Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Vegan Shepherd's Pie, two ways (one gluten-free)

When I was growing up, I didn't like meat very much. It wasn't even that I had a conscience that told me I shouldn't eat it. It was that I just didn't especially fancy it. (It did make becoming veggie much easier, I must say.)

You know what I did fancy, though? Shepherd's pie. Or, rather, I suppose this is cottage pie (shepherd's pie is supposed to use ground lamb), but old habits die hard and I can't be bothered making a distinction. A bit of ground beef with veggies and creamy potatoes was a little slice of heaven for me. So when I went vegan, clearly I had to figure out how to do it without meat.

This is going to be a huge post, so I won't do a huge, long intro. What I will say, though, is that there are two versions here, both vegan and one gluten-free. Why wouldn't I just post the gluten-free one? Well, because the one that isn't gluten-free (if you can eat it) is more authentic-tasting because it uses simulated ground beef by Yves. But both are pretty good, I assure you.

Without further ado...

The parts of shepherd's pie aren't terribly difficult. We'll be using a meat substitute, cooking some veg, and making some mash.
So you start off with your "meat":

This ground round from Yves is really yummy, but sadly, it's chock full of gluten.

Green lentils are the "meaty" star of the gluten-free version of this recipe.

The pies are different from one another, in terms of their "gravy" element. The ground round is pretty moist on its own, so I've just left a plain broth as the sauce. But the lentils need extra oil and creaminess to feel like they're approaching shepherd's pie territory, so they get a full-blown gravy.

Marmite is the star of the gravy that is used in the gluten-free version. While Marmite makes delicious gravy, is a vegan source of vitamin B-12 and is considered gluten-free, it does contain a lot of MSG, so should be used sparingly.

Since the ground round does so much of the work for me, we're just using a broth for this version.

Then you'll move on to your veggie prep. Depending on the recipe, I've prepared the vegetables differently, because the lentils really do need the extra oil and richness.

Steaming the veg helps keep the fat content down in the ground round version.

Again, the lentils are super dry, so they need a bit of help. that's why we sauté the veg for extra moisture and flavour.

And don't forget to have fun with your veggies while you're chopping them...

Just because it's flour-less doesn't mean it has to be flower-less...

Seasoning becomes really important when you're dealing with meat substitutions. Often, it's not as much the flavour of the meat that we associate with meatiness, but the spices that are usually used with them. (Open up a jar of thyme and sage, take a whiff and tell me you don't think of turkey!)

One of the main spices you see in shepherd's pie is thyme.

Once you've sprinkled your thyme over the veggies, you're down to the last step: the mash!

This pie is ready for the finishing touches!

Making mash is super easy, and if you don't know that, you've never made them and are seriously missing out. Words to the wise: if you're ever lacking cooking inspiration, just look at these gorgeous heirloom potatoes and you'll start daydreaming in no time.

I got these babies in my CSA basket.

You boil the potatoes with garlic cloves, so that they become soft enough to mash right into the potatoes. Instant garlic mashed potatoes.


The garlic can be mashed right in for extra flavour.
And then there's the assembly. There isn't much method to this madness, except that you need to make sure the potatoes are on top. That part isn't negotiable.

Mushrooms go in the middle of this pie, but could also be mixed right into the meat substitute or the vegetables.

The veg goes on top of the mushrooms in this pie, and then it just needs...

...the broth! (In the gluten-free version, we're looking at pouring a richer gravy right over top of the lentils, so that they can "stew" in the oven.)

And then you've got a ravishing pie, ready for consumption. Yeah, I think we're done here.

Vegan Shepherd's Pie
Serves 8

1 package Yves' "Ground Round Original" (meatless ground beef)*
I cup hot water
2 teaspoons Marmite (yeast extract)
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 or 5 mushrooms
1 onion
1 large carrot
1 very small turnip (about 2.5 inches in diameter)
1 stalk celery
1 small handful green beans
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
3 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
Salt and pepper to taste

* This is available at most large groceries, at least in Ottawa. I usually find it in the corner where they keep all the veggie dogs and their widest selection of tofu--that is, wherever the veggie protein heaven is in your supermarket.

