd's Vegetarian Pie
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 stalks celery, finely diced
- 3 small carrots, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup corn, frozen
- 1 cup green peas, frozen
- 1 cup vegetarian beef crumbles
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 2 pounds potatoes, peeled, quartered, and boiled until fork tender
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté half of the onion, all of the celery and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for two additional minutes.
Add the water and allow to cook until the water has evaporated.
Add the Veggie Ground, green peas, corn, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Stir together, reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool.
Next, let's move on to the gravy. Wipe the skillet out with a paper towel, and return to the heat on a medium setting. Add the butter and sauté the remaining onions until translucent. Add the thyme, rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Allow the butter to melt and come to a bubble.
Add the flour and use a whisk to 'cook' the flour into the butter. Be sure to vigorously move the butter and flour around the pan to be sure the floury taste is eliminated.
While continuing to whisk, slowly add the veggie stock one cup at a time, and finally, whisk in the soy sauce. Reduce heat to a low simmer and allow the gravy to thicken. After 5 minutes, remove from heat and pour into a large bowl to cool.
In the meantime, mash the boiled potatoes until very smooth - you will want no lumps at all. Add the butter, milk, a dash of salt and pepper and mix together. Set aside.
Add the vegetable and Veggie Ground mixture back to the skillet. Add half of the gravy and stir to combine. If you prefer a dryer bottom to your Shepherd's Pie, you can move on to the next step, otherwise, continue to add the rest of the gravy and stir to incorporate. I set one cup of gravy aside, but used the rest in the mixture.
Transfer the mashed potatoes to a piping back and pipe all of the mashed potatoes onto the pie. You don't need to be fancy, you can simply place the mashed potato on top of the veggie/gravy mixture in large mounds and smooth out with the back of a spoon. Pile the potatoes higher in the middle and be sure to get right to the edge of the skillet when smoothing the mashed potatoes over the top.
Transfer the skillet to a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Switch from bake to broil to brown up the potatoes on top. Watch carefully as they can burn very easily. You can leave the skillet under the broiler for as long as you want - the desired 'brownness' is up to your personal tastes.
Remove from oven. Allow to set for 5 minutes before serving.