Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

While there may be dozens of various vegan sheperd’s pie inspired dishes out there to choose from – another one to add to the roster is never wasted.  This health-boosted version of the comfort food classic has a golden potato topping, and that’s where the similarity ends.  Lots of vegetables, lots of garlic layered over a rich and salty-savory lentil-chickpea blend.  It’s impressive to serve, a pleasure to eat and makes lots of leftovers to last all week.

To cut on make time, you can either cook the beans ahead of time or work with well-rinsed canned ones.  And to cut down on dishes, it helps to make the bottom layer directly in the baking pan and then use the pot from the veggie layer, rinsed out, to boil the potatoes for the topping.  But it’s nonetheless a worthwhile weekend effort just to know you’ve go a few dinners good to go during the week!

Yield: a 9”x13” pan – 8 generous servings

What you need for the bottom layer:

  • 3/4 cups dried Dupuy (French) lentils; or 2 cups canned/cooked
  • 3/4 cups kala chana (black chickpeas) if available, white if not, or more lentils; or 2 cups canned/cooked black or white chickpeas, or more lentils
  • 3/4 cups sundried tomatoes (unsulphured preferred), soaked, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup kasha; or oatmeal if you don’t like that toasted buckwheat taste
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 2 tablespoons red miso
  • additional salt to taste, depending on the saltiness of the miso
  • 1/2 cup water

What you need for the veggie layer:

  • 2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, sliced thinly
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 2 carrots, diced; 1-1/2 cups
  • 2-1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

What you need for the potato topping:

  • 2 lb potatoes; 5 or 6 medium-sized ones
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do for the bottom layer:

  1. If working with dry beans, soak them all together overnight or up to 24 hours with lots of fresh water to cover.  Drain, add to a pressure cooker along with 7 bay leaves, a couple of cloves of garlic and a slice of kombu seaweed (not in the ingredient list, these are optional, but greatly improve the ease of digestion of the legumes).  Pressure cook 20 minutes and allow a natural release.  The chickpeas will be perfectly cooked, the lentils mushy: that’s what you’re aiming for.  Drain well and set aside.
  2. If working with canned beans then rinse them well and set aside.
  3. Put the cooked beans in the bottom of a 9”x13” glass or ceramic baking dish.  Mash them lightly.  The lentils will turn to mush, the chickpeas will stay quite chunky with a some whole ones remaining.  Add the sundried tomato pieces, chopped onion, kasha, garlic and miso.  Mix well to make sure you have no miso chunks hiding.  Taste for salt and add more if desired.
  4. Pour the water in, mix again and then press it all firmly into the bottom of the pan.  Set aside.           DSCN1375

What you do for the veggie layer:

  1. In a large saucepan or small Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium flame.  Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring often, 5-8 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  Add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme and salt and mix well.  Add the carrots and peas.
  2. Continue cooking the vegetables, stirring often, until the mushrooms just begin releasing their moisture and the peas are bright green.  Don’t worry about cooking the veggies completely – they’ll finish doing their stuff in the oven at the finale.
  3. Transfer the vegetables to the pan and spread in an even layer over the bean blend.  Set aside.            DSCN1388

What you do for the potato topping:

  1. If you want to save on dishes, rinse out the pot you used for the veggie layer and use it to make the potatoes.  If you want to save on time, boil the potatoes while you make the veggie layer.  Regardless of which way you roll, you’ll have to peel the potatoes and chop them into large chunks and then cover them with water.
  2. Bring the potatoes to the boil and then reduce heat, cooking them until fork-tender only – no need to boil them half to death.
  3. Drain the cooked potatoes and then mash them coarsely along with the broth, olive oil and cayenne if using.  Taste and add salt and pepper to taste if desired.
  4. Spread the mash in an even layer over the vegetable layer in the pan.  Set aside until ready to cook.               DSCN1390

What you do for the finale:

  1. Preheat the oven to 365F.  Bake the assembled layered pie in the oven for 50 minutes, putting on the broiler in the last 5 minutes if you want a crispy golden crust (but watch it so it doesn’t burn!).
  2. Remove from the oven and cool 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.
  3. Eat like a pig either solo, with ketchup, or smothered in a rich mushroom gravy.

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