The Shepherd Has Freed The Flock

15 Nov

Sometimes, children like the most unusual foods.  I think almost everyone has a food they loved as a child, that perhaps seems gross now as an adult.  Perhaps it’s an unusual combination of ingredients, or possibly something too sugary to withstand as an adult.  It could also be associated with certain childhood memories.

For my husband, it was the dreaded Shepherd’s pie in his Catholic school cafeteria.  Most students hated it, but apparently he and only one friend loved it.  Usually it was only offered once per month, but sometimes to their delight, it would suddenly appear every week on the menu.  The boys cheered while others groaned when they heard the morning announcements proclaiming Shepherd’s pie on the menu.  My husband and his friend ran to their seats in the cafeteria, then sat quietly with their hands folded, waiting for one of the nuns to approvingly send them to the lunch line.  With glee, they dug into the mess of meat and instant mashed potato flakes, while other kids just pushed it around into alien formations on their plates.

Well over twenty years later, my husband sometimes asks fellow alumni if they remember the Shepherd’s pie and if they too liked it.  He hasn’t had any luck finding more fans —  most people either don’t remember it or hated it.

What could have possibly been so delicious about this Shepherd’s pie to these two elementary school students?  What was in it?  Apparently, just ground beef, corn, and mashed potatoes.  Nothing else — and that does mean nothing! I learned that the hard way the first time I attempted to replicate it.  I decided to get fancy and add carrots, edamame, and chopped broccoli to the corn layer, much to my husband’s disappointment.  Actually, he does like carrots, broccoli and edamame, but not in his Shepherd’s pie!

This time I promised to stay true to the recipe of his childhood school cafeteria favorite.

So I started by immediately cheating and reaching for an onion!  How could I not put an onion in it?  The flavor of a sauteed onion is too much to give up!  Thus, I began by dicing and sauteing a large onion.

My favorite ground meat substitute is Lightlife Smart Ground.  I use it for shepard’s pie, sloppy joes, pizza, lasagna, and chili (in which it has totally fooled meat-eaters at parties, and even a chili contest!)  Sometimes my grocery store runs out of it, so very often I buy several at a time because they do keep in the freezer well.

Whether you store it in the freezer or refrigerator, it is a good idea to crumble it completely into a bowl first, so that you do not have clumps.

Sometimes, I do the mise en place thing and put my herbs and spices into a bowl first.  Today I used dry parsley, oregano, basil, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper (more cheating!).  I did not measure it, but I can say the dried herbs were about 1 tablespoon and the spices were about 1 teaspoon each.

Once the onions were sauteed to the point in which they began to appear translucent, I added the Smart Ground, herbs, and spices.

After blending everything together and sauteing for a minute, I added Annie’s Worcestershire Sauce, which is vegan (many other brands are not!)

I stirred some more, until everything was incorporated.  I find that keeping a cup of water nearby and occasionally adding water prevents sticking, if necessary.

Once I was satisfied with a taste-test of the Smart Ground, I layered it thickly along the bottom of a glass casserole dish.

My next layer was frozen corn.

My final layer was a thick layer of mashed potatoes (Click here for the recipe).

I baked it in the oven at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Then I turned the broiler on for about 3 minutes, but unfortunately it browned unevenly, as you can see here.  Maybe it’s my oven, but I am just not a fan of the broiler.  However, my  husband wanted it brown on top, just like when he was a kid.

After letting it cool a bit, we served large portions of it.  My husband enjoyed two hearty servings and never noticed the other ingredients outside of the corn, mashed potatoes, and Smart Ground!

Truly a mess, but ultimately a good comfort food, which brought some happy blissfulness and nostalgia for my husband.  I liked it too, although I can’t say I would have liked the original school cafeteria version.

In thinking about this meal and the story behind it, I’m going to provide a sneak peek at tomorrow’s blog:  I’m going to write about my favorite gross childhood food.  It involves chocolate, bread, “cheese,” and “ham.”  You’ll have to stay tuned!!


One Response to “The Shepherd Has Freed The Flock”


  1. Dunk WHAT in chocolate milk? « Jerseyveganchick's Blog - November 16, 2010

    […] I blogged about the veganized Shepherd’s pie I made for my husband so that he could enjoy a childhood favorite — even if he was one of the […]

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