The first wealth is health.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Shepherd’s pie – originally termed cottage pie – is a traditional dish going back to 1791. It was a dish created to use leftover roasted meats of any kind, the baking dish was typically lined with mashed potatoes, and finished with a mashed potato crust. Potatoes were introduced as an affordable crop to feed the working rural poor living in cottages, hence the earliest name “cottage pie.” In the 1800s, “shepherd’s pie” typically referred to a potato crusted dish that used lamb or mutton. Some would say it is “shepherd’s pie” if it uses lamb or mutton, and “cottage pie” if it uses any other protein. I like the name shepherd’s pie for any dish that combines a protein and a savory sauce with vegetables covered by a mashed root vegetable crust, baked in a casserole or dutch oven because I associate the name with hearty comfort food. I have made variations that include ground lamb, ground beef, ground turkey, and even frozen and grated tofu.
My Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie is an exceptionally healthy version of the dish, created in the Charlotte, North Carolina kitchen of my son Nils and his wife Jamie. My son is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, a nutrition expert, and a competitive body builder. He recently began preparing for a competition in May 2015. While healthy eating is always a priority for my family, in the months leading up to a competition, “healthy” takes on a whole new meaning 🙂 Each ingredient is weighed, servings are portioned, and macro nutrients are calculated. Sweet potatoes are nutrient rich, and packed with vitamins a and c, potassium, and calcium. They’re an excellent substitution for potatoes in creating a healthier version of shepherd’s pie.
I chose to use all white meat ground turkey to cut fat grams from the dish. Body builders require lots of lean protein. The cremini mushrooms add additional flavor when browned with the turkey. The sweet potatoes are mashed with chicken broth, coconut milk beverage (non-dairy substitute for milk or cream), and a bit of poultry seasoning. I was able to get some lovely, fresh English peas, but frozen petite peas will work nicely as well. At 377 calories per serving, this is a well-balanced, low-calorie, healthy dish. Serve with a spinach salad, and pair with an unoaked chardonnay or a full-bodied dark ale.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s emphasis on health was well-placed. Healthy lifestyle choices are well worth the effort. An added benefit to eating healthfully most of the time, is the guilt-free pleasure on those occasions that we “splurge” on dishes like risotto or pasta carbonara. If you’d love to include healthier options in your meal planning, but making changes like this seem overwhelming, take it a step at a time. Replace one less-than-healthy meal per week with one like this. Include whole foods, complex carbs, lean proteins, and lots of fresh produce. A colorful plate usually indicates a healthy meal. Bon chance!
A healthier version of the traditional "shepherd's" or "cottage" pie with a mashed sweet potato crust, and a savory ground turkey filling...
30 minPrep Time
30 minCook Time
1 hrTotal Time
- 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 lbs. ground turkey*
- 8 oz. cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 cup chicken broth (divided)
- 1/4 cup dry wine**
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 2 cups fresh shelled English peas (or frozen peas)
- 1 cup corn (off the cob or frozen)
- 1/4 cup coconut milk beverage***
- 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
- 1 tsp. salt +/- to taste
- fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp. olive oil (for brushing over crust)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees (400 for convection).
Peel sweet potatoes, and cut in large chunks. Place in a medium saucepan, cover with water, add salt, and place over high heat.
When water boils, reduce heat. Cook until very tender but not mushy - about 15 to 25 minutes depending on size of chunks and how hard you cook them. When they're tender, turn off heat.
Meanwhile, add 1 tbsp. olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and chopped onion. Saute until onion is translucent. Add ground turkey. I like to use a potato masher to break it up as it browns. Add the slice cremini or button mushrooms. When mushrooms and ground turkey are beginning to brown, sprinkle flour over the top. Stir to combine. continue to stir occasionally until flour is well-combined and slightly browned - about 4 to 5 minutes. Add rosemary and thyme, and de-glaze with 1/2 cup chicken broth. Add wine. Continue stirring until bubbly and slightly thickened. The mixture should not by soupy. Season with salt and pepper. Check seasoning. If you're satisfied with the seasoning, turn off the heat, and set aside.
Drain every bit of water from the sweet potatoes. Add them back to the pot. Add the poultry seasoning and coconut milk. Mash them until smooth, adding the remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth as necessary to achieve a thick, creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.****
Lightly spray a deep ovenproof casserole dish with cooking spray. Spoon all of the meat mixture into casserole dish to an even depth. Sprinkle peas and corn over the meat mixture. Drop mashed sweet potatoes by large spoonfuls over the top. Spread evenly over the casserole, covering entire top. Brush with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Bake 30 minutes, until bubbly. If you desire a browned crust, you can place under the broiler for a couple of minutes, being careful not to burn it!
* I used all white meat lean ground turkey. You may substitute lean ground beef, pork, or chicken as well. I have also used tofu for a vegetarian pie. Freeze a block of firm tofu, then grate it while it's frozen. Cook as you would the ground turkey.
** A dry wine - either red or white - is fine. I used an inexpensive chardonnay.
*** This type of coconut milk is a non-dairy substitute for milk, NOT the thick milk from the whole coconut! It is a creamy substitute for those that are lactose sensitive. You can substitute milk, but it is not as creamy.
**** Take time to check seasoning on each step. It is impossible to properly season a dish like this after it is assembled. Taste it, and adjust if necessary.
I’m a new grandma 🙂 My grandson Cade will be 4 months on Thursday. My trip to Charlotte was to have “Cade time,” and visit with his mommy and daddy as well. I’m convinced grand-parenting is one of life’s greatest pleasures! As always, food is an important part of our lives…