I think I had shepherd’s pie maybe twice in my life, and both were in my college’s cafeteria on nights when there was truly nothing more appealing.
But tonight, there was some ground beef in my fridge and there was cauliflower. I asked if anyone had a preference for dinner and the answer I received? “Ground beef. And cauliflower.”
It popped into my head out of nowhere: shepherd’s pie. Ground beef, simmered with onions, carrots, peas. Although it’s usually slathered with rich and buttery mashed potatoes, I thought we could make a perfectly delicious topping from the cauliflower that was already in our fridge. It would even be healthier. So we did. (Although we did have to augment it with potato after over-salting the cauliflower, something you don’t have to do but I’ve included it in my recipe). And it was the best dinner we’ve had in a long time.
Recipe: Shepherd’s Pie
1 medium head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
4 tablespoons of butter, divided (or alternatively, use olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup green peas
1 pound ground beef (sirloin or low-fat)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup milk
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and potato, then turn down the heat and simmer until tender – about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt two tablespoons of butter. Add carrot and onion and, stirring frequently, saute until tender. Add green peas towards the end of the cooking time. Then, add ground beef. Brown, continuing to stir. Add salt, pepper, beef stock, and soy sauce. Allow to simmer until thickened but not dry.
When the cauliflower and potatoes are tender, drain, and then mash them together with the remaining two tablespoons of butter and the milk. Alternatively, use a ricer to make them very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spread the meat mixture evenly into a casserole dish (9×13″ works well). Then, spread the mashed cauliflower mixture on top of it. If desired, use a fork to whip it into little peaks that will brown deliciously in the oven.
Bake for thirty minutes. Garnish with chopped chives or parsley if you’ve got it – fresh herbs always help.