I follow a few food bloggers on my Facebook feed and love reading the healthy recipes they post, complete with scrumptious photos. One recipe in particular caught my eye following a conversation I had recently with friends in Mumbai about the origins of Shepherds Pie. Growing up in the UK Shepherds Pie was a regular at our dinner table. There are many different versions of this family favourite and I always think it is one of those flexible dishes that you can throw in just about anything you have to hand (within reason I should add). The basic dish is meat and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes, simple right!
Here are the ingredients that I used to create my version of this dish:
For the topping: 1-1/2 lbs potatoes, 3/4 cup of low sodium organic chicken stock, 2tbs reduced fat sour cream, salt & pepper, grated cheese for browning
For the filling: 1 lb lean ground beef, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 8oz mushrooms, can of peas, can of sweetcorn, 2 tsp tomato paste, 1 cup beef broth, 1 tsp Worcester sauce, 1 tsp chopped rosemary leaves, 1 tsp thyme leaves, salt and pepper.
The first step is to peel and boil the potatoes in a pan of lightly salted water until soft. While the potatoes cook, add the meat to a frying pan and dry fry until the meat is browned. Remember to season with a little salt and pepper. I am always amazed at how much fat comes out of meat, even when you buy the leanest meat you can, so when the meat is cooked I like to drain it on a plate covered in kitchen towel in the hope that this will remove a few extra calories.
Next up fry the onions with the garlic and mushrooms. Again, I tend not to add any additional oil at this point although I know most recipes say add a teaspoon or so. Once the onions become tender (about 5-10 minutes) add the rest of the filling ingredients listed above and then return the cooked meat to the pan, thoroughly mix and then simmer for a further 10 minutes.
I must share a great gadget I have for chopping onions. I don’t know about you, but just the thought of cutting onions makes my eyes cry like crazy. I have tried the old wives tales of putting a spoon in your mouth while you chop or rubbing your cutting board with a potato to no avail. However, my Vidalia Chop Wizard works like a dream. It comes with a couple of different sized blades so its good for cutting potatoes and all other kinds of vegetables. Quick and easy and dishwasher safe, my kind of gadget!
While your meat mixture simmers, prepare your potato topping. Drain the cooked potatoes and mix with the sour cream, chicken stock, and season with salt and pepper. Mash until smooth. I did have a friend many years ago who was so fanatical about having smooth potatoes they would use a liquidiser at this point but I’m not that much of a perfectionist I’m afraid.
Once your meat mixture has simmered for about 10 minutes, transfer it to a casserole dish and then top with the mashed potato. I like to finish the dish by sprinkling some shredded cheese onto the top of the potato. Cook the dish in the oven at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes and then for the last couple of minutes, place under a broiler so that the cheese browns and forms a crispy topping, yum yum!
Charlotte and I enjoyed a hearty serving each and I still had 3 other servings leftover to freeze for later. I love that this is such a flexible recipe. Replace the potatoes with mashed cauliflower to reduce the carbs, or with mashed sweet potatoes to mix up the flavors. Use whatever vegetables you have to hand, carrots, green beans, broad beens, and celery work well in this dish. If you are not that keen on beef then replace the meat with turkey or lamb (although then we start the debate on should we call it Cottage Pie). So for now I am feeling quite smug with myself and perhaps will be brave enough to attempt a few more homemade meals soon.
Now I must go and clean up my kitchen.