Cool whether foods are, hands down, some of the best foods. Big hearty casseroles, roasts, stews, and of course massive platters of cookies and pies. The only problem is, with all that amazing food, it’s hard to resist diving face first into it all. Two of my favorite winter activities are eating, and sleeping. I like to say I’m in touch with my biological rhythm of gorging myself and then hibernating for the winter, but the fact is, all that food is straight up hard to resist.
Fortunately, there are some dishes that I can dive right into without the guilt (or the need to sleep for twelve hours straight). This recipe comes from my friend and fellow foodie, Rachel of the blog The Delicious Balance. Rachel is actually a registered dietition (she calls herself a “wannabe chef,” but as far as I’m concerned, she can drop the “wannabe” from her title). At first I was skeptical that a meatless, dairy-less shepherd’s pie could hold a candle to all those hearty fall dishes, but boy was I wrong. This thing is SUPER rich and filling, and is surprisingly healthy, to boot. It’s just as rich and creamy as you would expect a casserole to be, but unlike other casseroles, it fills you up without weighing you down. This is one meal I can actually eat seconds of and not feel the need for a nap afterwards.
And don’t mind if I do!
I first met Rachel through our collaboration on The Casual Veggie Cookbook. Her recipes immediately caught my eye, and then I found out, she’s a fellow Michigander, too — and here I thought I was all alone! It didn’t take us long to try each other’s food, and from there, we were instant buds. This Shepherd-less Pie is actually one of Rachel’s recipes straight out of the The Casual Veggie, so if you’ve been thinking about buying the book but aren’t sure, think of this as a little sneak-peak — but just a little one. The book contains 166 recipes, so there is a TON of variety, ranging from appetizer to dessert, vegan to paleo, and everything in between. The only thing they all have in common are a whole lot of veggies, and a whole lot of flavor. (If you haven’t heard about the book, you can find out more and download a copy, here.)
So I know the one big question on your mind right now is, how does this shepherd’s pie get so rich and creamy if it doesn’t contain any cream? Don’t worry, I wondered the same thing, too. The magic happens when you take raw cashews, soak them for a couple of hours, and then blend them up into a sauce with fresh garlic and thyme. That becomes your “bechemel” so to speak, and all I can say is, don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it! Then the cashew cream sauce gets mixed with a whole bunch of sauteed veggies, and topped with heaps of mashed potatoes. Then the whole thing gets baked until bubbly and golden on top. Uh, yeah… need I say more?
While I was discovering the magic of cashew cream, Rachel was cooking up one of my recipes from the book (and an all-time favorite in my house) — Roasted Red Pepper and Fennel Soup. Check out that recipe on her site, here. And when you’re done feasting your eyes, grab a copy of The Casual Veggie by clicking here, or checking out the “cookbook” tab at the top of the page.
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.” — Julia Child
- For the cashew cream sauce:
- 1 cup raw cashews (preferably soaked
- for 2 hours, then drained)
- 2 cups water
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- For the mashed potatoes:
- 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and
- 1 cup milk or plant-based milk, mixed with 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- For the filling:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces tempeh, sliced horizontally into ¼
- inch slices
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced ¼ inch thick
- 3 large carrots, cut into ¼ inch pieces
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Salt and pepper
- To make the cashew cream sauce: Combine all cashews, water, garlic, and salt in a blender. Blend on high until emulsified, about 1½ minutes. Pour into a small bowl and stir in thyme and scallions. Set aside.
- To make the mashed potatoes: Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and fill with water about an inch above the potatoes. Bring water to a boil, reduce to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Mash with soured milk until creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- To make the filling: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9x13 inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Fry tempeh slices until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side. If all of your tempeh does not fit in the pan at once, work in two batches using an additional tablespoon of oil, if needed. Transfer tempeh to a large plate lined with paper towel.
- Reduce heat to medium, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add carrots, onions, and mushrooms to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat. Add cashew cream sauce and frozen peas, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Arrange tempeh pieces in a single layer at the bottom of the casserole dish. Pour the cashew cream mixture over the tempeh. Carefully spread the mashed potatoes over top of the filling by dolloping small spoonfuls of potatoes over the entire filling. Using an offset spatula, gently spread the mashed potatoes into an even layer. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Turn on broiler, uncover pie, and broil until the mashed potatoes are lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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