This is a wintery sort of recipe, but a reader went through a lot of trouble to listen to the recipe on the audio version of THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET and write it down, so I thought her efforts deserved reward. It’s a great dish to bring for gatherings where there are a lot of varied diets, and I’m just going to say that it can feel really sad to go to a big barbecue or something and everyone else is chowing down on these great, rib-sticking meals and you’re nibbling on a bun with sauerkraut or maybe having (yet another) salad. Be kind to your vegetarian friends. Take a hearty dish to a potluck for them.
You’ll like it, too. I created this for Christopher Robin, who loves Shepherd’s Pie and missed the way I made it. It took a lot of experimenting, but I finally came up with one he adores. This is it. Vegan and fabulous:
Kindly Shepherd’s Pie
From The All You Can Dream Buffet, Barbara O’Neal
Serves 4 generously
Olive oil, 2 tablespoons, plus 1 tablespoon
2 ribs celery, 1 monster onion, 2-3 carrots, all diced
5 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, roughly chopped
1 medium parsnip, diced (optional. Some people don’t like the sweetness of this vegetable, but I really, really do)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 quart high quality vegetable broth
1 bottle heavy red wine such as zinfandel (the deeper the body, the better)
2 tablespoons tamari
Splash of Worcestershire sauce (make sure it is the cheap kind, without anchovies)
1 tablespoon thyme
1 cup porcini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 cup button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cups ground meat substitute, such as Quorn or Morningstar crumbles
4 large red potatoes, peeled and diced (or for a more rustic dish, leave the skins)
½ cup margarine
½ cup soy or coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare all vegetables except potatoes and have them ready. In a dutch oven or heavy, large saucepan, heat 2 T olive oil (or more—this is not a high fat dish, using 3-4 tablespoons would not go amiss). Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots, parsnip and cook over medium heat until softened. Add tomato paste and stir into vegetables.
Open the wine. Pour one generous glass for yourself, then pour the rest in the pan.
Add vegetable broth, spices, and tamari and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by at least half.
Meanwhile, peel (or don’t) the potatoes and cut into chunks and cover with water.
Bring to a boil, then slightly lower heat. Simmer until potatoes are tender.
Taste broth, correct seasonings. Add peas and mushrooms, and ground meat substitute if you are using is, and let simmer on low heat while potatoes cook.
Heat oven to 400 degrees
When potatoes are tender, drain the water and add butter. Mash or whip until the potatoes are smooth, then add milk to make a slightly soft mash.
Taste the stew. Liquid should be thick and velvety, with a rich, deep taste. If it needs more flavor, add salt or a little more tamari, or one cube of veggie bullion. If it is not thick enough, remove some liquid from the pan, stir together with two tablespoons of flour until very smooth, then add back into the stew and let thicken.
When the stew is right, pour it into a 10-inch glass pie pan or cast iron skillet and top with mashed potatoes until it is covered completely. Using a spoon or fork, make peaks in the potatoes so they will get brown and beautiful in the oven.
Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until potatoes have developed a nice crust.
Let cool for five minutes, serve in generous portions.