November Traditions

November is a wonderful month to be in England. It may be a bit chilly, a bit rainy, but there are plenty of ways to warm up with some lovely traditions. I remember guy fawkes night as a kid, my whole town gathering in a local field to build a huge bonfire and light fireworks in the chilly November air. To Americans who have no clue about bonfire night, it's sort of like the 4th of July but it's cold and instead of hot dogs and watermelon, there's mulled wine and toffee apples.

Thursday night brought a crowd of about 40,000 people to clapham common for their annual fireworks display - it went on for 30 minutes! We were freezing our little boots off, but it was worth it to ooh and ahh like a child again. We even got the chance to play with sparklers after the ceremonies.


Another tradition in the colder months is to make shepherd's pie, in all its meat-and-potatoes glory. I decided recently that I wanted to make a vegan version that didn't involve lentils or soy mince. Thankfully, waitrose has a vegetarian recipe, and with a few tweaks I created something hearty and delicious just in time for winter. Almost all the ingredients were bought at our local farmer's market, I'm proud to say :)

Vegan Shepherd's Pie with Double Potato Mash

This will fill a large casserole dish and last for days with yummy leftovers to reheat.



The particulars:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cups button mushrooms, chopped
  • 200ml red wine
  • 2 rosemary stalks
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1/2 jar of tomato sauce
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 5 small potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened. Stir in the carrots and parsnips, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the zucchini and mushrooms, and cook for another 2 minutes to warm through.
  2. Pour in the red wine, add the rosemary and simmer for 2-3 minutes until reduced by half. stir in the passata and beans. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Transfer to an ovenproof casserole dish.
  3. Meanwhile, cook all the potatoes in boiling water for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain and mash, season to taste, then spoon it over the vegetable mixture. Cook for 20 minutes in the oven. Serve, remembering to remove the rosemary stalks as they emerge!

Lesson learned: A property of the best shepherd's pie is the crispy top of the mashed potatoes. You don't get this consistency when you use sweet potato. However, the flavors are fantastic and worth the lack of crunch.