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West African-style Shepherd’s pie

Shepherd’s pie is a classic comfort food dish that we all know and love but to be honest, it can be a tad on the bland side when it comes to the flavour profile. And that’s where the classic West African tomato stew comes in. I used it here to add tons of flavour and a rich texture to the meat layer and might always make it this way from now on. Whether you use ground beef or ground lamb is entirely up to you, and I’m sure the recipe would work just as well with ground pork, chicken or turkey too. I do recommend sticking with russet potatoes for the topping because they make the fluffiest mash in my opinion. And the addition of grated white cheddar in the potatoes makes this dish the stuff of my winter food dreams. One tip: double or triple this recipe and freeze extras for up to 2 months in any sized freezer-safe dishes for quick and delicious meals in a flash. Simply bake, covered with foil at 350°F for 1 hour in a baking dish that’s 8”x8” or larger, or less for smaller containers.

 

WHAT YOU NEED:

Tomato Stew Flavour Base:

  • 1 red onion, medium-sized, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded, roughly chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • ½ scotch bonnet pepper, seeds removed for slightly less heat if desired

Meat Layer:

  • 4 tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 1 ½ lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tbsp Caribbean curry powder
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 carrot, large, grated on large holes or finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • 1 x 11.5 g chicken stock cube
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh, canned, or frozen

Potato Layer

  • 1 kg russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/3 cup milk or cream (plus more as needed depending on mash consistency)
  • 1 cup aged white cheddar, grated
  • salt and pepper, to taste

 

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. To a blender add all tomato stew ingredients. Blend until smooth.
  2. Heat a large, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and the ground beef. Cook 4-5 minutes until browned, using a wooden spoon to stir and break it up into smaller bits. Once cooked remove meat to a dish leaving rendered oil behind in pan.
  3. Add the curry powder, tomato paste, and carrot to the pan and cook 2 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add tomato purée, thyme, bay leaf, stock cube, and the browned beef. Stir, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer 30 minutes, covered. Remove bay leaf and season to taste with salt.
  5. Meanwhile, add the potatoes and salt to a saucepan and cover with cold water. Over high heat cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling remove the lid, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender. (Note: my test for doneness is when a paring knife slides in without any resistance). Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Using a masher or a ricer (the latter being my fave), mash the potatoes and then stir in the milk and cheddar. Season to taste.
  6. To assemble the shepherd’s pie, spread the meat into a baking dish in an even layer and then cover with an even layer of the potatoes. Feel like jazzing up the presentation with some waves or fork etches, knock yourself out.
  7. If you’re serving this right away, bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 400°F oven. To prevent messes, place a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet under the shepherd’s pie to catch any spills. If you’re serving it later, cover tightly with foil and refrigerate or freeze and bake as outlined in the description.