I wanted something soothing and autumnal like a shepherd’s pie but I was also feeling quite adventurous and experimental, so I ended up with this delicious alternative, which also happens to be vegan 😇
For the topping:
- One butternut squash
- Two turnips
- Rosemary or any other flavourful herb you like sprinkling on top
For the filling:
- Two garlic cloves
- Three sticks of celery
- Two big portobello mushrooms
- 2 tbsp tasty dehydrated/dried mushrooms (e.g. porcini)
- Simple pitted black olives (no added flavouring)
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- Some oil like (g)rapeseed oil
- Olive oil
- Peel and dice in cubes the butternut squash (you can scrap the seeds out and do something with them, like turning them into delicious snacks, so don’t throw them away!)
- Peel and dice the turnips
- Add a bit of salt and oil to a big pot, and make it go really hot. Then add the squash and turnips and stir them frequently so they all get some colour (they can get a little borderline ‘burnt’, but do not allow them to be reduced to ashes 😉). This might take a while, but it’s well worth it.
- When things seem to start softening or pretty much everything seems to have acquired some colour already, add water to the pot, to complete cooking the cubes. Bring it to a boil, then down to simmer until things seem all pretty soft and mashable. Tip: hot water will help you reach the boiling point faster.
- When it’s all soft enough to be mashed, take the vegetables out of the pot and to a plate and mash them and make a nice puree you will use later for the topping. You could use a food processor if you’re so inclined. I used a combination of vegetable masher and a simple fork.
We’re going to fry the ingredients, so this process is a bit repetitive as we mostly chop, add things to the pan, wait and stir, and repeat until we’re done with all the ingredients.
You could also turn on the oven now, and set it to 180ºC (fan).
- Add oil to a big pan and make it decently hot.
- Add a pinch of salt (you can adjust later).
- Clean and slice the celery sticks somewhat finely (don’t let them be bigger than mouth sized, essentially), and add them to the pan.
- Reduce the heat a bit, we don’t want to burn things!
- Clean and cut the mushrooms into big chunks (a little bit smaller than tablespoon size). When the celery sticks start looking a bit coloured, add the mushrooms to the pan.
- Peel the garlic cloves and slice them quite finely, and add them to the pan when the mushrooms have softened a bit.
- Crush the dehydrated mushrooms with your hands, place them in a small pot or container, and add about 50 ml of really hot water to it. Make sure they are all covered by the water, and let them soak the water and release their beautiful flavour into the liquid.
- In the meantime, slice as many olives as you’d like, and add them to the pan (this is why it’s handy that they’re pitted already!)
- Add the tablespoon of tomato puree (this is to add some more depth, maybe you could replace it with a spoonful of paprika) and stir to mix it well
- Chop some parsley and add it to the pan
- Add the rehydrated mushrooms, along with the soaking liquid that has become delicious stock now, and stir and mix everything together. Correct for salt, if you’d like.
Assembling the pie
- When everything is cooked and seems basically done, place the filling in an oven proof tray, making a layer on the bottom.
- If you haven’t done already, mash the squash and turnips until they’re quite smooth.
- Make a layer with the mash on top of the filling. You can do some decorations using a fork. I made a hatched pattern (which is not very visible really).
- Finish with some rosemary or similar (e.g. thyme) on top. I crushed these with my hands but you could also use a mortar & pestle, if you’re feeling a bit more civilised.
- Distribute a dash of (good) olive oil on top for extra flavour and yummyness.
- When the oven has reached the right temperature, place the tray on the oven and bake until the tips of the topping start to get coloured. It can take about 30-45 minutes.
Other variations and a bonus TIP!
You could add some butter, cream or cheese to the topping to make it richer (but then it stops being vegan, unless using vegan alternatives to the dairy-based products).
You could add many other ingredients to the filling, such as black beans, onions, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes… basically anything! Or you could replace something you don’t like.
⭐️ Bonus TIP ⭐️: you can use the “leftover liquid” from cooking the butternut squash and turnips as stock for a soup. It’s got lots of flavour on its own; I took an skeptical sip and was really impressed.