Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

About a month ago I did something to my shoulder and it is still bothering me. I can’t use it without hurting it more and the doctor said no lifting, stretching, pulling, pushing, or straining it. That was a month ago and I’m still in the same place with it, so there is no dough rolling, no kneading, not extended mixing or anything that will place excess strain on my shoulder. This makes getting creative in the kitchen just a little difficult, but I did manage to come up with one idea.

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I love cottage pie. (From my understanding Cottage Pie is Shepherd’s pie, but with beef instead of lamb.) I love it, but I really don’t want to eat meat these days, so I need an alternative. I’ve been searching for good ground beef substitutes and we have quinoa for taco meat and tempeh for pulled pork, but I still needed something for dishes that I cook with sauces. Something that can stand up to the sauce and not get soggy. Enter farro.

IMG_20170710_161600Farro also works fairly well for tacos, and I decided to try it for a shepherd’s pie. I figured I just needed something for bulk, something that is not lentil or mushroom (as I can’t stand th texture of either) based. So …

IMG_20170710_160228I spent some time to caramelize some onion fairly well. I wanted the deep, sweet flavor that they bring as the base of the sauce. I also used some carrot and peas for added vegetables and went old-school for the mashed potatoes with cream and butter. The results were good – very good. But not perfect. If I make this again (and there will be a next time as the flavors were spot on) I am going to try mixing in more spices to the farro itself to make it more meat like and upping the sauce on this. The potatoes are staying but I may need more filling for a better filling-potato ratio.

Basic Filling Recipe (to be altered):

  • 1 1/4 cup cooked farro
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pat butter (for onions)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat pan over medium high heat with butter in it. When butter has melted and pan is hot, add onions and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften. Reduce heat to medium-low or low and continue cooking, stirring to prevent burning, until onions are caramelized, about 45-60 minutes.

When onions are almost caramelized, add garlic and carrot and continue cooking. Add flour and cook, stirring for about two minutes. Do not let the flour burn! Add tomato paste and cook about thirty seconds. Add salt and pepper, stir and then add vegetable stock. Mix well and cook over medium heat, about 2 minutes and the sauce begins to thicken. Add farro and mix together well. Remove from heat. Stir in peas.

At this point I transferred the mixture to a pie plate and topped with mashed potatoes. I baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, just to make sure everything was warmed through. I think there needs to be more sauce with this, and 3/4 cup stock may be a better fit. Bob suggested adding beer to the sauce, a dark beer, and I may try deglazing the pan with beer then adding stock next time, but we will have to see. I really liked the flavor of this dish, it just needed more oomph in the farro and more sauce overall.

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