This time of year, comfort food is the order of the day – especially when it can warm the house while you set the table. Bubbly cottage pies (shepherd’s pies are made with beef instead of lamb) are simple to prepare, and can share the oven with ripe pears, topped with brown sugar and maple syrup. Sweet potatoes make the cottage pies more nutrient-dense and baking them in individual dishes helps them heat through quickly; if you double the recipe, extras can be frozen and baked straight from the freezer for an even speedier meal down the road.
2 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 lb.......... lean ground beef or bison
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp (30 ml) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) beef stock or broth
2 tbsp (30 ml) tomato paste or ketchup
1 tbsp (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup (125 ml) frozen green peas
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup (60 ml) butter
1/4–1/2 cup (60125 ml) milk
2–3 ripe but firm pears
1/4 cup (60 ml) brown sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) pure maple syrup
2 tbsp (30 ml) butter
1/4 tsp (1 ml) cinnamon (optional)
vanilla ice cream, for serving
sliced almonds, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Put the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to a simmer. Drizzle some oil into a large skillet, set it over medium-high heat and cook the beef and onion for 4–5 minutes, breaking the meat up with a spoon until it’s no longer pink inside.
Sprinkle the flour over the beef and stir to coat, then add the stock, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer, stirring often, until the mixture thickens. Stir in the carrots and peas, season with salt and pepper and divide between four small baking dishes (or one larger one).
When they are soft, drain the potatoes and return them to the pot with the butter and milk. Roughly mash, then divide between the baking dishes, spreading the potatoes out to cover the meat. Place on a baking sheet (to catch any drips) and place in the oven for 30 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.
Meanwhile, halve the pears lengthwise, core them and place in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar, drizzle with maple syrup and dot with butter. If you like, add a pinch of cinnamon and salt to each pear. Place in the oven alongside the cottage pies, or place them in the oven as you pull the pies out. Let them bake for 30 minutes, while you eat dinner.
Serve the pies with a tossed lettuce or spinach salad. To serve the pears, place each half in a small dish or on a plate and top with a scoop of ice cream; drizzle with the sauce from the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle with toasted almonds for a little crunch.
PER SERVING (of cottage pie, baked pears and ice cream): 790 calories, 28.6 g fat (17 g saturated fat, 10 g monounsaturated fat, 1.4 g polyunsaturated fat), 127 mg cholesterol, 100 g carbohydrate, 29.8 g protein, 11.7 g fibre.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, December 2014.