(Posted without picture, because the picture won’t be nearly as interesting as the food)

There’s no such thing as a vegetarian shepherd, so no-one will be grading me as to my creation’s authenticity 🙂  Shepherd’s Pie is one of those things that I would miss as a vegetarian, except that the ground-lamb version that I’m used to never seems to pack the same punch and variety a veg version does.  One of the things that I really love about the shepherd’s pie idea is that it isn’t traditionally made with a cream sauce, so the vegetables and spices you use really stand out.  

Today’s choice of vegetables was a mishmash of what was left in the fridge: celery, rutabaga, parsnip, onion, and a leftover shallot.  The rest was filled in with seitan and covered with cheddar and parmesan mashed potatoes.  And yeah, I hear you say that covering wheat protein in mashed potatoes seems kinda silly, but the reason I love seitan is that it takes the flavors of herbs and spices and fats so much more readily and more like beef/lamb than any of the soy variants out there.  That and the texture’s just perfect for a dish like this.  So, on with the show:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped seitan
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 parsnip, trimmed (take the pith in the center out with a paring knife)
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1/2 rutebega, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbl butter
  • A bit of olive oil 
  • half a dozen yukon gold or similarly smooth potatoes
  • 1/4 cup good hard cheese

Spices (these are the real ticket)

  • 1 tsp charnushka seeds (little black seeds with a pungent savory flavor, great for “beefing” up the seitan)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbl oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • Chopped fresh sage, a bit (I’m big on herbs, but you might not be, use as much or as little as you like)
  • Chopped fresh rosemary (Once again, same tune)

Now, fry the charnushka, garam masala, thyme, sage, and white pepper in butter.  I didn’t say this was low fat, just vegetarian.  Butter is only one letter away from better. Fry it on medium until very fragrant, and then add the seitan.  Toss the seitan in the spices and butter and fry it, stirring often so the seitan doesn’t stick to the pan.  Once the seitan is good and brown and a lot of the water has evaporated away, salt to taste and set it aside.

Add a bit more olive oil to the pan and throw in the vegetables.  Toss in a few tablespoons of white wine for good measure once everything’s sizzling, and saute the vegetables with oregano and half the rosemary. When the parsnips are a bit soft, cut the heat and fold the seitan back in.  You have your filling.

Everyone makes mashed potatoes a little differently.  I threw these through Tracey’s new food processor (okay, she did, because it intimidates me with its Spartan Dearth of Buttons), with that quarter cup of good hard cheese and the rest of the rosemary. Once the potatoes are more or less incorporated and “mashed,” (in quotes because I’m still frightened of what the food processor did to them), spread the filling along the bottom of a 9″x13″ glass dish and then coat liberally with mashed potatoes.  Once that’s done, poke holes in the mashed potato topping and put in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until the mashed potatoes are browned on top.  

With garam masala, charnushka, and other herbs you won’t find in an Irish kitchen, this is nothing like traditional, but then again, we’re using wheat protein in place of lamb.  So I’m not worrying too much. (oh, and I didn’t use the recipe for seitan that I linked to, but I’m using this post as a bookmark because it looks fabulous, and I will be trying it next time).

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