Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
When I was growing up there wasn't really 'vegan' or 'vegetarian' food in the South. That was only for those "hippies in California" or "fancy rich people". Looking back, I don't think my mom (or most of my aunts for that matter) ever cooked a vegetable that didn't have at least one animal byproduct in it. Now that I'm older I still crave those comfort dishes, but… thanks to the march of time’s effects on my metabolism, I can't always eat the same things I loved growing up. (Anyone else find they get heartburn from eating too late? I see you!)
So, I set myself a task of recreating some of my favorite childhood dishes, but lighter, healthier and a bit more modern... And thanks to a rather interesting shift that makes us more conscious of our impact on the world, we can make this a reality, and never feel like we're missing out!
So, without further ado, I give you the first in a new series, my TransChef Meatless Monday recipes. Each month I’ll release at least one recipe for a vegan / vegetarian meal I know you will LOVE!
16 oz white button mushrooms (Whole or sliced. Also, older mushrooms work perfectly fine.)
8 oz canned chickpeas, drained
4 oz green peas (fresh, frozen, or canned would be fine.)
4 oz diced carrots (fresh, frozen, or canned would be fine.)
6 oz diced yellow onion
8 oz vegan “chicken” broth
4 cups mashed potatoes (Instant works fine for this.)
6 oz chunk vegan “cheese”
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon methi seeds (roasted and ground.)
2 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium works fine.)
1/4 Tablespoon dried rosemary
1/2 Tablespoon dried thyme
1/8 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin seed (roasted and ground)
1 tsp fennel seed (roasted, but left whole)
1 tsp kosher salt (to taste -you might not need all of this)
3 tsp cooking oil (your choice)
Unwrap vegan “cheese” and place in a small dish put in the freezer until 1/2 frozen. Grate coarsely on a box grater, then back into the dish and freezer. (Vegan “cheese” tends to melt quickly at room temperature.)
In a food processor, separately grind mushrooms, yellow onions and chickpeas to a small pebbly texture. Stop just before both starts turning into a paste/puree. Place into separate bowls and set aside.
Open carrots and peas, drain any liquid and set aside. If you prefer fresh peas and carrots it's fine, but cook until tender before adding to the dish. (I use flash-frozen peas and carrots mix from the frozen food aisle.)
Peel and finely dice garlic. Place in the bowl with diced onions.
Heat up a 10.5 to 12-inch skillet to medium-high. Add in 1 tbsp of cooking oil along with the mushrooms. Saute 8-10 minutes until mushrooms have softened and started to break apart. (Mushrooms, like lobster shells, are made primarily of chitin. So, they can handle a long cooking time without turning to mush.) Add 1/2 tsp of salt to help extract water from the mushrooms.
Add another tbsp of cooking oil, along with the onions and garlic. Allow to cook another 3 minutes.
Using the back cooking utensil make a well in the center of pan. Add the final tbsp of oil along with your spices. Allow to bloom in the oil for 1 minute, then mix completely with the mushroom duxelle. (The technical term for this is a "mushroom duxelle", cooked-down chopped mushrooms, onions, and spices sauteed in oil until almost paste-like.) Add the soy sauce and allow to cook for 1 additional minute.
Add chickpeas and mix completely into the mushroom duxelles, cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the vegan “chicken” stock, along with the carrots and peas, and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck-on brown bits. ("Brown Food Tastes Good" in my best Anne Burrell voice.) Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture tightens up slightly. Adjust salt levels and seasoning to your taste. Both chickpeas and mushrooms need a good bit of salt. However, since we've used soy sauce and store-bought stock you'll need to check and adjust seasonings to your personal taste.
In a small baking dish, pour in mushroom duxelle / chickpea mixture and spread into an even layer.
Add 1/2 of your vegan “cheese” to the mashed potatoes and mix completely. If potatoes seem a bit dry, add a little stock in 1/2 tbsp increments until smooth. Taste for salt/seasoning level and add any you feel might be missing. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of your mushroom duxelle / chickpea mixture. (Feel free to make a pattern in the potatoes for extra effect!)
Turn broiler to high and allow to warm up (about 2 minutes.) Place baking dish under the broiler and allow the potatoes and cheese to brown slightly. Remove from the oven to top with remaining vegan “cheese”. Place it back under the broiler until cheese melts and browns slightly.