Comfort food you can eat on a diet…
Shepherd’s Pie is about as far removed as you can get from a mixed bean salad. And of course the whole point of it is having a great big satisfying plateful – with nothing more than a dollop of ketchup on the side. Of course you could get the calories down by bulking up a small portion with some purple sprouting broccoli or some such side dish, but that’s not really the point of Shepherd’s Pie, is it? And of course, this dish is a calorific car crash – the fat in the meat, the oil used for frying, the carbs in the potatoes, the butter in the mash. I calculated the calories in the recipe I’ve always used and it came out at a wince-inducing 1100 calories per portion. No wonder I’m on a diet now. Of course the frying oil’s calories are easily disposed of by using an oil spray, but after that, we’re going to have to be more ingenious.
So first, I use a mixture of beef and pork rather than the traditional lamb, to help cut the fat content. And rather than hunt around in the supermarket for super-lean mince, still not really knowing what went into it, I grind my own. You could get the butcher to do it for you, but you’re better off getting a mincer (or attachment for your food-processor) and doing it yourself – I don’t know why, but it just tastes better.
The cut of beef I’ve been using is Brisket – cheap, full of flavour and, when trimmed up, extremely lean. It makes lovely mince – and great burgers, incidentally, which I’ll return to in a later blog. To help get the numbers down I mix it with pork fillet, which is even leaner – and even cheaper. I did think about offsetting the calories even further by sneaking in some lentils but as I like my Shepherd’s Pie with celery and carrot in it, more veg didn’t seem what was wanted here.
So onto the topping – and mashed potato, even if you cut out the butter and milk, is always going to be a massive wad of calories. After a bit of trial and error, I found the answer is to cut it fifty-fifty with celeriac. This incredibly versatile root vegetable purees up a treat and yet has a cooked weight with about five times fewer calories than potato. And unlike something alien like swede, these two really work together, making a brilliant mash which complements the filling perfectly.
So here you go – Shepherd’s Pie you can eat on your diet – bloody delicious with a good slug of ketchup and a bottle of red Cotes Du Rhone or Shiraz – and just 390 calories per portion.
RECIPE FOR CALORIE CHEATING SHEPHERD’S PIE
4 good portions 400g Beef brisket, mince 200g Pork tenderloin / fillet, minced 2 medium onions, finely chopped 2 medium carrots, finely chopped or grated 4 stalks of celery, finely chopped 3 tbs Tomato ketchup 1.5 tbs Mushroom ketchup (or Worcestershire sauce if necessary) 15g Flour 400ml stock – chicken or beef made up from a cube is fine Salt and pepper Dried mixed herbs - about a teaspoon 300g Potatoes 600g Celeriac 10g Flora Light
1. ‘Fry’ off the onion using spray oil, bearing in mind that you’ll need to use considerably less heat than for normal frying. This is quite a slow process and it will feel ‘wrong’, but be reassured – it does actually work.
2. Add the herbs, then the carrots until they soften, and finally the celery.
3. When the whole thing’s sweated down nicely, remove from the pan, turn up the heat and seal the meat. You don’t need to add any more oil for this.
4. Sprinkle in the flour and stir it in for a minute or two before adding back the vegetables, and season with the tomato and mushroom ketchup, salt and pepper. You need a good teaspoon of salt, and up to another half teaspoon when you adjust the seasoning later.
5. Pour in the stock, bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat, partially cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. You might have to add some water to keep things moving, but at the end the mixture should have a slightly pasty quality to the gravy and shouldn’t be too wet – so reduce down if necessary. Adjust the seasoning – too little salt means bland, unexciting food!
6. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes and celeriac in separate pans until soft; drain, combine and mash. Season and beat with a little margarine.