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Yid.Dish: Three Kinds of Shepherd’s Pie (Traditional, Vegetarian, Avant Garde)

Growing up, one of my favorite foods was my mom’s Shepherd’s Pie.  It was a great comfort food, perfect for a blustery fall day, or a Shabbat dinner in February.  I loved Shepherd’s Pie so much that when I went milchigetarian my mom took mercy on me and made up a vegetarian version of her traditional recipe.  The veggie version is fantastic, and has satiated many a carnivore in its time.  An added bonus for both of these recipes: they’re completely kosher for Passover, too.  Sherpherd’s Pie is a great dish to serve on the sixth day of Passover when everyone is sick at the mere sight of matzah.

This week I was really craving Shepherd’s Pie, but over the years I’ve found that I despise making mashed potatoes.  My mom used to use some instant mashed potatoes, but I couldn’t see myself buying instant anything, and anyway, I was kind of in the mood for sweet potatoes, too.  My solution was to come up with a re-imagined version of Shepherd’s Pie.  Instead of mashed potatoes, I used a combination of sweet potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes, cubed and roasted.  Between layers of the roasted potatoes I had a nice thick layer of vegetarian ratatouille with fake ground beef.  Yum!

All three recipes below the jump!

Originally I had planned to make my first attempt at Avant Garde Shepherd’s Pie a private affair.  I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out, so I decided to have my Shabbat meals alone.  But at the last minute a friend was in from out of town and asked if he and his girlfriend could join me for a meal.  I invited The Boy, too, and looked nervously from one carnivore to another as they sampled my dish.  Happily, it was pronounced delicious by one and all, and is sure to become a staple of my winter menus.  Below you’ll find my mom’s original recipe (meat), her veggie adaptation, and my new avant garde version.  Enjoy!

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie

3 Tablespoons oil
3 pounds ground beef/lamb/turkey
2 medium onions, chopped
4 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 can tomato paste
6 servings prepared instant mashed potatoes
water or soy milk to go with the mashed potatoes
6 potatoes

Put ground meat (you can mix whatever you have available) along with onion, tomato paste, parsley, nutmeg and a dash of salt and pepper in a pot. Cook until meat has browned.

While these are cooking, boil whole potatoes in water until soft. Then peel and mash.

Make instant mashed potatoes as directed, substituting soy milk or additional water for milk.

To assemble, use the instant mashed potatoes to cover the bottom and sides of an 8”x10” casserole dish. Then fill the potato crust with the meat filling. Top with the real mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Definitely bake uncovered, as the best part is the crusty part of the mashed potatoes.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
3 Tablespoons oil
1 eggplant cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
1-2 green peppers, chopped
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1-2 zucchini, chopped
1 package vegetarian “ground beef” (optional)
(we use whatever combination of the above vegetables we have on hand)
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons basil
16 oz stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
6 servings prepared instant mashed potatoes
water or soy milk to go with the instant mashed potatoes
6 potatoes

Put all vegetables, ground “beef” and spices in a pot with the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook until soft.  The veggies will release a lot of juice, so even if the mixture looks too dry to begin with, just keep the flame low and pot covered and soon you’ll have a nice bubbling mixture of yumminess.  Alternately, just make ratatouille.

While these are cooking, boil whole potatoes in water until soft. Then peel and mash.

Make instant mashed potatoes as directed, substituting soy milk or additional water for milk.

To assemble, use the instant mashed potatoes to cover the bottom and sides of an 8”x10” casserole dish. Then fill the potato crust with the veggie mixture. Top with the real mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Definitely bake uncovered, as the best part is the crusty part of the mashed potatoes.

Tamar’s Avant Garde Shepherd’s Pie
2.5 lbs (approx) sweet potatoes
2.5 lbs (approx) Yukon gold potatoes (or whatever variety of potatoes you prefer)
4 Tablespoons olive oil

1.5 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons Italian spices
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

For filling:
1 package vegetarian “ground beef”
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 can tomato paste
3 Tablespoons olive oil
a handful of cherry tomatoes (if you happen to have them)
¼ cup fresh basil
1 Tablespoon Italian spices
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
pinch cayenne
sprinkle of paprika

Peel the sweet potatoes, wash and then chop.  I cut them into about 1” cubes, but larger chunks would probably have been fine, too.  Wash the rest of the potatoes, peel if you want, and cube those as well.  Toss with olive oil and spices and put onto a baking sheet (ideally, one with a lip all the way around).  Cover the baking sheet tightly with aluminum foil. Bake at 425 F for about 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through, but are not crispy.  Set aside.

While the potatoes are baking chop all of your veggies.  In a medium sized pot (with a cover) put your veggies, the olive oil, and the tomato paste.  Cover and cook over a low flame until the veggies have released their juices, about 7 minutes.  Add the “ground beef” and all of the spices.  Stir, cover, and allow to cook a bit longer, until you a have a nice thick mixture of veggies and “beef” (about 7 more minutes).  Remove from heat.

In a 9”x13” pan spread a thick layer of your cubed potatoes (about half of your potatoes, or a bit more than half).  Pour the veggie mixture on top of it, smoothing it out so it’s an even layer.  Spread the rest of the potatoes on top of the veggie mixture.  Sprinkle with paprika.  Bake in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes.

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11 Responses to “Yid.Dish: Three Kinds of Shepherd’s Pie (Traditional, Vegetarian, Avant Garde)”

  1. lisa Says:

    Hi Tamar – I like your veggie shepherd’s pie recipes; the one with sweet potatoes sounds especially good. I’ve also made shepherd’s pie with kidney beans instead of veggie “ground beef.” The beans add a nice flavor, and are more affordable and a non-soy way to add protein. Read your milchigetarian article too – that’s a good name for it – I’m one too!

  2. shev Says:

    Nice article – and I love the idea of using roast cubed potatoes, yum.

    Anyone have a recipe for veggie shepherd’s pie without soy? Lentils maybe? Thanks!

  3. Mindy Shapiro Says:

    I love the vegetarian Shephards Pie recipe from Sunday’s at Moosewood. It uses thawed frozen tofu. Now you know what to do with your tofu when it has been in the refrigerator too long but has yet to go bad. Freeze it.

  4. Sara Rivke Says:

    I made a combination of the traditional and veggie recipes (using Morningstar veggie crumbles) for Shabbat dinner tonight. It was super easy, but looks fancy and delicious!

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