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mushroom + stout pot pies with sweet potato crusts

I decided that I wanted this year to be challenging and adventurous. Those are the only concepts/freeform goals that I’m taping up in the most visible spot of my mind for the time. Nothing quantifiable. Just things to work on and places to go–these goals can be rather expansive once you lay into them, which could explain why I’m telling you about my year two thousand and thirteen (wowzer, I know) goals on January 30th. Late to the party again, but totally fine with it this time. The extra consideration and space offered substance to those airy ideals.

Mark and I planned our first adventure of the year two days ago (just a little road trip–comin’ for you, America) and I started a bit of a challenge exactly yesterday. It’s a small and big undertaking at the same time. Up until a couple years ago, I ate strictly vegan foods. I gave up that way of living rather slowly when I moved away from the city, still maintaining a mostly plant-based diet, sure, but allowing for a bit more flexibility. Towards the end, I had qualms about the lifestyle, wondering if it was strictly a choice for the privileged. Why shouldn’t I be grateful for any form of wholesome food that came my way, animal-sourced or not? How a vegan diet, or any way of eating, aligns with or directly contradicts the ways of accessibility is varied across time, place and the community of people that surround.

I will say that eschewing animal-based products did bring an overall lightness in everyday being to my own life. My energy was even and good, perfect stillness in sleep, a freed mind in certain heady ways, lots of vegetables–undeniably good living on the whole. Slipping into some decidedly omni ways has more often than not felt like a denial of a truer nature to me. Rules and labels are not a part of my world and I certainly don’t conceive of anything spanning eternity, but a certain recognition has welled up within. I always do what feels right, based in thought or bodily intuition. In this particular moment, going back to that lightness is what I want most. There is that twinge of fear–of deprivation and judgment, but fear becomes a nonentity when you decide to take on exactly what you want with purpose.

And in the vein of intention and purpose, I made you these pot pies. I wanted to offer up something of this nature for a while, trying them with biscuit-y toppings and the like. This one is easily the best version so far. I basically filled out the mushrooms with all of the dark and more potent ingredients I had that would work together. There’s the mushrooms, all cooked down to a messy and unctuous jumble, leeks, shallots, garlic, thyme, stout, tamari, balsamic vinegar and bits of olives for a fruity-salty hit. The sweet potatoes get just the right amount of crispness from a visit in the oven and help to sop up the goodness below. It’s very hearty, peak-winter fare to see us through it all.

mushroom + stout pot pies with sweet potato crusts
serves: 4-6 (depending on how hearty you want the serving to be, what else you’re eating etc.)
notes: Feel free to use red wine or vegetable stock in place of the stout if you feel it. I would skip the balsamic vinegar if you go the red wine route though–there should be enough acidity from the reduction of the wine.

3 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil + extra for greasing, divided
2 shallots, fine dice
1 leek (white part only), chopped
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed + extra for garnish
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 lbs mixed mushrooms (I used cremini, portobello + shiitake), trimmed and sliced into 1 inch pieces
3 tbsp spelt flour (or GF flour/blend of choice–I’ve read that sorghum flour is great for thickening sauces)
1 cup stout or other dark, heavy beer (Source out a darker GF beer or use red wine instead if you can’t consume gluten)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
1/3 – 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
5 sprigs of parsley, leaves removed + chopped
1-2 small sweet potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 4-6 ramekins with grapeseed oil and set on a baking sheet.

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallots. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until translucent. Add the leeks and all but a 1/2 tsp of the thyme to the pot and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the minced garlic and tomato paste to the pot. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pot all at once. Cook mushrooms until tender and glistening, about 8-10 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle the flour over top of the mushrooms. Stir and cook out the raw flour for about a minute.

Pour the stout into the pot, scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until liquid is reduced slightly. Remove from the heat. Stir in the olives and chopped parsley. Season the mixture to taste.

Divide the mushroom mixture among 4 ramekins. Layer the sweet potato slices on top, overlapping the circles as you go. There should be 2 solid layers of sweet potatoes on top of the mushrooms. Brush the top of the sweet potato slices with the remaining oil, season with salt, pepper and remaining chopped thyme. Bake pot pies for 30-35 minutes, or until mushrrom mixture is bubbling and sweet potatoes are browned and lightly crispy on the edges. Serve hot.

