Shepherds Pie

As I was recovering from being quite ill for a few weeks I started craving shepherds pie – don’t ask me why but it was all I wanted to eat.  Strange but true. Even now as I am pretty much back to normal, I still feel a craving to eat it. Must be a comfort food thing.  Anyway I decided to make a few containers of it so that I could freeze it for when I just had to have it again.

I do put a slight twist on the traditional pie. The secret which makes it very healthy is adding a can of lentils to the ground meat. It adds to the volume and fibre but also the taste. I also added a spice paste called harissa, a middle eastern spice combination that gives a slightly spicy (heat) note to your food. Another addition was about a tablespoon of hoisin for a slight sweet note. Then there is the topping…I added shredded parmesan to the top of the potato before putting in the over to bake.







Shepherds pie


Olive oil

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1.5 tbsp Harissa paste

1 tbsp Hoisin sauce

1/4 cup low fat yogurt

1 can cooked lentils

Potato – white not yukon – 1 per person

Shredded parmasean cheese



Sauté onion in a large pan till browned (tip – I add a pinch of brown sugar to help it caramelize). Add garlic and sauté till cooked but not burnt.

Add ground beef (or turkey), mix and cook till lightly browned. Add frozen mix veg and cooked lentils, harissa and hoisin. Mix well. Cook on stovetop till well browned and veg is no longer frozen.

Peel potatoes and chop into even pieces. Boil or microwave until soft. Transfer to a large bowl or mixer, add yogurt and mix with a mix master or hand held mixer till light and fluffy and mashed.

Add a punch of salt to taste if you like (I don’t add salt as the cheese on top adds enough salt for my liking).

Put meat mixture into a pan, or glass container (I divided it into four double serving glass containers so I could freeze it). Spread the mash potato on top of each container and sprinkle parmasean over top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes till slightly browned. Serve warm or let cool, cover and freeze.


Shepherds Pie (with a twist)

So who doesn’t remember growing up having shepherds pie and loving it? Okay perhaps some of you didn’t have it – but I did, and I always loved it.  For the last few years though I have tried to reduce the number of carbohydrates I consume so I switched to sweet potatoes from white potatoes (when I have potatoes which isn’t that often). The “twist” I learned from my friend Zannat (who’s blog I have reposted a number of times – food4happiness). The twist is to add lentils to your ground beef. It adds fibre, protein and increases the amount of the beef mixture so you get much more for very little extra cost. I happen to love lentils so this is perfect for me. I substituted white potatoes for sweet and didn’t use too too much on top so it still remains healthy and low fat.

Shepherds pie 2

shepherds pie1


1 lb of lean (I used extra lean) ground beef

1 tin of lentils (cooked)

1 cooking onion – chopped

1-1.5 cups of mixed frozen vegetables (add as much as you like really)

1 pint of mushrooms chopped (about 10-12 large)

1 egg whisked

4-5 sweet potatoes medium sized (add more if you want a thicker topping)

¼ cup of low fat yogurt

½ cup of grated parmesan cheese

A couple of dashes of ketchup (less than ¼ cup)

1 tsp of Harissa spice mix (if you don’t have just add a pinch of cumin and a tiny pinch of cardamon and a pinch of cinnamon – really only a tiny amount of each).

1 tbsp of chopped garlic – about 2-3 cloves

I don’t use salt but if you want you can add a pinch of salt

½ tsp of cornstarch mixed with 3 tbsp of water or beef broth (not obligatory – this step just helps thicken the beef mixture and absorb some of the liquid)

3 tsp olive oil


Sauté a chopped onion till tender and slightly browned in 1 tsp of olive oil (I sometimes add a tsp of brown sugar to help caramelize the onion a bit). Add 1 more tsp of oil with the garlic, mushrooms and  frozen vegetables once the onions are pretty much done. Sauté all together and add the broth and corn starch. Remove and put in a bowl for the time being.

