Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie – Without the Guilt
This version replaces mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower, utterly loads up on nutritious vegetables, loses the meat entirely, and packs its own hearty, healthy gravy. It doubles as a completely fabulous way to use up left over vegetables in the fridge and can be made in advance to prep for an easy meal.
While I was organizing my classroom today, I had been thinking about what I’d make for dinner. I had lots of miscellaneous “extra” vegetables at home and wanted something hot and filling. A former student came in to chit chat and before we knew it, I had put her to work helping me to hang posters and curtain rods. We ended up talking food and healthy eating and it got my gears turning. The result? See below! (If you read this, Kibs, thanks for your help with the room, girl!)
Dinner is served!
Shepherd’s Pie. It’s a classic. It has potatoes, corn, and beef (though to be pedantic, what Americans call Shepherd’s Pie is actually Cottage Pie; Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb whereas Cottage Pie uses beef). It’s hot, it’s filling, and it screams fall and winter. Of course, it’s loaded with calories and often butter and fat and doesn’t offer very much nutritionally with its white potato topping.
So, let’s redo it with nutrition and lower calorie counts in mind!
It takes a bit of prep work but can be doubled in size to make numerous servings and stores very well for packed lunches and left overs. And one of the best aspects is you can change nearly every component to suit your mood – or fridge contents. Add any combination of vegetables, for instance roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash and add some sausage. Use a vegetable, chicken, turkey, or spiced based gravy. Use meat. Make the cauliflower topping cheesy. Give the dish a Mexican flare with spices and salsa and peppers.
Served as a side dish or an entree, it’s fabulous.
- 1100 grams cauliflower, very roughly chopped (~1.5 heads)
- 160 grams baby portobello mushrooms, diced (~half a pack)
- 40 grams frozen or fresh green peas
- 140 grams carrot, diced (that was 2 for me)
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 100 grams onion, medium dice
- 1.5 teaspoons Beef-Flavored Better Than Bullion stock base
- 100grams eggplant, 3/4” chunks
- 200 grams zucchini, large dice
- 130 grams green beans, 1/2” segments
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or similar dairy product)
- garlic flakes or garlic powder (or roasted garlic cloves)
- 1 teaspoon Light Olivio (or butter ingredient)
- salt and pepper
- thyme, rosemary and/or sage (or substitute preferred flavors)
- garlic flakes
- olive oil/pan spray
Dice eggplant, zucchini and green beans and place in a preheated 375F oven on a lightly sprayed baking sheet. Mist with pan spray to keep moist. Roast until pieces are tender to your liking. Set aside when cooked.
Place all roughly chopped cauliflower into a large pot of boiling water and boil until very soft. You cannot overcook this part so don’t worry.
Spray a saute pan with oil and cook the onions, celery and mushrooms with some salt and pepper until the mushrooms are soft, brown, and have shrunk in size. Set aside when cooked.
In another saute pan, boil the carrots. You can roast these if you prefer. Set aside when cooked.
Once the cauliflower is done, take two large scoops and place in a blender. This will be the base of your gravy. The amount of gravy you want dictates how much cauliflower you use here. The rest of the cauliflower will be the topping for your dish. I used probably just under a quarter to a third of the cauliflower for the gravy.
To the blender cauliflower, add the beef stock, milk, salt, plenty of pepper and two spoonfuls of the mushroom mix (that’s key!). You can also add any additional gravy flavorings you enjoy. I added several grinds of the garlic flake and sea salt mix. Blend until velvet smooth. You can add water/milk to adjust to desired thickness. I suggest leaving the gravy quite thick because it will thin slightly with heat and with the water content of the vegetables during baking. (Note: This gravy is passable enough to stand “alone” atop mashed potatoes, or mashed cauliflower, or over meat and would be a perfect way to avoid the butter and flour rue that “real” gravy uses.)
Drain the remaining cauliflower and place back in its pot. (If you want really dry mash, you can pat the cauliflower dry by pressing between cloth or paper towels. I just said “Ain’t nobody got time for that” and went full-steam ahead.) Add Olivio or butter substitute, some salt and pepper, and any flavorings you desire. I again used some ground garlic salt flakes and pepper. Use an immersion blender to puree.
Now, it’s assembly time! Layer the roasted vegetable, mushroom and onion mix, and carrots into an 8×8” baking dish. Throw in the frozen peas and stir to make sure every vegetable type is evenly distributed for what we will call “bite equity!”
Mom says to eat your vegetables!
Pour the entire gravy mix over the vegetables.
And this time, it’s okay to smother your vegetables in thick gravy. Because, secretly, the gravy is made of vegetables, too. Shhhh!
Finish by scooping all of the cauliflower mash over the top. Sprinkle with paprika and any desired seasonings.
Bake at 325F for 30 minutes or so, until thoroughly hot. We broiled it the last few minutes to brown up the top.
The entire pan is only 640 calories and it is a lot of food. We planned on eating only ¼ each and having something else to accompany it…but we ended up going back for seconds and polishing off ½ the pan each. Did I mention that was only 320 calories? Did I mention we were stuffed?
I have recently discovered Molly McButter’s Cheese Flavored Sprinkles (thank you Internet) and couldn’t resist sprinkling this on my plate. Hubby ended up doing the same and we decided we liked it enough that we may use it in the mash next time for a cheesy flavored mashed topping. Is it natural and totally healthy? No, but it tastes darn good.
Possibilities are endless, I tell ya!