Dark Days: Root Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie
Although the ‘official’ Dark Days Challenge (locally sourced meals) isn’t happening this year, us Southeastern bloggers decided to pick up the slack and do our own. I use ‘pick up the slack’ loosely since I believe the challenge stared December 1 and I obviously haven’t posted anything yet. I also intended to have this up on Monday but some site issues kept me from doing so.
Hmm. Maybe 2013 should be the year where I don’t explain what I meant to do on the blog and, instead, just do it.
So here it is, my first Dark Days post.
Local vegan cuisine is a little tough in the winter here, but I’ve learned to get creative, this Root Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie being a good example. I’m lucky to have a few farmers markets that run through the winter months, but the main one I frequent–West End Community Market–is open mostly when I can’t go (Tuesdays from 3-6). The hours are centered around the goal of the market, to serve the West End Community via the community center, and I hope that it is popular with the parents whose kids are active in the after school programs. For us 8-5 folk, though, it can get rough. By the time I show up after work, farmers are already disassembling tables and I’m lucky to snag a turnip or two.
But one can do a lot with a few turnips, you know?
This isn’t the ‘perfect’ meal, but it’s hearty and almost 100% locally-sourced. Root vegetables from market, last summer’s pesto that I froze, a few frozen vegetables from the garden–it’s enough to make a hearty, satisfying winter dinner. While it might not look like much (besides blood–hey, it’s fun to trick your coworkers with!), it’s jam packed with protein, vitamin C, fiber, and potassium and is sure to add a different note to your usual winter dinners.
When life gives you root vegetables, make shepherd’s pie!
Root Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie
4-5 medium-large turnips, peeled and cut into quarters
1/4 c pesto
Olive Oil/Earth Balance
1 large beet, peeled & chopped into 1/2″ dice
1 large parsnip, peeled & chopped into 1/2″ dice
3 medium carrots, peeled & chopped into 1/2″ dice
1.5 c frozen zucchini chunks (or 1 zucchini chopped into 1/2″ dice)
1 packaged tempeh, chopped into 1/4″ dice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c flour
4 c vegetable broth
1 tsp smoky paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
To prepare the mashed turnips, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the turnip quarters and boil 15-20 minutes, until tender when poked with a fork. Remove from heat and drain water. Mash with a fork and add pesto. Add olive oil or Earth Balance to taste. (Note: I used my Vitamix to get a super smooth, non-stringy texture. A regular food processor or blender would also work.) Set aside.
While the turnips are cooking, prepare the main part of the shepherd’s pie. Warm 1-2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the root vegetables (beets, carrots, and parsnip) and sundried tomatoes and cook 20 minutes, until tender. (I added a splash or two of water and covered to let the vegetables steam.) (Skipping this step and roasting the vegetables would also be delicious.)
Meanwhile, prepare the gravy. In a saucepan over medium heat, begin to toast the flour. As the flour begins to tan, add the spices, salt, and pepper, and then add the oil and whisk to combine. Slowly pour in half of the vegetable broth while continually whisking. Add more broth as necessary. Continue to whisk on a regular basis so as not to burn the gravy, adding more broth, until a thick gravy forms. Set aside.
Bring another pot of water to a boil and add the tempeh pieces. Boil for 10 minutes. The tempeh will expand some. This step helps draw out some of the bitterness of the tempeh.
When the root vegetables are cooked, add the tempeh, zucchini, and the gravy. Stir to combine. Cook another 3-5 minutes to cook the zucchini. Pour into a large oven-safe baking dish and top with the mashed turnips. Cook 10-15 minutes, until the turnips brown.