I think I’m a pretty good cook, but I’m still never certain if it’s just me that loves my food or if everyone else actually thinks it’s good too. Thursday was a good sign when this vegetarian cottage pie recipe that I made up disappeared first at my St. Patrick’s Day dinner party…with both vegetarians (vegetarians for life *and* vegetarian converts) AND meat lovers gobbling it up. Kinda crazy!
The secret to this recipe is getting the right texture for the filling, somewhat like ground beef. I used a mixture of 1 part crumbled tempeh to 1 part crumbled extra firm tofu to 1 part finely chopped mushroom mix (1 part shiitake mushrooms to 3 parts crimini/baby bella mushrooms). The flavor mix of the mushrooms and tempeh almost creates a very earthy flavor.
For this recipe, I recommend using a dish that can be put used on both the stove and in the oven (like a Le Cruset– thanks mom!), but you could probably make it in a pot then put it in a casserole dish. The recipe will seem kind of complicated, but once you get going it’s pretty easy. Just remember to do all your prep (making the mashed potatoes, vegetable chopping, mushroom chopping, getting all your supplies out) before you turn on any heat!
I can’t say this recipe is a perfect, exact replica of what I made. It probably needs some fine tuning, but it’s also pretty forgiving. You can add more liquid or butter or whatever as you go along, just keep tasting it to see if it tastes right to you. Since there’s no meat, you don’t have to worry too much about getting ecoli or salmonella!
Infamous Vegetarian Cottage Pie
(makes enough for 2 pies, or 1 1/2 large pies, feel free to scale or make extra to freeze)
- 1 block tempeh (~8 oz)
- 2 small block (1/2 standard tofu package) of extra firm tofu (~6 oz)
- 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms (you could use reconstituted dried, but the flavor will be stronger) chopped very finely
- 14 crimini/baby bella/brown mushrooms (chopped very finely)
- 4-6 tbsp soy sauce (prefer a mixture of regular and dark soy for color)
- 4 shallots
- 2/3 stick butter
- 1/2 cup of white flour
- 1/3 cup vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (most Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies; if you’re a lacto-ovo-pesco vegetarian, I guess you could just use regular W. sauce. I used chinese black vinegar; if you use that, use more than the W. sauce.)
- 3 tbsp vinegar (preferably cider or red wine)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- salt & pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (Italian), dried is not a good substitute
- 1 tbsp dried thyme (or more fresh)
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage (more if dried)
- 1 onion, largely diced (2″ pieces)
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and roughly minced
- 1 carrot, diced medium (1″ cubes or smaller)
- 1 cup frozen peas (defrosted and drained)
- 2 green onions, chopped roughly. Leeks could would work too.
For the topping:
- 2-3 cups Mashed potatoes (I made mine with unpeeled boiled yukon golds with butter, milk, salt, pepper added until a thick rough consistency)
- Paprika for color
Prepare the mashed potatoes beforehand. I like mine with the skins on– it has more vitamins and more textural intrigue– but if you’re paranoid, you can peel the potatoes. I took about 6-8 potatoes and cut into large chunks (I cut mine into 4 to 6 pieces depending on the size) and boiled them until they were soft when stabbed with a fork. Then I drained off the water, let them dry for a bit, then threw them in a bowl and mashed them with about a stick of butter, some milk (maybe a cup?), and salt and pepper using a pastry cutter (I don’t have a potato masher). Voila!
First prep all of the vegetables. I put the mushrooms together and ran them through the food processor until finely chopped, but you could do this with a knife too, it’ll just take more time.
Prep the ground protein. Tempeh, if not frozen, is very easy to crumble into a ground meat like texture using your hands. Just make it so there aren’t any big chunks. I crumbled one package of tempeh (apparently 8 oz) with 1 small package of extra firm tofu (if you’re using a package like one of these from House Foods, I’d use half the package– 6 oz) crumbled finely using my hands.
Season it with soy sauce, a little brown sugar (optional– helps offset some of the bitterness of the tempeh), mix it well, add the mushrooms and some salt and pepper. Set aside.
In your stove top safe, oven proof dish (or just a pot), add the butter and shallots and sautee until the shallots are clear and slightly golden/carmelized (over medium/medium-low heat). You can see here that I tried browning the ground protein/mushroom mix first– I don’t think that’s really necessary, so I’m omitting that now.
When the shallots are done, add the flour to the butter/shallot mixture and turn the heat down a little bit.
Using a fork, mix the flour into the butter with a fork until it absorbs all of the fat (as in a roux). Mush it around to make sure there are no lumps, just a very thick slightly browned paste. Keep the heat on medium low. This paste will be used to thicken the gravy/sauce.
Add the Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. If you tried to brown the protein mixture like I did, you’ll need to use the sauce to deglaze the pan. If not, just mix it thoroughly into the flour/fat mixture using a fork, making sure there are no lumps.
Now gradually mix in the vegetable broth, integrating it into the paste that you made before. Make sure that the floury mixture mixes thoroughly with the broth using the fork, because this creates a gravy. You want this gravy to be thick. If it’s too thin, add more flour and make sure it gets mixed in to where there are no lumps. If it’s too thick (paste-like rather than gravy-like), add more broth or even just water.
If you’re just using an oven-safe dish, you can just smooth this down and put the mashed potatoes on top, sprinkling with paprika. If you’re not baking in what you just cooked in, transfer the filling to the oven-safe pan and smooth it on the bottom, then add the potatoes and paprika. I try to use slightly more filling than mashed potatoes.
Because everything is pretty much already cooked, you just need to broil it for 10-15 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool a bit before serving.