Friday, January 29, 2010

Sausagey Shepherd's Pie with Mushroom Gravy

I know this recipe sounds weird, but it's actually really delicious. I'm typically not a fan of veganizing what we might call "homestyle" (but mean, I think, Western European --> American) food. So many other ethnic cuisines are effortlessly vegan--Indian, Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Armenian, etc. And...typically these cuisines have a lot more flavor. In fact, it is these types of food that really formed the backbone of my culinary education in a co-op and elsewhere. I was comfortable cooking with turmeric and coriander long before I ever discovered oregano or thyme.

But I am starting to branch out. I bought thyme and sage for the first time in my life this year. Perhaps I feel as someone with a more traditional background in cooking would feel upon discovering Indian food. But there's also an element of homecoming: these are familiar tastes; I just have not been reproducing them until now.

This was actually all spurred on by the long-held thought that I could make sausage out of tempeh or something else because it tastes like (crazy, hitherto-unknown-to-me) herbs and spices rather than actually tasting like meat. The sausage filling in this recipe wasn't as close an approximation as I'd hoped, but it definitely evokes sausage, or preserves the spirit of sausage.

This recipe takes some time, but I am very happy with how it turned out. And you can make it in stages: make the crust and pre-bake it one day, later cook and prepare the filling and put it in the crust, then finally bake off the pie when you're actually ready to eat it.

I strongly recommend also making the mushroom gravy--it's delicious, tasting like pure Thanksgiving to me. Without it, the pie might have seemed a bit too dry and not salty enough; with it, it was excellent.  Tamari, bay leaf, and sage all add interesting "meaty" flavors to this dish. The lovely flaky crust makes the dish feel special, but it's not junk food, either. I guess that makes this "comfort food."

N.B.: I know this isn't really a Shepherd's Pie, but what else should it be called?  "Sausage Pie" is also something different.

Sausagey Shepherd's Pie
Pie Crust

1 1/4 c white flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
3-4 TB of cold water

Preheat oven to 375. Combine flour, oil, and salt. Add water until you have dough. Roll dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper, on top of a slightly wet countertop. Transfer to a 9-in pie pan; reserve extra crust. Poke crust with a fork and bake 15-20 min. Remove crust from oven and set aside.

Tempeh Sausage Filling
(adapted from The Complete Vegan Kitchen)

1 8-oz package tempeh, cut into 1-in cubes
¼ tsp dried thyme
¾ tsp rubbed sage
1 bay leaf, ground
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ c whole wheat flour
½ TB soy sauce
1/8 c olive oil
Canola oil for frying

Steam tempeh 15 minutes. Crumble into a bowl. Add dry spices, mix well. Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Saute in a bit of canola oil until browned.

Vegetable Filling


2 TB olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 whole scallions, finely chopped
2 potatoes, small diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp coriander
1 stalk celery, chopped, including leaves
¾ c frozen corn
¾ c frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
3 TB flour and 3 TB water

1. In a saucepan, boil potatoes and carrots until somewhat tender (about 15 min).
2. In a large skillet (can be the same that you used for the sausage filling), heat olive oil. Saute garlic and scallions. Add potatoes, carrots, thyme, and coriander, and cook 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat, and stir in celery, corn, peas, and salt and pepper. In a separate pyrex, mix flour and water before adding this to the skillet as well.

Assembling the Pie

If oven is not already hot, preheat oven to 375. Spread the sausage filling along the bottom of the pre-baked crust. Then pour vegetable filling on top, pressing down gently to fit it into the pie. If desired, roll out extra dough and create lattice design on top of pie. Bake pie at 375* for 30-40 min, or until warmed all the way through and top crust is lightly browned.  Serves 6.

Mushroom Gravy

3/4 cup white mushrooms, chopped
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/4 cup Earth Balance
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 TB soy sauce
1/4 cup flour (see note below)
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet, melt the Earth Balance and add onion and mushrooms. Saute for just a minute or two over high heat.
2. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat.
3. Add seasonings, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens.  Makes just more than enough for a pie, or 6 servings.

Note: I have substituted cornstarch for flour, but be careful not to overdo it: start with a small amount and then add more gradually. To make it cloudy when I made it this way, I also added some soymilk.

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