Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lots O'Veggies Shepherds Pie

For a few years now, I've subtly been trying to turn my mother into a vegetarian or even a vegan. While she hasn't fully embraced the lifestyle, she regularly cooks dishes from the vegan cookbooks I give her for Christmas (she get's things she actually wants too, don't worry), often with more than satisfactory results. She was particularly happy when she made the "caulipots" from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction. I had to agree with her: mixing cauliflower into your mashed potatoes makes for a dish that is lighter and, in my opinion, better than the original. She had unveganized them by layering them in a casserole with cod (baby steps, Mom) which gave me the idea to use them in a shepherd's pie of sorts.

I confess I've never had traditional meaty shepherds pie. My mother never made it when I was a kid,  you'd be hard pressed to find it in Spain and by the time I moved to the US I hadn't eaten meat for years. I put together my limited memories of shepherd's pie and some knowledge gained through a bit of internet research to come up with the recipe I've included below. Each of the three layers would make a good side dish on its own, but the combination of all three brings a little extra comfort and deliciousness to the table.

Lots O'Veggies Shepherds Pie
Makes 6 Servings

Tomatoey Chickpeas
  • 2 15 oz or 425 g cans / 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 9.5 oz / 270 g / 1.5 cups tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes), chopped
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Drizzle the olive oil into the bottom of a baking or casserole dish.  I used a 9 by 13 inch dish; if you're making shepherd's pie you'll want to use something at least that large.
2. Mix all the ingredients together in the baking dish. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Caulipots (or Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes)
Adapted from Caulipots in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction
  • 3/4 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 lb / 490 g potatoes (I used a mix of red and russet), scrubbed or peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 non-dairy milk or veggie broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 1 tablespoon marjoram or oregano
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1. In a large pot, bring enough water to cover the potatoes and cauliflower to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add 1 teaspoon of salt and the potatoes. Cook them for about 10 minutes or until almost fork tender.
2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan (which we'll reuse without washing for the saucy 'shrooms, onions and spinach). Add the garlic and spices, cooking until the garlic is starting to brown and the spices are fragrant.
3. Add the cauliflower to the pot with the potatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes or until fork tender.
4. Drain the potatoes and cauliflower. Put them back in the pot you boiled them in. Add in the spice, oil and garlic mixture along with all the other ingredients. Mash with a potato masher until you reach your desired consistency. If you like your mashed potatoes really smooth you could use the food processor.

Saucy 'Shrooms, Onions and Spinach
  • 10 oz / 280 g of cremini or other mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp towel and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 packed cups spinach
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth or white wine
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
1. In a large saute pan (the same one we used for the "caulipots"), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until they start to get translucent, or 3-4 minutes.
2. Bring the heat down to medium. Add the mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently, until they start to brown, which should take around 5 minutes.
3. Add the bread crumbs, thyme, salt and pepper, stirring to make sure all ingredients are evenly mixed. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple minutes.
4. Add the vegetable broth or white wine and cook until about half of the liquid has evaporated, or about 4 minutes.
6. Remove the saute pan from the heat and add the spinach. Stir the spinach into the other ingredients until it starts to wilt.

Shepherd's Pie Assembly and Baking
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F /175 C.
2. Layer the onion, mushroom and spinach mixture on top of the tomatoey chickpeas, which should already be sitting in your casserole dish.
3. Spoon the "caulipots" on top of the mushroom layer, smoothing them out with a spatula.
4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes start to brown.

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