shephard's pie

Shepherd’s pie is not really my cup of tea, or so I used to think.  Then I made this one and I thought, “Wow!”  It’s satisfying, I can make it ahead, have in the refrigerator for days, and it’s easy to warm up.  It tastes great and helps make the transition from winter to spring a little more delicious.  And, like many recipes, it has infinite variations.  Here it is vegan and still sooooo flavorful!

It’s the combination of ingredients that makes this dish work without dairy or meat.  The brewer’s or nutritional yeast, for instance, gives you B-vitamins for nerves and stress and “an umami tang that’s savory and complex,” says Vegetarian Times Magazine.  And if you’ve not tried date syrup made with 100% dates, you’re in for a treat.  (As an aside, I love date syrup drizzled on pancakes, a fruit salad, or mixed with tahini.  Take a look at the chart on the next page for reasons, in general, to eat dates!)

I chose sunflower or hemp seeds because I love them, and they add protein.  You could substitute cooked lentils or cannellini beans, or textured vegetable protein or tempeh.

Serves 4         


½ C extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp black pepper
6 cloves garlic, minced ¼ C wine vinegar
2 C chopped onion, about 1 extra large ¼ C brewer’s or nutritional yeast
1½ C diced sweet red pepper, 1 large ¼ C date syrup
C diced celery 2 C corn kernels
1½ C sunflower or hemp seeds 2 C diced tomatoes (save the juice, see below)
3 Tbsp soy sauce ½ C tomato juice (from diced tomatoes,  more if needed)
1 tsp dried sage ¼ C miso paste
1 tsp dried thyme


1½ lbs russet potatoes (about 2 large) 1 tsp good salt + extra for top
¼ C extra virgin olive oil + extra for top chopped parsley for garnish

Filling: In a heavy saucepan, large cast iron skillet, or 12-inch fry pan, gently warm olive oil.  Sauté garlic and onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add red pepper and celery.  Sauté 10 minutes.

Topping: Meanwhile, scrub potatoes and cut into chunks.  Don’t peel!  Why would anyone peel potatoes when the peel is so tasty and chock-a-block full of nutrients?  Put potatoes into a pot with a couple of inches of water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, simmer covered, until potatoes are tender.

Back to filling: Add remaining ingredients to pan and stir.  Turn heat to low and simmer uncovered 15 minutes.  Add more juice if filling becomes dry and starts to burn (every pan works different).  Turn off flame.  Cool filling to room temperature.

Back to topping: In a large bowl, using a potato masher or heavy fork, mash the cooked potatoes together with the extra virgin olive oil and salt.  Do NOT over-mash.  You want a rustic texture.  Note there’s no milk of any kind.  It’s just not my taste, I prefer the lusciousness of the extra virgin olive oil!

Spoon filling into an oiled 9-inch pie plate or small casserole dish, or an oven proof skillet or individual baking dishes, or ramekins.  Dollop, then lightly spread mashed potatoes over filling.   Don’t obsess over perfection.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and drizzle some oil over topping, sprinkle with flakey salt and bake 10 minutes more to brown top.  Garnish with parsley.

Of course you can use different vegetables – say, parsnips instead of peppers.  If you want, you can sprinkle shredded melting cheese on top of filling before you spread on mashed potatoes.