Comforting Beef and Veggie Shepherd’s Pie (Paleo and AIP Friendly)

It’s not fall yet – not even close, many would argue – but that’s not stopping me from using my oven on a nightly basis and eating tons of squash and roasting all the things. I don’t know what it is; I just love comfort food. Any time of day, any time of year. I’ll take cold leftover roasted chicken and root vegetables for breakfast over eggs any day (even if I wasn’t off of eggs right now).

There’s definitely a time and a place for light meals (I mean, let’s face it, I eat 3/4 of a plate of salad at least four evenings a week and I drink 2 glasses full of leafy greens in a smoothie every day for breakfast) or something a bit fancier (I enjoy a good seared scallop – probably more than the next person), but as a girl who grew up in a small town in a small province on the East coast of Canada that gets more rainfall annually than London, England, I have a special place in my heart (and appetite) for warm, homey, comforting dishes.

Shepherd’s pie has always been one of those staple comfort foods throughout my life. Of course, the way my mom used to make it is pretty far from what I can tolerate nowadays. A layer of ground beef, a layer of canned creamed corn and a double decker layer of buttery, creamy mashed potatoes. My childhood self found it very delicious, but with all I’ve learned in my last couple of years embarking on this paleo journey, I am now very aware that it is far from nutritious.

Corn is a grain, first of all. (Which, honestly, still surprises me to this day! It’s so good at disguising itself as a vegetable.) So that’s out. And despite trying to convince myself mashed potatoes counted toward my vegetable intake for most of my lifetime, this is sadly not the case. I mean, technically, yes, a white potato is a veggie, but it has very little nutritional value. And besides that, it’s a nightshade – and me and nightshades aren’t on such great terms right now. So with all of that said, my mom’s old shepherd’s pie recipe, so quick and easy and comforting to whip together, isn’t exactly an option for me anymore.

That does not, however, stop me from craving that simple, layered, earthy goodness on a pretty regular basis. But until recently, I didn’t think I could achieve a fully paleo, mostly-made-of-vegetables alternative that would truly satisfy. But last weekend, on a quiet Friday night home by myself catching up on downtime and HGTV (yup, I’m fully aware of how unbelievably cool I sound), I decided to give it a shot. AND OMG IT WAS BETTER THAN I EVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED. Better, even, than my mom’s old recipe. I’m making it again tonight and I absolutely cannot wait to stuff it into my face again. So without further ado, here it is!

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Comforting Beef and Veggie Shepherd’s Pie:

  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 5 carrots, thinly diced
  • Avocado oil (for frying)
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken bone broth
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled

Preheat oven to 425° C (or 400° if your oven runs hot, unlike mine).

Chop cauliflower into florets and add to large saucepan. Add 2 cups chicken bone broth, bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 40 minutes or until cauliflower florets pierce easily with a fork (but not until they are so soft they’re mushy).

Meanwhile, scramble-fry grassfed ground beef in a cast iron skillet, seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder and salt to taste, until well browned. Remove to 9×9-inch Pyrex baking dish, spreading to cover the bottom of the pan to form the first layer of the shepherd’s pie.

Then, in the same cast iron skillet, add avocado oil to grease the pan and add carrots and onions. Stir-fry until carrots are tender and onions are caramelized and remove to baking dish, covering the ground beef to form the second layer.

Five minutes before the cauliflower is done cooking, add 4 cloves of garlic. Finish simmering, then drain cauliflower florets and garlic, reserving broth. Puree the cauliflower and garlic in a food processor, adding salt to taste, until smooth but still somewhat stiff. Add some leftover broth if necessary to achieve desired consistency. Spoon cauliflower mash on top of meat, carrots and onions, spreading to form the final layer of the pie.

Place shepherd’s pie in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Remove, let cool and serve!

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