Shepherd-less Pie

For four years of my life, tomorrow was the most anticipated holiday of the year. For months, my friends and I would prepare for all that tomorrow stands for: Green Beer and Day Drinking. Where I went to college, these festivities didn't actually take place on St. Patrick's Day, we had a whole separate day for it cleverly named "Green Beer Day" (I kid you not). We woke up at 4:00am to get to the bars and start drinking green-colored beer by 5:00am, we would take a break around 10:00am to get some sustenance from a steamed bagel sandwich at Bagel and Deli and greasy pizza at Brunos, and then would continue drinking green-colored beer. Our day would end with toasted rolls and Clinton's (I'm too embarrassed to tell you what a Clinton sandwich is) before calling it a day. 

My day tomorrow will probably look a little different. I will wake up around 5:30 am to do my yoga practice by 6:00am, I will drink a smoothie that is naturally green. Next,  I will arrive at work and get my sustenance from things like my raw granola bars (stay tuned for those later this week), steel cut oats, fresh fruit and veggies, then I will continue to hydrate myself with water. My day will end with this Shepherd-less Pie (maybe I'll crack open a non-colored beer to enjoy with it). 

I was first inspired to make this when I tried a new dish on my hubby. While it was pretty good as is, he had the genius idea of suggesting to bake it with mashed potatoes on top. This got me thinking of making it into a meat-less shepherd's pie. While I don't restrict myself from eating any certain foods, I definitely feel my best when I try to incorporate as many plant-based meals into my diet as I can. This is a perfect one-dish supper that comes together fairly easily. 

Shepherd-less Pie

Serves 8-12

Notes: I had every intention of making this meal vegan but as I was making the mashed potatoes, I realized I had no vegetable broth to use for the liquid so I used organic low-fat milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Swapping the milk for vegetable broth will easily give you a vegan dinner. I used Yukon Gold potatoes for my mashed potatoes because I like the creamy texture they give. You can also use Russet potatoes. 

For the cashew cream sauce:

1 cup raw cashews (preferably soaked for 2 hours)

2 cups water

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

2 scallions, thinly sliced

For the mashed potatoes:

2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 cup milk mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar (see note)

Salt and pepper to taste

For the filling: 

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces tempeh, sliced horizontally into 1/4 inch slices

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick

3 large carrots, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

1 small onion, minced

1 cup frozen peas

Salt and pepper

1. To make the cashew cream sauce: Combine all cashews, water, garlic, and salt in a blender. Blend on high until emulsified, about 1 1/2 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and stir in thyme and scallions. Set aside. 

2. To make the mashed potatoes: Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and fill with water about an inch above the potatoes. Bring water to a boil, reduce to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Mash with soured milk until creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

3. To make the filling: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x13 inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Fry tempeh slices until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side. If all of your tempeh does not fit in the pan at once, work in two batches using an additional tablespoon of oil, if needed. Transfer tempeh to a large plate lined with paper towel. 

4. Reduce heat to medium, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add carrots, onions, and mushrooms to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper. 

5. Turn off the heat. Add cashew cream sauce and frozen peas to the pan. Stir until all ingredients are combined. 

6. Arrange tempeh pieces in a single layer at the bottom of the casserole dish. Pour the cashew cream mixture over the tempeh. Carefully spread the mashed potatoes over top of the filling by dolloping small spoonfuls of potatoes over the entire filling. Using an offset spatula, gently spread the mashed potatoes into an even layer. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Turn on broiler, uncover pie, and broil until the mashed potatoes are lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.