For this recipe, we will use a 9" x 9" square baking pan. If you don't have one of these, try to find something similar in size and use that (a casserole might work), but be careful not to overfill it. The gravy will bubble up under the potatoes and make a mess in your oven if it's too full!

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Sprinkle the ground round evenly into the bottom of the baking pan. Slice the mushrooms and onion and scatter evenly on the top of the pie.

Peel and dice the carrots and turnip, and thinly slice the celery. Cut the green beans into 1-inch pieces.

Steam the carrots, turnips, celery and beans for 8-10 minutes, until starting to get quite soft. Spread the vegetable mixture over the mushrooms in the pan. Dissolve the Marmite in the boiling water and pour onto the pie. Sprinkle the thyme over top.

Peel and cube the potatoes. In a large pot of boiling water, boil the potatoes with the garlic until the potatoes are tender (15-20 minutes). Drain and be sure to reserve the garlic cloves. Mash the potatoes and garlic with Earth Balance, adding salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top of the pie, being sure not to overfill the pan (leave about 1/4 inch space at a minimum). If you like, make a nice design on the top of the potatoes.

Bake the pie for about one hour, or until the potatoes are starting to brown and the liquid starts to bubble up from underneath the potatoes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

For those of us who can't take gluten, I've also got an alternative below. It's a little different (aside from the obvious protein switch) because while the Yves meatless ground beef is pretty rich and moist, lentils are naturally much drier. I've added a little extra oil to make up for this, because if it's dry, it's not shepherd's pie...

Vegan, Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie
Serves 8

1 cup green lentils
Water for cooking
1 recipe Vegan Gravy*
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 or 5 mushrooms
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large carrot
1 very small turnip (about 2.5 inches in diameter)
1 stalk celery
1 onion
1 small handful green beans
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
3 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
Salt and pepper to taste

For this recipe, we will use a 9" x 9" square baking pan. If you don't have one of these, try to find something similar in size and use that (a casserole might work), but be careful not to overfill it. The gravy will bubble up under the potatoes and make a mess in your oven if it's too full!

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium saucepan with a generous amount of water (at least 3 cups), boil the lentils until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. In the mean time, make the gravy. Drain the cooked lentils and put into the bottom of the baking pan, pouring in the gravy evenly to cover and sprinkling the thyme over top. Slice the mushrooms and scatter evenly on the top of the gravy.

Peel and dice the carrots and turnip, and thinly slice the celery. Chop the onions, and cut the green beans into 1-inch pieces.

Warm the oil over medium heat and sauté the carrots, turnips and celery for 4-5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the beans and onions and continue to cook until the onions are getting translucent. Spread the vegetable mixture over the mushrooms in the pan and set aside.

Peel and cube the potatoes. In a large pot of boiling water, boil the potatoes with the garlic until the potatoes are tender (15-20 minutes). Drain and be sure to reserve the garlic cloves. Mash the potatoes and garlic with Earth Balance, adding salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top of the pie, being sure not to overfill the pan (leave about 1/4 inch space at a minimum). If you like, make a nice design on the top of the potatoes.

Bake the pie for about one hour, or until the potatoes are starting to brown and the gravy starts to bubble up from underneath the potatoes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

* This pie isn't as great the second day because the gravy doesn't really "melt" again once it's chilled. If you wish to have a gravy that will keep runnier for reheating, you can put half the cornstarch from the gravy recipe and it will not be as solid.

Taste-wise, the definite winner in my books was the one with Yves' meatless ground beef, but the creaminess of the lentils was also quite nice. If you find other modifications that work well, be sure to let me know in the comments!

Enjoy!

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