If you are looking for a plant-based meal that’s hearty and savory, give this Shepherd’s Pie a try. Made with green lentils, root vegetables and mushrooms, it’s packed with protein, fibre, iron and other nutrients. The celeriac root, carrots, mushrooms, onion, garlic, juicy plum tomatoes and miso paste mixed with half a cup of beer (or veggie broth) help create a thick lentil mixture with umami-rich flavor. The topping is made of creamy (not sticky) mashed potatoes. Coupled with steamed or cooked vegetables and relish on the side, it’s a complete and delicious meal.
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie [Vegan]
For the Filling:
- 1 generous tablespoon brown miso paste
- 1/2 cup beer (or vegetable bouillon/ broth)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large red onion, sliced into rings or half moons
- 1 cup grated carrot
- 1 cup grated celeriac root (slice off peel with knife)
- 2 cups packed brown button mushrooms, sliced (not diced)
- 2 to 4 large garlic buds, grated
- 1 generous teaspoon (tsp) smoked paprika (or regular/hot paprika)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder (to add if you only have regular/hot paprika)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 X 400 grams (14 oz.) cans plum tomatoes with juice
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 cup dry green lentils, rinsed
- Sea salt (very little since Miso contains salt)
- Ground pepper, to taste
For the Mashed Potato Topping:
- 800 to 1000 grams potatoes
- 1/2 to 1 cup non-dairy milk* (almond works well), warmed in microwave
- 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil* (or melted butter of choice)
- Sea salt & ground pepper, to taste
- A pinch of nutmeg or garlic powder, salt, pepper or other spices/herbs (option)
- Olive oil for brushing the top
- * Note: can add more milk or olive oil according to preference or type and amount of potatoes used.
For the Filling:
- In a small bowl, whisk together with a fork the miso paste and beer (or veggie bouillon/ broth). Set aside.
- Heat up olive oil in a large deep cast iron or non-stick frying pan. Reduce heat to medium and sauté the onions until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Adjust heat to medium-low. Add carrots, celeriac and mushrooms and sauté for 5-6 minutes.
- Add garlic, paprika, thyme, cumin if necessary, and bay leaves. Cook uncovered until fragrant, stirring often, for 1 minute.
- Add the miso/beer (or veggie bouillon/ broth) mixture and stir this in well. Bring to a simmer, keep uncovered and stir regularly for 5 minutes. It will look like chutney.
- Wash your hands. Add the cans of plum tomatoes with their juices. Roughly squeeze each tomato in the palm of your hand as you slide them into the mixture (to open them up). Add the maple syrup.
- Add the lentils. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring often. The mixture will reduce and get thick.
- Transfer into baking dish and pat down to make it smooth and even. Set aside on counter top. The mixture will continue to thicken in the dish while you make the mashed potatoes.
For the Mashed Potato Topping:
- Heat up a large pot of salted water, cover and bring to the boil.
- Peel the potatoes completely or partially. Chop the potatoes into bite-size chunks and add them to the boiling water. Ensure there’s about 1 inch of water above the potatoes. The water will stop boiling once the potatoes are in.
- When the water returns to the boiling point, start timing. Let the potatoes boil gently, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are fork tender but can still hold together.
- Strain water and transfer potatoes back into the hot pot. Place the pot on the heated stove-top burner (lower the heat) and gently toss them for about 30 seconds to allow excess moisture evaporate. Transfer cooked potatoes to a large bowl.
- Mash by hand with a potato masher or a potato ricer. I recommend a stainless steel potato ricer if you make mashed potatoes regularly. Add the warm milk and olive oil (or melted butter) gradually and mix into the potatoes with a fork. Add more milk and /or olive oil until you obtain a desired texture. The mash can be smooth or chunky, as you prefer. Don’t whisk, whip or briskly mix as this will release too much starch and the mash will turn gooey. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- With spatula or flat knife, spread the mashed potatoes evenly and smoothly on top of the filling. Then run a fork through it to make small grooves. The grooves help make the topping crispy in places. Brush top with olive oil.
- Cook uncovered in preheated oven on middle rack for 30 minutes.
- Let cool 20 minutes before slicing — it will give you portions that hold nicely. Reheats well the next day.
Four tips for making the best mashed potatoes: 1. If you live in Canada or US, use Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes. For best results and flavour, use half Russet and half Yukon gold. 2. Add salt to the boiling water: This will give your potatoes more flavour. 3. Reduce moisture in the potatoes: Prior to boiling them, chop the potatoes into evenly-sized chunks so that they don’t boil too long. They should boil for 10 to 12 minutes. They should be tender and not easily fall apart. After straining the boiling water, transfer the potatoes back into the hot pot and place on the heated stove-top burner (on low heat) and gently toss the potatoes for about 30 seconds to eliminate excess moisture. 4. Hand mash only: Use a good handheld potato masher -or- a stainless steel potato ricer (recommended) to mash them. Do not whip, whisk or overwork the potatoes as this will make them gooey. Once mashed, use a fork to mix in the warm milk and olive oil. If using butter, melt it before.