Vegan shepherds pie recipe and a 500 word story (2nd place in Sharmelle's Kitchen Oct '23)
Farmer Joe grew organic vegetables. His brother Dan raised chickens for eggs. Their farms shared a border: Joe's neat lines of plants thriving just feet away from Dan's long, low buildings housing overcrowded cages full of unhappy chickens.
One day a chicken broke free from its confinement, found its way into Farmer Joe's garden and started pecking for bugs in the dirt.
"Hey, Dad!" Joe's young son Ben called out. "There's a chicken tearing up the veggies!"
Farmer Joe looked it over.
"It's not doing any harm, son. It's eating the bad bugs that'll damage the plants. Must've come from your uncle's farm next door."
"Can we keep it?"
"Sure. He won't miss one poor chicken out of those hundreds."
The brightly-colored hen made herself at home. Ben named her Yoda, because it sounded good.
But within a few days, one chicken became two, then five, then ten, and after a week nearly every egg-laying hen in Dan's barns had escaped their cages and took up residence on Joe's land, much to the family's amusement.
Joe's brother wasn't happy and showed up at their door over the weekend.
"I don't appreciate this," he barked at Joe. "Give them back!"
"Let's sit and discuss it." Joe sat the whole family down at the kitchen table. Ben held Yoda.
"Ridiculous!" Dan scoffed. "Chickens aren't pets! They belong in my barns."
"Cages are no place to stuff animals into," Joe responded. "It's inhumane. They can't even stretch their wings. And don't you realize how unhealthy that is? One bout of bird flu and they'll all be killed off. Then what'll you do?"
"You really want me to let my chickens run wild all over the place? How will I collect their eggs?"
"You should research free range."
"Why waste that time when what I'm doing works?"
Ben stood up and approached his uncle.
"Have you ever noticed how pretty a chicken is?" He asked.
Dan frowned down at Yoda in his nephew's arms. The hen perked up her head, eyeing him sideways and making a short inquisitive cluck. He observed her smooth feathers in intricately blended shades of teal, brown and orange, flowing neatly across her back. He looked into Ben's youthful blue eyes, and remembered when he and his brother Joe were kids playing with the animals on their parents farm.
"Well…" he said slowly. "How about you let me have my chickens back and I let you keep this one? And maybe I'll see about giving them more space. I don't suppose they would have escaped to begin with if they'd had enough room."
They made the deal, and Dan soon found that his hens were much happier and healthier when given room to roam freely. It became a family enterprise when he invited Joe to combine their properties into a single multipurpose farm. Yoda the hen became so well-known as Ben's pet, Dan started using her as a mascot for their brand of eggs. Free range eggs, of course.
1 hour 30 minutes
1 hour 45 minutes
▢1 tablespoon olive oil
▢3 yellow onions, diced
▢8 cloves garlic, minced
▢1 tablespoon thyme
▢2 teaspoons rosemary
▢3 tablespoons tomato paste
▢1 1/2 cups (10 ounces / 285g) green lentils (or brown lentils)
▢4 cups (1 L) vegetable broth
▢2 bay leaves
▢1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
▢1/4 cup (56g) smooth tahini**
▢1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
▢2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce (optional)
▢1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Mashed Potato Topping
▢20 ounces (680g) Russet potatoes
▢16 ounces (454g) cauliflower, cut into large florets
▢1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
▢1 rosemary sprig (optional)
▢4 tablespoons vegan butter, softened at room temperature (or olive oil)
▢1/2 cup (120 mL) coconut or oat milk
▢1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
▢Black pepper and salt
Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium to medium-high heat until hot. If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, you’ll need to transfer the cooked lentil filling to a baking dish when it’s time to bake.
Add onions, salt and sauté for 8-10 minutes, or until onions are browned. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Add garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Push the onions to the edges for an empty space in the middle of the pan. Add the tomato paste into the empty space and stir for 2-3 minutes, or until it darkens in color. Reduce heat as needed.
Deglaze the pan with vegetable broth, stirring up any browned bits, about 3-4 minutes.
Add more broth, along with the lentils, bay leaves, and paprika. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to maintain a rapid simmer, and simmer until the lentils are just tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 25-30 minutes.
Turn the heat low. Add the tahini, tamari, balsamic vinegar, and vegan Worcestershire sauce. Stir until incorporated. Set aside.
Mashed Potato Topping
Peel the Russet potatoes and rinse under cold water. Chop the potatoes into eighths.
Place the potatoes and cauliflower florets in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and add just enough water to cover. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook until both potatoes and cauliflower are fork-tender and very soft when poked, about 15 minutes.
Thoroughly drain the potatoes and cauliflower in a colander. Pat the potatoes dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel. For the cauliflower, you must squeeze out the excess water.
Return the vegetables to the saucepan or transfer them to a large bowl. Add in the softened vegan butter, lite coconut milk, nutritional yeast, along with salt and pepper to taste. Mash everything together using a handheld potato masher or an immersion blender.
Shepherd’s Pie Assembly
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. If your skillet is ovenproof and big enough, leave the Lentil Filling in there. If not, transfer it to a large (3 quart/3 liter) baking dish. Smooth the Lentil Filling out. Then, spoon and carefully spread out the Mashed Potato Topping on top, covering the whole surface.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the lentil filling starts to bubble up. Remove from the oven and turn on your oven’s broiler. Place the pan under the broiler for a few minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Note: if you want the pie to solidify more, allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes in the pan.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
**The tahini is easier to stir into the lentils at room temperature.
Tip: If using golden potatoes instead of Russets, do NOT use an immersion blender – the potatoes will get gummy. Use a potato masher or ricer instead.
Author's Notes: ▼