18 March 2011

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie












How I came to make my famous vegetarian shepherd's pie (shepherdless pie) this week: I was visiting Foodbat.com the other day and reading about her taking an extra beef tongue off her friend's hands ("How can one say no?"). Even though her motto is "Exploration is delicious," she chickened out and threw it in the freezer. Made pork chops instead.

Well, I can't help her! I would have said no to anyone trying to palm off a spare tongue on me. You see, I was exposed to tongue early in life. Unlike many children, I was a fairly adventurous eater and I would at least taste most everything. But whenever my mother cooked tongue, only she and her mother would eat it. I had to fall in with the more picky eaters on those occasions. It might be perfectly delicious, but I wouldn't know and I never will!

I was just a toddler when I began hanging out in the kitchen with my mother and grandmothers, eager to watch and learn. Well, I kept my eyes closed when it came to the beef tongue. So I can't give Foodbat any tips. She's on her own. No, wait, I can help! I can put her in touch with a man in England who is sure to know all about it, Le Charcutier Anglais.

All that talk about tongue has put me off my feed! I'll be vegetarian all week now! I'm all about "comfort food," but foods like tongue make me distinctly uncomfortable! (Discomfort Food, anyone?) So my shepherd's pie this week is made with lentils instead of beef, turkey or lamb. Hope you'll try it and let me know how you like it. (And, if you happen to be a beef tongue aficionado, I hope I haven't offended you!)

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie - Shepherdless Pie


(Serves 6-8)

1 2/3 cups dried green lentils
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups water
4 pounds potatoes (I use organic russets)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cups diced carrots
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 or 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

4 ounces (1 stick) butter
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar

1 In 3-quart saucepan, bring lentils, salt and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, loosely covered, until tender. Cooking time may take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the variety and the age of the lentils (I cooked these for 40 minutes--the package said 30). When they are done, there will be just a little water left. Drain it off and reserve it for another use.

2 Pare the potatoes, and rinse and quarter them. Put them in a 3-quart saucepan; add salt and cold water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, loosely covered, about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3 In the meantime, prepare filling. In 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil and cook chopped onion for 10 minutes. Add diced carrots and cook an additional 10 minutes. Sprinkle vegetables with flour and cook, stirring, until flour is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes, soy sauce and seasonings. Stir in cooked lentils. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat and stir in frozen peas. Set aside.

4 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain and mash potatoes. Stir in butter, milk, salt, pepper and cheese.

5 Spray 13x9x2-inch baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Line bottom of dish with half the mashed potatoes, cover with all the filling, top with remaining potatoes. Fluff potato topping with a fork. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

6 If making ahead, refrigerate unbaked casserole until 65 minutes before serving time. Preheat oven to 375. Bake for 55 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.

34 comments:

Sully said...

Grant Soosalu is standing behind me as I write this, enjoying your column, and when the wheels started to turn in my head, he said, "Hold your tongue…" Now, I ask you, can I go in that direction after a good pun like that? So I'll just play it straight. Never had tongue (dear God), don't think I ever will have tongue, and won't miss it. Grant just added, "...what a tongue-lashing." Your straight-as-six-o'clock friend sitting in front of your four-thirty-o'clock friend…

Sully

Jean said...

I felt fairly certain that YOU were not a great fan of beef tongue! But so glad it's given you and Grant something to go on about. (Poor Fiona. Is she sorry about the whole trip yet?!)

Anonymous said...

Good post, but all that talk about tongue wasn't very appetizing! --Ed

Jean said...

Sorry, but glad to hear there are people besides myself who don't like it!

Marc Frederic said...

Hi Jean, B****r the tongue, I'm eating this, but not before Monday!!

Regards
Marc-Frederic
Le Charcutier Anglais

Jean said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Marc! That's quite a compliment coming from the man who is all about meat! When I'm not thinking strictly vegetarian, I put in a little Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce instead of, or in addition to, the soy sauce.

Southerner said...

OK Jean, I'm not going to comment on the tongue thing. Yes I have eaten it and....

You've got me thinking.
As part of our history curriculum in schools over here we do The Roman Invasion of Britain. They were here for over 200 years after all. The Roman diet is always something that grabs the kids interests.
There is a lot of evidence for what the Romans ate, written documants, wall paintings, pictures on pots, and mosaics. It really is an interesting topic.They ate things we would never think of, but as i always say to the kids, it's all about traditions and what you are used to.Some people eat horse, dog, cat etc. Well, why not? There are some lovely things out there we could eat. "Mouse pasty anyone?"

All the best,
Tony

Great article Jean. Love your blog.

Jean said...

Mmmm ... mouse pasty. :) Trouble is, Tony, mice here are so small, you'd have to catch a dozen of 'em to make a decent sized pasty!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I was served a tongue just laid out and garnished on a plate in Germany. I felt horrible, but I had to pass. I wasn't sure where to make the first cut. Plus, it just looked awful.

