Okaaaay, it’s January!! New Year’s has always been a holiday I sort of wish would go away. Celebrating a new year in the dead of winter, jammed right up after the Christmas revelry, just seems a recipe for exhaustion. This year I managed to avoid the entire thing by getting extremely sick without warning at my brother’s house in Maine on Christmas Eve, then pretending it wasn’t happening back here in Portland, so I could enjoy the visit of two dear friends who drove all the way from New Mexico to Oregon … By the time I hit New Year’s Day, all I could do was lie in bed like a vegetable, praying that my immune system was still alive in there somewhere.
Before succumbing to viral hell, I did have a great pre-Christmas week of cooking with my niece and nephew. One of the dinners we made was a shepherd’s pie, thrown together with odds and ends found in the fridge and cupboard. It was a big hit, and I thought, Why do I not make this all the time in the winter? It’s perfect cold weather food, packed full of veggies, and so simple to make. So here it is without further ado — this is a spiffed up, slightly spiced version of shepherd’s pie to chase the winter chill (and the January blues) even further away. It draws inspiration from a spicy tomato-ground beef Pakistani dish that I adore, called Keema, and replaces the traditional white potato topping with sweet potatoes, which go well with the curried filling. This recipe is easily made either vegan or paleo — or — my favorite is to make the filling with a combination of lentils and ground beef. Enjoy, and stay warm!
SPICY SHEPHERD’S PIE: (You can easily increase or decrease quantities in this recipe, depending on how many servings you want — it’s super flexible!)
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 1 lb. ground beef/turkey — or — 1 lb extra-firm tofu, crumbled
- 2 cups cooked lentils
- 1 onion
- 2 tomatoes
- several cloves garlic
- 1 inch chunk fresh ginger root
- few tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
- 4 (at least) cups finely chopped vegetables — broccoli, string beans, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, etc ….. (hint: this is a great time to use frozen veggies — a 1 lb. bag is perfect)
- a few handfuls chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- salt to taste
- several tablespoons coconut oil
- 1/2 cup yogurt or coconut milk
- vinegar or lemon juice to taste
- broth of your choice as needed
First, cook your potato until soft — bake, boil or microwave. Chop onion & garlic, and grate or finely mince ginger. Saute in a bit of coconut oil until soft, then add diced tomatoes, and stir until tomatoes’ skins soften. Add 1 tablespoon each cumin and curry powders (a dash of chili powder is nice too if you like heat) and ground beef/tofu. Brown the meat and add veggies. Continue to saute until the veggies are just tender — don’t overcook or things will get too mushy in the oven. If you are using carrots, this will take a bit longer. If you are using tofu rather than meat, you may want to add a bit more oil.
While the veggies are cooking, peel and mash sweet potatoes. (If your potatoes are organic, and you boiled them, just leave the softened skins on.) Add yogurt or coconut milk along with more curry powder, cumin and salt to taste. Add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to taste. Stir cilantro into veggie mixture and transfer to an oiled casserole dish with a lid. There should be just a little bit of liquid in the veggies — if they are very dry, pour a little bit (no more than 1/4 cup) of broth over them. Spoon seasoned sweet potato on top and spread with the back of a spoon. Drizzled the top with a bit of olive or coconut oil. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour — until top is set and starting to brown.
I like to serve this with a little yogurt on the side. It’s a dish that gets even better with age, and if I’m making it for a dinner party, I try to make it the day before. It also makes a fantastic breakfast with plenty of protein to start the day — and leftovers freeze very well to have for lunches.