Growing up, we had Shepherd’s Pie quite a bit! In our house, it was essentially leftover mashed potatoes, frozen or canned corn and ground beef all baked in a dish together. To be honest, I did not love it.
But now as an adult, I realize that was my mom’s way of using up leftovers and she didn’t get fancy with ingredients because she had 5 kids and at least one of us at any given time was a picky eater.
While I didn’t love the combo of plain beef and corn, I do see the appeal of a one pot dish and a form of Shepherd’s Pie appears in our house at least a couple times a month. I like to call it Mix and Match Shepherd’s Pie. It’s essentially one part protein, one part assorted cooked vegetables, a little tomato paste, worcestershire and appropriate spices, topped with mashed root vegetable or starch of your choice. This is not really a recipe, but more a loose formula, so go crazy if you like. It’s a phenomenal way to use up leftovers, it’s full of comfort food, and it’s comprised of whole foods . . .what’s not to like?
The options are endless – almost anything you’ve got in your fridge can work here! I’ve made some really crazy combinations and so far neither John or I have turned up our noses at the result. When you can’t think of anything to make – make this! The amount of nutrients you can pack into it are endless!
16 – 20 oz protein of choice: try ground turkey, beef, lamb or pork, or sausages (casings removed), thinly sliced chicken breasts or canned beans.
3-4 cups leftover mashed root or starch: try potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, celeriac, turnip, rutabaga, kabocha squash or cooked polenta. (If I don’t have leftovers, I boil and mash and then stir in 2 tbsp pasture butter or coconut oil to my starch/roots, plus salt and pepper. I usually will leave potato & sweet potato skins on)
3 cups chopped mixed vegetables of your choice: try mushrooms, broccoli, kale, dandelion greens, bell peppers, carrots, peas, zucchini, mizuna, cabbage etc.
1 cup diced onion or thinly sliced leeks
1 tbsp pasture butter, olive oil or coconut oil
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried herbs (one or two): try ground sage, savory, basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, marjoram, dill
optional: 1/2 tsp garlic powder, onion powder or smoked paprika
sea salt and black pepper to taste
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of coconut or olive oil (or butter) and saute 3 cups of chopped mixed vegetables and 1 cup of diced onions/leeks until they begin to soften and the onions are almost translucent. Remove the vegetables from the pan and cook your meat (you don’t need to cook canned beans if you are using them), stirring occasionally until cooked through. Stir the vegetables back into the pan, add the worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, herbs and any optional spices until everything is well blended. Most meats will yield a small amount of liquid during the cooking process, if you use something that doesn’t and the pan seems dry, feel free to add a couple tbsp of water while working in the tomato paste and other flavorings. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the meat / bean & vegetable mixture into the bottom of a large casserole dish or 9X13 pan. Top with mashed root or starch and bake for 30 minutes or until warmed through. Some toppings will brown better than others, if your top doesn’t brown, turn on the broiler and broil for 1-2 minutes (keeping an eye on it as roots brown quickly).
Remove from oven and let cool briefly before serving. Makes 4 generous delicious, comfort food servings.
Note: If your mash topping seems soupy (as the case might be with things like butternut squash) stir in a beaten egg before cooking and it will firm right up during cooking!
My favorite combos:
Topping: Colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale, leeks & cabbage stirred in)
Filling: Ground Turkey, broccolini & carrots (photo below)
Topping: Butternut squash
Filling: Sweet Italian Sausage, Kale, Bell peppers, peas
Topping: Smashed Parm Potatoes
Filling: Ground Beef, mushrooms & carrots
Do you make Shepherd’s Pie? What are your favorite filling and toppings? Are you a traditionalist or do you like to veer off and clean out your fridge like me? Share in the comments below, I’d love to hear your side of things!