Some things just never change. As a result, there are certain aspects of our lives upon which we all tend to rely.
For instance, you expect that Wile E. Coyote will tumble down the mountainside (an anvil in hot pursuit), only to re-emerge the following week without so much as a scratch–and start all over again. You can reliably presume that if you wear a white shirt on a first date, you will likely spill red wine on it. You depend on David Letterman to deliver a Top Ten list (and for there to be ten items on it). When you look in the mirror, you assume you will see your own reflection staring back at you (and not your mother’s, as I have been seeing lately). And if you’re Elsie and Chaser, you count on Mum to feed you at precisely 5:00 PM, or else feel justified executing the “border collie stare” and butting her thigh with your cold, wet nose. [“Yeah, so, and what of it, Mum? A gal’s gotta eat.“]. You just rely on certain things to always be. . . well, reliable.
One of the most reliable aspects of winter is
that I will hate it my whingeing against the cold and sleet Ricki dreaming of the tropics comfort food. And one of the most common forms of comfort food in winter is shepherd’s pie.
[Almost makes it worthwhile to endure another winter. . . . almost.]
Interestingly enough, while my mom wasn’t a great cook, she did, on occasion, tackle this multi-layered dinner casserole. When it came to ground beef in general, her usual plated meal was grey hamburgers with a side of insipid mashed potatoes (eat up, everyone!). The burgers were always the color of lead, with a thick, tough crust on the exterior and dry, nubby bits inside; eating one felt like taking a big bite of a thick packing box filled with styrofoam chips.
But then, perhaps once a year, she’d go wild and make the shepherd’s pie. Her version involved cooking half a bag of frozen peas and carrots along with the meat, then plopping the mixture in the bottom of a square pan and topping the whole mess with homemade mashed potatoes (which were reliable as well: always full of lumps). As you can imagine, I wasn’t a fan of shepherd’s pie.
Of course, I wouldn’t have been a fan of the dish even if my mother had been a fabulous cook. Authentic shepherd’s pie, I learned with great dismay, contained ground lamb (because, well, they were what the shepherds were shepherding). Personally, I’d much rather see shepherds train their sheep to do this:
[“Oh, sure, Mum, those sheep may look impressive, but don’t forget that it’s actually the dogs who did all the real work. I think they deserve some food for that.”]
Once I left home for university, I completely forgot about shepherd’s pie. It wasn’t until my 30s here in Toronto that I encountered a stellar vegan version of the dish at a restaurant called le Commensal that I fell in love. Their shepherd’s pie featured buckwheat (one of my favorite “grains”) and a topping made with fluffy sweet potato mash. (These days, it seems, the place is no longer a vegan establishment and has added some “flexitarian” options to their menus. . . so who knows? Maybe they’re serving lamb-based sheperd’s pie after all now.)
When I began to crave comfort food, I decided to create my own riff on that buckwheat pie and soup it up a bit with lentils for additional protein. Having tried both sweet potato and regular potato, I decided to go with the regular mash as a more traditional topping. The result is a sturdy, full-flavored–dare I say, meaty--pie that will fill your belly with flavor and comfort. Because after all, when you eat shepherd’s pie, you want to be able to count on it to be just what you expect, right? Some things never change. . . .
This recipe is being shared on Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.
Buckwheat and Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
Although it takes a bit of advance preparation, this pie comes together very easily. It also makes a large casserole, so you’ll have leftovers to freeze for another day. If you’re not a fan of buckwheat, simply double the amount of lentils.
For the filling:
2 cups (480 ml) vegetable broth or stock
1/2 cup (120 ml) dry brown or green lentils
1/2 cup (120 ml) dry whole buckwheat groats (kasha)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup (110 g) walnut halves or pieces, finely chopped or coarsely ground in a food processor
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup (35 g) Ricki’s All Purpose Gluten-Free flour mix (or all-purpose mix of your choice)
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) vegetable broth or stock
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) liquid smoke (note: you may omit and substitute 1/2 tsp smoked paprika instead of paprika below)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) dried thyme
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) paprika
1/2 tsp (2.5m l) dried sage or poultry seasoning
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 cup (240 ml) fresh or frozen green peas
For the topping:
2 large or 3 small potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks (I used red skinned)
6 cups (1.4 L) water
1/2 cup )120 ml) vegetable broth or stock, or unsweetened coconut beverage
2 Tbsp (30 ml) unrefined coconut oil, preferably organic
Fine sea salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Spray a 9-inch (22.5 cm) square pan or casserole dish with non-stick spray, or grease with coconut oil.
Make the filling: Bring the 2 cups/480ml vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the lentils. Cover, lower heat to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover the pot and add the buckwheat, then replace the cover and simmer for another 20-25 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and both the lentils and buckwheat are soft. (If necessary, add a bit more liquid and continue to cook until done).
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frypan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, 7-10 minutes. Add the walnuts, celery, carrots and garlic, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the walnuts are fragrant and the onions are browned, another 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the remaining ingredients including the lentil-buckwheat mixture and stir well to combine.
Turn the filling into the pan and smooth the top. Set aside until the potatoes are ready.
While the filling cooks, prepare the potatoes: Place the potatoes and water in a large pot and bring to boil over high heat. Boil until the potatoes are quite tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain and mash with the 1/2 cup (120 ml) broth and coconut oil; add salt to taste.
Spread the mashed potatoes over the filling in the pan. You can simply smooth the top, or run the tines of a fork through it in swirls in a decorative manner. Sprinkle with more paprika, if desired.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the potatoes are beginning to brown and the filling is bubbly. Allow to cool 10 minutes before cutting into squares. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen.
Suitable for: ACD Stage 3 and beyond, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free (option), vegan.
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Five Years Ago: Tofu Omelet with Sauteed Apples and Sweet Curry Sauce (gluten free; ACD Maintenance )
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