The other day I saw someone in my office pop a frozen entree into the microwave. It was a highly processed version of pot pie, a comfort food favorite.
When he walked away, I picked up the box and my jaw dropped when I read the nutritional information. Thirty grams of fat and over 1,000 mg of sodium! Not to mention partially hydrogenated oil (trans fats) and all kinds of ingredients I couldn’t even begin to spell.
Ironically, when you make comfort foods from scratch, they tend to be wholesome and unprocessed. Case in point: My vegan shepherd’s pie, made from seitan and loads of vegetables. It’s soooo homey and satisfying, it practically puts you into a coma (a happy coma).
There was a momentary controversy about whether seitan and tamari/soy sauce are “processed,” but it’s ok because you could easily make your own seitan from whole wheat flour rather than making it from vital wheat gluten flour (which is somewhat processed). And if you were really obsessive, you could make your own soy sauce, too.
If you’re wondering about arrowroot, with its bright white color, it passes the Kitchen Test — the root is simply mashed to a pulp and drained, then the starch settles at the bottom of the liquid. Dry the starch and you have arrowroot powder. (Don’t know if I’d try this at home, though!)
You can vary the vegetables here, depending on what’s in your garden or at your farmer’s market. Celery root and parsnips can be substituted for the carrots and celery, and you can lighten the potato topping by substituting cauliflower for half the potatoes.
And if you’d like to make this a gluten-free dish, substitute sautéed, crumbled tempeh or chopped, baked tofu for the seitan — and be sure to use wheat-free tamari.
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
My vegan shepherd’s pie, made from seitan and loads of vegetables. It’s soooo homey and satisfying, it practically puts you into a coma (a happy coma).
- 4 Tablespoons Reduced-Sodium Tamari
- 2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
- 1 cup Red Wine or Madeira
- 1/2 cup Vegetable Broth
- 1/2 cup Water
- 1/2 cup Tomatoes crushed or diced
- 2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
- 1 medium Yellow Onion chopped
- 1/2 stalk Celery diced
- 1 large clove Garlic minced
- 2 medium Carrots diced
- 14 ounces Mushrooms sliced (I use shitake and other wild mushrooms, but regular mushrooms are okay too)
- 1 small Red Bell Pepper chopped (optional)
- 8 ounces Seitan drained, rinsed and diced very small
- 1 tsp. Dried Thyme
- 1 tsp. Fresh Sage chopped
- 1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley chopped
- Freshly ground Black Pepper
- 1 cup Peas
- 1/2 cup Toasted Walnuts chopped
- 6 medium Russet Potatoes about 2.5 lbs., peeled and quartered
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Soy Milk can substitute regular milk
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
In a medium bowl, mix together arrowroot and tamari. Add stock, wine, water and tomatoes. Set aside.
Heat canola oil in a large skillet, add onion, celery, garlic and carrots and sauté on medium heat for 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and bell pepper, and sauté 5 minutes more. Add seitan, along with the sauce mixture, herbs and a generous amount of black pepper. Simmer 5 minutes, until sauce is nicely thickened. (If it’s too thick, add more water; if it’s too thin, mix some more arrowroot with water and stir in.) Add peas and walnuts.
To make mashed potatoes for the topping: Place potatoes in cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain in colander. Return potatoes to pan and shake over high heat for a minute to remove excess moisture. Add the olive oil, soy milk, mustard and salt and pepper to taste, and mash with a potato masher until smooth.
Place the seitan mixture in a shallow ceramic baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes over the top, smoothing with a spoon. Sprinkle with paprika.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees, for 40 minutes or until bubbly and starting to get a bit crusty on top.
About the Author
By day, Cathy Elton is a busy advertising copywriter. By night (and weekend), she is an even busier food blogger. What Would Cathy Eat? focuses exclusively on heart-healthy vegetarian recipes. Cathy found her way to heart-healthy eating the hard way, after having a severely blocked artery at the tender age of 44. Her goal is to help people eat well while still enjoying adventurous and satisfying food. She is proving that heart-healthy doesn’t have to mean boring.