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Vegetables In Disguise

07/10/2012

I woke up feeling famished. Weird. I had ice-cream buffet the night before. Cooking up a bowl of instant noodles sounded tempting, but after walking to the kitchen… nah… not feeling it anymore. So I bribed promised The Boy some belgian waffles, and we hustled to ‘Bux for some morning bites. As we sat for a while filling our stomachs, I had to think hard (very darned difficult during weekend mornings) what to whip up in the kitchen today… The Hubster’s at work, so I’ve got to come up with something quite substantial to feed the caveman when he returns to the BatCave (he wishes!) later.

Was thinking of making personal pizzas again, but… nah… shelved. Then I thought… hey… Sheperd’s Pie. Or Cottage Pie. Or whatever Pie you want to call it. But since both The Hubster and I are on a mission to lose weight, I had to switch the lovely carb-loaded mashed potatoes to something else… but what? Well, read on and find out, then!!!

SHAFFY’S SHEPHERD PIE (makes 2 nos 8” x 8” pans)

FILLING:

Olive or canola oil

1-2 tbsp butter

1 large yellow onion, diced

750g ground meat – chicken, turkey, beef, lamb… whatever rocks your boat

Mixed herbs

1 bay leaf

A handful of fresh basil, chopped

Small bag of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed slightly

About a handful of cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters

1 small tin tomato sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

TOPPING:

2 small potatoes, peeled, cubed

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets, centre stem minced fine (nothing goes to waste)

4 tbsp butter, cubed

Small tub of light sour cream, regular sour cream is alright too

Shredded cheddar

Chives, chopped

Dried parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste

ASSEMBLY:

Shredded cheddar

Parsley flakes

Mixed herbs

:: disclaimer… since this is a ‘cooking’ recipe, not so much a ‘baking’ recipe, my ingredient quantities are usually approximates. Go with what you feel… a pinch more of this, a dash more of that, depending on what your tastebuds say, hmmmmkayyyy? But if you’re on a mission to clear out dying vegetables and frostbitten leftovers from the refrigerator, be my guest, add them in too, but I won’t be held responsible for the end result. ::

FILLING :

Heat up a good glug of oil and butter in a sauté pan. When the butter has melted, throw in the diced onion and sauté till soft and translucent

Add in the ground meat of choice, letting it cook on medium-heat until it begins to brown, then add in the mixed herbs, bay leaf and chopped fresh basil

Once the liquid has evaporated a little, toss in the thawed frozen mixed vegetables and quartered cherry tomatoes, stir about occasionally until the veggie bits are cooked through

Chuck in the tin of tomato sauce (contents only!) and stir thoroughly

Give it a quick taste, does it need more herbs to kick it up? Add it in. Throw in some salt and ground pepper to balance it out, no specific amounts, just adjust accordingly

Once the taste is balanced out, turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf

TOPPING:

Bring a pot of water to a boil, throw in the diced potatoes

When they are partially tender, dump in the prepped cauliflower, reduce the heat, let the water return to a simmer

Use a fork to mash up a few pieces of cauliflower and potatoes to test on the tenderness (I personally prefer it to have a good mix of chunky pieces in my mash, but I have a couple of veggie-phobes at home, so it has to be quite tender and not “grass-tasting” to tempt them to even think about seeing the food)

Once they are done to your tenderness preference, drain them thoroughly in a colander and return them back to the pot

Immediately add in the cubed butter, about three tablespoonfuls of sour cream, a handful of shredded cheddar, chopped chives and dried parsley. Mash them all up real good with a potato masher

Taste as you mash… what does it lack? Creaminess? Need a little more cheddar cheese? Want a little more herb-y kick? Only add in the salt and pepper in the end, because the sharpness and saltiness of your cheddar also plays a part. Once the topping’s taste is to your liking, you can start assembling your Shepherd Pie

(you can choose to steam your potatoes and cauliflower instead of boiling them; but I couldn’t be bothered to dig out my steamer from the store room today)

ASSEMBLY:

Preheat your oven to 180C. get ready your baking pans (I usually use the disposable aluminium pans… one less thing to clean up)

Equally divide the filling among the two pans

Then equally divide the topping on top of it, spreading it carefully to totally cover the filling and shredded cheese

Using a fork, drag the tines lightly across the top to even out the surface and neaten the edges

Sprinkle with shredded cheddar, parsley flakes and mixed herbs. How much cheese you want to add at this stage, is up to you.

Bake it in the oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and nicely melted, NOT burnt

Let it cool for about 5-10 minutes for the pie to somewhat set up before cutting, or you might end up with a goopy mess. (Well, unless you are a sadistic person and have a sick sense of humour, serve it up immediately and watch people burn their tongues.)

My resident veggie-phobe, The Girl, inhaled two portions in one go. She didn’t even realize that she was eating cauliflower (BIG WIN FOR ME!) . She just thought I made the mashed potatoes a little differently… but of course! She enjoyed it so much, she didn’t even bother to pick out the veggie bits in the filling.

I thoroughly enjoyed making this dish spontaneously, but my adrenaline rush fizzled out after taking them out of the oven. It totally killed my appetite, but I was contented with just watching my army finish their portions and go for seconds. And because there isn’t much potatoes in the topping, The Hubster finished his plate totally. One thing’s for sure… I’ll be using this topping version from now on. Lighter and less carbohydrates than the 100% potatoes version, it doesn’t leave one feeling queasy after eating, but still fills you up real good.

my plate of noms

** Honestly, it was only hours later after everyone was done, that I felt hungry enough to cut myself a portion and enjoy it with a side of mesclun salad. And THEN found out that we had run out of Sriracha Cock Sauce. Major bummer. Then I spied my salvation… Lingham’s chilli sauce saves the day! **

BBCC

p.s. : I have tried making pizza bases with blitzed cauliflower too, but they disappeared from the pans before I could smear the sauce and add the toppings.  They ended up being breadless breadsticks. Eh.

p.p.s. :  Try making cauliflower popcorn. They.are.show.stopping.awesome. Trust me. Do not under-estimate this plain looking vegetable. You do not know what you’re missing!

p.p.p.s. :  Yes, I know I owe people the Apple Bundt Cake and Italian Stew recipes… this scatter-brain can’t  remember on where she has kept them for safe-keeping (because she didn’t want to lose the recipes in the first place. How bo-DOH!!)… I need to eat some gingko nuts… Damn, I haven’t had some killer Or Nee in ages!

. . . and here we go again . . .

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