Eat to the Beat: Shepherd’s Pie & Hole

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

 

The song: “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran (and covered by Hole; lyrics)

The foodstuff: Shepherd’s Pie from Cooking Vegan

The connection: This hearty dish will satisfy carnists of all shapes and sizes. Not to mention the vegans in the house!

 

Shepherd’s Pie and “Hungry Like the Wolf” – because both prey on gentler creatures such as sheep. But the joke’s on them, because this “pie” is vegan, yo!

For obvious vegan feminist reasons (supposedly “shepherdess pie” is slang for meatless shepherd’s pie), I was tempted to make Veganomicon’s Tempeh Shepherdess Pie – but ultimately opted for the Shepherd’s Pie from Cooking Vegan instead. (Maybe I didn’t have any tempeh on hand? Can’t remember!)

 

Shepherd's Pie from Cooking Vegan (0002)

 

More like a casserole than a pie –

I was expecting it all to be enclosed in a crust, a la Amy’s brand Shepherd’s Pie; cue: sad Kelly when I realized otherwise

– this dish features a layer of vegan ground round mixed with celery, onions, garlic, soy sauce, and worcestershire sauce (vegan, natch!), layered with frozen corn and mashed potatoes.

 

Shepherd's Pie from Cooking Vegan (0029)

 

It was fairly easy to make, minus the mashed potatoes: the husband stepped in as my pinch hitter here, because me and mashed potatoes always end with starchy potato chunks decorating the kitchen and a forlorn woman who vaguely resembles me, cowering and crying in the corner. Pro tip: sub in your own favorite mashed potato recipe, or add some extra seasonings – garlic, maybe, or margarine – ’cause the mashed potato layer in CV’s Shepherd’s Pie is kind of bland. The strong (and not unpleasant) taste of the ground round mix offsets this a bit – but only goes so far.

I couldn’t find any vegan ground round in my rural MO grocery stores, so I just defrosted six large Sam’s Club-sized Boca Burgers on the countertop and then fried and mashed them until they resembled ground round. I also switched out the celery for carrots because CELERY EWWWWW! Otherwise I think I followed the recipe more or less faithfully.

The bake time is pretty flexible, and this is the kind of meal you can make a day in advance and store in the fridge until it’s needed.

I meant to serve it with some warm, buttery (margariney?) dinner rolls, but forgot to thaw them in advance. No matter! This pie has more than enough carbs for everyone, not to mention veggies, protein, and a bit of fat. All your foods on one plate. Hearty, filling, and tasty. Just toss a brownie on top and call it a night!

 

Shepherd's Pie from Cooking Vegan (0034)

 

veganmofo 2012
Eat to the Beat

white space

Cookbook Review: Cooking Vegan, Vesanto Melina & Joseph Forest (2012)

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Cooking Vegan: You Know It!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: the publisher sent me a free copy of this book for review.)

The second collaboration between (vegan) dietician Vesanto Melina and (not-vegan) professional chef Joseph Forest, Cooking Vegan: healthful, delicious, and easy is a nice introductory vegan cookbook, particularly for newbie vegans and skeptical omnivores, as well as veteran vegans who want to eat a more healthful diet.

With chapter headings like “Vegan Nutrition” and “Vegan Ingredients,” the first fifth of the book is devoted to describing the basic building blocks of a vegan diet: fats, sweeteners, nondairy milks, soy foods, thickening agents, etc. (Spoiler alert: the age old question “But where do you get your protein?” will be answered!) There’s also some more general info about organizing your workspace, following recipes, and the like. Twelve suggested “theme” menus (Children’s; Super Simple; North American; Japanese) provide additional guidance for overwhelmed cooks.

Now for the food! The recipes in Cooking Vegan are divided between nine categories: breakfasts and beverages; dips, spreads, snacks, and sandwiches; soups; salads; salad dressings; entrées; sauces and gravies; side dishes; and sweet treats. Each recipe is accompanied by detailed nutritional information, and many come with suggested variations.

Before I begin reviewing a cookbook, I leaf through the recipes and come up with a list of dishes I’d like to try, so that I can check my pantry for ingredients and update my shopping list accordingly. For Cooking Vegan, this meant about thirty recipes, give or take – roughly enough to fill up a sheet of legal paper. At this point, I’ve tackled about half of them – enough that I feel comfortable writing a review.

With few exceptions, I enjoyed nearly all of the dishes I tried. In particular, the Scrambled Tofu, Marinara Sauce, Tapenade and Pesto Pizzas (including the pizza dough!), Good Morning Granola, Mac Uncheese, Light Mushroom Gravy, and Vegan Dazs Ice Cream stand out in memory, and all will be joining the regular rotation here in the Garbato-Brady household. (Actually, the Vegan Dazs already was a staple, just under another name: One-ingredient banana ice cream. Look it up!) The sole dud? The Holiday Pie Topping, which has a rather unpleasant aftertaste.

Still on my to-do list: Gooda Cheez (for which I bought a bag of agar, all special!); Heart Healthy Hummus; Black Bean Soup; Tuscan Minestrone; Wild Rice Salad; Shepherd’s Pie; Mushroom Lentil Patties; Corn with Bell Peppers; Scalloped Potatoes; Cashew Cheeze Lasagne; Blueberry Muffins; Almond Butter Balls; and the Cashew Cream Topping. I’ll blog these as I get to them, so keep an eye out!

Based on my experience, the recipes found in Cooking Vegan are straightforward and easy to follow, with few unusual or hard-to-find ingredients required. While some of the recipes (such as the Mac Uncheese) call for a second recipe (in this case, the Gee Whiz Spread), this is kept to minimum, with one added recipe at most. (One notable exception are the pizzas, which reference recipes for dough and a topping. Both of which are super-easy to make!) When referring you to another recipe, the authors include a page number, which I really appreciate. (All that flipping back and forth to the index when you’re trying to cook dinner? No thanks!)

My main complaint is that Melina and Forest are rather light-handed with the seasonings. With the Scrambled Tofu, for example, I found myself doubling – even tripling – up on some of the spices. Likewise, before I worked my magic, the Mediterranean Lentil Soup could best be described as “bland.” Still, the fix for this is easy enough: taste, taste, taste! as you cook, and don’t be afraid to adjust the ingredients to fit your own style.

As someone who’s been experimenting with banana ice cream for a while now, I do have to point out one glaring error in the Vegan Dazs Ice Cream recipe. While the primary recipe uses a juicer to blend the fruit (I’ve yet to wrap my mind around the logistics of this…not a big juicer, me), one variation gives these instructions for using a food processor: 2 cups of frozen bananas to 1 cup nondairy milk; serve immediately. In my experience, it’s best to use as little liquid (be it nondairy milk, creamer, or water) as possible, since the liquid will form ice crystals as it freezes. While it’s clear that Melina and Forest don’t intend for this version to be frozen and enjoyed later, there’s no reason why it can’t be!

Either way, one part liquid to two parts bananas is still excessive, even if you’re enjoying it immediately as soft serve. Better to leave the frozen bananas to defrost on the counter for 30 to 60 minutes prior to making the ice cream – this will give you a richer, creamier dessert, whether eaten soft serve or frozen ice cream styley.

Under the jump: photos and summaries of all the dishes I tried. Feast your eyes!

 

(More below the fold…)