No-Bake Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie for Summer

This is not so much a recipe as an example of how to work with the food, and the weather, that you happen to have.  Last weekend was very hot and humid, and we had some ingredients that needed to be used, including just two potatoes from our farm share–not enough to make a baked potato for each member of our 3-person family.  When I mused to Daniel about what to do with the potatoes, he suggested shepherd’s pie, which has mashed potato as the bottom layer.

The trouble was that shepherd’s pie is baked.  There was no way I was going to turn on the oven in this weather!  We don’t have air conditioning, but even in an air-conditioned house, it’s silly to use the oven in hot weather because it will make the AC work harder and waste energy.  I wondered if I could just make the mashed potatoes (only a small amount, so not too steamy) and briefly cook some other food and put it all together in a casserole dish.

It worked!  My casserole did not hold together particularly well when served, but a baked shepherd’s pie usually doesn’t, either.  All of us liked this main dish, served with a side of grapes.

Our eight-year-old Nicholas took this picture of the starting ingredients:
20130902-163958.jpg

  • walnuts from a big GFS package in the freezer–easily thawed in this weather by simply spreading them out in a dish
  • 2 potatoes
  • lots of parsley, left over from making gazpacho last week
  • about 2 cups of grated carrot.  When making Masoor Dal with Carrots the night before, I had decided to clean and grate all of our carrots from the farm, which were several weeks old.
  • lots of tomatoes from the farm
  • locally grown mushrooms we’d just bought at the food co-op
  • some cut-up cheese that had been served at church coffee hour that morning and brought home in an old cream-cheese tub, plus the rest of the block of cheese if needed
  • garlic.

We ended up using only 5 stalks of the parsley, 2 tomatoes, half the mushrooms, the cheese that was already cut up, and half the garlic.  We used all of the other ingredients pictured.  We also ended up adding

  • 1 cup cooked white rice, left over from the big batch of rice Daniel cooked to go with the previous two dinners
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • 4 strips of soy bacon.  Nicholas bought this fake bacon with his allowance a few weeks ago because he wanted to try it but I thought it was too expensive.  It was nice of him to share!  We all love bacon, although as mostly-vegetarians we aren’t “supposed” to eat it, and typical pork bacon is unhealthy because of the cancer-causing preservatives used to make it.  We don’t usually eat highly-processed soy foods like fake bacon, either, but once in a while….  It added a pleasant flavor to this dish.

I peeled the potatoes, cut them in cubes, and had Nicholas put them on to boil in the smallest possible pot.

I chopped the walnuts and mushrooms, shredded the parsley, and crushed the garlic.  I cooked them with the grated carrots in olive oil in a skillet.

While everything was cooking, I cut up the cheese into very small bits.

I drained the potatoes and put them back into the pot for Nicholas to mash.  He added butter, salt, and pepper.  “Hmm, this isn’t very much potato, Mama.”  I agreed that it didn’t seem like enough to make a good bottom layer for the other food.  We decided to try mashing in some rice.  Because cold cooked rice is very stiff, I microwaved it for 30 seconds.  (Okay, that is, technically, “baking”.  But you won’t need to do it if you have enough potatoes!)  It seemed difficult to mash at first, but as it mixed with the potatoes and he added some more butter, the whole mixture became fluffy and nice.

We spread the potato mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish.  The carrot-mushroom-walnut mixture went on top.  The cheese went on top of that, and then I put on the lid so the cheese would melt.

I diced the tomato and put that on top of the cheese.  Meanwhile, Nicholas prepared the fake bacon and cut it up (it doesn’t crumble like pork bacon) and that went on the very top.

We forgot to take pictures of any of the intermediate stages, but here is the finished meal!
20130902-164106.jpg

It was very tasty, both for dinner and as leftovers, and fulfilled Daniel’s craving for shepherd’s pie.

This modified shepherd’s pie worked for me! Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more cooking ideas!  Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more ways to make use of your odds and ends!

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About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

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