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Make it healthier: shepherd's pie

Shepherd's pie

Shepherd’s pie and cottage pie are dishes of minced meat topped with mashed potato. Cottage pie came first, once made with any meat but now using beef. Shepherd’s pie – using lamb or mutton – appeared in the 1870s. Both cottage and shepherd’s pie traditionally used Sunday-roast leftovers; today we buy mince. A survey of the nation’s favourite meals voted shepherd’s pie number 2. Try these easy ways to make your version a bit healthier – and three delicious dinners you can try instead.

How to make healthier shepherd’s pie

This ultimate comfort food can be quite unhealthy, with lots of butter in the mash and pushing up your saturated fat intake. Here are a few ideas to make this classic a little healthier and just as tasty.

The topping

Mashed potato, particularly instant mash, has a high GI so try different kinds of mash as listed. Rather than butter, use semi-skimmed milk and beat the mash with a wooden spoon. Sweet potatoes, cauliflower and swede are moist and may not need milk added.

  • Swap ordinary potatoes for sweet potatoes.
  • Try a mash of half sweet potato and half ordinary potato.
  • Use a mix of potato, cauliflower and swede.
  • Use half polenta with half sweet potato.

The filling

Try minced turkey, which is leaner than lamb or beef. Look for lean mince and read the label to check the fat percentage. Fat content varies but is typically:

  • Minced Lamb 20% fat
  • Minced Beef 5%-15% fat
  • Minced Pork 5%-20% fat
  • Minced Turkey 2%-7% fat
  • Minced Venison 2% fat

Add a can of lentils to the meat. Green or Puy lentils are best as they don’t dissolve. Cook dried lentils first before adding to the filling. They’re cheap and nutritious with great flavour.

Add plenty of vegetables such as finely chopped onion, carrot, mushrooms and leeks to the meat. Aim to make your filling at least 50% vegetables.

To make a healthier shepherd’s pie:

Serves 5–6 – prep: 25 minutes – cook: 1 hour – 3.5 portions of fruit and veg per serving

  • 300g potatoes
  • 200g swede
  • 300g cauliflower
  • 2 tsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 250g lean minced lamb
  • 130g carrot, finely chopped
  • 150g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 150g leeks, finely chopped
  • 2 heaped tsp wholemeal flour
  • 400g tin green lentils (with no added salt)
  • 1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper, for seasoning
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Boil the potatoes and swede for 10 minutes, then add the cauliflower and cook until tender.
  2. Drain, saving the water, and mash adding a good pinch of salt and pepper. Beat with a wooden spoon, to break up any lumps and to add air to make the mash lighter.
  3. Meanwhile, add the sunflower oil to a pan, add the onion and cook over a low to medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly until well browned.
  4. Stir in the lean minced lamb. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, then add the carrot, mushrooms and leeks and cook for another 5 minutes stirring regularly.
  5. Sprinkle over the wholemeal flour and mix. Add the tin of green lentils, including the water they come in. Stir in the tomato purée, a good pinch of dried thyme, a few grinds of black pepper, the Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of salt and 250ml water from the boiled vegetables.
  6. Stir well, bring up to a gentle boil, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the mince to an ovenproof dish, top with the mash and bake for 25–35 minutes.Stir well, bring up to a gentle boil, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the mince to an ovenproof dish, top with the mash and bake for 25–35 minutes.

Per serving

274Kcals – 19.7g protein – 34.6g carbs (Green traffic light8.1g sugars) – Green traffic light7.3g fat (Green traffic light2.9g saturates) – Green traffic light0.7g salt

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