Add beef and a tin of lentils to the pan along with the spices, ketchup, salt and pepper. Brown the meat with the lentils and then add back in the vegetables, onions and mushrooms and stir together. Add the egg and mix everything up.

While the meat is cooking, peel and cube the potatoes (try to make them even sized pieces so they will cook evenly). Microwave them in water until they are able to be pieced easily by a fork. You can also boil them if you prefer – if boiling then start the potatoes before the meat and vegetables.

Turn off the heat on the meat when all cooked and let sit in pan. Drain potato pieces into a bowl and add yogurt and parmesan cheese and whip using either a hand blender or a stand mixer. Using this type of equipment whips air into the potatoes and makes them a bit lighter. You can also do it by hand it just takes a bit longer and is more work. Once the potatoes are whipped taste and add seasoning as needed.

Put meat mixture into a deep dish and pat it down so it is firm. Then “frost” the top with the potato mixture as you would a cake. Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees (F) to brown the top a bit and then serve. I made it in several containers as you can see in the picture and froze it so I had lots of meals from the one cooking session.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult

I often think how great it would be to do a cooking/educational class on creating healthy low cost meals for people who think they don’t have time to cook and feed their family on processed foods.

Now I don’t claim that I don’t eat anything that comes out of a tin or wrapped in plastic….but I do try to limit the amount of processed food I cook with to almost nothing other than a few condiments perhaps.

People often think that opening a can of prepared food is inexpensive and a quick fix for a meal.  If you read the label though you will find the sodium levels are sky high and the ingredients are made up of words I wouldn’t even try to pronounce.

If you take the cost of a prepared shepherds pie for example at a cost of anywhere from say $9 – $12 and look through the ingredients you could be amazed at how little real unadulterated food is in it!  Try buying a couple of lbs of lean ground beef and a few potatoes and a bag of frozen vegetables (usually these are pretty good about not including all kinds of chemical ingredients) and for about the same cost as a store bought pie you can make a healthy often much larger version which will give you additional meals that are much healthier for about the same cost.

Same holds true for buying things like canned pasta that you heat up.  A can of pasta can cost about $1 – $1.50 a can? Well for $1.50 on sale you can stock up on dry whole wheat pasta (whatever style you like) which can provide several meals for your family. Make up a quick tomato sauce from by using can of diced tomatoes, some chopped garlic maybe a chopped onion and whatever herbs you have on hand.  Let it simmer and viola! spaghetti sauce that is so much healthier than store bought.  To make it creamy add a touch of low fat evaporated milk and you have a rose sauce.

How about pizza?  Make your own for 1/2 the price.  Use 1/2 a whole wheat pita shell and let the kids make their own toppings from cut up vegetables and any leftover protein in the fridge – add some sauce and cheese and you have a great way to clean out the fridge and make individual pizzas that use way less bread and sodium.

I could go on and on here but the message is the same – rather than buying a quick fix meal that is not very healthy why not make your own and get several meals out of one cooking session?

I remember growing up, both my parents worked, so on the weekend my mom would make a full meal with a protein, a vegetable and sometimes a carb along with a salad (that I was responsible for making every night). We would eat leftovers for lunches and dinner for the next few days on that same meal – prepared a bit differently each time but the bulk of the cooking was done in one session.

So much is available to make as a healthy meal done in minutes for a whole family that really isn’t expensive.  Check out my pasta and shrimp with veg recipe This is made up of whatever was on hand in the fridge.  You don’t have to use shrimp – you can add tofu, or sauce and meatballs – see recipe for meatballs that are healthy and delicious.  In my side food business these are my best seller!

The bottom line is that cooking doesn’t have to be a hardship or a chore – get the kids involved and make it a family event. If you don’t have kids – prepare a larger dish on the weekend and freeze portion sizes so that when you don’t feel like cooking you can just defrost. In the long run it is cheaper, healthier and can be loads of fun.