Comfort Food Redux: Shepherd’s Pie

18 Jan

In my part of Canada, I find two months bring on the uncontrollable urge to whip up comfort food. The first is October when the leaves turn and drop like the temperatures and daylight levels. The second is January when higher carbs and higher fat content seem ever so necessary to fend off -25C temperatures and windchill that can freeze your lips.

Saucy Shiraz Shepherd's Pie

Saucy Shiraz Shepherd’s Pie

At least once a year, I feel the need to serve Shepherd’s Pie. This is a common man’s dish which, aside from a bottom of cooked ground meat and a starch topping, seems to offer many regional, ethnic and dietary variations in its recipes.

In my experience, most Shepherd’s Pies are hearty and filling and benefit from adding what my nephews (as young ‘uns) called “Special Sauce” — Ketchup. So it was with my bottle of SS I sat down to try Saucy Shiraz Shepherd’s Pie from the February 2013 issue of Chatelaine magazine.

From bite number one, this version sang with balanced flavours and textures. No Special Sauce needed! And it wasn’t just the use of a robust red wine to the meat layer that impressed me the most. The topping is made from the traditional mashed potato, but included the nutritional benefits and firm texture of cooked cauliflower.

Cook, season and mash potatoes and cauliflower.

Cook, season and mash potatoes and cauliflower.

The seasonings make this is an excellent ‘grown-up’ version of Shepherd’s Pie, but it could equally prove a family favourite in that it ‘hides’ additional vegetables in the guise of a familiar dish.

For singles, the recipe’s four individual servings preparation makes it a savvy option. Eat two portions this week for your suppers. Freeze the other two (in aluminum mini-loaf pans without the Parmesan cheese) for no-time-to-cook suppers later in the winter. I would thaw a serving in the fridge the evening before then reheat, covered, in a toaster oven. When the ‘pie’ is hot throughout, uncover, sprinkle a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese on top and broil until golden.

Start by cooking the potatoes and cauliflower in a covered pot of water until tender, about 10 – 12 minutes after the pot has boiled. When cooked, drain the vegetables in a colander. Over low heat in the same potato pot, melt butter, mustard, cream and salt and pepper. Return the potatoes and cauliflower to this pot and coarsely mash them with the flavourings. Set aside.

Use a large non-stick fry pan set over medium-high heat, crumble in the ground meat (I used lean beef). Cook, using a large wooden spoon to continue to break up the ground meat until it is no longer pink (about 3-5 minutes). To the fry pan, add the onions, garlic, diced carrots, salt and pepper. Cook an additional 3 – 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften.

Prepare meat filling

Prepare meat filling


Add the wine to the pan and cook for another two minutes. Sprinkle the mixture with the flour, stirring to combine well. Stir in the broth, rosemary, tomato paste and Worcestershire Sauce. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then reduce the burner heat to Medium-low. Simmer until the meat sauce thickens about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Set a rack in your oven about 1/3 of the way from the top. Preheat the broiler. For easier clean-up, I sprayed my baking dishes with cooking oil. For the two servings I ate this week, I used enamel-covered cast iron ramekins. The two destined for the freezer went into mini-loaf pans.

Divide meat among individual baking dishes

Divide meat among individual baking dishes

Divide the meat sauce from the skillet equally among the four baking dishes. Top each with a quarter of the mashed potato/cauliflower mixture. Smooth the top layer with the back of a tablespoon.

Sprinkle each of the servings you plan to bake now with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Place on a baking sheet (uncovered) and broil until the topping is golden.

Top with mashed potato mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese

Top with mashed potato mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese










0.5 lbs/250 gm           Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled (I left on the thin skins of new

potatoes) and cut in 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 small                     cauliflower, cut into small florets (about 1.5 cups/375 ml)

2 Tbsp/30 mL            unsalted butter

2 Tbsp/30 mL            18% cream (I substituted full-fat sour cream)

1 Tbsp/15 mL             grainy mustard

1/4 tsp/1 mL               salt

1/8 tsp/ 0.5 mL         pepper


1 lb./500 gm               lean ground beef or lamb

1 small                         onion, chopped

2 cloves                       garlic, minced

1                                    carrot, peeled and diced small

1/4 tsp/1 mL              salt

1/8 tsp/ 0.5 mL         black pepper

1/3 cup/75 mL           Shiraz red wine

2 Tbsp/30 mL            all-purpose flour

1 cup/250 mL             no-salt beef broth

2 Tbsp/30 mL            tomato paste

2 tsp/ 8 ml                   fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

1 tsp/4 mL                  Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup/ 55 mL          Parmesan cheese (optional)

Saucy Shiraz Shepherd's Pie --- served with steamed green beans

Saucy Shiraz Shepherd’s Pie — served with steamed green beans


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