If you can figure out how to sing the title to the tune of “Conjunction Junction” do it, it’ll be funnier; I tried to sit here for like 10 seconds working that out, but kind of gave up on it. I’m sure the creative-minded can do it.
HEY GUYS ANOTHER YEAR OF SCHOOL ANOTHER YEAR OF FAILURES AM I RIGHT? Nah you’re probably doing fine, just like, don’t procrastinate like me. That blog post by Akhila, when they said “I overextended myself and my GPA suffered and I’m still trying to recover,” take that advice to heart man. I feel. Ditto.
That being said, guess who overextended themselves again. I’m doing a job like 8 hours a week, research like 8-10 hours a week, 17.5 credits, it’s maddening. I mean I like doing all of it, I just hope I can actually do it. That, plus I have a major procrastination problem. I’m usually better about work and research, I procrastinate significantly less because for those things other people depend on me and such. But my homework??? Work I don’t want to do, and put off to watch people online cook instead. And I happened to make a vegan shepherd’s pie yesterday, while I was procrastinating on doing my quantum physics homework. So, I’m just gonna tell you how I made it, and honestly I would love it if you guy’s left comments on what you would do differently. Seeing and hearing different culinary techniques I live for (I used to want to be a chef, for probably 10 years of my life, before I made a h a r d left into the world of astrophysics, which then turned into experimental high energy particle physics after being a research assistant for a professor in that field).
SO, my sister is vegan. Honestly, I like vegan food more than she does, we were all shocked when she became vegan. Her favorite food used to be chicken nuggets. But she watched a sad cow video, and she won’t eat meat anymore. She’ll eat like, wild caught tuna because it’s not so bad to the fish I guess, so maybe more pescetarian on a technicality. But, this digression was here for the sole purpose of saying; this is a vegan shepherd’s pie. For those of y’all “in the know”, a shepherd’s pie is a meat stew (using either ground beef or ground lamb, and honestly I would’ve gone for lamb. Veeerrryy not vegan friendly, but I’m not vegan, and it would give a great richness, and a much more complex flavor than beef due to the gameier flavor that lamb has. I think it’s a bit more traditional as well, multiple sources online seem to believe that this was a dish made from roast dinner leftovers) and topped with mashed potato, then baked in the oven. A nice and hearty winter dish, that I made on a hot day in September (but it’s fine. I had the AC on and didn’t go outside, so I can pretend. Idk what y’all who live in dorms without air conditioning do honestly, bless ur souls). Anyway, this is how I made a vegan version of a very meaty dish:
Of course the first step is cutting up potatoes and boiling them. Honestly, just make mashed potatoes however you want, I’ve seen people bake potatoes, then peel them and mash them up with cream and butter because they’re drier and absorb the fat and cream better, which makes a lot of sense. But boiling is traditional and quicker, so. I peeled and boiled potatoes, then went on to making the “meat” stew. You start any stew by sweating aromatic vegetables. These are veggies that fragrance the dish, and are pretty classic to use in essentially any food that cooks a while, be it stew, soup, porridge, what have you. You could use a whole mirepoix (a fancy french term for diced onion, carrot, and celery). That’s your traditional French base for a whole load of food. Or you could go with The Holy Trinity, which is Creole cooking, where you replace the celery with green bell pepper (my preferred one, because I dieted once in high school by eating only celery for lunch and now hate celery with a burning passion). Though, I just went with onion and carrot, but I used a lot of onion because I love the sweetness it gives. So, sauteed a relatively fine diced onion and carrot mixture in olive oil until soft (you could also go to brown, that will enhance the sweetness because you’ll start caramelizing the natural sugars in the vegetables), then threw in a bunch of minced garlic. I love garlic so I do a boat load. Up to you on the level of garlic, I wouldn’t do less than like, mmmmm, three fat cloves?
You don’t cook garlic too long ever. Just until you can smell it. If you burn the garlic, the whole thing’s ruined forever, it gets too bitter. Don’t even let it brown. That’s why it goes in after the rest of the veggies are soft. Then I put in some tomato past and let that brown up for probably a minute. Next, chuck in your vegan soy crumbles. Mmmmmmm, soy crumbles. It’s honestly not so bad. If you heat them and spice them up, they taste perfectly fine, I think. Don’t expect them to taste like real meat, though. Never go into a vegan recipe with the expectation of tasting like it’s non vegan counter part, you’re always going to be disappointed then. Just enjoy food for what it is. (What I really would’ve loved to do, would be take a bunch of mushrooms. I’m talking like 3-4 pounds. Cutting those up to a medium dice, and use those instead of the soy crumbles. It’ll cook down to like half it’s size I think mushroom is a great alternative to meat, but my sister hates them so only me and my mom would eat the whole pie. But, if you’re actually vegetarian or something, and want to try this recipe, be my guest, tell me how it goes, that would be my preferred method to veganize this dish). Saute the soy crumbles for a little bit, then add a spoonful of flour. This will combine with the oil in your saute, and make kind of a roux, which will thicken your stew when you add liquid to it. Though it’s important to cook the flour a bit after you’ve added it, otherwise your stew will just taste like raw flour, and if you’ve ever eaten plain flour it’s disgusting.
