Shepard's Pie or Cottage Pie (as the difference between the two doesn't really matter for Vegetarians) is a classic of the UK cooking world. Using the ever lovable potato as a topping the Pie had leftovers from the previous day as it's base. But the exact origin really depends on your take of exactly what Shepards Pie is or in fact isn't...Could be Scottish or British. Nowadays this dish is a standalone dish, using typically fresh peas, carrots and garlic a hit of Worcestershire sauce and stock and not to mention the mince it has gone from a dish for the poor to a dish that would fit onto any pub or restaurant menu. Rosemary and Thyme are typical as is a tomato product. Again some will use a proper tomato paste or sauce and other the dastardly ketchup. (Yes that Ketchup and not Catsup)
Start by hydrating your textured soy/veggie protein in a earthy mixture, I typically use paprika, thyme and a bit of cumin and a touch of veggie base. While this is doing it job, make your mushroom sauce. This is particularly important as it makes the base for the entire dish. Whole mushrooms can be used but mushroom stems and trim also do the trick. Add some fresh herbs, some peppercorns, garlic, bay leaf and a shot of red wine (if you like), carrot and onion. The exact measurements can be up to your own preference. Be sure there is enough mushrooms, you are looking for the water level to be just a tiny bit higher then the mushroom layer. Simmer very gently for an hour or two.
While this simmers, make some mashed potatoes....
Heat the oven to 190C
Now the mushroom stock and mashed potatoes are ready, start by frying what every finely cut veggies you have on hand. Almost anything works, but remember this is a fall dish, so the ingredients that are harvested in the fall work the best. aka root veggies, mushrooms. Peas and Corn also work really well. Add herbs and some version of Worcestershire sauce (most Worcestershire sauce is not actually vegetarian so be aware) and a bit of the tomato product. Add the veggie hack and cook together, mixing well for about 5 minutes or so. Add the stock and let simmer for 1o minutes. Now thicken the sauce, either with cornstarch or arrowroot powder depending on preference. Once thickened. Place in an oven proof dish and top with all the mashed potatoes that you like and bake for about an hour, till the top is golden brown and crispy. Let cook for approx 10min and enjoy.
Be creative with it.....it is a relatively simple dish that is easy to use your own favorite ingredients. If making the stock seems daunting, you can purchase a powdered mushroom stock and if you are in a real pinch you can use just a regular veggie stock....but only if you are really in a pinch.