The Harvest Party Menu was a big success – particularly for me, an experimental vegetarian shepherd’s pie was a huge hit! I loved it. If you tried it, I hope you loved it, too. There is something so satisfying about the savory butternut and white pumpkin topping with the green beans, mushroom, and chickpea filling, and though the gravy was flour-based (which I think you could easily exchange tapioca or arrowroot to thicken sans butter – just use a Tbsp or so with cool water to mix into hot broth until set like gravy), the whole pie was vegan (we use plant butter for the fats). Divine, if I do say so myself.
All the rich savoriness comes from a little carmelization of a bit of onion and the mushrooms in the beginning (truly, that’s all vegetarian fare really needs to create body – a little carmelization…or fermentation…those are my veg secrets), and veg is so good for the body. I like to be able to make clean food – to clean out, to feel clean, to have food without the common inflammatory markers. This really fits the bill (though, again, especially if you change the wheat to a different thickener, rice flour works too, but if you use organic whole grain wheats, you are better by a mile). And it’s homey, in the transitional – Hey! It’s now Fall!-kind of way. Which we are feeling in a big way today with the rain and drop in temperatures. We’ll still have a few warmer days but it’s time to shake out the sweaters, wash and prepare the Fall blankets, and know where my woolly hat is for cool mornings.
I think you could substitute – I’m all about knowing how to adapt recipes for what is on hand – any kind of squash or pumpkin for the topping, potatoes/yams, or even any root vegetable. The green beans could be swapped for a good firm greenery like broccoli/broccolini/cauliflower or maybe asparagus or seeded zucchini or peas, the mushrooms could be replaced by carmelized eggplant (any kind but Italian, think smaller firmer eggplants) or cauliflower or carrot or just more onion/shallot, and the chickpeas could be subbed with another soft but firm bean or tofu/tempeh fried or roasted a little beforehand. I feel like the veggies are pretty playful in that regard. Though I suppose you could add something like chopped or shredded chicken to this, as well. Shepherd pie type things are very adaptable. But I didn’t want to forget this one. Happy Autumn!
Planters Cottage Pie
Serves 6-8 as a main dish
2 Big Squash (I used 1 big Butternut and 1 big White Pumpkin), seeded, peeled, and chopped into 2″ cubes, boiled until tender (about 20 min), set aside
2 Cloves Garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
1 # Mushrooms, any kind (I used Baby Bellas), chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1 Large Vidalia Onion, or 4 decent size Shallots, or 1 Med Leek, etc, sliced
20 oz can/box/bag Chickpea/Garbanzo Beans, drained, rinsed, skins removed if desired
1 # Green Beans, any kind – if fresh: trimmed, halved
32 oz Vegetable Broth (homemade, can/box – whatever)
6 Tbsp Plant Butter (roughly)
1/2-1 cup AP Flour (roughly) (or Brown Rice Flour works well, too)
1-2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Herbs – Thyme, Sage, Rosemary, Savory, Parsley, Marjoram (or 1-2 tsp of dried herbs)
Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
A little Olive Oil or more Plant Butter to mix in with Squash, to prepare the pan, and to cook mushrooms
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Butter or oil a 9×13″ baking dish (on bottom and sides). Set aside.
Mash tender Squash until smooth with Sea Salt & Black Pepper and a pinch of the Herbs. Set aside.
In a cast iron pot or other heavy bottom pot, add a glug of Olive Oil (or Plant Butter) over Med-High heat, add Onions and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, then add Garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add chopped Mushrooms. Stir less occasionally to let the Mushrooms start to carmelize but still retain some of their juices. Season with Sea Salt & Pepper, add a little more butter to coat thoroughly, stir in Green Beans, Chickpeas, and Herbs then transfer to your 9×13″ baking dish.
Dry Roux process for Gravy: Returning to your heavy bottom pot, add the 6 Tbsp Plant Butter over Med-High heat. The Butter should be sizzling – add 1/2 cup Flour and whisk quickly in, you want it to be crumbly like biscuit dough – if still moist, add another 1/4-1/2 cup Flour (all flour is different so it will react a little different, until it comes together like crumbly biscuit dough) – cook roux for almost a minute adding just a bit of color. Add Broth little by little (1-2 cups at a time, enough to coat bottom of pan but no floating lumps), whisking vigorously until smooth with each liquid addition (after the 3rd addition, lumps should not appear), add extra water if needed. This should be of gravy consistency, cook down, whisking gently until desired effect. Remove from heat. Season with Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper to taste.
Stir into vegetables in baking dish thoroughly. Top with big spoonfuls of Squash, smoothing out overtop (but not too smooth, the best bits happen in the grooves) the gravy mix and drizzle with a little Olive Oil or dot with Plant Butter. Bake at 375 degrees with a sheetpan underneath (gravy may bubble up and out a bit) until Squash is set and bits are browning up (about 30-40 min or until well-browned and heated through). Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Great with Bread and a light Vinaigrette Salad for balance.