Swirl and swoop that sweet potato! It’s not quite The Bend And Snap, but honestly, this Spiced Shepherd’s Pie with it’s show off coconut, lime and ginger scented sweet potato topping will bring plenty of interested parties to your kitchen or table, stat.
I’ve always loved the savory and spice-heavy when it comes to flavor, which I’ve never understood, since I was brought up for the most part on a steady diet of the bland and under seasoned. Maybe it’s my food version of a belated teenage rebellion.
I’m not sure why I didn’t turn out the opposite way, terrified of new food things or fearful of flavor, but things work out the way they do and here I am, always on the hunt for new or inspiring ways to shake things up a little! But I do still love me some comfort food, so this Spiced Shepherd’s Pie is like the best of both worlds.
Now, I’m by no means claiming originality with this Spiced Shepherd’s Pie. I’m sure there are many a version of a traditional Shepherd’s Pie meeting warm or curried spice blends. But I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to take my Classic Shepherd’s Pie and give it a playful twist, while keeping it nightshade free.
Growing up in England, there was a definite difference between Shepherd’s Pie (made with lamb) and Cottage Pie (made with beef), but although I’ve dubbed this a Spiced Shepherd’s Pie, it works equally well with beef or lamb.
It’s a fragrant blend of garlic, ginger, cinnamon and fenugreek leaves, with a smidge of turmeric. The earthy and bittersweet notes of the fenugreek makes it the star here. It elevates the other aromatics and draws together the warm spices with the acidity of the red wine vinegar and umami from the coconut aminos. It’s what creates the layered flavor that our brains translate as “curry”, even without nightshades or seed spices.
Usually, I like a starchier topping, but here I thought all those earthy-warm flavors would go nicely with a super smooth and creamy sweet potato topping. Rather than having a mash-like texture, I’ve blended the sweet potato into more of a soft purée, balancing out the sweetness with coconut cream, a splash of lime and a little extra ground ginger.
For an optional boost of veggies that makes the meat filling go a little further, I like to add some riced cauliflower right before baking up the Spiced Shepherd’s Pie in the oven. You won’t really notice that it’s there, so you can also feel free to skip it if you like. I’ve made this several times, with and without the added golden raisins in the filling, and rather surprisingly prefer it with the added fruit.
I thought at first it might be too sweet with additional fruit, but since the sweet potato topping is thin and well seasoned, the little nuggets of sweetness dotted through the savory filling are a lovely balance and fun to come across in the odd bite or two.
Don’t forget that you can make both the filling and the topping ahead of time and then just assemble and bake the Spiced Shepherd’s Pie when you’re ready to cook on a weeknight. Equally, it reheats really well and although I’m 98% sure it will freeze well too, I’ve yet to try that out because it always gets gobbled up on the day!
If you’re looking for a more classic recipe, try my Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip Mash, which is also nightshade free and AIP friendly.
- 2 ½ lbs / 1135 g sweet potato
- ¼ cup / 60 ml coconut cream, see notes
- 1 tbsp / 15 ml fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp / 5g fine sea salt
- 1 tsp / 2 g ground ginger
- 1 tbsp / 15 ml avocado oil
- 1 ½ lbs / 680 g ground lamb or beef
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ lb / 225 g carrots (about 3 medium), finely grated
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp / 15 ml coconut aminos
- 2 tsp / 4 g ground ginger
- 2 tsp / 1 g fenugreek leaves
- 1 tsp / 5 g fine sea salt
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 ½ cups / 360 ml beef broth
- 1 cup / 110 g riced cauliflower, optional
- ¼ cup / 40 g golden raisins, optional
- BOIL: Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into 1 inch / 2.5 cm slices, then in half to make even-ish sized chunks. Add the sweet potato to a saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to the boil, then simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes or so.
- PUREE: Drain the sweet potatoes. Return them to the saucepan and let them sit for a few minutes to cool slightly and release steam. This helps keep them from being gummy. Use an immersion blender to puree them into a rough mash. Measure out ¼ cup & 2 tbsp / 90 ml of the unseasoned plain mashed sweet potato and reserve that for later. Add the coconut cream, lime juice, salt and ground ginger, then puree again until smooth. Reserve the puree for later.
- BROWN: While the sweet potatoes for the topping are cooking, brown the meat. Preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the avocado oil and, when hot, add about half of the lamb or beef, sprinkling with salt, to taste. Cook until browned on both sides, turning a few times and breaking up with the back of a spoon or spatula as it cooks. Transfer the browned meat to a bowl, using a slotted spoon to leave the fat behind in the pan, then repeat with the rest of the meat. Transfer the cooked beef to the bowl and reserve for later.
- SOFTEN: Pour off any excess fat or liquid from the meat into a heat proof dish, leaving behind just enough fat to coat the skillet. Reduce the heat and add the onions and garlic to the skillet. Cook, stirring a few times, until translucent, about 5 minutes or so. Add the grated carrots, browned meat, red wine vinegar, coconut aminos, ground ginger, fenugreek, salt, cinnamon and turmeric to the skillet and stir to combine.
- THICKEN: Preheat the oven to 400 F / 205 C. Pour the broth into a high sided measuring jug or similar. Add the reserved unseasoned plain mashed sweet potatoes and use an immersion blender to blend together smoothly. Stir the thickened broth through meat filling in the skillet and cook until the liquid reduces by about half, 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer it to a trivet.
- BAKE: Add the riced cauliflower and golden raisins to the meat mixture and stir to combine evenly. Pat the meat layer down with a spatula so that it's level. Spoon the seasoned sweet potato puree on top of the meat filling and use a spatula or back of a spoon to smooth it evenly and swirl it with a pattern if you like. Place the skillet on a baking sheet and into the oven. Bake until heated through and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
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