This is one of my favorite comfort foods, and a big Sephardi Favorite that appears at every holiday table. It goes by several aliases, all very closely related. Shepherd pie in English. Hachis Parmentier in English. Pastella in Arabic, probably Spanish-derived. I love to make it with bison, tomorrow’s meat I hope, even predict! If you find it by all means use it. Otherwise ground beef or poultry will work perfectly for this shepherd pie, even ground fish.
Structure of Shepherd Pie
Throughout the variations the dish goes through, it is basically always structured in the same way: a ground meat filling sandwiched between two layers of highly seasoned fluffy mashed potatoes. Even then, if you would rather substitute other white vegetables for the potatoes, you would still get a wonderful dish: you would end up with a delicious low carb dish: Celery root, parsnips, turnips, fennel, leek etc…
On special holiday meals, we often make individual pastellas: we enclose the filling all around in the potato mixture, much like we would do with kubbeh, and then fry them. Delicious and beautiful, yes… but… Hmmmm… sorry I’m not going there. Too labor-intensive for my utilitarian taste. My mother Z”L would fly away while we were enjoying our meal: I would have preferred a homely hunk of the collective pie, and her seated with us at the table! I found a less pristine but simpler way and I am sticking to it. It’s the only way I will make it more often for all of us to enjoy! Layering them in several smaller individual pie plates is the most labored I will allow it to go.
Do Not Freeze Shepherd Pie
Especially if you use potato filling. Potatoes and freezing just do not get along somehow, and that’s OK. The good news is, it will keep several days in the refrigerator.
- 6 large potatoes, cut into large chunks
- 1 cup soy or other dairy-free milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Good pinch nutmeg
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 large carrot
- 4 ribs celery
- 2 pounds ground beef, turkey, or even fish
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- Optional: 1 cup frozen peas or corn, or a combination
- Ground pepper, oregano and ground bay leaf to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bring water to boil in a large pot, add the potatoes and cook until tender. While still hot, drain them thoroughly, add the milk and seasoning and mash them thoroughly.
Meanwhile make the filling: heat the oil in a large skillet. In a food processor, mince the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, and add to the skillet. Saute until the mixture is translucent, and add the bison. Saute until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the tomato paste and seasonings, and frozen veggies if using.
Spread the meat mixture in a 9x13’ baking dish, and spread the potato mixture carefully on top. Spray the top with vegetable spray. Bake 30 minutes, until the top is golden. Cut into squares and serve hot.