Unfortunately, the ideal comfort food for St. Patrick Day’s dinner quite often means lots of animal products. From the traditional Corned Beef to the classic Bangers and Mash Irish sausage dish, St. Patrick’s Day seems like a vegetarian’s worst nightmare. This year, instead of shunning the holiday or leaving vegetarian guests eating non-festive food, create a special healthy St. Patrick’s Day feast using vegetarian meat substitutes. Shepherd’s Pie is one classic Irish dish that when made using a vegetarian meat substitute, offers a scrumptious option for a healthy St. Patrick’s Day meal.
I know what you’re thinking – omitting the meat in classic Irish dishes means that the St. Patrick’s Day dinner will be bland and tasteless. With a little effort, meat eaters will appreciate the meatless version just as much as the vegetarians will. Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie is relatively simple to make, and substitutes soy protein for the beef. It remains full of flavor and authenticity despite the much healthier ingredients. Even those who are not Irish will fall in love with this vegetarian St. Patrick’s Day meal, and creating it is just as easy as the original but contains almost none of the fat.
A vegetarian St. Patrick’s Day dinner doesn’t only benefit those that do not eat meat. Low fat and healthy vegetarian soy protein means more can be eaten and enjoyed by those watching their weight or with health restrictions. A larger portion makes people feel good, especially on a holiday such as St. Patrick’s Day when food is the centerpiece. The traditional versions of the classic Irish dishes are so high in fat and calories that consuming a large portion leaves the eater feeling guilty and bloated.
Textured soy protein is an easy to find vegetarian meat substitute offered in almost all supermarkets. There are a few different varieties, and any of them will work for a St. Patrick’s Day vegetarian feast. The frozen soy crumbles can go right into the recipe without being altered, but the fresher version found in the produce section should be sautéed in oil to obtain a better texture and flavor before using.
This healthier version of Shepherd’s Pie uses vegetarian meat substitute, so it is just as filling as the original with none of the negative associations.
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
For the topping:
2 lbs. peeled and cubed potatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. butter or butter substitute
1/2 cup cream or soy milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
For the filling:
1 package “beef” vegetarian meat substitute – ground soy protein crumbles
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup soy milk or other similar
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 sprig of thyme, stems discarded
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. flour blended into 1 cup of vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and oil a 1.5 quart baking dish. Bring the potatoes to a boil in a large pot of water, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Add the garlic, butter, cream or milk and salt and pepper. Mash or beat with an electric mixer until the potatoes are smooth. Set aside.
Heat the vegetarian meat substitute in the olive oil along with the onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms. Stir and continue heating until and the vegetarian meat substitute and vegetables are softened. Add the thyme leaves, salt and pepper, then slowly mix in the tomato paste. Cook for 5 – 7 minutes.
Add the milk and Worcestershire sauce Slowly pour the flour and stock mixture into the pan and stire until it begins to thicken.
Spoon the vegetarian meat substitute mixture into the dish and top with the potatoes. Be sure to leave an open space around the edge of the topping and place the dish onto a cookie sheet before baking to help prevent spills. Bake approximately 30 minutes or until the potatoes have browned, then let it rest out of the oven for another 15 minutes. Serve the Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with other St. Patrick’s Day favorites made using similar vegetarian meat substitutes.