Alamo Annie decided to visit the old country and recreate a decidedly English dish. Every so often I hear someone talk about how English food is boring and bland. I truly beg to differ – I’ve had some wonderful meals in the UK and it is reasonably easy to find interesting vegetarian options at most restaurants. Their breads are delightful, the pastries can’t be beat, and our friends across the pond embrace cuisines from around the world. Heck, there was even a “Texas” restaurant in London, for a while!
Jane Grigson wrote several cookbooks containing excellent recipes and telling wonderful stories about the rich history of English cuisine. This amazing woman greatly expanded the level of knowledge and national pride in her culinary heritage. On top of all that, she was a great advocate of fruits and vegetables and their proper preparation.
From soups to puddings, there are a lot of English foods that can be adapted to the vegetarian diet. Shepherd’s Pie – also known as Cottage Pie – was created some centuries ago as a means to use up leftovers and modest cuts of meats. Originally prepared for the poorer folk, I’ve been seeing Shepherd’s Pie on U.S. menus lately – it seems to be enjoying a bit of modest fame here in the colonies.
Essentially, Shepherd’s Pie is a meat and vegetable loaf covered by mashed potatoes. Much like chicken-fried steak, the emphasis is on the combination of flavors and masking the cheaper cuts of meat, making this dish a perfect candidate to convert to a vegetarian version. Think of this as English comfort food at its best- the dish is filling and satisfying.
Feel free to add whatever vegetables you have in your fridge such as green beans, celery, or even some chopped kale. When researching recipes, the tendency seemed to be to combine all the ingredients in one stew pot. I found that cooking the mushrooms separately vastly improved the results. We are talking one extra pan here, not a huge sacrifice given the outcome. Make your mashed potatoes ahead of time or use what you have left over from a previous meal.
Make it vegan – be sure to use a vegan beef substitute and delete any dairy products from the mashed potatoes. Instead, mix vegetable broth with the potatoes and top with a vegan cheese, if desired.
2 T oil
8 oz onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz ground beef substitute, room temperature
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 T fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 t dried)
1 T oil
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 T vegetarian worcestershire sauce
1 T oil
2 T flour
2 C vegetable broth
1 T tomato paste
salt, pepper to taste
3 C mashed potatoes, prepared ahead of time and room temperature
¼ C ½ and ½
1/3 C vegetarian parmesan cheese
1/3 C vegetarian cheddar cheese
1 T chopped chives
- Preheat oven to 350 ⁰. Lightly oil a medium-sized casserole dish.
- Heat a large non-stick fry pan, add oil, and sauté onions until they are completely wilted. Add carrots and cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in ground beef substitute and cook until beef substitute begins to brown. Add parsley and oregano.
- In another large fry pan, sauté mushrooms until they brown. Add worcestershire sauce and stir until liquid has evaporated. Stir in the vegetable and beef substitute mixture. Keep over very low heat and reserve first fry pan for next step (all the little left over bits will contribute to the flavor so don’t clean it!).
- With first fry pan, cook flour in oil for about 2 minutes, or until flour just begins to brown. Slowly add the broth, stirring constantly, and bring all to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir until mixture thickens. Stir in tomato paste and add beef substitute and vegetable mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish.
- Slightly thin mashed potatoes (if needed) with ½ and ½ and stir in parmesan cheese.
- Spread potatoes over mixture and sprinkle cheddar cheese on top. Cook, uncovered, in oven for about 25 minutes.
- Allow to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish top with chopped chives and enjoy!