Thursday, June 23, 2016

White bean shepherd's pie - version 1

White beans replace the meat in this lovely vegan version of the classic family favorite my whole family enjoyed. This recipe is perfect for a day when you'll be home all day, (like I was - with a sick kiddo) or one of those lazy weekends when you don't mind a more involved, time consuming recipe. I'd encourage you to invite the kids into the kitchen for this one, if they're old enough, to experience the primal act of peeling potatoes or grab some tunes (or a podcast!) and enjoy the solitude.

This is a vegan, allergy friendly recipe but it can easily be made with whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand. It's gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free and if you use a soy-free oil spread it will be soy-free too. Worried about what your kids (or spouse) will say about white beans in a shepherd's pie? None of my kids complained about the beans in this, even the pickiest. The beans are barely noticeable in this savory pie. It turned out very mild, and very comforting.

This is the from-scratch version, if you don't count the frozen vegetables, though I'm sure you could replace them with whatever you'd picked from your garden/bought at the farmers market/grocery store/whatever. I'll be posting a quick, weeknight version made with pre-prepared ingredients soon. 

So here is my vegan version of a Shepherd's Pie. It was inspired by something that my daughter sent to me on Pinterest (but had a million ingredients and a gazillion steps) mine has only half a million ingredients and five steps.

Step one: start the broth
You could do this on another day and refrigerate it if you'd like or save some time and use pre-made broth. You can make whatever type of broth you want. I made a corn cob vegetable broth. Broths are super easy if you have the time to let them just sit and simmer and they're pretty hard to mess up. Just cut an onion or two, throw in a couple of carrots and stalks of celery (like three or four, cut in half) a few cloves of garlic and a couple of bay leaves then let it simmer! Because I was making a corn broth I started with a few ears of corn in my water, cut the corn off once it was done cooking, threw the cobs back into the water and then added the other ingredients. 

Step two: prepare the potatoes
So you could literally use whatever kind of potatoes you prefer/are on sale. Just wash 'em, (peel if you want) dice 'em and boil them in some salted water. I used cheap russet potatoes, Yukon would work well and red potatoes would be amazing (just leave the skins on those). Once your potatoes are fork tender, drain the potatoes, mash and add some Earth Balance (vegan butter substitute) and some extra salt. You can mash them however you like. Some people like their mashed potatoes lumpy others prefer silky smooth. If you want the latter add more Earth Balance and whip in a stand mixer, with a hand mixer or immersion blender. 

Step three: strain broth & add veggies
The next step is to drain your broth. I used a metal mesh sieve to strain my broth. I ended up with about twice as much as I needed so I put the extra in a glass jar. 

Then add your veggies. I added a bag of frozen corn, a bag of frozen peas & carrots and two cans of white beans. I used great northern beans but you could also use cannelloni beans (white kidney beans). You could also add mushrooms and extra onions or leeks at this point. Or you could chop some carrots & celery for the veggie filling, whatever you think you'd like or whatever you have on hand.

Simmer the veggies in the broth and add your seasonings. I added some salt, a little bit of pepper and some rotisserie chicken seasoning mix (which is totally the bomb - I use it really often), I also added a sprinkle of sugar because I always think sugar is surprisingly good at making food pop.

Step four: thicken 
Once everything is simmering happily on the stove you can make a corn starch slurry (you could also make one with white flour) I took about 1/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk and 2Tb of corn starch, miked them together and then added that mixture to the broth. Once everything starts bubbling again you're ready to assemble!! Don't wait until it gets thick, it'll thicken in the oven and if you over-thicken corn starch it will break down. 

Step five: assemble & bake
Assembling this is easy-peasy. Dump the veggie mixture in a 9x13 or whatever casserole dish that will hold all your veggie goodness. Top the veggies with your mashed potatoes and stick it in a preheated oven. (I had made my potatoes a bit earlier in the day and had refrigerated them. I don't recommend refrigerating your mashed potatoes. They hardened up pretty badly and made them hard to spread.) How long it takes to bake depends on how hot everything is when you start and how deep your dish is, but I'd plan on it taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 minutes in the oven. 

Serves six to eight.

For broth:
1 large sweet onion or two small yellow onions
4 carrots
4 stalks celery 
4 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves 
Later add:
1/4 cup almond milk
2Tb corn starch

For filling
1 bag frozen peas & carrots
1 bag frozen corn
2 cans great northern beans
Salt, pepper, seasoning mix

For potato topping
2-3 pounds of potatoes
Earth balance butter