A dear friend of mine who is a working mom of two just had emergency surgery for some pretty severe stomach and digestive issues. When she was released from the hospital, a few of us asked what she needed once she got home.

She texts to the group: “My mom’s got the kids, she’ll be overwhelmed. Meal train would be awesome when I’m home and off morphine.”

Who doesn’t love morphine? And a good meal train. I turn to my go-to recipe, Shepherd’s Pie, which is what everyone always requests of me for potlucks, which I can pretty much prepare in my sleep.

I’m the second one to text back. “I’m in for Tuesday!” Easy-peasy. I teach my fitness class at 9:30 that morning. I can churn a pie out by noonish.

Then she responds with, “Meals would be fierce! But…just a reminder, we’ve been vegetarian lately, and I can’t have gluten. So annoying. So…ZERO pressure. I totally understand, I know you have lives. I know I did, before my shit hit the fan.”

Well, shit indeed. My famous Shepherd’s Pie is made with real Shepherd! (Ok, fine, real ground beef. Sometimes turkey.) But… it’s not like I can back out now. Nor do I want to. So, challenge accepted. Hell, if I can turn beets into bundt cakes, I can turn some kind of non-meat into a meat-like pie.

I request a one day delay. “I’ll be there Wednesday.” Luckily, she’s an understanding friend, and luckily another friend dropped some meals off yesterday.

Did I mention, I’ve never cooked anything vegan or GF? My kid refuses to eat veggies, and I’m Filipino. Vegetable dishes always have shrimp or pork in them. This is not my forte. Google to the rescue. Sub out meat with lentils. Done. Wait, my mashed potatoes are swimmingly delicious with butter. Does butter have gluten? There’s gluten-free butter, but I really don’t want to go back to Ralph’s. How about olive oil in the mashed taters. Dammit, ketchup. Look up “gluten free ketchup.” Crap, there are specific brands that are GF ketchup. Hold up. I scroll down past the images and find that ketchup doesn’t have any gluten to begin with! Way to try to pull a fast one GF opportunists.

Well, damn if it didn’t turn out pretty delicious. Even my carnivorous, gluten-full British husband loved it. He is a PURIST when it comes to potatoes, but after tasting this batch, he’s all for switching for the healthier version. I’m going to have to hide my friend’s full pie or he will unapologetically put his fork to it.

So you should make this. Here’s the recipe. Fair warning, my Mom taught me how to cook without measuring and by just “making tancha- tancha,” which means estimate and guess. You should do the same with what you see below.

Vegan, Gluten & Dairy Free Shepherd’s Pie

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups raw lentils
12 ounce bag frozen organic mixed veggies
32 ounces vegetable stock
3 bay leaves
About 1/4 to 1/2 cup Ketchup
Gluten free Worcestershire sauce
Celtic salt
Fresh ground pepper

3 lbs potatoes
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled & whole
Giant pinch of Kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil

For the mashed potatoes:
Boil your potatoes with whole cloves of garlic plus salt. When it’s good and cooked, drain potatoes and garlic, but keep a cup of the liquid. Use the same pot to mash garlic, potatoes and olive oil. Slowly add liquid, depending on the consistency you like your taters. Keep tasting it if you want to add more olive oil. Season to taste with pepper. Tancha-tancha.

For the good stuff:
Take a big sauce pan and sauté onions & garlic in olive oil till soft and yummy smelling, add salt and pepper to taste (I start off easy, you can add more later). Stir in lentils, then add vegetable stock. Let it boil, then cover to simmer for 30 minutes. Add mixed veggies, ketchup, Worcestershire, 2 teaspoons Allspice and bay leaves. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste it. Here we go again with tancha-tancha with ketchup, allspice, Lee & Perrins. It’s okay for the flavor to be a little overpowering since the potatoes will balance it out.

Use a honking big casserole pyrex, or whatever you have, and spoon in the lentils. Get rid of the bay leaves. Shake the pan a little so it’s even. Slowly scoop potatoes over the mixture, in sections, so you don’t get any sauce splash back. Spread evenly. Make designs on it, if you like, with a fork. Mine always just end up looking like…well, fork marks, so I go minimalist.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 for approximately 25 minutes. My oven’s like a peri-menopausal woman and runs hotter than normal, so just keep an eye on yours. You want the potatoes to get lightly browned but not burnt. The sauce will bubble over on the sides. That’s all tasty goodness.

Let it settle and cool before serving, because it’ll be piping hot. Give it 5 minutes or so, then eat the shit out of it.


– Originally, I used Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, but my eagle-eyed friend, Tamlyn Tomita, PM’d me that L&P is not vegan. There are vegan ones out there, like Annie’s Homegrown, or you can go Martha Stewart and make it yourself with her recipe. Caveat: I have not tried it with either of these. But I’d love to hear how yours turns out.

– Another friend posted that she added red wine to the lentils & veggies for a darker flavor. And since her family isn’t dairy free, she splurged with Parmesan cheese sprinkles on top of the taters.

4 Replies to “Shepherd’s Pie sans Sheep-herd

  1. Shannon Bellemare

    I will try this next week and report back. Sounds supper yummy. Thanks for taking the time to share. I enjoyed the back story too.

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