In my quest to not be so bored with the foods I’m eating, and needing to eat at home every day this week (due to the low bank-account balance), when I made up my menu for the week, I was pretty much stuck with using whatever I had on hand. One of those on-hand items was a one-pound package of ground lamb. I’d bought it a month or so ago, thinking I’d do a Greek-style stuffed bell pepper, or maybe even figure out how to do some kind of gyro. Obviously, this was during the time when I wasn’t making my meal plan for the week and then shopping off that list. Because I never figured out what I wanted to do with it, it sat in the freezer for a month.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I watch a lot of shows on BBC-America. This includes the program You Are What You Eat a show in which a nutritionist goes around to help people break their poor eating habits and start eating healthy diets and exercising, typically putting them on a “whole” foods diet (lots of fruits and veggies, beans, fish, and some whole grains). I don’t always agree with the extreme to which she makes people give up things like chocolate or cheese, but the basics of what she’s teaching people are good. Plus I have my DVR set up to record both half-hour episodes every day, so I typically put those on to watch at night while I’m doing my exercising.
I also have a very dear friend who’s British. Not only have she and I recently talked about cottage pie (at a Weight Watchers meeting) but I’ve now heard it mentioned or seen it on TV several times in the last couple of weeks. So when I looked at that pound of ground lamb in the freezer, with the bag of cauliflower sitting right next to it, I had an epiphany: I could make cottage pie with mashed cauliflower on top instead of mashed potatoes. So I put it on the menu for Wednesday night (which is Top Chef night, so I always try to have something more than just a protein and two veggies for dinner, which is my usual fare). Wednesday afternoon, when I remembered that’s what I was supposed to be cooking for supper, I started looking up recipes online—it’s one thing to have eaten a dish before (many years ago) and something totally different to try to prepare one that’s going to be tasty. So I found a recipe for an easy shepherd’s pie and pulled another one for mashed cauliflower (because I wanted to make sure those were tasty as well). And here’s what I ended up doing:
Healthy Cottage Pie
1 chicken-flavored bullion cube
1 cup(+) water
1 16-ounce bag frozen cauliflower
1 pound ground meat
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped
1.5 to 2 cups cooked/steamed bite-sized mixed vegetables
Herbs and/or spices to taste
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash flour or cornstarch, optional
1 pat (about 1/2 Tablespoon) salted butter
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup grated 2% sharp Cheddar cheese, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large saucepan, add bullion cube to 1 cup water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to ensure bullion dissolves thoroughly. Add cauliflower and enough water to cover. Return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer. (8 to 10 minutes, or longer if you want really creamy mashed cauliflower.)
While cauliflower cooks, in a large skillet over medium heat, sweat onions about 5 minutes, or until softened and beginning to turn translucent (onions should not brown—if they start browning, reduce heat). Crumble raw ground meat into skillet and cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain off all fat, and return to skillet. Season to taste (I used some Tony Chachere’s salt-free seasoning, but not enough to make it spicy in the end product). Add vegetables, beef broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Let liquid come to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. If you would like a slightly thickened “gravy,” you can add a little flour or cornstarch at this point, being sure it is completely mixed in and doesn’t clump.
Drain cauliflower and smash lightly with fork. In a blender or food processor, combine cauliflower and butter. Pulse to puree. Add milk, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, if necessary until desired smoothness is achieved. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand.
Transfer meat and veggie mixture to a 3-quart casserole dish. Spoon mashed cauliflower on top. Spread to cover evenly, but leave surface of cauliflower rough (or add texture with tines of a fork). Bake 30 minutes or until cauliflower has browned nicely (golden brown). If using cheese, sprinkle cheese over top after about 20 minutes of cooking.
Let stand about 10–15 minutes before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
The way I made it, with the ground lamb and no flour or cheese, portioned out into 4 servings, per serving breaks down like this:
Obviously, ground lamb is one of the higher-fat meats. If made with ground turkey (and no flour/no cheese), here’s how it would look for 4 servings: