Thursday, March 14, 2013

On the Menu: Irish Food

Not Corned Beef and Cabbage!

Somewhere, sometime, Corned beef and cabbage became the official "Irish" meal that everyone celebrates St. Patrick's Day eating.  I'm sure it is eaten occasionally by Irish families but it's not really a tradition in Ireland, so I've heard.  I'm not sure about green beer either?!  Anyway, I set out to find a more traditional Irish meal for this week- partly because my husband doesn't really care for corned beef and partly because corned beef just seems so cliche.  I decided on Shepherd's Pie. YUM.  For those of you not familiar with the dish, it is ground beef (or lamb) and chopped vegetables in a tomatoey, rich gravy.  If that wasn't delicious enough, it is then topped with mashed potatoes and baked in the oven until piping hot.  It's easy to throw together, is full of healthy ingredients, and uses up all the leftover mashed potatoes- all of these are important for the busy Irish mothers (who seem to have very large families)!!  It's important to me too, and I only have 2 kids. 

I grew up around the corner from a wonderful Irish family.  They had 6 kids yet it always seemed calm and under control.  There were no huge piles of laundry or dirty babies running around!  As a mother of (only) two, I'm not sure how Mrs. Brosnan was able to keep her sanity, but she seemed to, and so I dedicate this recipe to her and her beautiful happy family that I wish still lived around the corner. 

One note about the recipe- I am still watching my carb intake (down 16 lbs thank you very much) and so I decided to swap out the regular mashed potoatoes for healthier sweet potatoes.  Therefore, I am calling this recipe-

Red-headed Shepherd's Pie

For the recipe you will need: 
  • 5 sweet potatoes or yams.  I should have used yams to make it more "red- headed" - oh well :)
  • 1 lb. ground beef or lamb
  • 3-4 large carrots- finely diced
  • 1 onion - finely diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas or green beans
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme- leaves removed from stems and chopped finely
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp flour (I used garbanzo flour)
  • 1 Tbsp oil for sauteeing veggies
  • salt and pepper to taste
1.  Preheat the oven to 400° and throw the sweet potatoes in to cook until they feel soft- about 40 mins or do this step ahead.
2.  Saute the carrots in the olive oil until they start to soften a bit.
3.  Add the onions and cook until they are translucent.
4.  Add ground meat, some salt and pepper and thyme. Cook until browned.  Drain fat if there is a lot. I used ground sirloin and there was hardly any fat rendered.
5.  Add peas or green beans.
6.  Sprinkle the flour over mixture and stir around.
7.  Add tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce slightly.
8.  Add the broth and reduce until you have a nice gravy.
9.  Put the meat mixture into a greased oven - proof dish.
10.  Remove the roasted sweet potatoes and mashed them up.  You can add some butter and salt if you wish.  Spoon this on top of the meat mixture.
11.  Most recipes say to brush the top of the potatoes with a beaten egg and bake until the potatoes are browned.  Maybe because they are using cold mashed potatoes?  We were starving and since everything was already piping hot we ate it without the last bit of baking.

This was delicious!  I've had Shepherd's Pie with regular mashed potatoes and I have to say I think I like this version better.  I love sweet potatoes anyway, but they were really good with the meat and delicious sauce combined.  The whole family ate this one :)

So this St. Patrick's day break out of the Corned Beef rut and try something new- you'll be glad you did!! 


  1. Congrats on the 16 pounds! Bill loves Shephards Pie but is not fond of sweet potatoes. I'll have to try this one!

  2. Steve doesn't really like sweet potatoes either but he came home at lunch just so he could eat the leftovers!