That’s right, carob! I was musing aloud on twitter the other day (ye gods, might be more than a week now!) about whether one could add carob to a savoury dish when Megan came to the rescue with a recipe. Admittedly, it is 100% meaty, BUT it is based on a Mesopotamian tablet, so I figured the principle was awesome enough to veganize on my own terms. For a while now I’ve been dying to make a shepherd’s pie because I have tons of cauliflower waiting impatiently in the fridge waiting to become magnificent in my mouth. In my omni days there would be nothing better than the delightfully thick and buttery potato mash topping, but my tastes have different slightly since then, and the idea of pseudo cauliflower mash has been so prevalent across the internet that I figured it was time to put it all together for an ultimate treat.
Carob trees apparently litter the Mediterranean, or are at least comfortable with the climate, and so for this shepherd’s pie I decided to add a sneaky inner layer of figs, olives, and beetroot (never mind if it’s geographically confused, I love beet!) betwixt the hearty stew and the self-controlled and glamorous spread of sweet-potato/cauliflower mash. Let’s forget my description and dive straight into the photographs!
- 2 cups cooked green lentils
- 2 small carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
- 3 baby marrows, sliced thinly (is thinly even a word? It looks weird)
- 1/2 cup chai tea (or vegetable stock, your pick)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 50g tomato paste
- 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 1 TBSP carob powder
- 1/2 cup gravy of choice (I used Woolworths vegan gravy power because I know I suck at gravies and therefore have given up trying)
- spices of choice (I used LOTS of smoked paprika, paprika, oregano, pepper and cinnamon)
- salt (ESP if you’re using tea to water sauté your veggies and not using stock)
Olive beet layer:
- 2 medium dried figs, with just enough chai tea to cover, soaked for at least 1/2 hour (remember to chop off the stem!)
- 1/2 cup pitted calamata olives
- 4 small beets, peeled, diced finely & steamed til soft (mine came out to approx 3/4 cup)
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, diced finely and steamed til soft (approx 3/4 – 1 cup)
- 1/2 medium cauliflower head, cut into florets and steamed til soft (approx 3/4 cup)
- 1 TBSP tahini
- 1 TBSP nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
- splashes of white pepper
- splash of ginger
Optional: 1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
- I used pre-made green lentils because I like to keep a stock of protein available at all times, but you can easily use 1 – 1.5 cans of lentils for the same effect.
- Soak your figs in the chai tea so long with just enough water to cover. Leave the tea bag in there.
- Peel and steam your sweet potato and cauliflower and set aside.
- Peel, chop and steam your beetroot and set aside to cool.
- By now your figs should have had the benefit of enough chai, so take out the teabag and place it in a mug with 3/4 cup hot water – give it a bit of a stir (OR rustle up 3/4 cup of vegetable stock).
- In a medium large pot water sauté the veggies uncovered over medium heat in 1/2 a cup of the tea/stock water and let them cook for approx 10 minutes, adding more liquid in small splashes where need be.
- Once they’re softened and most of the liquid has gone, add the tomato paste and stir to combine, letting them “fry” a little. Add the lentils and turn the heat down to medium-low and let them cook for another 5 minutes.
- You can probably start pre-heating your oven about now! 180C.
- While your lentil mix is cooking, prepare a 1/2 cup portion of gravy, adding the carob powder and onion powder to the mix. Let it thicken then add the gravy to the lentil mix, stirring well. Add spices and salt to taste (seriously don’t be shy about some saltiness in this, because the beetroot layer is rather sweet). Turn off the stove and let your mix sit on it whilst you prepare your topping.
- In a food processor, combine all the ingredients, scraping the sides and letting it whirr til smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Back in the processor, throw in all your olive-beet-fig- ingredients and add 3 TBSP of the soaking water. Process til it forms a type of paste and is mostly broken down.
- Spray a 8″x8″ pan with non-stick or whatever you like to use, then layer the filling first, smoothing it nicely with the back of a spoon.
- Blob on the olive-beet filling at intervals then smooth over the layer to cover the filling evenly.
- Finally blob on the topping in segments and smooth that over, taking care not to get too much of the under pink layer on top.
- Optional: shake out some mung beans on top and press them into the mash. Splash some paprika on top.
- My oven is broken so I feel terrible that I can’t give an exact time. I baked mine for 40 minutes but conventionally one only bakes it for 15-20 minutes. Bake it for 20 and then go to check on it. I’m not sure how other people’s ovens work but you can probably “grill” it to make the top nice and brown, which is the ideal, but don’t stress if it doesn’t do that (mine didn’t, but my oven is being moody).
If you want a less prominent olive-beet layer you can use 1/2 the recipe and use a spatula to get it on really nice and thin, but I love the combo and happily make double and use the leftovers on chickpea crackers or in pita breads with falafel…yum! Also, if you’re wondering, the carob gives the dish a very hearty, stout flavour – smoky & dark! Also, who can say no to carob? Not me!
All in all, a perfect winter’s treat! It’s so incredibly chilly in our house (but we chose it for the shadows, since we’re introvert gaming nerds most of the time), and warm hearty food like this just hits the spot. The sweetness of the figs also helps my recent cravings for sugar, because winter = stockpiling food in my stomach for hibernation. Luckily recent changes in life have forced me to get out of the house more often and to make my life, and not just my thighs, more rounded. The gym I joined is barrels of fun, and on Saturdays I get to help out at a cat shelter/vet by medicating and feeding the little monsters. I seriously want to just pile as many into my car as possible and take them home each week, but alas that wouldn’t be so practical, so going to visit is the best solution I can come up with. A lot of people seem to get broody for babies; I’m rather indifferent, but when it comes to cats, oh man! ❤