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Lamb and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

You know those days when you know at least one ingredient you want to use for a meal, but aren’t at all intrigued by dishes you usually make with it? That is exactly what happened to me yesterday, and is what led me to make this dish.

The ingredient in question was ground lamb. Now, lamb is one of my favorite meats, but I was not at all excited by the thought of burgers (we already ate some this week), meatballs, or a bolognese sauce, or anything to do with pasta really.

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Lamb and sweet potato Shepherd’s Pie.

Enter the wonderful Google, where I came across a site that listed five recipes to make with ground lamb. As I scrolled down, Shepherd’s Pie jumped out at me, and I thought that is it! A perfect dish to make on a cold winter’s night.

Of course, I adapted the recipe to ingredients that already existed in my kitchen, and I already knew a traditional approach was out of the question, since my man doesn’t like mashed potatoes (something I don’t understand at all). So, I thought why not top it with mashed sweet potatoes instead. Now, it seems there are endless ways to make mashed potatoes, but I wanted something relatively easy and quick, since I decided to make this dish around 5 p.m. I decided to go with this one from Rachael Ray, because the combo of sweet potatoes and banana intrigued me.

Mashed sweet potatoes
3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 banana, sliced
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 – 1/2 cup vegetable stock
ground allspice
kosher salt and ground black pepper

It turns out that sweet potatoes are not the easiest things to peel, especially after they’ve been washed. I suggest slicing them into rounds and then trimming off the skin before you cut them into quarters. Steam over medium heat until tender. If you have time, I would recommend roasting the whole potatoes in the oven at 400F for about an hour, then scooping out the insides. Set potatoes aside.

Sauted Bananas

In a saucepan, melt butter over low-medium heat, add the banana and mix with butter. Add a few shakes of ground allspice. Cook until bananas get mushy and fragrant, mashing the bananas as you stir. Flavor with a few shakes of cinnamon-sugar, then add vegetable broth. Add the potatoes and mash until well combined.

Mashed sweet potatoes
Mashed sweet potatoes.

Honestly, after I tasted these potatoes I could have just eaten these for dinner. Adding the banana makes them taste amazing!

Shepherd’s Pie
Mashed sweet potatoes
1 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable or olive oil)
1 lb ground lamb
1 medium onion, roughly chopped or large diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 – 2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 medium fennel bulb, chopped
1/2 cup vegetable broth (you can also use chicken or beef)
1/2 lb diced tomatoes (or 1/2 of a 28 oz can)
cayenne pepper
kosher salt
ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a medium or large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until just about to soften. Add the pepper, carrots and garlic. Season with cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper (adding some of the spices at this stage will cause them to release more of their flavor). Stir in tomato paste and cook until fragrant. Add vegetable broth and fennel. Cook vegetable mix for about five minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add ground lamb to the pan and cook until just turning brown. Drain the juices. Season with some cumin, salt and pepper. Add the vegetable mix and stir until mixed well. Remove from heat.

Lamb filling
The lamb and vegetable filling.
Shepherd's Pie
Cover the lamb filling with an even layer of the potatoes.

Either grease a casserole dish with butter or line with non-stick aluminum foil. Spread the lamb mixture evenly throughout the pan. Cover with all of the mashed sweet potatoes. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy. We really enjoyed this dish, the combination of the slightly banana-y/sweet mashed potatoes and the savory lamb-vegetable mix worked very well together.

Shepherd's Pie dinner
I promise this dish tastes a lot better than it looks.

Notes about this recipe:

  • Definitely make the full 3 lbs of mashed sweet potatoes, even if you’re cooking for two (like me). I think I made about half that, and I was barely able to cover the dish with them.
  • Consider adding chopped fresh mint to the lamb mixture because these two flavors compliment each other wonderfully. I think that’s what I’ll do next time
  • This is one of those dishes that will always, always, always taste a lot better than it looks.

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