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Kathryn30/01/2013 - 5:35 am

I think choice of diet should be an intensely personal thing – only you really know what is best for you and your body and how food makes you feel. I’m the first to admit that I probably need to move to a more plant-based (and less cake-based) diet so I’m excited to see what you have in store here for us :)

ana cooks30/01/2013 - 6:20 am

you kill me with your shots…such a great inspiration for me and my work! love it!
thank you so much!

Claire Suellentrop30/01/2013 - 7:55 am

Lovely. Such a balance of hearty and light. If I don’t have small ramekins, do you think the recipe would hold up as one big pot pie in a glass baking dish? Or would I need to adjust the cook time?

Laura Wright30/01/2013 - 8:14 am

Hi Claire,
I think it would be fine in one big dish-probably an 8 inch square would be good. You might need more sweet potato slices to cover the top though. The cooking time will be roughly the same, since the filling is pretty much cooked when it goes into the pan. Hope that helps :)
-L

erin30/01/2013 - 9:14 am

The shots of these are just gorgeous, Laura! (Who knows, I’m working on becoming a mushroom eater and they definitely look delicious!)

(and better late than never with the goals, I think I’m still solidifying mine!)

thelittleloaf30/01/2013 - 9:23 am

I was vegetarian between the ages of 11 and 20, mostly for ethical reasons but also because I simply wasn’t a big fan of meat. Now I do eat both meat and fish, but in small quantities and only when I know exactly where they have come from and that the animals in question have had a good life, diet etc.

I wish I’d had a dish like this up my sleeve when I was veggie – it looks so hearty and filling and exactly the kind of thing to feed to a doubting meat eater!

Autumn30/01/2013 - 10:12 am

WOW this looks and sounds amazing! I’m not a fan of olives.. if I were to leave them out should I sub something else? Or do you think it would take too much away from the dish. Thanks! Can’t wait to try this :)

Laura Wright30/01/2013 - 10:24 am

Hey Autumn,
Thanks for your lovely comment! I think the dish would be just fine without the olives. I just enjoy the briny, salty bits here and there, but there’s plenty going on in these pot pies without them.
-L

Sarah30/01/2013 - 10:55 am

Hi Laura,
I love mushrooms—this is just gorgeous, I can’t wait to try it or something similar. Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods.

Re: food choices and intention: you’re spot-on. “Fear becomes a nonentity when you decide to take on exactly what you want with purpose.” I like that. –S

Melanie30/01/2013 - 11:14 am

This looks so appropriate for the cold rainy weather. It looks delicious!

la domestique30/01/2013 - 11:53 am

I’m feeling you, Laura. I just posted about making similar changes to my lifestyle on la domestique! Your photos are stunning and the recipe looks hearty and satisfying for these frigid winter days.

sara forte30/01/2013 - 12:57 pm

so stunning. I have to touch base with my eating habit too, especially when people ask, and I check in about how I feel. They are frequently broken rules, but on my watch, I eat what feels better. I don’t need a label or to classify it, but you gotta do what feels right. and if you can’t make crazy tasty foods like THIS, there isn’t much to miss. Gorgeous work lady and good luck with you goals. Please come to CA :)

dana30/01/2013 - 1:46 pm

You have outdone yourself – the recipe, the beauty of the ingredients, the photographs. Absolutely stunning. I WILL be making these soon – they look perfect for a dinner party. Lovely job, friend!

Suzanne @RollWithIt30/01/2013 - 1:57 pm

I love your photos! This recipe looks great – I just wish I could eat mushrooms (I could, but my husband would kill me for the gas that comes along with eating them!).

Thank you for your honesty with how you eat. It is something I have been struggling with lately. A big reason I don’t think I could ever go vegan…I love leather shoes…it’s a problem really :). I also don’t think I could follow the rules of being vegan and would be paranoid that I was breaking them all the time. Being paranoid about how to eat cannot be healthy…But I do stick to a primarily plant based diet and choose high quality meats in smaller portions.

Have a great trip! I hope it includes some cross boarder shopping – prices are pretty good down there!

Nicole30/01/2013 - 2:16 pm

These pot pies look amazing! Can’t wait to try them soon.

