Dinner Tonight: Vegan Shepherd's Pie + Avocado Chocolate Mousse

We're in that funny in-between moment. It's still pretty darn cold outside (some people even have lots of snow!) and we know in our minds that winter isn't through with us yet. At the same time, we begin to see glimpses of spring. We want to lighten things up, but we still need something warming and a bit hearty to keep us going after a long day. Enter two wintry vegan comfort foods: Gena Hamshaw's lentil shepherd's pie tiptoes down that line, and an indulgent avocado chocolate mousse pushes the meal into pretty exciting territory.

The Menu

Vegan Shepherd's Pie with Parsnip and Potato Mash by Gena Hamshaw

Serves 6-8

2 1/2 pounds (about 4 large) russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup almond, soy, rice, or other non-dairy milk
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided into 2 tbsp and 2 tbsp
1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced evenly
2 ribs celery, diced evenly
6 ounces baby bella, cremini, or button mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cup brown or green lentils, dry
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Place potatoes and parsnips in a large pot and submerge in cold water (there should be at least 1 inch of water over the vegetables). Salt water well. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and allow potatoes and parsnips to cook for approximately 25-35 minutes, or until both vegetables are very fork tender. Drain, return the vegetables to the pot, and add 2/3 cup milk, 2 tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash well with a potato masher. If you need more milk, add the remaining 1/3 cup. Set the mashed potatoes and parsnips aside.

2. While potatoes are cooking, bring 1 1/2 cup lentils and 3 cups water to a boil. Reduce and simmer until lentils have absorbed all liquid, and are soft (about 30 or 35 minutes). Set lentils aside.

3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent and golden (10 minutes or so). Add the carrots and celery and cook till both vegetables are tender (another 8 minutes). Add the cremini mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes before adding the lentils, the rosemary, the thyme, and 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Simmer the mixture, stirring well to incorporate flavors. Add more liquid as needed: you don't want there to be too much broth or liquid in the bottom of the pan, because you'll get a runny shepherd's pie, but you do want it to be quite moist. When everything is warm and well mixed, season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Preheat oven to 350. In a large casserole dish, layer the lentil and veggie mixture. Spread the mashed potatoes delicately and evenly over. Bake for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are browning. Sprinkle with extra rosemary, if desired, and serve.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Get the recipe for Avocado Chocolate Mousse on Food52.

The Grocery List

Serves 2 to 4 (with plenty of leftover shepherd's pie)

2 pounds potatoes
6 parsnips
1 cup non-dairy milk of your choosing
6 ounces mushrooms
1 cup lentils
1 ripe avocado
4 ounces chocolate
1/4 cup thick coconut milk

We're assuming that you already have onion, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, vanilla, vegetable broth, carrots, celery, dried rosemary, and thyme. If not, you'll be needing those, too!

The Plan

1. We admit, this shepherd's pie is a little bit of work. But, it'll be ready in just a little over an hour, and it makes a lot! You'll have dinner tonight and then some, we promise. Anyway, tackle the shepherd's pie in the order that Gena lays out (mash potatoes and parsnips, cook lentils, layer, bake) and you'll have no trouble.

2. You deserve a treat after all that! Whip up the mousse, which comes together in the blender in no time flat, and kick back with a big bowlful of chocolatey reward.

First photo by Linda Xiao; second photo by James Ransom