Sunday, November 3, 2013

Shepherd's Pie

So here is the second installment of a common theme for the season - healthy versions of comfort food. Shepherd's Pie is naturally heavy, but I've included a few tricks in this recipe to keep the fat out and the richness in.  Being a one-pot meal, portion control is also key here; and for that, I can't help you much.  

On the other hand, you could easily adapt this recipe to make it even more healthy.  Add more vegetables to the base, and make it vegetarian all together.  Replace the meat with lentils or beans.  As long as you loosely define Shepherd's Pie as any stew topped with mashed potatoes, the possibilities are endless.  I suppose the original purpose of the dish was to use up whatever you had around in stew, and top it with a staple layer of boiled and mashed potatoes.  So, embrace the spirit of the dish and make it your own.

The option here attempts to keep the ingredients as "traditional" as possible - beef, carrots, onions, peas, and of course, mashed potatoes.  By using the leanest beef possible and substituting butter/cream for greek yogurt in the potatoes, this dish stays under 500 calories per serving.  The addition of a little corn starch will add a thick richness to the stew even though you've taken out as much fat as possible.  A hearty serving will be pretty guilt-free.

Like all great comfort foods, a perk of this dish is that it gets better over time.  I made it on a Sunday night and enjoyed the leftovers more and more throughout the week as the flavors set.  That being said, it would also be great for entertaining crowds or feeding a family from a single pot.
Ingredients (makes 6 servings):
  • 1 lb. lean (or extra lean) ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh peas
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of parsley, chopped and divided
  • 1 1/2 cups stock
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp. organic corn starch 
  • 2 or 3 potatoes (depending on how thick you want the topping)
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove top.  Skin and chop the potatoes into large pieces, and boil in salted water until soft, about 20 minutes.
While the potatoes cook, chop the onions, carrots, garlic, and parsley.  In another large pot, cook the onions in 1 tbsp. of olive oil until soft and brown (be sure to season with salt and add the bay leaf).  Then, add the carrots, garlic, and thyme and cook a few more minutes, until soft.  Stir in the tomato paste.
As the vegetables cook, season the ground beef by mixing with 1/4 cup chopped parsley, oregano, coriander, cayenne, and allspice.  Also season with salt and pepper.  Add the beef in small pieces to the vegetables to cook through.
Once the beef is cooked through, add the peas and stock.  Cover the pot and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the potatoes and mash them, adding the greek yogurt, remaining parsley, and salt and pepper for seasoning.  
When the stock has reduced a bit and the peas are fully cooked, sift the corn starch into the beef stew to thicken it.  Transfer the stew to a casserole dish and top with a layer of mashed potatoes.  Place under the broiler until golden and serve.

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