I am left uninspired. And hungry.
Thus, I will share with you what Brian said after eating this vegan “Shepherdess” pie from the Veganomicon, a dish for which I had really high hopes: “I wish that I could throw this up so it wouldn’t be in my body any more.” Then he realized that if he threw it up he might have to taste it again on the way back up, so he changed his mind.
I think he was being a little hyperbolic, especially when he started making the fake upchuck noises. I mean, really.
I’ve happily eaten fake meat products in the past, during my stint as a vegetarian, so it seemed like tempeh in mushroom gravy topped with mashed potatoes had real potential. I’d never worked directly with tempeh, but am a ridiculous sucker for anything involving the word “gravy,” so this seemed like a good idea. Let the record show, however, that Brian thought this was a terrible idea to begin with and I forged ahead with this dish over his strenuous objections. Because I don’t care about what my loved ones think.
I’m not going to deny that the tempeh, a soy-based food product that stands in for the meat in this vegan version of Shepherd’s pie, had a decidedly strange texture. Kind of like a nut. A chewy nut. A chewy nut that tastes like brown rice. I crumbled it into a pan from the compressed block in which it comes, added some water and tamari – to add umami, I assume – and let it cook down.
I’m not going to get all down on the tempeh, because I’m sure it’s good in some applications and because last time I came down on tofu I incurred the wrath of the post-punk vegans. It’s not that I mind incurring wrath, I just don’t like to repeat the same trick twice. Let the post-punk vegans have their rest.
I emptied the tempeh pan so I could saute the onion and garlic, then added the tempeh back along with mushrooms, thyme and coriander. If I had my druthers, I would have sauteed the mushrooms separately as well so they’d take on some color, but this was a Smackdown so I don’t have my druthers.
Some peas and corn later, I hit the pan with some veggie broth and flour to create a gravy. I’m not going to lie; things smelled pretty good at this point, and I still had hopes that things would turn out for the best (Brian was off-board as soon as he saw the tempeh).
In the meantime, I boiled up some yukon golds and mashed them with soy milk and grapeseed oil. Yum!
I spread the tempeh and mushroom mixture in the bottom of a casserole, spread the potatoes over the top and into the oven it went.
I gotta say, this is fucking hard to write. I’m tired, I’m worried that my apartment is about to flood, and this wasn’t good. It just wasn’t. It looked like shepherd’s pie, and it did smell decent, but the texture of the tempeh was a barrier we couldn’t surmount.
If this had been an all-veggie dish, with more mushrooms and maybe some carrots instead of the tempeh, I think it would have been worlds better. There’s something to be said for the whole stop-trying-to-imitate-meat thing.
That being said, Brian still ate his portion and polished off what I couldn’t finish of mine, and this was definitely not as bad as the moussaka we tried from the same book. However, he did make me promise that we would never, ever cook anything out of this book again. I was going to promise with my fingers crossed behind my back because I’m still secretly convinced that there’s some good to be found in this book, but I did it because I’m not that much of an ass to my loved ones. And he did do all the dishes.
And now, the tempeh needs to make an exit, so let’s all cross our fingers that the toilets are flushable, shall we?
I apologize for this sub-par post. It reflects the meal it describes.