Eileen30/01/2013 - 3:27 pm

These little pies sound perfect for chilly nights! I really like the idea of using sweet potato slices for a sweet-savory crust.

Caitlin30/01/2013 - 5:24 pm

well, i’m all for you going back to your vegan ways(said the vegan), especially if it includes more recipes like this! sweet potatoes and mushrooms just so happen to be two of my favorite things in the world. plus, it’s pretty gorgeous ;)

What a phenomenal idea. I haven’t combined mushroom and sweet potatoes before in a dish and this seems like just the kind of adventure I’m looking for this year too! Thank you for the irresistible inspiration.

hannah30/01/2013 - 7:15 pm

sweet potato crust?! that is brilliant. i’ve got to try this soon.

Kristy30/01/2013 - 8:23 pm

I am happy for you and your choosing to stay true to your own nature when it comes to your eating choices. You explained your choice so eloquently.

Also, I want this real bad. Any kind of mushroom stew sort of concoction has my name written all over it, and the sweet potato crust is totally my kind of thing. I usually veer away from pot pies because I don’t care for the biscuity crust! I love it.

Jeanine30/01/2013 - 8:25 pm

Wow, these look amazing! As usual, I love every single ingredient you use. Here’s to a year of trips and adventures…

Sonja30/01/2013 - 9:44 pm

Laura, these are so cute! What a great idea with the sweet potatoes on top instead of crust – I love it! The flavors of the filling sound wonderful too.

I couldn’t agree with you more on avoiding rules and labels related to eating. (Though sometimes it makes it hard when you try to convey your philosophy to other people!)

sarah30/01/2013 - 10:30 pm

Beautiful, beautiful. Your photos are gorgeous, and your pot pies sound amazing. And, Minnesota? ;)

Angela31/01/2013 - 8:48 am

Your blog is beautiful and mouth-watering and you seem to be so positive person.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar31/01/2013 - 4:48 pm

I love that crust on top! What a fabulous, healthy, recipe :)

Hannah01/02/2013 - 12:48 am

Laura these are beautiful and the thought of those rich dark mushrooms is making me hungry even though it’s bedtime. Can’t wait to try this. I think your concerns about being thankful for food (whatever it may be) and conscious of food accessibility are valid. To my mind, the best way to address those concerns is to work towards all people having the same choices that you do. Denying yourself the opportunity to feel whole and nourished and healthy won’t help anyone … but figuring out ways to get education and access and real choice about food to everyone just might. I love that you’re conscious of what makes you feel your best – while also being conscious of the privilege you have in pursuing that. Thanks as always for sharing.

Elizabeth01/02/2013 - 3:43 pm

There is something about this time of year that begs for lightness, and I love that these sweet little pot pies strike the perfect balance of hearty and vegan. If your adventure gets you near Brooklyn, look me up! I’d love to grab a drink or meal of some sort.

sandra02/02/2013 - 6:20 pm

What a great idea. I was thinking of making a faux shepard’s pie with a couscous meal, left over from a few days ago for the base, and whipped butternut squash for the topping – but this looks equally good!!

Kevin02/02/2013 - 11:00 pm

These look amazing, can’t wait to try them! One question though, what size ramekins did you use? We only have smaller dessert sized ones so I’m looking to purchase 4 to make this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

Ashlae03/02/2013 - 12:32 am

Love this, girl.

I’m a big fan of doing what feels right. I followed a strict vegan diet for two years then started eating animal products – full force – for a good six months. Craving my former plant based ways and I’m back to eating a mostly vegan diet. With a few eggs every now and then. But ahh, the lightness – I feel it. I crave it.

PS – hoping to the winds that Denver’s on your road trip list. ;)

Laura Wright03/02/2013 - 8:59 am

Hey Kevin!
I used 1 cup sized ramekins for this, but I think dessert ones might be more appropriate. I found the servings that I made a little on the hefty side, so I’d go with your smaller ones. Alternatively, you could assemble the whole thing in a 8 x 8 square dish and make one big pot pie. Hope that helps!
-L

Nat03/02/2013 - 4:32 pm

Yum, this recipe looks delicious! Such a creative way to use sweet potato, which is a vegetable that is often underestimated. I’ve only recently discovered sweet potato nachos and can’t believe I had never heard of them before!

