I made this casserole two years ago as part of my “Life of Pie” series. Now that I’m in the twilight of my casserole series, it felt wrong not to include it once more.

The shepherd’s pie is one of my favorites because you can almost make it with anything. Like any good peasant’s dish, there are a bajillion recipes because it’s basically meant to use up whatever you happen to have on hand.

If you have meat and potatoes, you can pretty much cobble together something that resembles a shepherd’s pie. Just add any other veggies you happen to have around and some herbs or spices and, voila, you have a hearty winter casserole.

I’m partial to the recipe in “The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen,” by Peter Berley, but that doesn’t mean I don’t alter it.

Because I wanted to squeeze in one more vegan casserole before the end of the year, I made it using fake meat crumbles. The recipe actually calls for seitan, but I couldn’t find it at the grocery store this week, and it was too cold to be going to multiple stores and I was too lazy to make it from scratch.

But if you just can’t handle vegan, don’t stop reading.

Like I said, it can be made in any old way, so feel free to substitute fake meat for 1 pound of ground beef, or heck, 1 pound of beef chuck cut into cubes. After this many years of making it, I’ve done it all using whatever I most conveniently had or could get or wanted to pay for.

Among the many other alterations I’ve made to the recipe are forgoing mushrooms (blech!) for zucchini and alternating between vegan mashed potatoes (olive oil, yum!) and high-fat dairy mashed potatoes (butter and milk, yum!).

So, as I pass along my preferred vegan recipe, know that you can make any alterations you choose to make the casserole that’s right for you and your family.

Shepherd’s Pie

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 package fake meat crumbles (or 1 pound of preferred meat product)

2 small onions, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 cups frozen French-cut green beans

1 medium zucchini, sliced and quartered

2 teaspoon thyme

2 teaspoon ground sage

1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes

½ cup water

2 tablespoons mirin (or sweet-ish white wine)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 pounds garlic mashed potatoes (recipe follows)

Olive oil and paprika, for finishing

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large pan, heat up 3 tablespoons olive oil. Saute onions and brown meat over medium heat for about 5 minutes (longer if using real beef, or brown before adding onions and reduce olive oil). Add remaining vegetables, sage and thyme. Saute for an additional 5 minutes.

Stir in crushed tomatoes, water, mirin and soy sauce. Bring mixture to a boil; cover and reduce heat. Simmer 25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Uncover and cook for an additional few minutes, if necessary, to slightly reduce liquid.

Season mixture with salt and pepper. Pour into 3-quart casserole dish.

Spread mashed potatoes on top to completely cover meat mixture.

Brush or spray potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika. Bake about 30 minutes until meat mixture is bubbling and potatoes are browned. Enjoy!

Garlic mashed potatoes

2 pounds potatoes, quartered

8 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole

1 tablespoons rosemary (optional)

5 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cover potatoes with 2 inches cold water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and add garlic, rosemary and salt. Cover and cook over low heat for about 25 minutes, until tender. Reserve ½ to 1 cup potato water.

Mash potatoes and garlic. Add olive oil; stir well. Add reserved potato water to desired consistency, if necessary. (Or use milk, if preferred.)

Christinia Crippes is a Courier reporter who loves to cook. Read her blog at www.wcfcourier.com.


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