One of the tough Harley drivers at Ace's work once offered to pick up a sub sandwich for Ace. Ace ordered his usual vegetarian. When the driver handed Ace the bag containing the sandwich, the driver held it at arm's length as if it smelled like a dirty baby's diaper. The look of disgust that followed was accompanied by the statement, "bread and weeds?". Apparently the driver didn't consider it very manly to eat veggies. However, around here, Ace usually gets his fair share of custom meals. This Shepherd's pie for one, is made without meat. If you are a true Irish soul and spit out your beverage in shock as you read that statement, just know I will also include what to do if you do decide to add the traditional ground lamb or American Beef to the casserole. I don't want to be held responsible for starting any battles over the true dish. I just know that in my house, it goes without meat. It goes without cheese. It is...pure and simple veggies and potatoes.
3 lb golden potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
4T butter or olive oil
2 cup milk or soy milk (plain not vanilla flavored)
2 tsp ground garlic
salt and black pepper to taste
1 1/2 lb lean ground lamb or beef (optional for you vegetarians)
1T olive oil (or rendered fat from the meat)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 stock celery, chopped
2 cups each: frozen corn, peas, and green beans
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 T tomato paste
3 cups low sodium vegetable stock (or beef stock)
1 tsp Chef Tess All Purpose seasoning blend
ground black pepper and salt to taste
For the topping,
put the potatoes in a large 1 gallon sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower temperature to medium heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender when cut with a fork. (I cook the filling while the potatoes are boiling) Drain the potatoes well in a colander. In a large bowl, mash the potatoes with a potato masher, add the butter or olive oil, milk, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.
For the filling:
While the potatoes are boiling. If you use meat, cook it over medium heat in a 14 inch skillet until browned, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Drain the meat through a metal strainer, reserving only 1 T fat for the vegetables and gravy. Set meat aside. Heat the one T fat in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery until well cooked through, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and simmer one more minute (this will keep the garlic from burning). Add the tomato paste. Now...stir and cook over medium heat another 5-7 minutes until the natural sugars in the tomato paste get very dark brown. Add the flour, stir well. Slowly add the stock, whisking well. Add the remaining vegetables (meat if you used it) and seasonings. Simmer 5-10 minutes.
Divide vegetable gravy mixture between 3 9 inch pie tins (each will serve a family of 4) or 2, 9 by 12 casserole pans (that will serve 6)
Dollop potato topping evening over the filling in pans.
Sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs if desired. My personal favorite is dill. If however your family won't eat the green stuff...do what you want. I'm not checking your table. My family growing up always had shepherd's pie topped with generous amounts of cheese. OH have mercy. That was always good. In deference of calories however, we're going with the herbs. Cover tightly with foil, label clearly with today's date and cooking directions:
Defrost in fridge 24 hours. Bake uncovered in oven on top rack 400 degrees 20-25 minutes (pie tins) 30-35 minutes (casseroles) until browned. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
From frozen: Leave covered, place on a rack in the middle of the oven 350 degrees 30-35 minutes. Remove cover, increase temperature to 400. Cook 15-20 minutes longer until golden brown on top. For casserole size dishes, 40-45 minutes at 350, 20-25 minutes at 400.