Great photos as always :)

Victoria04/02/2013 - 4:08 pm

Have you read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver? It is a book about the importance of eating local – she is a beautiful writer, and the book travels through journalism, family-saga, and diary as her and her family struggle with eating only locally on their farm for a year.

It addresses your thought process on whether eating vegan (or plant-based) is really a responsible, sustainable food choice.

ps. these look awesome!

Laura (Blogging Over Thyme)04/02/2013 - 8:20 pm

Just discovered your blog! It is beautiful (don’t know why it took me this long…). This dish sounds delicious. Definitely bookmarking this for the future!

Shira05/02/2013 - 12:57 am

What a fabulous post Laura! I wish you the best in your girls for the coming year, and better to get them done right than rush it! These pies look absolutely beautiful too.. I am so loving your blog and your outlook – after many years I have officially given up on labels too. Listening to the body is key, as hard as that is sometimes! Thanks for a refresher :)

Shira05/02/2013 - 1:00 am

Oh gosh, what a funny error – that was supposed to read ‘goals’ not girls!! Blurgh :)

Mushrooms Canada05/02/2013 - 9:47 am

What an excellent combination of delicious ingredients! I absolutely love the mushroom mixture, they compliment each other so perfectly. Thanks for sharing this wonderful winter recipe, I look forward to trying it out!

-Shannon

kaela10/02/2013 - 12:43 pm

I don’t even like mushrooms and this looks fabulous. And I love the look of that wooden mandoline – is it a Benriner? I’ve been in the market for a good one for a while, but fear-of-slicing-fingers-off keeps me from getting one.

Laura Wright10/02/2013 - 12:53 pm

Hi Kaela! It is a Benriner. Definitely a no-frills sort of mandoline, but it gets the job done and stays sharp. It comes with a finger guard if you’re scared!
-L

kaela10/02/2013 - 2:11 pm

Thanks! Maybe it’s time. 2013: Go Mandoline or Go Home. :)

Lorna11/02/2013 - 9:40 am

Hello. Thank you for this lovely recipe. I understand your comment about veganism possibly being a choice for the privileged. I’ve been vegetarian since I was a small child – over 30 years, and am increasingly becoming uncomfortable about it, especially since I was diagnosed as coeliac two years ago. I first became vegetarian from an ethical point of view – when I was 10 my teacher showed a video of veal calves in crates, animals going to slaughterhouses etc. and I was so traumatised I never ate meat again. I know it’s possible to buy meat from animals that were well looked after now, but I still can’t bring myself to eat it.I hate eating out, even at friend’s houses, because I feel like an awkward demanding prima donna. There is, for me, no solution – I can’t bring myself to eat meat, fish or chicken, and obviously can’t get round the ceoliac thing, so I cook – a lot. Websites like yours are a godsend. Thank you again!
Lorna x

Sarah12/02/2013 - 12:27 pm

This is so beautiful! I would never have thought to cook w/beer before… but this would be the recipe to start. Great pics :)

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Kaye05/05/2013 - 12:18 pm

This recipe looks beautiful and delicious! Amazing photography, too! I appreciate you sharing your story about your reasons for adding meat back into your diet. I disagree that being vegan is synonymous with living a life of privilege. I’m saying this because I’m a poor vegan and have found it cheaper to eat meatless! lol :) I think the opposite could be said, that eating meat is a privilege because one feels it’s okay to take the life of another living creature – against their will – when there are other options for nourishment that don’t rely on taking an animal’s life.

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Courtney18/11/2013 - 10:51 pm

Hi
Can you make the mushroom mixture the day ahead and put in the fridge overnight? Thanks!
Courtney

Laura Wright19/11/2013 - 9:18 am

Hi Courtney, you certainly can make it ahead. Just make sure you let it come to room temperature before cooking it in the oven for the final step.
-L

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Mary Christ14/01/2014 - 5:47 pm

this is one of the only times I have commented, this sounds amazing!! I eat healthy and everything…within moderation!

I love your ideas Laura, you just seem to take life way seriously, does it make you tierd? No criticism, just an observation.

Maree17/02/2014 - 5:07 am

Just cooked this for dinner tonight, beautiful! I’m so excited that I have found your site!

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