June 2, 2011

Vegan Lentil Shepherd's Pie

I love Shepherd's Pie. It's definitely a fall/winter dish, all hearty stewed vegetables with meat and potatoes; however, this somewhat lighter version is a good addition to your spring menu if you have a few cool nights.

I found the recipe on Ezra Pound Cake, a great cooking blog, and I loved that this dish would give me the flavors I craved, but at a much lighter calorie count. I also liked that the topping wasn't straight up mashed cauliflower because, let's face it, it will NEVER taste like mashed potatoes no matter how much you want it to. This dish is a bit labor intensive, but worth it. It's delicious, healthy and filling!

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) shiitake mushrooms, chopped (Feel free to substitute another mushroom.)
1 zucchini, diced small ( 1 1/2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon or oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup carrots (about 3), peeled and diced small
3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 recipe Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes (recipe below)

Heat the oil in a 4-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and saute them until translucent, about 4 minutes.Add the mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, tarragon, thyme, salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, lentils and broth. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring every once in a while.

By now, the lentils should be tender, and most of the broth should be absorbed. If that hasn’t happened, then keep the pot covered and simmer the lentils a while longer. Conversely, if the broth has evaporated and the lentils are not soft, then add a bit of water and simmer. (Mine was not absorbed, so I cooked for an additional 10 minutes. There will still be some broth left in the pot).

When the lentils are soft, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, corn (if using) and peas. Let the mixture sit off the heat for 10 minutes or so for maximum flavor. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

To Serve: Spoon a cup of Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes into a bowl, and top it with a cup of lentils. I layered the mash on top of the lentils because I wanted it to look just like the real deal.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
2 russet potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (I used a bag of frozen florets because chopping cauliflower is annoying and SO messy!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Smart Balance buttery spread (optional)

Place the potatoes in a 4-quart pot, and fill it with enough cold water to cover them, making sure there are about 4 inches of extra water on top (for when you add the cauliflower). Bring the potatoes to a boil.

Once the water is boiling, add the cauliflower, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.

Drain them in a colander, return them to the pot, and use a potato masher to mash them a bit.

Add the oil, 2 tablespoons of broth, and the salt and pepper. Mash a bit more. Use a fork to make sure all the seasoning are mixed well.

If needed, add another 2 tablespoons of broth. Taste, and adjust seasonings. Serve warm.