When I think about how the first Shepherd’s pie was made, I can’t help but seeing a young shepherd sitting on a rock boiling some potatoes over an open fire, a frying pan with some meat and vegetables. The last part, the baking of both layers however may have required an oven of some kind or a thick lid. One thing is for sure, this classic Irish dish was most likely invented as a way to reuse leftovers like potatoes, meat, and vegetables. My French grandmother first introduced me to this dish she called a “hachis parmentier” when I was a young girl! Come to think about it, I never really knew why it was called “parmentier”. So I googled it and it took me on a surprising journey!
A little history on potatoes
Originally grown by the Incas in South American Andes, potatoes were brought later to Europe by the Spaniards. Considering how ubiquitous potatoes are today and the fact that French fries are one of the most loved ways to consume them, I was quite surprised to find out that potatoes weren’t exactly a hit in France when they were first introduced. This new food wasn’t trusted and as a result ended up as pig food. Then, the French parliament actually banned its cultivation between 1748 and 1772. Apparently they thought potatoes were poisonous and could even cause leprosy! That’s good science for you! Thank God for the dedication of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (a pharmacist by trade), in promoting the virtues, and nutritional values of potatoes, they were eventually fully accepted and have since saved millions from famine all over the world! And that’s how this dish was named after him. Thanks grandma for the history lesson.
Fun facts about potatoes
– Did you know that there are over 4,000 varieties of native potatoes? Most are grown in Latin America.
– Potatoes are alive. That’s why they easily grow sprouts.
– Potatoes were the first vegetable to be grown in space in the Space Shuttle Columbia (1994). Go space buds!
– Don’t expose potatoes to direct sunlight or they will turn green because they are alive and will photo synthetize.
– The best way to store potatoes is in a dark, dry place and with the dirt on them.
Different varieties for different uses
Potatoes vary in sugar and starch content, so knowing a little about that will help getting the best results when cooking them.
Take Russet or Idaho potatoes for example, they have a high starch content making them a poor choice for mash potatoes. They produce a gummy, sticky result.
Yukon Gold potatoes have less starch making them the best choice for mashed potatoes.
Russets make the best French fries and hash brown because they are naturally dryer.
If you love potato chips, Russet Burbanks are your best option.
Making a shepherd’s pie isn’t complicated. You can cook the potatoes and the vegetable medley the day before if you want and put it together quickly the next day. You only need to bake it for 30 minutes so that gives you more time to hang with family and friends. It can be frozen if you make a large batch and it tastes even better the next.
Meatless Shepherd's Pie
- 8-10 yukon gold potatoes
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp vegan butter
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 2 medium carrots finely diced
- 2 stalks of celery finely diced.
- 1 cup corn (fresh, canned or frozen)
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 cups diced mushrooms
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 cups lentils, vegetable ground round or beans
Make the mash the potatoes
- Boil the potatoes until they are cooked.
- Drain but keep a cup of the water and set aside.
- Add the garlic powder, vegan butter, nutritional yeast and the cup of liquid and mash the potatoes.
- Taste and season if needed.
Prepare the vegetables in gravy
- Heat up the oil in a wide pan and fry the diced onions on medium heat.
- Add the balsamic vinegar and the soy sauce and stir the onions.
- Add the diced celery, carrots, corn, mushrooms and either lentils, vegetable ground round or beans if you want more protein.
- Stir, add the vegetable broth and cook for 5 minutes covered.
- Mix 2 tbsp of cornstarch with 2 tbsp water and add to the vegetables to thicken the sauce.
- Stir and turn off the heat when the sauce starts to thicken.
- Pour the vegetables and gravy on the bottom of a baked dish
- Top with a thick layer of mashed potatoes making sure they are evenly spread all the way to the edges.
- Top with a few cubes of vegan butter.
- Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes.
- The pie must be cooled off for at least 15 minutes before serving it.