How To Make Granny's Killer Shepherds' Pie - With Pastry Recipe
Traditional and an Updated, Low Carb Version
My granny made absolutely killer Shepherd’s Pie. She would grind up the remains of the Sunday roast lamb or pork shoulder, add whatever ground meat she had on hand (usually veal, or sometimes, beef), and throw in anything else that took her fancy and seemed likely to fit in. Granny was very French in her cooking, so you knew there would always be onions, garlic and usually mushrooms. Then, she smothered it all in a creamy, mashed potato crust, baked to a delicious golden-brown and, “Voila!”
To transform her classic into another very French, Christmas Eve treat, simply add the mashed potato to the filling, adjust the seasoning slightly, and top it with a delectable flaky pastry, and you will have a tourtiere fit for a king, or queen if you prefer.
This particular version of tourtiere is presented as an appetizer instead of the usual main course. You can use a fine, short, thinly rolled out crust, puff pastry, or layers of phylo pastry made even more delectable by buttering each layer.
Her original Shepherd's Pie recipe is included here along with a variation that was traditionally served on Christmas Eve, usually after the midnight carol service. I have many warm, childhood memories of frosty windows, steaming with the heat from the busy kitchen, and savory smells making young tummies growl in anticipation of treats just waiting to be devoured.
With a few easy changes, you can easily transform this traditional palate-pleaser into an equally tasty, but low carb and dairy-free family-friendly meal. Definitely kid-approved - my son didn't even notice the substitutions.
Granny's Shepherd's Pie
For the filling you will need:
- 1 lb lean ground beef (You can substitute 1/2 lb left-over roast, ground fine, and 1/2 lb fresh ground meat - lamb and veal, pork and lamb, or pork and beef are very nice combinations)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced - your choice, but portabello is a favorite of mine for this recipe
- 2 stalks celery, cleaned and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp savory, dried or fresh
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup chicken broth or meat stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- baby carrots, roll-cut in 1/2 inch pieces and steamed to crunchy-tender
- frozen or canned, drained kernel corn - about 2 - 3 cups vegetables, combined
- cooked potatoes, mashed and whipped 'til flufy with heavy cream and butter - about 4 - 6 cups, depending on the size of your baking dish
- 1/2 cup grated white cheddar, we prefer aged or old
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Low Carb, Non-Dairy Topping:
- 4 - 6 cups cooked, well-drained cauliflower, pureed and whipped fluffy. Substitute a generous drizzle of extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil or any quality oil of your choosing - almond, safflower, or sesame, which will impart a lovely nutty flavor. Stay away from almond oil or peanut oil unless they are family favorites, as their flavor can be overpower the more delicate flavor of the cauliflower.
- 1/2 cup lactose free cheese, or a quality non-dairy substitute
- 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped, along with a few sprigs of fresh dill, also finely chopped
- In a heavy skillet, sauté garlic and onions in good quality oil (cold pressed virgin olive, safflower, canola) 'til almost transparent. Remove from skillet and set aside.
- Raise heat and quickly sauté mushrooms 'til just done. Set aside with onions.
- Lower heat and add ground beef (or fresh ground meat of your choice). Cook, stirring to break up meat, until no pink remains.
- Pour off any excess oil or fat and return to heat. Add cooked ground meat and stir until heated through. Add mushrooms and onions and stir to combine. Add seasonings. Salt and pepper to taste, and adjust seasonings as required.
- Pour in chicken broth or stock, and stir 'til combined. Remove mixture to an oven-proof baking dish or casserole.
- Top with vegetable layer, enough to completely cover the meat mixture. Gently mound on the mashed potatoes OR mashed cauliflower, for the Eating Clean/Low Carb version, smoothing the top slightly. Sprinkle with grated cheese (either regular cheese OR a non-dairy OR lactose-free option) and parsley. Place in 400 F oven to brown crust.
- When cheese is melted and bubbly, and the crust is golden brown, remove from oven and serve immediately with tossed green salad and a fresh crusty loaf.
