| Ellie Krieger |
WASHINGTON (WP-BLOOM) – My take on shepherd’s pie has everything you want from the classic casserole: A layer of savoury lamb under a blanket of creamy mashed potatoes, all baked until bubbling with undeniable comfort appeal.
But there is more to this version than meets the eye.
Here, each luscious layer has a helping of vegetables.
Chopped sautéed mushrooms add meaty texture and flavour that meld with the lamb, allowing for crumbles of meat in every bite, yet a more modest helping of animal protein.
The potato layer incorporates cauliflower, which blends seamlessly into the mash, lightening it almost undetectably.
No extra effort is involved, because the potatoes and cauliflower are steamed in the same pot before they are whipped together.
I’m not in the camp that says you need to hide vegetables to get people to eat them.
Rather, I think they should be celebrated front and centre, and eaten because they are appealing.
But vegetables also happen to blend well into so many traditional dishes, like this one, and research indicates that sneaking them in really works to boost nutrition and reduce calories.
I know it did the trick for my family.
When I served this at home for the first time, my meat-and-potatoes husband was practically giddy with surprise when I told him how many vegetables were in the dish.
Shepherd’s Pie (photo below) Eight servings (makes about 12 cups)
Both layers of this classic casserole have a hidden helping of vegetables: The lamb is cooked with meaty sautéed mushrooms, and the mashed potatoes on top are blended seamlessly with cauliflower.
Together they give you all the flavour and comfort appeal you crave, in a lighter and more healthful way.
The unbaked casserole can be refrigerated for up to two days.
Add 15 to 20 minutes’ baking time when the shepherd’s pie goes straight from the refrigerator to the oven.
One-and-a-half pounds (unpeeled) Yukon Gold or creamery potatoes, cut into two-inch pieces
One small head cauliflower (one to one-and-a-half pounds), cut into florets
Two-third cup low-fat milk (one per cent)
Two tablespoons unsalted butter
One-and-a-quarter teaspoons salt
One pound lean ground lamb
Two teaspoons olive oil
One large onion, chopped
Eight ounces white button mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and finely chopped
Two teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (may substitute one teaspoon dried)
Two tablespoons flour
One cup no-salt-added beef broth
One-quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
One cup frozen green peas
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have a nine-by-13-inch baking dish or casserole at hand.
Place the potatoes in a large steamer basket over boiling water in a pot; cover and steam for 10 minutes on medium-high heat.
Add the cauliflower to the basket; cover and steam for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.
Remove the steamer basket and drain the pot; return the pot to the stove top (off the heat).
Transfer the still-hot vegetables to the pot; use a potato masher to mash them to the consistency you prefer.
Combine the milk and butter in a microwave-safe measuring cup; microwave on LOW just until heated through and the butter has melted (do not boil). Stir into the mashed mixture, along with three-quarter teaspoon of the salt.
Meanwhile, cook the ground lamb in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about five minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate. Drain/wipe out any fat remaining in the skillet.
Heat the oil in the (same) skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion, stirring to coat; cover and cook for about eight minutes, until softened.
Add the mushrooms and thyme; cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft and their released moisture has evaporated, about eight minutes.
Return the ground lamb to the skillet.
Sprinkle the flour over the skillet mixture; cook over medium heat, stirring, for two minutes, then pour in the broth and add the remaining half teaspoon of salt and the pepper, stirring to incorporate.
Once the mixture is barely bubbling, use a spatula to dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then stir in the peas. Remove from the heat.
Distribute the meat mixture evenly in the bottom of the baking dish or casserole, then spread the potato-cauliflower mash evenly over the meat-mushroom filling, making sure to cover it completely.
Place the baking dish or casserole on a baking sheet (to catch any drips from bubbling filling); bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the mixture is heated through and the top is lightly browned.
Per serving: 280 calories, 17 grammes of protein, 28 grammes of carbohydrates, 12 grammes of fat, five grammes of saturated fat, 45 milligrammes of cholesterol, 115 milligrammes of sodium, five grammes of dietary fibre, five grammes of sugar
*Krieger’s most recent cookbook is “Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less”