July 21, 2017

Low Carb Shepherd’s Pie: The Amalgamated Version

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Low Carb Cooking
  • Low Carb Shepherd’s Pie: The Amalgamated Version
Dog driving sheep down a lane between cottages

Where Shepherd’s Pie Comes From.

One of the perennial favorites of winter cooking is Shepherd’s Pie. Covered with a golden cloud of potatoes and cheese, filled with savory ground meat, sauce, and vegetables, it’s warming and mouth-watering.

The potatoes, though. Potatoes? Aren’t potatoes guaranteed to send blood sugar (and therefore blood pressure) straight upwards?

Yes, they are.

But there are excellent alternatives that do not have this rocket-like effect on your blood sugar.

The simplest way to fix a Shepherd’s Pie is to use leftover leg of lamb pot-roast.  Note that it’s lamb in Shepherd’s Pie. Technically, if you use ground beef, it’s a Cottage Pie, and if you use venison or other game meat, it’s a Hunter’s Pie. While the technique of throwing meat into a vessel with some of the sauce and vegetables it was initially cooked in, covering it with a mashed vegetable and a bit of grated sharp cheese and then reheating it has got to be as old as fire, the name “Shepherd’s Pie” was first used in England, the historic land of wool and therefore sheep, at just that time period where little china shepherdesses became popular ornaments for cottage mantels: in the mid 1700s.

But when I was at a dear but exhausted friend’s house last week, she didn’t have leftover anything. What she had was ground venison, so that’s what I used. I made a very, very large pan of this three times, and every time, the kids (hers and mine) wiped it out entirely. So still no leftovers.

I had never made any kind of these three related pies before, although I’d had very insipid prepared versions of them. Last New Years Weekend, though, a friend of my son’s had pulled out an old Celtic cookbook I’d given his mom ages ago when we were both in college. Remembering that, and looking at the ingredients the friend I was cooking for had available, I came up with the following recipe. “Amalgamated” is a very good word for it, because I looked at something like 9 recipes, including a very old Irish one, to come up with it.

Teens eating hunter's pie on a staircase

First batch. Should explain why I had to make it three times.

Tracey’s Amalgamated Low Carb Hunter’s/Shepherd’s/Cottage Pie

Serves…1. or up to 8 adults, if you can get it away from the teenagers.

2 lbs. ground meat: venison, lamb, or ground beef

2 lbs. or one large head cauliflower

2 onions

3 T butter plus another 3 T

1 lb. mushrooms (plus some dry wild mushrooms if you have them)

3 large carrots

2 cloves of garlic, smashed, or 1 tsp. garlic powder

1 3″ sprig each fresh rosemary and thyme

2-3T tomato paste

1-2 cups chicken broth

dash Worcestershire sauce

black pepper (freshly-ground if you can)

about 1/3 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese plus 2 Tablespoons Parmesan, or 1/3 cup sharp cheddar


Preheat oven to 355F. Dice up the cauliflower if not using frozen.

Start the diced cauliflower boiling. Slice the carrots into rounds and get them boiling as well.

Cut onions into small dice and put them into a large saucepan (I use a 15″ one for this) in 3T of butter over low heat. You’re sweating them, not crisping them.

When onion is soft and golden brown, add garlic, mushrooms, and meat.

Turn up the heat to medium, and continue to stir frequently until the meat is browned.

While the meat is browning, strip the herb leaves from the stems, place in a teacup, and chop with scissors.

Place broth in a measuring cup and add the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and herbs.

If the cauliflower is tender, drain it, return it to the pot and add the butter, stirring to get the butter into the middle of the cauliflower.

If the meat is now brown, sprinkle it with guar gum, add the carrots (drained), and then pour the broth mixture over it and stir well. Let it bubble away while you

Mash the cauliflower, adding milk as needed so that it’s not too thick or thin, and salting it to taste. Some people will add an egg to make it fluffy and more crust-like. I didn’t.  You could also add a few tablespoons of cottage cheese, which I did the last time.

Now, put the meat mixture into the bottom of a large, rectangular pan (could be a lasagne or sheet cake pan–needs deep sides). Top first with the cauliflower, and then with the cheese. You’re not trying to make a cheese crust layer, just flavoring the cauliflower a little, sort of like putting chocolate shavings on a cake.

Put the pan in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. In the last few minutes, or after them, you may want to switch it to Broil just to brown up the top a bit.

Remove from oven and allow to stand up to 10 minutes before serving.

Note: if you don’t like cauliflower, you can use mashed turnip, Kabocha squash, or even the very fashionable mix of cauliflower and celeriac for this, and you can also use xanthan or guar gum to thicken the sauce. Canned gravy, my eye.

The carbs in this come mostly from the mushrooms, which you won’t have a lot of in one serving, and the onions (ditto). You will have a lot of cauliflower in one serving, but it’s not very carby. Altogether, this comes in at just under 10 g. of carbs per serving. Given that most comparable pies are more like 40-60 per serving, this one wins, and wins deliciously!

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