THE PIES HAVE IT
Vote yes to minced stuff with mashed-up potato on the top thereof.
I'm aware of this debate that isn't really raging about whether or not burgers and sausages can be vegetarian, and I think it's a lot of fuss about nowt.
We all know what a sausage is. The word has a default meaning, which is that it's made with pork and sweepings, but it's also a shape, and the meaning can be modified with other words: chicken 'n' leek, Cumberland, battered.
Likewise the burger. Obviously it's a beef patty, strictly, but it can also be qualified: gourmet, cheese, double. In many parts of the middle east the preferred meat is lamb, giving us the lamburger. But it's still a burger, and served like one.
This brings me to the above item, which is obviously a shepherd's pie, because it's made with mince, topped with potato, and baked in a dish. It isn't a pastry pie, or a casserole, or the three-bladed constant-speed propeller from the Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia.
My point is this: about 80 per cent of the meaning of 'shepherd's pie' is it's form, not the precise ingredients. Do you put the carrots in the mix or on the side? A bit of cheese on the top? The shepherdness of the pie is unaffected, and neither is it affected if I reveal that this is a vegetarian shepherd's pie.
It's made with one of those plant-based mince substitutes, and I can't remember which one, but it doesn't matter. The important thing to remember is that they all absorb cooking juices like Richard Hammond's hair absorbs Grecian 2000; that is, gallons.
I started in the usual way, frying some chopped up shallots (bit more subtle than an onion). I also added one chilli and some roasted and ground fenugreek and coriander seeds, because they were there.
Then I browned off the 'mince', and it's at this point that you realise you should keep some on the garage floor in case your sump plug falls out. Amazing. Add more oil.
Once the mince had exhausted the output of an American cornfield I threw in a cupful of vegetable stock to add moistness, plus some chopped mushrooms to add mushroomness, and a squirt of tomato puree to add… you've got it. The potato bit is obvious.
It actually tasted pretty good. Not like a lamb shepherd's pie, but it was still a shepherd's pie experience, and wouldn't be confused with anything else. It's a vegetarian shepherd's pie, and no-one is going to be caught out.
Not vegan, though, as there was a bit of milk in the mash. A goat is annoyed somewhere.