Flour’s cooked, now add your liquid. I added water instead of a vegetable stock, which is what I would ordinarily use. However, I wanted to add water because I knew I was going to flavor the stew with miso and soy sauce. Mmmm, I do this to a lot of vegetarian dishes, not just Japanese cooking. I do this because it adds a way more complex flavor than just salt, and for something vegetarian you need the added flavor from something. Ordinarily it’s the browning of meat, and meat already has a kind of complex flavor, especially lamb or a stewing beef like you’d use in this dish. But, veggies. So, I like the combination of miso and soy sauce (if I had used the mushrooms I d e f i n i t l e y would’ve used soy sauce, it adds an “umami” flavor, which is a word I hate by the way because I don’t think that fifth umami taste actually exists. Taste is a combination of four-five flavors and scents in case you didn’t know, there are flavor receptors on your tongue that react to sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Spice is actually produced by capsaicin, which binds to taste receptors and sends the signal of spice, or pain or whatever, to your brain. It’s not a flavor. Some people say umami is the fifth flavor. Hogwash I say. But I’m not a neuro scientist so it’s just my opinion. But whatever, soy sauce and mushroom provides an amazing depth of flavor when combined, almost meaty like). So, added in the water, soy sauce, miso, then other spices (mine were chipotle powder for smokiness, black pepper, salt, garlic and onion powder, turmeric cause it’s healthy apparently, and probably others idk, add what you like. I used a tiiiny bit of cinnamon actually, it adds a subtle sweetness and a complex thing again). Then I added apple cider vinegar, to brighten up the stew with some acid, and let that thicken along with some frozen corn I added to warm up. Had I used meat I would’ve let it actually stew but it was soy so frick the rules. Then I finished it up with chopped herb: dill, parsley, and thyme.
The potato, my sister actually seasoned. She makes great mashed potatoes, idk what’s up. She used vegan butter, vegan milk (our’s was almond and coconut), and a bunch of salt and hot sauce and other nonsense. Flavor as desired of course. Then you kind of just put all of the stew in a skillet that is oven safe, and all of the potatoes on top of that stew. Make a design on the potato, which is important not for presentation (I give literally no cares about how my food looks if I’m not cooking for anyone). You do design on top because it will have some peaks and what not, and the peaks will brown up and be a bit crispy, and that will add more to the flavor because it’s all technically caramalization. I baked it for 20 minutes at 350.
Results: decent. What I would’ve changed is I would’ve added frozen peas as well as the corn. I would’ve used a few mushrooms if I could. I probably would’ve baked it longer, honestly I’d go like twice the time I think. I might’ve used some cilantro and lemon zest as well, add a bit more freshness. What I’m most regretful of is not adding a splash of red wine along with the water; there are alcohol soluble flavors in tomato that I’m sure would’ve added to the complexity of the flavor of this.
Now idk, this was a pretty long post, it may have bore you. I just love thinking about the flavors of food and how they work together. You could make a simpler version of this fit for a dorm I bet, since a lot of you probably do dorm. Like, just ground beef, an onion, water, mashed potatoes, salt, pepper, peas for nutrition because I hear stories about no one eating vegetables when they dorm and it terrifies me. Pretty simple. If any of you like to cook, please tell me, I would probably really enjoy just talking about food I make on this blog actually. I talk about complex flavors a lot, and they’re all subtle things no one really detects, but contributes to the whole dish to make it go from bland to flavorful. So, thanks for listening, if you made it past 1500 words good job I applaud you.
Also, just a quick shout out; I love seeing comments and likes because I rarely get any, and thanks to Zazzy, who’s the only person I’ve seen to leave a comment, and francoise47 who likes literally everything I write. Y’all make me smile. If you have requests for me to write about something specific tell me and I’ll do it, I like you guys. That is all, peace out, enjoy the start of your semester.