Saturday, August 22, 2020

Vegan Cottage Pie

This unusual, yet delicious take on the classic Shepherds Pie is completely vegan and packed with vegetables like carrots, onions, lentils, peas and (of course) zucchini! The topping looks cheesy but its actually a mix of sweet and Yukon gold potatoes mashed with rice milk and lots of salt and pepper. I made it in smaller foil pans so N could freeze and eat as he needed. Yum!

I get some of the best cooking inspiration from N. He is so adventurous when it comes to my cooking and he loves to help out, so when he texted me asking if I could make him a vegetarian shepherd's pie I grinned and told him "of course!". That said, I immediately decided to go off on a tangent - not only would this be a vegan shepherd's pie, but it would be crammed full of veggies, legumes and with a deceptively complex tasting topping!

I started off the thought process initially by nixing the whole idea of "fake meat", using lentils exclusively (as in Minimalist Baker's version). However, when I was picking up some other groceries, I came across the Meatless Farm Co. ground on sale and thought the addition of just a little bit of it would help "beef" up the texture (sorry), and stretch the recipe so that I could send N home with lots of leftovers. To the ground I added all the veggies I had on hand - which is to say, zucchini was a must (we are drowning in it) and the standard peas and carrots as well. When it came to the topping, I knew exactly what was expected - N loves sweet potato, so I mashed one in with the standard Russets, which made the pans look like they were topped with cheesy mash! It was a really good thing that this recipe made 4 pans of the pie, though, because it was such a hit N polished off the lot during his stretch at work. Hey, when you need a filling, healthy meal before a graveyard shift, you also want it to taste amazing too!

This recipe is, of course, incredibly versatile - in short, use whatever veggies you have on hand and like. Not a pea fan (hi, me too!)? Throw in chopped green beans, corn, celery, even bell peppers! No meatless ground? Use an extra 1/2 cup of dry lentils when you go to cook them. There are no rules - except to enjoy making and eating it!

Vegan Cottage Pie
Serves 8
 
Topping
2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
2 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used rice)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
 
Lentils
1 1/2 cups dry brown lentils
water to cover
 
Stew
2 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 package meatless ground (I used Meatless Farm Co.)
1 large shallot, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tbsp dried)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp tamari
1 cube "not beef" bouillon
2 tbsp ketchup
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen green peas (no need to thaw)
  1. Heat the oven to 400F and grease 4 (1 lb) trays (I used foil for easy transport).
  2. In a large pot, boil potatoes until tender. Mash with the margarine, creamer, salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, place the lentils in a small pot and cover with water. Simmer for 15 minutes, until almost tender. Set aside.
  4. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the meatless ground. Cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the shallot, carrot, zucchini, garlic, thyme, paprika, pepper, and tamari. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the bouillon, ketchup and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until veggies are almost tender.
  7. Add the lentils with their liquid and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  8. Stir in the peas and cook 5 minutes more.
  9. Spoon the stew into the bottom of each of the foil trays and spread the mashed potato mix over the top of each. Leave a small border for the steam of the stew to escape.
  10. Place the trays on a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes begin to "crust" on top.
  11. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving!