The Vegan Sheperd’s Pie Recipe You Need in Your Life
Fond is a French word that translates literally to “bottom.” In cooking, it describes all those crusty, yummy little brown bits that get stuck to the bottom of the pan. By deglazing your pan, you use the fond to add depth and character to your dish.
We, as a household, have committed to eating less meat. Less, as in, none at all- with exceptions for occasional indulgences (Hello Thanksgiving turkey!). The hardest things to give up have been eggs and cheese (I’m looking at you egg and cheese croissant), so we haven’t exactly done that part yet.
Apparently this lifestyle is contagious because my brother in law, on a new health kick from his vegan girlfriend, made many attempts at a vegan lifestyle. Each time he ultimately fails. Why? A substantial lack of variety. He tried to get by on a diet that consisted entirely of rice and beans and if he was feeling especially adventurous, a romaine lettuce salad. He would supplement this with nut milk and plant protein. He started to experience fatigue, irritability, and substantial weight loss. All beginning signs of malnutrition. Diversity in your diet is the key to nourishment. Not to mention, as a giant man (picture Gaston from Beauty and the Beast), it was impossible for him to get all the calories needed from rice, beans, and salad.
I’m not knocking rice and beans. I like rice and beans, I mean, I like like rice and beans. They’re great, highly nutritious, and together, form a complete protein. However, there is so much more that we need from our food besides protein. His attempt at veganism had him missing out on a whole alphabet of vitamins and minerals.
Folks, variety is the spice of diet. It’s the key to ensure compliance, but also absolutely necessary for nutrition’s sake. As fledgling vegetarians, we are always looking for ways to spice up our weekday dinners. Cooking on a weekday means your recipe must be quick and easy as well as mess and stress free. This is especially important if you’re trying to change your diet.
I’m reminded of the Disney study that was conducted in their parks. It found that people will look for a receptacle for their garbage for a certain number of feet. If no repository is found, then they simply release the trash from their sweaty mitts onto the ground. It’s human nature, folks. If there is no path of least resistance, there is no path- we just won’t do it.
To trick myself into compliance I created a recipe that was not only quick and easy but oh-so-delicious and will leave you with plenty of leftovers. It’s warm and hearty and, most importantly, nutritious. It’s been adapted to fit a busy schedule and can be retweaked to include any veggie you have in the house. I present to you,
Baba’s Famous Lentil Shepards Pie; weeknight edition
*vegan & oil free!
preheat oven to 385F cook time ~45 minutes
- 1 pound of lentils, brown or black will work best. Sorted and Rinsed.
- 1 8oz package of mushrooms (dealers choice)
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 large onion
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 pound of green beans – set aside until lentils are just through cooking
- 1 tsp of cumin
- A dash of chili flake
- 1 tablespoon of turmeric (this can be omitted, and is included for its color and anti-inflammatory properties)
- ~4 cups of veggie stock, or water
- 1 6oz can of tomato paste
- 1 pound of new potatoes
- Salt to taste- salt levels will change depending on if you use stock, bouillon, or water to cook the lentil mixture in.
Start by preheating a large pot on the stove for the veggies and lentils, as well as a saucepan with salted water set to boil for the potatoes.
Chef Anne Burrel’s voice should be in your head at this time, chanting, “Salty like the ocean, but not the dead sea.”
Note: no oil is added to the pot, this is intentional.
Meanwhile, slice and quarter mushrooms and add to the large pot, now set to medium-high heat. While they are sizzling away, start on the rest of the veggies and add them to the pot as finished- reserving sliced green beans. Make sure to give the veggies a stir each time. I told you this would be easy!
Add potatoes to salted boiling water.
You may be finding that your veggie mixture is sticking to the bottom of the pan, this is desired. We are trying to make a rich fond that will color and flavor the dish. Remember the fond is where the flavor is.
However, we do want to avoid burning, so adjust heat as necessary. Remember, brown is flavor; black is fire. We don’t want to eat fire. If your veggie mix is burning, don’t stress: add a little bit of water!
Make a well in the bottom of the pan and add your spices to wake those puppies up in the high heat. When the spices become fragrant, add a few ounces of water to scrape all our yummy fond off the bottom of the pan, giving you a rich brown broth. Now add your lentils, tossing them in all your veggie glory.
Add to lentils; approximately 4 cups of your favorite veggie stock or water. The goal is to cover the lentils with about 1.5 of water. Set to boil and reduce to simmer. If using water, add salt to taste.
Once simmering for 15 minutes, add tomato paste and green beans. Cook for another 10 minutes.
In the meantime, your potatoes should be fork-tender. Drain and add back to their pot. Put a lid on those puppies and shake the hell out of them, breaking them up.
When lentils are tender, pour into a 9 X 13 baking dish and top with your smashed up potatoes and a sprinkling of flaked sea salt for texture and flavor. Pop this sucker into your oven and bake for 15 min or until mixture is bubbling and potato topping is lightly browned.
For a real time-saver, skip the last step and enjoy your lentil stew with a side of new potatoes. You could even double the water and make this into a pot of hearty lentil soup.