A mild controversy seems to have grown up around the name of this dish – so, what exactly is a Shepherd’s Pie?
As far as I’m concerned, it’s utterly straightforward. Shepherds look after sheep, non? A baby sheep is a lamb, therefore Shepherd’s Pie is minced lamb topped with a layer of mashed vegetables, baked in the oven.
If the pie contains minced beef, it’s a Cottage Pie. That’s my stance, and I’m sticking to it!
So, now that we’ve got that sorted out, let’s get down to business.
I’ve been wanting to try to make our family’s Shepherd’s Pie recipe Paleo friendly for some time now.
For Clan Paleovirtus a Shepherd’s Pie has long been a regular Sunday Lunch dish.
It can be a real lazy affair, perfect for a Sunday afternoon, with good, long, leisurely pauses between the making of the filling and the topping, with everything assembled and re-heated in the oven prior to serving.
The Paleoification of the old recipe essentially meant removing the peas that once lurked in the meat mixture, as well as the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and wine the meat was cooked with.
The soy and Worcestershire sauces were replaced by Thai fish sauce. Look, trust me on this, it just works!
As far as the topping went, ever since Mrs. Paleovirtus made the leap to an LCHF lifestyle we’ve been converts to the cause of mashed cauliflower, and so that got the nod in front of other suggestions, such as mashed sweet potatoes.
When it comes to dishing up time, we serve good sized chunks of pie with nothing more ornate or fancy than Brussels sprouts, and the gravy produced when cooking the meat (see below).
Makes a pie that fills a 28cm × 20cm × 6cm oval pie dish
For the mince filling
- 1kg lamb mince
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 8 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 good sized carrots, finely chopped
- 2 large sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
- 2 tsp mild paprika
- 4 tsp Herbes de Provence
- 4 Bay leaves
- 4 tbsp tomato purée
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- black pepper
For the topping
- 1.2kg frozen cauliflower
- 4 tbsp coconut oil
- 4 tsp Dijon mustard
- Take the minced lamb out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- Prepare the topping. Cook the frozen cauliflower until just tender – about 6 minutes should be about right. Drain well. Add the coconut oil and the Dijon mustard. Blitz with a hand held blender until you achieve a smooth purée. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Fry the onion, carrot, and celery for 5 minutes.
- Add the Herbes de Provence, garlic, smoked Spanish paprika, and the mild paprika. Stir well, and fry for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the minced lamb to the pan. Season with black pepper to taste. Stir well, and stir fry until the lamb has lost its raw colour, about 10 minutes or so.
- Add the bay leaves, fish sauce, and tomato purée. Stir well, and add just enough water to cover. Bring up to a low simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool somewhat.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat mixture to a large oven dish, leaving the gravy the meat mixture cooked in in the pan. Cover the meat mixture with the cauliflower mash topping. Create the familiar Shepherd’s Pie cross-hatch style pattern on top of the cauliflower mash by dragging a fork across the mash topping several times at opposing angles. Not only does this give a nice finish to the top of the pie, but it also ensures that you have a nice, even layer of mash.
- Place the pie in the middle of the oven and bake for around 40 minutes, or until you get a nice golden finish on top of the mash.
- In the meantime, bring the gravy back up to a low simmer, and reduce until you have a consistency you’re happy with, then set aside. You could always make an extra-thick gravy by adding arrowroot, if that floats your (gravy!) boat.
- As mentioned above, we serve the pie with Brussels sprouts, and plenty of the reduced, thickened gravy.
Next time, we might experiment with adding a touch of almond flour to the topping, in order to give it a firmer texture as well as (hopefully) enabling it to take on an even deeper golden colour in the oven.