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Sweet potato shepherd’s pie

June 27, 2014

Team Gnomercy

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This is a recipe I picked up from Nerd Fitness (not a weight-neutral webpage, just FYI), but it looked absolutely delicious and would actually survive the freezing and microwaving for work lunches later, a Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pierequirement I have for freshly-prepared meals. It’s a little hot here in North Carolina to cook this, but I love shepherd’s pie and I love sweet potatoes, so here we are!

I’ve tweaked it a bit for my own usage, but despite the number of things that need to be done (it’s from scratch!) it’s a pretty easy recipe. I tend to do some of the prep steps by themselves just because my scholarly writing breaks up my time strangely… plus I really love mashed sweet potato, so it’s a win-win! One thing I love about recipes like this is the ability to play with different ingredients, spices, and quantities — cooking in my house is part playfulness, part mad-science.

I know the ingredient list and prep steps may seem a bit daunting, but the original recipe detailed every small step to help folks that have never, or rarely, made food from scratch. I also added a “tools” section after the ingredient list so you don’t do what I have done and realize I’m missing a vital piece of equipment halfway through the process.

For the top you’ll need
  • 4 large sweet potatoes, about ¾-1 pound each or the equivalent
  • 2 Tbsp. non-sweetened milk-type product, if you want (the original suggests coconut milk, but any milk (e.g., almond, soy, rice, cow) should work as long as it isn’t sweetened.  I would probably avoid any flavored milks — as much as I love vanilla almond milk, I just don’t think it would pair with the rest of the pie filling).
  • A dash of paprika and/or cinnamon (optional).  I love cinnamon on baked sweet potatoes and paprika does well with the meat and veg part of the recipe, so I bet this would make an interesting flavor combo that would be awesome
  • Salt and pepper to taste.  I don’t put salt on most of my food because I just don’t like much, so use your discretion 🙂

For the filling, you’ll need

  • 2 Tbsp. butter or equivalent amount of oil (like olive oil) for sautéing the veggies
  • 3 carrots
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 8.5 oz. package of white button mushrooms (this is the standard size most grocery stores have… I grabbed the pre-sliced ones to save a little on prep time)
  • 2 pounds ground beef or other ground meat/meat substitute. The flavor will change a bit depending on your meat choice, and I don’t have experience with vegetarian/vegan crumbled meat substitutes, but experiment and find what works for you.
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste.  Adding more will make the meat more spaghetti-sauce like, adding less will make the meat taste less tomato-y
  • 2 Tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 Tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 Tsp. dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Kitchen tools you’ll need:

  • Frying pan
  • Soup pot, stock pot, or other large pot
  • Sharp knives to cut veggies
  • Spoon or other tool for stirring
  • Fork or potato masher
  • Potato peeler or knife for peeling
  • Colander or other draining device for the pot
  • Mixing bowl to mash the sweet potatoes
  • Cake pan
  • Spatula or spoon (could be the aforementioned one)
Instructions (if you’re doing this all in one shot)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Heat up your frying pan on low.
  2. Fill your pot with water (probably ¾ full, depending on the size of your pot), turn on the heat and bring it to a boil.
  3. Chop veggies. This includes carrots, mushrooms, and onion.
  4. Mince your garlic (mince just means cut it into tiny pieces).
  5. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter (or pour oil) in the pan. Make sure it’s just melting and not burning.
  6. Once the butter is melted, toss in the onions and garlic. Mix them up and make sure that you get the onions and garlic coated with butter/oil. If you want, season them with salt and pepper.
  7. Cook the onions and garlic until they become somewhat translucent (about 3-5 minutes). Stirring them frequently will keep them from burning.
  8. Add carrots and mushrooms to the pan and mix.
  9. Cook another 5-7 minutes until they get soft (keep them moving so they don’t burn… I tend to listen to an audiobook so I don’t wander away from the stove at this point).
  10. Add your chosen meat/protein. If this is too much for your frying pan, you can separate half of the veggies in a bowl on the side and cook the meat in two batches. Don’t worry about it getting cold, as you will be baking everything later.
  11. Make sure you brown your meat in a way that doesn’t just make a huge hamburger — break it up into pieces so it actually mixes with the veggies!
  12. Once your meat starts browning, stir in 1 Tbsp. of tomato paste per pound of meat that you’re cooking. Also stir in 1 Tsp. of each of the dried herbs per pound of meat.
  13. Once you finish one batch of meat and veggies, pour that into your cake pan. Then cook the next batch in the same way. Pour both batches into the pan (if you split them up) and flatten the top as evenly as you can (casserole style).
  14. Hopefully your pot of water is boiling by now, or close to it, for the sweet potatoes.
  15. Note from the original recipe writer: “If you don’t have a large pot in which to boil potatoes or you don’t want to wait for the water to boil, you can cook the potatoes in the microwave. My microwave has a potato button. Poke holes in the potatoes with a fork or knife and then put them in your microwave. Wait for them to cool off before you pull them out of the microwave because those babies are HOT. Once they’ve cooled off a little, cut them in half, scoop the insides into your bowl, and move on to step 17!”
  16. Peel your potatoes.
  17. Dice your sweet potatoes into cubes. When I do this, I first cut them into bigger chunks so they are easier to handle.
  18. Toss all those sweet potatoes cubes into the boiling water. Bring it back to a boil for about 15 minutes. Test the potatoes to feel if they are soft enough to mash by grabbing one with a spoon or fork and try to mash it. If it smashes, you’re good, but if it’s still hard, leave it in for a few more minutes.
  19. When your potatoes are mashable, drain the water.
  20. Once your potatoes are drained, dump them into a large mixing bowl and get to work mashing them either with a fork or potato masher (potato mashers are fun and cathartic).
  21. Once they are well mashed, add the milk of your choice along with the chosen spices and mix.
  22. Pour (or plop, depending on how thick you made the mash) the potatoes over the meat and veggie mixture in your cake pan. Smooth out the top with a spoon or spatula so that the potatoes evenly cover the meat.
  23. Bake in the oven for roughly 20 minutes and voila! Shepherd’s pie from scratch!

Bon apetit!

Casey Sig

One Comment leave one →
  1. George permalink
    June 27, 2014 11:53 am

    Ground Turkey and substitute the butter for oil or even Pam and that sounds great

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