I whipped up this recipe with leftovers from our big turkey dinner because of a failed attempted at mashed white sweet potatoes that we didn’t serve to our guests. So I had a bowl of lumpy sweet potatoes in the fridge just waiting to be incorporated into a dish. I went out and bought some ground beef and some onions and decided to make my own version of Shepherd’s Pie. This recipe is heavy on the meat, true to Nairobi life. The meat in Kenya is amazing! I have turned into a ravenous carnivore here compared to my flirtation with being semi-vegetarian in Canada. I think the meat in Kenya is so good for a couple of reasons:
1. It tastes how it is supposed to (not bogged down with water, injected with hormones, or whatever the heck they put in supermarket meat in North America).
2. The majority of meat is locally raised and not factory farmed.
3. The price of meat is much more reasonable in Kenya compared to Canada.
Disclaimer: I sound like a meat-basher now, but remember that I am a born & raised Albertan and I still believe that we have the best beef steaks in the world. However, I find that buying meat at home requires some extra research. I am blessed to be from small town where if so desired, I can buy a cow from local farmer, have it butchered, and then stored in my deep freeze but this luxury is not available to the majority of people who live in the city.
If anyone is interested in gaining some insight into the contrast between Canadian and East African food culture check out Kathleen Courtney’s article “Food Culture in Addis and Ottawa: Who is looking up to who?” She is currently living in Ethiopia and while food production there is less developed when compared to Kenya, I can see definite similarities as well… like people roasting corn on the cob sitting beside the road.
Anyways, this casserole turned out pretty tasty and got the approval of both of my roommates…
500 grams or 1 lbs of ground beef
2 big cloves of garlic sliced
2 medium-sized onions chopped (medium or small chunks whatever suits your fancy)
2-3 large peeled carrots chopped
1 or 2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1-2 pinches of Sage
1-2 pinches of Thyme
1-2 pinches of Basil
1-2 pinches of Rosemary
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Knorr Savoury Gravy Mix (with a bit of leftover Turkey Gravy mixed in)
A bunch of fresh mushrooms sliced into quarters
A few drops of lemon juice for the mushrooms
A big bowl of mashed white sweet potatoes (I also had one regular potato thrown in the mix)
For those of you who don’t have leftovers kicking around: For mashed potatoes, I chop the potatoes into cubes and boil until really soft. Then I drain the water from the pot and add about 2 tbsp of butter, a splash of milk, and a splash of whipped cream if is some around. Then mash. Add a couple splashes of milk if the potatoes are not creamy enough or the lumps are being stubborn. Mash until fluffy and smooth.
Warm up your sauce pan, pour in around 1-2 tbsp of olive oil and thrown in the onions and garlic. Let them simmer for a bit until onions are soft and the pot is smelling awesome. Add chopped carrots and cook until they begin to soften. Throw in your (defrosted) ground beef and brown. On another burner, start making your gravy. When gravy has thickened to your desired consistency throw in the pot (make sure your beef is cooked with no hint of blood). Mix it all up.
When I spice food I use a little trick I learned from my friend Philippe, a Frenchman who loves food. He taught me to hold the spice bag over the pot and then do a nose waft to see if the smells mesh well together. Take a couple of pinches of sage, thyme, basil, salt, & pepper and do a lot of wafting until your gut instinct says “mmm yup, I wanna eat that!” Let the pot continue to simmer while you chop up your mushrooms. This time I tried a trick I learnt from Billy’s Dad, Michel; he told me when cooking with mushrooms to add a little bit of lemon juice to them and this keeps the mushrooms full and juicy. Don’t go crazy and douse them in lemon juice just a few drops will do. Then chuck them in the pot!
Let everything meld and harmonize together in the pot (or have a few sips from your glass of wine) and get the oven warmed up to 350 F or 175 C. Find a casserole dish and pour your beef mixture in the casserole dish. Then grab your mashed potatoes and cover the beef mixture with the mashed potatoes. Add a couple of pinches of rosemary to the top of your potatoes. Then put it in the oven for around 30-40 minutes. Voila!
This is a “Man’s Dish” and best prepared listening to Queens of the Stone Age.