While I am absolutely a lover of food and enjoy trying out new things, I am also undeniably a fussy eater. Particularly when it comes to the textures of vegetables, I have a whole list of things I can’t generally stomach, even if I like their flavour – banana, mushroom, cooked tomatoes, courgette, aubergine, peppers, even onion cut larger than a small dice…the list goes on. I know I’m not the only one either, and in order to maintain a healthy diet I always endeavour to find ways to eat these things, I just have to conceal them.
That’s the goal with this. A lovely, hearty shepherd’s pie packed with vegetables that aren’t immediately noticeable. It’s important to say I’m not necessarily recommending you hide them – be honest about what you’re serving, but also make it clear that they’re there to enhance the healthy content without getting in the way.
- Minced meat – I used beef but by all means go for a lamb (for Shepherd’s) or Quorn mince. Roughly 100g per portion.
- Potatoes – one medium per portion
- 1 large Swede
- Around 1 carrot per person
- Green Lentils – I used tinned for ease, there’s no shame in it.
- A few onions
- A few cloves of garlic
- A few spoonfuls of butter
- Stock, roughly 200ml per portion – aim to match it to your meat (or lack of)
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Tomato Puree
- Worcester Sauce
- Drop of milk
- Peel and boil the potatoes and swede in well salted water. Keep them going for a fair while, you want the mash to be extra smooth, and swede is a tough veg to crack. You know they’re done when a sharp knife effortlessly glides in and out.
- Add your beef to a deep pan with a drizzle of oil and cook, continually stirring and breaking apart, until the moisture that the beef releases has evaporated and the meat is beginning to brown a little. Remove the beef from the pan into a large bowl.
- Chop your onion and mushroom as fine as you feasibly can – ideally, use an electric chopped or food processor. Add to the pan with a touch of salt, frying with the lid on over a gentle heat for around 10 minutes. This will really mellow the flavour and soften them up, helping them to hide a little better. Add a crushed clove of garlic or two and some finely chopped carrots. Cook for a further 5 minutes before removing to the same bowl as the meat. Mix thoroughly.
- Melt a tbsp or so of butter in the pan and add a roughly equal amount of flour to make your roux. Cook on medium, continuously stirring, until it has gone golden brown and smells like pastry. Squeeze in a tbsp of tomato puree and stir for a minute or two. Pour in your stock – ideally cold to help prevent lumps. Stir it through and as it heats it’ll thicken.
- Add the meat and vegetables back to the pan, then pour in the lentils and peas. Stir it all together and judge the thickness – I like it very nice and thick, so tend to let it cook for a while. If it’s too runny, add some more liquid. A dash of worcester sauce and balsamic vinegar goes a very long way to bringing out the flavour.
- When the meat mixture is to you liking transfer it to an appropriately sized casserole tin. I think around 2-3cm depth is perfect. By now your potato and swede should be thoroughly softened. Transfer to a bowl and mash until smooth, adding a little butter, milk and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper until it’s as you like it.
- Spoon the mash onto the meat and gently smooth it out, so as not to push it into the meat. Grill for 15 minutes until the top is crisp and golden and sprinkle some herbs for serving. Allow it to stand for at least 15 minutes to let it slightly thicken and so it doesn’t burn your mouth.