- Make sure the cauliflower is very well-drained. I recommend leaving it a sieve, over a bowl or pot after you drain it. Granny used to set it over a bowl with the pot lid on top. You'll be surprised how much more liquid will drain off.
- You can replace the roll-cut carrots with chopped green beans. These are your best low-carb option. You can also add peas, though they are a higher carb option.
- Yet another version of this recipe calls for mashed yams (the orange ones) instead of potatoes. They will be much sweeter, but match up beautifully with a curried filling - just add turmeric, cardamom, and your favorite curry blend to the meat for an eastern-style taste treat.
Fatayer - Lebanese Meat Pie
Christmas Eve Tourtiere
You can substitute 1/2 lb. left-over cooked roast, ground fine, and 1/2 lb. fresh ground meat - lamb and veal, pork and lamb, or pork and beef are very nice combinations.
- 1 potato, very large, peeled and quartered
- 1 lb. lean ground pork, OR substitute 1/2 cooked meat, ground, plus 1/2 lb. fresh ground meat
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, cleaned and cut in 3 pieces, leaves on
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. savory, fresh or dried, ground
- 1/2 tsp. thyme
- 1/4 tsp. allspice
- 1/4 tsp. cloves, ground
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 egg, beaten with a fork
- In saucepan, bring lightly salted water to boil. Add potato quarters and cook til tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon when done, mash and set aside.
- Discard all but 1/2 cup potato water. Add ground meat, onion, celery, garlic, savory, thyme, allspice, and cloves. Break ground meat with a spoon. Simmer and cook uncovered until meat is no longer pink and liquid is reduced by half.
- Remove celery pieces and discard. Stir in mashed potato, and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning to taste, and let cool in refrigerator.
- Divide puff pastry into quarters. Roll out each quarter into a 12 x 9 inch rectangle and cut into twelve equal pieces.
- Brush each piece with beaten egg and place a heaping teaspoon of meat mixture in the center of each.
- Fold pastry over filling to enclose filling and make a triangle. Dip tines of a fork in flour and lightly crimp the edges of the pastry triangle together to seal them.
- Continue with the remainder of the dough and reserve any left-over beaten egg in the refrigerator.
- Turnovers may now be covered and refrigerated overnight, or sealed in freezer bags and frozen for up to two months. Thaw in refrigerator before baking.
- Arrange turnovers on baking sheet, brush with reserved beaten egg. Bake in center of oven at 400 F. until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot with cranberry/walnut conserve, or your favorite red or green tomato chutney.
These delicious morsels are sure to become a family favorite.
Pastry Topped Meat Pies - So Many Variations
Since writing this, even more absolutely delectable meat pie recipes have appeared on line including an amazing meatball pie, that features savory meatballs, smothered in rich gravy, all nestled under a flaky pastry topping.
Another recipe calls for spicy, ground pork filling, topped with a layer of apples. And depending on which apples you use, tart or sweet, you can add more or less spicy heat to the filling - a teaspoon of cardamom certainly brings out the flavors of the meat and fruit quite nicely.
This is perhaps a modern take on the old practice of putting the meat at one end of the hand-held meal, and fruit or jam at the other end. Dinner and dessert in one handful. You can see where our modern pizza-pops had their humble, and perhaps much more healthful, beginnings.
Traditionally, depending on which part of the old-country you hailed from, your meat pie - or pasty if you were from Lancashire, like granny - could contain almost any kind of ground meat. But to be called Shepherd's Pie, the meat had to be lamb.
Another way to make the meat pies uses a very short crust, a bit thicker on the top. You can fill the crust with cooked venison and ground beef, mixed with onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme, along with a bay leaf that is discarded after cooking the meat. This version has vegetables at all.
But however you make it, as a quick way to use up left-overs, or a new dish all on its own, Shepherd's Pie remains a family favorite and one of the mainstays of home-made comfort foods.
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