Growing up, shepherd's pie was one of my absolute favorite winter comfort foods. I should say, by the way that I am not a vegan. I'm not even a vegetarian, but I do have a lot of friends who have gone veggie. Last week I made the Persian Chicken with walnut and pomegranate sauce and it occurred to me that the walnuts had the consistency of found beef. So, when I read about this week's vegan challenge, I thought why not put my theory to the test and try to recreate my mom's incredible shepherd's pie in vegan form. I have to say, this version, although not my mom's, is SERIOUSLY edible! —nycnomad
Chop the onion finely and sauté in 1 Tbsp of olive oil over a low to medium flame until it turns translucent.
Chop the garlic finely and add to the onion. Continue to sauté until the garlic has also soften and the onion begins to caramelize slightly.
Put the onions and garlic aside. Chop the mushrooms coarsely and sauté in a separate pan with 2 Tbsp + olive oil, stirring frequently. The flame should be kept quite low to keep the mushrooms from burning.
The walnut should have been soaked for at least 3 hours in filtered or at least good quality water ( I live in LA). Drain the walnuts and pulse them in a food processor until they have achieved a mealy consistency, something akin to ground beef.
Once the mushrooms have cooked through, add the walnut "meat" and stir into the mix. Add back the onions and garlic and cook together.
Add the tomato sauce, vegetable stock, salt, cumin, paprika, pepper and thyme. Continue to stir over a low to medium heat for a few minute so that the flavors begin to blend.
Pour the "meat" base into a ceramic baking dish and allow it to cool. This will allow the walnuts to continue to absorb the flavors from the vegetables and spices.
In the mean time, peel (I know I hate it too) the potatoes and boil them in lightly salted water until they are easily pierced by a fork. My mom swears by Yukon Gold potatoes for mashing. They are a little tricky to find these days, but I got lucky that one of the vendors at my local farmer's market had them. They really are worth hunting down.
Drain the potatoes but put some of the water aside for the mashing and whipping. Mash the potatoes and add back some of the water until the desire fluffiness is achieved. Add salt and pepper to taste and a little olive oil (1 Tbsp) and whip/mix again. *(If you prefer less dense mashed potatoes you can make 1/3 cooked cauliflower: 2/3 potatoes)
Cover the "meat" base with the mashed potatoes. Heat the oven to 400F and place the dish in the oven. Cook for 25 mins or until the mashed potato top is slightly browned and the "meat" has heated up.
Garnish with finely chopped mint leaves, serve and enjoy!