Irish Vegetarian Shepherds Pie or Shepherdless Pie

Comfort is usually one of the last thoughts when someone says vegetarian food.  But, this Irish inspired vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie provides a total comfort food experience without the meat.  Dig into this tasty one dish wonder, and no one will miss the meat.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (aka Shepherdless Pie)

Base:
2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 large onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced 
2 cups diced Crimini mushrooms
12 ounces of meat substitute such as Gimmie Lean mince or texturized vegetable protein hydrated with vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
1 Tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce http://www.pennilessparenting.com/2012/03/homemade-worcestershire-sauce-recipe.html or 1 tsp Worcestershire pepper (*if using the “pepper” omit the ground pepper)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 cups vegetable broth or water with vegetable bouillon cube dissolved

Topping:
2 to 3 pounds of washed potatoes with eyes removed (preferably Yukon Golds or Red Bliss; keep skins on if desired)
water and salt
2 tablespoons butter
salt, pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 cup sharp shredded Cheddar cheese
paprika (optional)

In a large pot, place potatoes, cover with cold water and add salt.  Cover.  Turn the stove to high and cook until the potatoes are fork tender. 
Drain the potatoes.  Return potatoes to the pot over the lowest setting.  Add butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, sour cream, and cheese.  Mash with a potato masher until the ingredients are combined and the potatoes sufficiently mashed.  Add milk if the potatoes are too thick.  Remove from heat. 

While the potatoes are cooking, in another large pot add the first 2 tablespoons of butter, carrots, mushrooms, salt and pepper, cooking over medium heat.  After the carrots start to become tender add the onions.  Cook until the onions start to appear translucent.  Add the garlic, spices, and meat substitute, cooking until heated through.  Pour mixture into a bowl and set aside temporarily. 

Add the other 2 tablespoons of butter and the 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour to the pan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Cook until the mixture takes on a light golden brown.  To this mixture add the red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.  Whisk in broth and tomato paste. Add the frozen vegetables and the ingredients set aside in the bowl.  Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat.  The base mixture should be the consistency of a stew, if necessary add a bit of water or additional broth to thin.  Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 13 baking dish. 

Spoon the potato mixture carefully over the base mixture already in the pan.  Carefully spread out the potatoes to cover the bottom filling.  Decorate and sprinkle the top with paprika if desired.

Bake in a preheated moderate oven, about 350°F, for 15 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown on the top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.