Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

This is one of those recipes that makes me feel really okay with giving up meat, because it proves you can have a hearty classic dish without a lick of meat, and it still tastes good. The key here is using shredded tofu and a yummy gravy to create the effect of ground beef. It’s probably no surprise that this recipe originated in a Moosewood cookbook, because they really know their way around a meatless dish.

The main thing I changed was I left out the mushrooms and added some of my own veggies because that’s how I like it! But feel free to saute up some mushrooms to add to your gravy, if you like them.

Here are the ingredients:

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant

1 cake firm tofu, frozen, thawed and shredded
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
Pinch of black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen peas
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
Salt to taste

2 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
Pinch of black pepper
1 1/2 cups hot potato water
1 cup veggie broth (or veggie bouillon dissolved in water)
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup of water

You start by slicing up a block of tofu and freezing it for at least a couple of hours. Then take it out to thaw for at least two more hours. When it thaws, a lot of the water comes out, making it easier to shred. You might want to press it a little more just to get out as much water as you can.

You’ll probably want to work on all three of the elements of this dish (tofu and veggies, potatoes, and gravy) at once to save time. Put the potatoes in a big pot with salted water and heat them to boiling. When they get there, turn down the heat a little and boil them until soft, maybe 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, saving the starchy water for your gravy.

Meanwhile heat up the vegetable oil in a big saute pan and cook the onions, carrots and peas with the thyme, coriander and pepper until the onions are translucent and the carrots are soft. Add in the walnuts and shredded tofu. When those are heated through, add the lemon juice and soy sauce and take the pan off the heat.

Mash your potatoes with the butter, milk and salt. Taste them to make sure they are just how you want them.

To make the gravy heat the butter in a skillet and saute the shallots until translucent. Stir in the soy sauce and black pepper. Add the potato water and veggie broth and bring to a boil. Then stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until the gravy is thickened and bubbly.

Now you can layer everything in a casserole dish. I used an adorable 8-inch square Glasbake dish, which promptly overflowed when I put everything in. You might want to choose something a little bigger.

Oil, butter or spray the dish, then layer the tofu and veggies, the gravy and the mashed potatoes inside. Put a few dabs of butter on top of the potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top of the potatoes start to get brown.

It’s not the most beautiful of dishes, but it sure is tasty.