Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cottage Pie

When thinking about comfort foods, one of the first things that come to my mind, is cottage or shepherd's pie. I used to love a soft creamy layer of mashed potatoes and the savory filling of meat and vegetables. I personally can't do potato anymore, because I found out that it produces a serious spike in my blood sugar, so I replaced it with cauliflower. But not just cauliflower...creamy cauliflower! This veg really replaces potatoes very well, as is well known in the paleo/primal world.
I think, traditionally, shepherd's pie is made with lamb. A ground beef version is called a cottage pie. So that's what this is. I also used mushrooms in the filling, because for me, mushrooms go hand in hand with this season (and I really like them :-)).

I wanted the filling to be a little "saucy", but without using flour to bind the liquid. I came up with a combination of flax seed and egg, and it worked ok. Maybe not as brilliant as an actual flour based sauce, but it held the filling together quite well, without being too quiche-like.

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients (serves 2):

1 head of cauliflower
1 pound (450 gr. ground beef)
7 oz (200 gr) mushrooms, sliced
1 green pepper, cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
handfull of (frozen) peas
handfull of (frozen) green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon of herbes de provence (mixed italian herbes will work as well)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh pepper
3,5 fl oz (100 ml.) of (beef)stock
1 generous tbsp flax seeds
2 tbsp water
1 egg
butter and heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Cut the cauliflower into florets of roughly the same size. The size doesn't really matter, but if they all have the same size, it ensures evenly cooking. Cook or steam the cauliflower untill just tender. You really don't want to overcook it, because it gets watery and you don't want it watery, but creamy. If you can stick a fork in it easily, without the florets crumbling right away, it's perfect. Puree the cauliflower with a (stick)blender and add a sprinkle of salt and equal amounts of butter and cream untill you reach the smoothness you prefer (be careful, just add little by little). Set aside.

In a frying pan, put some of your favorite cooking oil (I used ghee), and fry the ground beef with the garlic and onion. When the beef is nearly cooked, add all the other vegetables, herbes, salt and pepper. Let it cook untill the vegetables soften. In the meantime, prepare the flax seed mixture. Add about 2 tbsp of water to 1 generous tbsp of flax seeds. In a blender (I used a stick blender for this), mix on high speed for about a minute, untill it becomes gelatous. Add 1 egg, and mix together. Add the stock to the beef and vegetable mix and then add the flax/egg mixture. Stir thouroughly for about a minute on medium heat. The flax mix should bind the liquids. Not as much as flour does, but it's not as watery anymore. Also, the seeds give a slight nutty flavor, which works well with this dish.

Put the meat mixture into an oven dish and cover with the mashed creamy cauliflower. I grated some nutmeg on top, but if you don't like nutmeg, of course you can skip it. Some grated (parmesan) cheese on top might be nice as well, but I didn't have any around the house :-)

Place the dish in the oven for about 15 minutes and you have one of the ultimate autumn comfort foods!

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