The Great and Terrible Shepherd’s Pie Experiment

three copyI was always skeptical about the idea of a vegan Shepherd’s Pie. As a kid, Shepherd’s Pie was one of my favourite things, since it combined two of my favourite foods: mashed potatoes and peas. The idea of a vegan version seemed too good to be true. Also, it looked hard. But eventually, a year into vegetarianism, I decided to give it a shot.

RECIPE: “Nearly Normal Shepherd’s Pie”, Evelyn Raab’s Clueless Vegetarian. (Highly recommended reading!)

ESSENTIALS: A bit of time, energy, and motivation to do the dishes after this reicpe – it uses a whopping 3 dishes plus cutting board. Not for late nights when you didn’t plan anything, but great for evenings where you’re bored and have leftover wine that needs drinking.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ½ cups TVP granules
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 carton thingy mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 smallish carrots, chopped
  • 1 largeish green pepper, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup your cousin’s BBQ sauce he left in your fridge
  • A bit of salt
  • A bit more black pepper
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • ¼ cup non-dairy milk
  • 2 tbsp vegan margarine

What in God’s name is TVP: I have no idea. It kind of looks like cereal I wouldn’t eat. But it kind of resembles ground beef in texture and is a source of protein, so have at it. Buy Bob’s Red Mill or find it at a bulk food store.

PREPARATION:

Chopped Things. Save dishes by using your cookware as a place to store vegetables.
Chopped Things.
  • Chop the onion, mushrooms, carrots, pepper. Press the garlic.
  • Prepare a baking dish by lightly greasing a 9-inch square dish. Or: don’t do that, and just figure you’ll use the two loaf pans you’re currently storing your veg in.
  • Preheat the oven to 350. Or: forget to do that until later.
  • Rehydrate the TVP. Put the TVP granules in a bowl, followed by a bouillon cube, followed by boiling water. Mix them all together until the bouillon isn’t clumpy. Or just use hot broth.
TVP Granules, rehydrating. Such is the weirdness of vegetarian cooking.
TVP Granules, rehydrating. Such is the weirdness of vegetarian cooking.
  • Peel and cut the potatoes.
  • Pour yourself a glass of wine. Once you’re done with the knife.

COOKING:

Begin with olive oil in a gigantic skillet. Heat it for as long as you can wait without going crazy, then add the onion and garlic. Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them, and crank up the heat. Forget about them for a while.

Once the onion looks kind of translucent, throw in the other vegetables.

WP_20150107_17_45_35_Pro
The aforementioned other vegetables

Stir those regularly, and prepare remaining ingredients while they cook down (sauce, peas). Drink the wine. Think about where your life is going. Post pictures of your cooking on Instagram.

Things I didn't add: Wine, cat food. Also, what is happening in that pot oh my god
Things I didn’t add: Wine, cat food.
Also, what is happening in that pot oh my god

When they look basically ready, stir in the TVP. This is the part where the vegetables and TVP will go everywhere, despite the fact that you used the largest skillet that you own. That is okay with me.

Let these cook together for a while. At this point, you will notice that your potatoes are behind schedule, and start to poke them with a fork. They aren’t really done yet, leave them alone.

When “a while” has passed, add the good stuff: peas and barbecue sauce, plus salt and pepper. Evelyn calls for a texture like ‘a hearty chili’, but I figure this works:

Hearty enough? All the extra veggies make this feel way more healthy, but next time I might want something saucier in there.
Hearty enough? All the extra veggies make this feel way more healthy, but next time I might want something saucier in there.

As the peas thaw and everything cooks together in harmony while leaving food all over your stovetop, it’s probably time to deal with those potatoes. Drain them, pour in some unsweetened almond milk, spoon in some margarine. I used more than usual to make it a bit more spreadable. Mash the potatoes, stopping occasionally to stir the filling.

Now you should have this, basically:

I don't normally cook things that require more than one pot, but this time I made an exception.
I don’t normally cook things that require more than one pot, but this time I made an exception.

Steal your roommate’s cooking spray and grease whatever dishes you’ve managed to scrounge up.

I decided to bake one and freeze the other. I greased both. I don’t know how well stolen cooking spray freezes, but anyway. Switch spoons, because wooden spoons are not useful for actual spooning applications. Put the TVP and veg mix into your dish(es).

You could use a 9 inch square pan, if you're the kind of person who follows the rules
You could use a 9 inch square pan, if you’re the kind of person who follows the rules.

And now, spoon on the mash. I found that the mash actually sank into the mix, so do this kind of carefully. Then add lines with a fork because you’re fancy.

It basically looks like the store-bought version, now. Why didn't I just buy that?
It basically looks like the store-bought version, now. Why didn’t I just buy that?

Put it in the oven. Set a timer. The 9 inch pan calls for 35-40 minutes at 350. I only did half, so I set a timer for 30 and kept an eye on it (that is a lie, I just did this and drank wine, and didn’t even hear the timer. I have no idea how long it cooked for).

Since I only baked one, I can show you a simultaneous before and after:

Burnt or raw, take your pick.
Burnt or raw, take your pick.

And finally, here it is plated:

Plated skillfully. I am a true artist.
Plated skillfully. I am a true artist.

Comfort food at its finest. Although it took a year and a half to make and then I had to do a gazillion dishes, it was worth it when I got to sit down and eat half of that loaf pan in one sitting (seriously. Only God can judge me.) Plus, it pairs great with whatever wine I had in the fridge because who honestly cares. And the best part? A few months later I discovered the other loaf pan in my freezer and got to eat it again.

erm, we need to make a whole flock of these things and leave them in the freezer. It’s cold outside, we need comfort food. And barbecue sauce. Add it to the list.

Until we meet again,

three

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