Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

March is National Frozen Food month. It’s a good time to take advantage of specials and stock up on freezer staples that will help you make loads of easy meals right at home. It’s also a good time to clean through your freezer, even just a shelf at a time, so that you can cook with, or finish off, things you already have.

I have started to stock tater tots. Why? Because is there anything a tot can’t make better? There are some days when you just need a little boost and tots get the job done. They can breathe a little fun and excitement into dinner, prod a kid into eating something they might have pushed aside, make a grown up happy, so why not tot? If to tot, or not to tot, is the question, I say, tot! 

For a hot dish that’s too hot to not tot, make a crowd-pleaser and give it a smile. This Vegan Shepherd’s Pie from Jamie Oliver is every bit as warm and cozy as the meat-filled version, but it’s entirely plant-based, and can be gluten-free if needed. With a savory stewed filling made entirely of whole foods (no meat substitutes), you can use your fridge and pantry staples and turn out something that’s good for you. Team this with some steamed fresh kale drizzled with a bit of olive oil, and you’ve got dinner. Or pair it with peas, broccoli or anything with a bit of green, and serve it for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s budget friendly and will nicely feed a big bunch of people. This recipe is easy as (you guessed it) pie, and it’s absolutely, positively delicious. Just wait till you try it! 

For convenience, you can use bagged frozen celery, carrot and onion. This may be a little more expensive than buying fresh, but since you can use only what you need, there’s no waste. I opted to use what I had in my crisper, so I roughly chopped 4 stalks of celery, 3 carrots and 1 medium onion. I used 1 container of baby bella mushrooms because I think they seem a little more meaty, but feel free to use white button mushrooms if you prefer. I like to rinse mushrooms under running water to remove all the dirt, and because you will be using the entire mushroom for this recipe, I recommend rinsing especially well along the underside and stem which can be particularly dirty. You can use any kind of potato for the mash, but I picked Yukon golds because you don’t need to bother with peeling them.  

When making any stew or bolognese-esque type of ragu, using red wine or beer is quite common. If you are using red wine, fining agents like gelatin, casein, or egg whites can be used in the fining process, so check the label and be sure it’s vegan. I used a 17.7 ounce package of ready-to-eat steamed lentils to speed this along, but feel free to use canned or make your own from dried. For a little pop of sweetness, stir in some drained, roughly chopped olive oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. I used dried ones here, but you could also use a few spoonfuls of tomato paste just as well. 

Jamie made his own quick vegetable stock by pouring boiling water over a handful of dried mushrooms, a little spoon of Marmite, about a teaspoon of soy sauce, and a heaping teaspoon of miso set into a liquid glass measuring cup. He also added some fresh herbs and carrot peel before giving everything a stir and letting it steep. 

Rather than using butter, milk, or cream, he used extra-virgin olive oil to add richness to the mashed potatoes while keeping them plant-based and dairy-free. And for an extra flourish, he poured some oil over a small bowl that contained a few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary, working it a little with his fingertips. Then, he held the herbs back letting the fragranced oil pour through his fingers over the top of the finished dish before he put it in the oven.  

With spring just a few weeks away, it’s the last chance for winter casseroles. Pop one in the oven and enjoy. 

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

  • 3 1/2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 10-ounce bag frozen diced onions, celery and carrots (or 4 stalks celery, 3 carrots and 1 medium onion, diced)
  • 1 cup vegan red wine
  • 17.7 ounce package ready-to-eat steamed lentils
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, roughly chopped 
  • 1-2 cups vegetable stock (gluten-free if needed)
  • fresh thyme and rosemary (optional)
  • 1 bag frozen tater tots, any variety (gluten-free if needed)

Scrub potatoes and quarter each potato into equal-size chunks. Place potatoes into a large stockpot, add 1 tablespoon salt, and enough cold water to cover potatoes by 1 inch; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until potatoes break easily when pierced with a fork, 10-25 minutes, depending on size. Drain thoroughly. Roughly mash potatoes, seasoning with salt, a little freshly ground black pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.

Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add chopped rosemary and stir lightly, letting rosemary become fragrant. Add garlic and let warm briefly, then add mushrooms, breaking them up roughly with your fingers as you go. Season mushrooms with salt and a generous bit of freshly ground black pepper. Stir in ground coriander, let warm for about 30 seconds, then add diced onions, celery and carrots. Let cook about 15 minutes, or until vegetables caramelize and are soft and browned. Pour in wine and let cook until mostly evaporated, then stir in lentils and chickpeas. Add sun-dried tomatoes, stirring briefly, then add vegetable stock, enough to reach the consistency of a thick soup (not too watery, but not too dry either). Use a potato masher to roughly smash the chickpeas in the pan, just enough so that they lose their shape.  

Transfer filling to an oven-safe dish, mounding the potato mash over the top, leaving a 1 inch border around the edges. Add fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs to a small bowl, then pour olive oil over herbs and work it a little between your fingers. Pour herbed oil over the top of the finished dish, holding the herbs back with your fingers. Place frozen tater tots around the edges, then transfer to oven. Bake uncovered, 25-40 minutes, until potatoes are golden and crispy. 

Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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