Vegetarian shepherd’s pie (recipe here)
I was introduced to Strand of Oaks (aka singer/songwriter Tim Showalter) through work, when we released his most recent album Pope Killdragon through our eMusic Selects program. I like that album plenty, but I admittedly have spent more time with his first release, 2008’s Leave Ruin, which was written after Showalter’s house burned down and his then-fiance broke up with him. A coworker recently referred to it as “cabin music,” and while the album wasn’t literally written in isolation in a cabin a la Bon Iver (it was on park benches and in the hotel he checked into after the fire), it evokes the same thing when Showalter sings, “This is what it feels like to see the world end in flames,” in his case quite literally. It’s a gorgeous album — hushed, sometimes-twangy vocals and a mix of clean electric and acoustic guitar — with lots of references to the cold and winter. In “Dogs of War” he sings, “I need you like I need the snow/ You feel much better than the cold,” and in another song he talks about a fur-lined coat. I recently learned that shepherd’s pie used to be called cottage pie; so the “cabin music” combined with the need for comfort while going through a bummer time like that makes this a perfect fit for Showalter’s music. It’s warm, filling and comforting — and if you are in need of some alone time, there’s certainly enough here to last you a few days.
Adapted from Simple Bites
2 pounds potatoes and/or sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Paprika to taste
Salt & pepper to taste
Vegan option: Use soymilk and Earth Balance, and omit sour cream.
1 cup green lentils
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 (10-oz.) package mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
• Combine lentils and cover with an inch of cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. It’s OK if the lentils aren’t quite done after 20 minutes.
• While the lentils are cooking, bring a medium-to-large pot of water to a boil; add potatoes (chopped in large-ish pieces) and boil until soft. Drain potatoes and mash potatoes with a fork or potato masher; add milk, sour cream, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper. Set aside.
• Heat oil in a medium-large pot and add onions, garlic, celery and mushrooms. Saute until soft. Add lentils, peas, cumin, paprika and thyme and stir. Add tomato paste and mix thoroughly.
• Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Add more broth as needed and let cook until flavors are well combined.
• Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread lentil mixture along the bottom of a round baking dish, then spread potatoes on top. Bake for about 30 minutes or until it’s heated all the way through. This can stay in the fridge for a while if you want to prepare first and cook it later on. Serve warm.