Is it common for tongue to be in Shepard's Pie - I need to know this for future pub ordering. Would it be stated on the menu? I had no idea! XOL

Jean said...

Sorry for the confusion, Laura. No, I've never heard of anyone putting tongue in a shepherd's pie. The only connection between tongue and shepherd's pie is that just reading about the tongue put me off meat altogether for a bit, and so I made my pie with lentils instead of ground beef or turkey (or lamb). You'll be perfectly safe ordering shepherd's pie in a pub.

Cranberry Morning said...

I like the idea of making it with lentils. Sounds delicious. The thought of tongue in anything would put me 'off my feed' also!

Re. your comment on Cranberry Morning today, yes we ate our way through the Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes. They have about 25 sample plates of cheeses they make. It's a cheese lover's heaven!! :-)

Debbie said...

My fiance and I were just discussing how we both have really gone off mince lately, so this recipe is very welcome!

Jean said...

Thanks, Judy. I do a lot with lentils. Would love to visit Wensleydale Creamery. I do a lot with cheese also.

Jean said...

Debbie, I hope you will both enjoy the recipe. We've gone off mince as well, unless it is organic, grass-fed and processed in small lots.

Angie's Recipes said...

Jean, this is my type of super comfort food!

Jean said...

Thanks, Angie! Mine too--I just love legumes!

Lick My Spoon said...

Thanks for stopping by my space. This shepherd's pie looks delightful. I find it really hard to feed veggies to my family so this looks like a great way to do it!

Jean said...

Thanks for stopping by mine, Stephanie! I hope you'll be able to sneak a few veggies into your family with my shepherd's pie.

Mary said...

This really sounds delicious, proving yet again there's more than one way to skin a ... - what exactly might a vegan skin :-) I think lentils work really well here. I was quite young during WWII and tongue appeared on lots of tables lots of times. It really is not bad when it is pickled liked corned beef and then very thinly sliced for sandwiches. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Jean said...

Mary, thanks! Yes, there's more than one way to skin a legume! And thanks for weighing in on the tongue issue. :)

Mrs. Tuna said...

Just say no to tongue, and to Squirrel enchiladas.

Jean said...

Okay, I will! Though the day may come when we wish we were a little more "flexible" in our tastes!

Jenn said...

When I was growing up, my very best friend would invite me over for dinner and I always had to be cautious... Tongue and cow brain ended up on their table a lot!! eeewwwww!!!
I love this version of Shepherds pie and I'm very much the carnivore!!

Jean said...

Oh my ... eeewwww is right ... when I dined at friends' homes as a kid, I just had to put up with cooking that wasn't as good as my mother's!

Ma What's 4 dinner said...

OH I do love shepherd's pie!!! And I like the vegetarian spin. I actually have tried tongue. It's ok... I think you and I were separated at birth! I was the same way when I was young, totally adventurous!

Lots of yummy love,
Alex aka Ma, What's For Dinner
www.mawhats4dinner.com

Jean said...

Thanks! I put a vegetarian spin on lots of things. Guess you'd call me a flexitarian. Funny thing about being a fairly adventurous child eater--there are things I liked then that I don't like now.

rel said...

This looks perfect - although I love traditional Shepherd's Pie, most days of the week I prefer something vegetarian. Will try this when the weather cools down (having a late summer here in Brisbane!)

Jean said...

Rel, thanks so much for stopping by! My husband prefers the meat shepherd's pie--likes the taste of the lentil one just as well, but his body doesn't thrive on a vegetarian diet. Mine thrives on legumes! Would love to see Brisbane one day.

Thekla Richter said...

The tongue thing reminds me of a scene in one of Beverly Cleary's Ramona books. Did you ever read those?

I will have to try this recipe sometime, without the cheese. My husband is vegan and I always love to find new recipe ideas for our household. This sounds like it would be a great potluck dish.

Jean said...

Thanks, Thekla. This is so easy to vegan-ize. I hope you both like it! No, I haven't read the Ramona books. I read another Beverly Cleary book when I was in sixth grade, but no Ramonas. Maybe I'll check one out now!

eatingRD said...

This sounds wonderful!!! and packed with protein and fiber :) I have to say that I've never had tongue and even though I'm a pretty adventurous eater, I'm not sure I want to try it! ha

Jean said...

Thanks! And about the tongue ... don't worry, I don't think we're missing anything!

TheArtistOnTheRoad said...

Made this last night and it was great! Since my dad is staying with my wife and I and is vegan, I split it into two pans and just didn't put any of the butter and cheese into his potatoes and it worked! Everyone loved it. I've never used marjoram in my cooking before but this is the second recipe of yours (the other being the cabbage soup) that calls for this delicious spice. Thanks!

Jean said...

Richard, I'm so glad you all liked it! Marjoram is probably my favorite herb and one I use frequently, so you'll be seeing more of it on my blog, I'm sure.

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