You Don’t Know Jack Pie (vegan, gluten free)
Before I became vegetarian I loved Shepherd’s Pie. I haven’t had it now for probably a decade. A few weeks ago I tried making black bean burgers and, although they were a miserable failure, the taste and texture reminded me of Shepherd’s Pie. I decided to tweak the recipe a bit and turn it into a casserole. Okay, I tweaked the recipe a lot; the result is phenomenal.
Another thing I loved: Tourtiere. It’s a French-Canadian meat pie. It might be tougher to replace 100% ground meat pie filling with veggies. In fact, if I did it would no longer be a tourtiere, so I guess I can give up on that dream, or stop being vegetarian.
As I was learning about Shepherd’s Pie and the practically identical Cottage Pie, I found out that some people call the meatless versions Shepherdless Pie. The name Cottage Pie comes from the late 1700s when the potato was introduced to peasant farmers as an affordable crop. Thus, the scrumptious aroma of these pies came wafting out of cottages across the country-side and the name was born (so I imagine).
In further research, I found out that the name Fabio means bean farmer. “Fabio Pie” doesn’t quite have the right ring to it and shortening it to the Latin version of the name, Faba, seems to imply that this has faba beans (also known as broad beans). Dead end.
I thought back long and not so hard to find a childhood tale of one little boy who plants some seeds and grows a tremendously large plant, a beanstalk. Technicalities of the similarities between a sky-reaching beanstalk and a black bean plant aside, it seemed like a good start for a name. Also, Little Jack Horner likes pies. Case closed.
I think it’s also worth noting that the painting of a Jack Pine by famous Canadian Group of Seven painter, Tom Thomson, is one of my favourites.
Youth Lagoon’s video for their song “Raspberry Cane” seems fantastical enough to suit a recipe named after Jack and the Beanstalk. It has monsters, some kids and a forest. Also, the main mastermind behind the band, Trevor Powers, is from Idaho – a state well known for its potato crops. The connections are mind-boggling. Here’s the cool video:
Before You Can Say Jack Pie…
Good for a large (15-20 person) potluck…
- 6 cups potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 3 large ones)
- 1 ½ cups red onions, chopped (about 1 medium onion)
- ¾ cup carrots, chopped (about 2 medium)
- 1 ½ cups mushrooms, chopped (about 4.5 ounces or 135 grams)
- 1 ½ cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
- ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1 can (19 ounces or 561 milliliters) black beans, rinsed and drained
- ¼ cup blue or yellow cornmeal *
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- Pinch of saffron threads
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoons potato starch (flour will also work if you have no issues with gluten)
- ¼ to ½ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 2 teaspoons salt, plus salt to taste
- Lightly oil a 9” by 13” casserole dish. Save for later.
- Start the potatoes for the topping. Put them in a steamer basket and place over about 3 cups water in the pan below. Bring the water to a boil. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
- While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the bean mixture. Coat a skillet with no-stick spray or a bit of oil. Sauté the onions and carrots over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until just softened. Stir in the mushrooms, corn, parsley, cumin, and vinegar. Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes or until they are tender. Remove from the heat.
- Place the beans in a large bowl. Mash about half of the beans (a potato masher or wooden spoon work great). Stir in the cornmeal, broth and the vegetable mixture and combine well. Pour into the prepared casserole dish and set aside.
- Grind the saffron threads to powder with a mortar and pestle. Add 1 tablespoon of hot water to the ground saffron and let it soak.
- Set the oven to 375°F (190˚C) and while it heats, check to see if your potatoes are done. Test for doneness by inserting a butter knife into a potato chunk, it should cut through easily. Turn off the heat and remove the steaming basket. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and set aside with preparing the saffron sauce.
- In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Whisk in potato starch to start forming a thick paste. Whisk in ¼ cup of the milk, ½ teaspoon salt and the saffron water. Heat the mixture over medium, whisking constantly, until it thickens up.
- Pour the saffron sauce over the cooked potatoes, then mash until smooth. If the potatoes need moisture, add more milk as you mash. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon the potatoes over the bean mixture and then use a spatula to gently and evenly spread them out. Place in the heated oven for 30 minutes. Cover and bring hot to the potluck.
* if gluten is a problem be sure to check that the cornmeal you purchase does not have any possible wheat contamination.