Shepherd’s pie is a simple, hearty casserole of ground meat (usually lamb), browned with vegetables and seasonings, then topped with mashed potatoes and baked. My very flavorful version departs from tradition by using spinach, tomato paste, and nontraditional seasonings such as smoked paprika and cumin, which I love for their depth and warmth. I also top the beef with mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes.
To speed things up, I skip the traditional step of adding broth to the beef then reducing the broth, and I also skip baking the casserole for 30 minutes – I just broil it for a few minutes, so it’s ready fast – and it’s just as good.
Try to resist the temptation to make this shepherd’s pie recipe lighter or healthier by skimping on the butter or egg yolk for the mashed cauliflower. Both add incredible flavor and creaminess. I’m sure it would be “fine” with just 2 tablespoons butter, but it wouldn’t be “great.” And why wouldn’t you want to eat something great? :)
- 1 large cauliflower heads (1 lb. after trimming)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped (8oz)
- 8 oz frozen whole leaf spinach
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 egg yolk
- Cut the cauliflower into chunks or florets. Place in a large, microwave-safe bowl, add ½ cup water, cover, and microwave until very tender, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Add the beef, onions, spinach and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring often and breaking up the meat as you cook, until beef is browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring, 1 more minute. Turn heat off.
- Puree the hot cauliflower in your food processor with the remaining salt and pepper, butter and garlic powder. When very smooth, add the egg yolk and process for a few more seconds, until fluffy.
- Place the beef mixture in a square 8-inch, broiler safe baking dish, or a baking dish of a similar capacity. Spread the mashed cauliflower on top. Broil, 6 inches away from heat, just until cauliflower is browned, about 5 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on a cooling rack before serving.