Hey all! What a week! Here I am coming up for a little air and breathing deeply at the thought of a quiet weekend at home – I feel I’ve been a little MIA here the past few days – we’ve just finished up a whirlwind week of kids Christmas concerts, choirs, and gifts for teachers and friends, not to mention craziness at work & the rest of the prep for Christmas……it is now officially time to breathe.
I won’t go into details, but after my last post exactly a week ago today, I was pretty rattled and blogging really was the furthest thing from my mind (it was always lurking back there though). With the husband being a little under the weather, we battened down the hatches and stuck around the house in our free moments (which there were very few of). It may be cold & dark outside, but tonight it’s warm & bright in the house. The kids are home for two weeks now, and we get to be together. No soccer, no school, no running around. Just us. How truly blessed we are! With all the goodness time at home with family brings, comes the memories of favorite times spent around the table with family as kids. Nostalgic meals that bring us back to the safe places where we store and guard our coziest childhood memories, and still perhaps recall the tastes and smells of the food we ate, and maybe even the stories we told.
This recipe is that for me. Growing up, we ate Shepherd’s Pie with lentils often, and always with straight mashed potatoes and maybe even ketchup (for us kids). I’ve been meaning to bring this back over the years and must thank my good friend Danielle for the push (a huge yes to the soaked walnuts and coconut butter!) and also to the Moosewood Cookbook, as I borrowed the very best parts of Mollie’s infamous lentil mushroom burger for this as well. The result is a perfect comfort food to share with loved ones at any time, but particularly wonderful on a cold dark night like tonight, the darkest night of the year. Thanks to my mom for the original inspiration behind this truly delicious & ultra classic recipe!
Classic Vegan Shepherd’s Pie:
(1) cup raw walnuts, soaked for 4-6 hours minimum or overnight
(1) cup dry green lentils
(3) cups water for cooking lentils
(1) tsp salt
(1) tbsp prepared Dijon mustard
(2) tbsp olive oil
(1/2) tsp salt
(1) large onion, chopped finely
(10) large white button mushrooms, chopped finely (about 5 cups total)
(2) cloves fresh garlic, minced
(2) cups green kale washed & chopped finely
(2) medium-large carrots, peeled & diced
(1) tsp salt (to taste – this is optional but I recommend it)*
(4) yellow-fleshed medium potatoes, peeled & chopped (4-5 cups)
(1/4) cup raw cashews
(1/2) cup cold water
(1-2) tbsp coconut butter (or any butter)
(1/2) tsp salt (optional)
olive oil for the top while cooking
chopped fresh parsley or chives to garnish
To prepare, start by soaking the walnuts in advance in enough water to cover (you can do this either the night before or the morning of). To prepare for the pie, drain, rinse & chop the walnuts with a sharp knife to a coarse chop and set aside in a bowl. Next, combine the lentils and 3 cups of cold water for cooking in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, and cook, partially covered for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are soft. Most of the water should get used up in the cooking but feel free to drain if needed once the lentils are soft, and also if the water is gone before the cooking is finished feel free to add as required. Set the cooked (and drained if needed) lentils in a bowl and mix with salt. Mash a little with your hands or a spoon and set aside to cool.
Prepare the vegetables for cooking and when ready, heat a large pan with olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and salt, and cook for 6-8 minutes or until soft. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook a further 10 -12 minutes, until all of the water is completely evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to turn a rich brown. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes until everything is mixed together (it will smell amazing). Remove this mixture from the pan and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Using the same pan, add another bit of oil and re-heat on medium. Add the chopped carrots and cook for 3 minutes, stirring to coat well and cook evenly. Add the chopped kale and cook for 2-3 minutes further, until the kale is bright green and just softening. Remove from heat and add to the onion/mushroom/garlic mixture.
Next, combine the peeled & chopped potatoes in a small pot with a few inches of water. Bring the water to a boil with the lid on, and once boiling, turn the heat to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes with the lid on, until the potatoes are soft.While the potatoes cook, combine the cashews & water in a blender and blend until smooth – you should have a creamy sauce with no lumps. Drain the cooked potatoes and mash them lightly with a fork, add the coconut butter, cashew cream, and optional salt and mix all well until you have light and fluffy mashed potatoes. Season to taste and set aside. Next, combine the cooked lentils, cooked vegetables, chopped walnuts and Dijon mustard together in the large mixing bowl and mix with your hands until perfectly combined.
*Check for salt and add an additional teaspoon if you like.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a standard glass pie plate (my mom used to serve hers in a cast iron fry-pan) and spread the entire filling mixture on the bottom. Spread to make it even and condensed. Next, spread the mashed potatoes over top of the filling. Use a fork to make ‘waves’ on the top (or however you like it!) and top with a generous swirl or two of olive oil. Bake the pie uncovered in the oven for 40 minutes, until nice golden crispy crust forms on the potatoes. Remove from the oven and serve hot, with or without chopped fresh parsley or chives as a garnish. Leftovers keep very well and are also great cold (I speak from experience here!)