Red Dragon Pie was one of the first recipes I posted here on Thinly Spread back in 2011 and it is still one of the most popular amongst my readers so I’ve updated it with new photos and a printable recipe card to make it even more appealing – who could resist this delicious potato topped savoury bean stew?
This tasty, savoury meat free shepherd’s pie is filled with leeks, carrots, kale and aduki beans in a herb and tomato savoury sauce and it is the aduki beans which give it its wonderful name. According to Sarah Brown “The Chinese call aduki beans ‘red dragon’ or ‘red wonder’ beans as they have found them to be so full of goodness…maybe you will have the power of the dragon after eating it!” You can imagine how well that idea goes down in a house full of children! One mouthful and you have super strength…fabulous! I’m just happy that they are packed with protein, fibre, potassium, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6 – little packets of super powers!
Red Dragon Pie is basically the best vegan shepherd’s pie and it has been a staple in our house for as long as I can remember. The recipe it is based on can be found in the pages of our very battered copy of the fabulous Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen. When Mr TS arrived in my life back in 1988, armed with this book and an equally splattered copy of The Cranks Recipe Book, I suspected that he might be The One; 30 years later he’s still here and we’re still cooking 😉 – you can read our vegetarian story here. Red Dragon Pie caught my eye as I leafed through his book and lounged around (for back then we had time to leaf and lounge) and, while I can’t remember when I first cooked it, it made its way onto our regular menu ideas list.
Over the years it has evolved and I doubt very much whether any one pie has been exactly the same as the previous one so don’t feel you have to stick religiously to my recipe, for this comforting veggie dish is an accommodating beast! – you can swap the leeks for onions, chuck in some more seasonal veg as the wheel of the year turns (swede, turnip, parsnip, pumpkin, courgettes (zucchini) all work well), swap the herbs around to suit your taste, put sliced potatoes on top instead of mash but never EVER leave out the aduki bans or you won’t get to be a dragon and that would be a terrible shame!
I love leeks, they are one of my favourite veg – their flavour works so well in so many dishes – but it was only fairly recently that I found out how to trim leeks properly when I realised that I didn’t need to chop off the tops of the leaves and compost them! I don’t remember ever seeing a leek until I was an adult cooking for myself and when I first bought them I probably bought those ready trimmed ones which have no top leaves to speak of. When we moved here I started growing my own in the back garden, pulling them up with glee and merrily swiping off the top half of them without a thought but it was only recently when a friend asked me what on earth I thought I was doing that I realised my folly! Much like a spring onion lots of flavour is concentrated high up there in the top leaves and while they may be tougher that is no disadvantage in a slow cooked stew like this one – they have plenty of time to soften down and add their deliciousness to the dish. I slice them up and pop them into a heavy bottomed pan with a good plug of oil, cover them and leave them to sizzle away on the lowest heat for a good fifteen minutes before adding anything else. I check them every now and again and if they look like they might be trying to go brown I add a tablespoonful of water and they behave themselves again.
Once the leeks are soft I add the carrots, tomatoes and stock and simmer it all away for about 15 minutes before adding the aduki beans, thyme and kale. The lid goes back on and it is all simmered for a further ten minutes (I add a bit more water if it goes dry). If I have time I now leave the filling to sit, covered with the heat off for an hour or more. This allows all those lovely flavours to develop and meld and is well worth doing if you are organised enough to start this dish ahead of time – I’m usually not but I’m always glad when I am!
This wonderful vegan shepherd’s pie is topped with mustardy mashed potato and baked in the oven for about 30 minutes until the topping is crispy and brown. Don’t smooth your potato when you spoon it on, fluff it with a fork so you get all those little peaks just crying out to be beautifully browned in your hot oven!
An easy recipe for Red Dragon Pie - a meatless, potato topped pie and probably the very best vegan shepherd's pie packed with flavour.
- 2 leeks (about 200g) washed and sliced
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 350 g carrots (about 2 cups), chopped into large dice
- 250 ml (1 cup) rich vegetable stock (I use vecon)
- 1x 400 g can of aduki beans, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups)
- 1x 400 g can of chopped tomatoes (about 2 cups)
- 75 g kale, stripped from the stem and chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 500 g potatoes (about 2 cups), peeled and chopped into large chunks
- 2 tbsp vegan butter or margarine
- 1 generous tsp dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 200°C
Fry the leeks in the oil in a covered pan on the lowest heat for about 15 minutes or until really soft but not browned.
Add the garlic and carrot and fry for a further minute.
Add the stock and tomatoes and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes until the carrots are softening.
Add the aduki beans, thyme and kale and simmer for a further 5 minutes until the kale is just cooked. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Leave to cool a little and absorb flavours while you cook the potatoes.
Bring a large pan of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and the potatoes. Simmer for about 10 - 20 minutes until the potatoes are fork soft. Drain well. Return to the dry pan add butter and mustard and mash until soft and fluffy.
Put the filling into an oven proof dish (I used a stoneware loaf pan), top with the mashed potato. Fluff the potato with a fork and bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until browned and crisp on top.
I serve this all year round but it makes its gala appearance every St David’s Day – Mr TS is Welsh, we met in Wales and this pie has a Red Dragon in it – perfect!