If you’ve never had Shepherd’s Pie before, you are missing out on one of the best things to come from across the pond since, well, since ever I guess. It’s rich, and warm, and filled with gravy and topped with a mashed potato crust. Ahhhh… The only thing wrong with it, is that the main ingredient is meat. Now, our friends ‘over there’ tend to make this with lamb or mutton, but most American recipes use ground beef, which means I had a choice of which flavor profile to mimic in the creation of this meat-less, purely vegan version. I decided to stay traditional and replicate the lamb flavor as best as I could, as I believe that is more savory than beef. If you’ve never eaten meat of any kind in your life, like, ever, then you’re just going to have to trust that I got it pretty darn close. Here’s the recipe (BTW – I apologize for the really crappy food pic. I need to learn how to take better ones someday soon):
For the Topping:
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
¼ cup coconut or almond milk (unsweetened and not flavored)
2 Tablespoons vegan butter (I use Miyoko’s Kitchen brand)
Salt & Pepper to taste
For the Filling:
2 Tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1 small or ½ large red onion, chopped
2 medium size carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound fresh baby spinach leaves
1 cup dry beans (I used 1/3 cup each of red, pinto and black beans for mine)
2 Tablespoons non-GMO or gluten free flour
1 teaspoon salt (fresh ground Himalayan pink salt if you have it)
½ teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons Liquid Amino
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup corn
½ cup green or English peas
Sort, rinse and prepare the beans either the night before using the overnight soak, or the morning of using the quick soak process. Drain the water and rinse the bean thoroughly, then return to the pot, adding enough fresh, heavily salted water to cover the beans plus about 1 inch over. Return to the stove on high heat until boiling, then turn down to simmer, cover the pot, and continue to simmer until they are soft. Check the pot every 10-15 minutes, and add more water as needed. Remember to heat the water first so it doesn’t reduce the temperature of the beans when you add it.
While the beans are cooking, measure and prepare all of your other ingredients and set them aside. Then, after rinsing the cubed sweet potatoes, place them in a saucepan and cover with water, then place over high heat until boiling. Turn down the heat to medium-high and slow-boil while you prepare the filling. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the potatoes are boiling, heat the oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat, and when the oil is ready, add the red onions and carrots. Cook until the onions are opaque, but not caramelized. Stir every minute or so to ensure even cooking. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Toss in the spinach leaves and continue cooking another 3-4 minutes, stirring often until the leaves have reduced down. Sprinkle the mixture with the flour and mix to coat, then add the tomato paste, vegetable broth, Liquid Aminos, sage and thyme. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring often. Finally, mix in the cooked beans, the corn, and the peas and stir gently so you don’t ‘mash’ the beans. Pour the filling into an 11x7 glass baking dish.
By now the sweet potatoes should be done (you’ll know if a fork easily slides through one of the cubes). If not, continue cooking until they are, then drain the potatoes in a colander and return back to the saucepan, then mash them with a potato masher or a large fork. Mash well to remove any lumps, then mix in the coconut or almond milk and butter, then add salt and pepper to taste. Whip with a blender or fork until fluffy and smooth.
Next, using a spatula or a large, flat spoon, spread the sweet potato mixture over the top of the filling, making sure to spread it all the way against the sides and into the corners. You want the sweet potato mash to create a ‘seal’, trapping the flavors inside and ensuring the filling doesn’t boil over. Place the glass baking dish on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the oven. Back for 25 minutes or until the potato topping begins to crisp and turn brown. Remove from oven and set on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes, and then serve.