Healthy Cottage Pie

Have the ongoing winter and St. Patrick’s Day inspired you to indulge in heavy, rich dishes but don’t you want to give up on your healthy eating habits or maybe want to start eating healthy for spring? Then go ahead and make this super healthy Cottage pie!

The difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie is in the meat: A shepherd’s pie is made from lamb, where a cottage pie is traditionally made of beef, but could also be made of bison, or even lentils. This recipe combines the beef and lentils, to have the best of both worlds!

Pies are not considered to be very healthy, but this one is as healthy as it is delicious! Read on to find out how:

  • Instead of normal ones, I chose sweet potatoes Not just because I like them better, but because they cook a lot faster than regular potatoes and they are super nutritious! The richer the orange color, the more immunity-enhancing antioxidants. Steaming or baking can even double the antioxidant value. Sweet potatoes also have a 45-60% lower glycemic index than white potatoes, which means that their carbs are broken down slower and that they release glucose to the blood gradually, producing smaller fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes thoroughly and cut the dirty spots off, but don’t peel them, since the skin is more nutritious than the flesh.
  • You all know how I think about (organic and pastured) butter, and while I only added a little bit for taste, it’s still adding some important nutrients.
  • The (nut/grain) milk is just for softening the potato mash, so use whatever kind you like, as long as it is not highly processed or has added sugar or reduced fat.
  • The next ingredient is ground beef. Although you can get protein from various sources, many people still enjoy beef. And it does have more benefits than just the protein: beef is also an excellent source of zinc, iron, selenium, and Vitamin B12. Also, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), beef has warming properties and can be used for general weakness and low backache.

Nonetheless, always try to make conscious decisions about eating beef. First, always choose organic and pastured beef. Not only does it contain less unhealthy fat, more healthy omega 3 fatty acids, and many more vitamins, it’s also more likely to be free of hormones and antibiotics which we don’t want in our food. You also might not know that (regular) beef has a very high carbon footprint. For example, eating one kilogram of beef produces the same emissions as driving 63 miles in your car. Luckily, grass-fed beef can decrease greenhouse gas emissions and increases biodiversity of pasture ecosystems.

  • To decrease the carbon footprint even more, I substituted half of the meat for lentils. Lentils are, just like beef, an excellent source of protein. Additionally, they contain a lot of soluble fiber, which helps you feel full and is good for your digestive system.
  • The lentils need some water to cook, and although your tap water is already filtered and disinfected, still many (hundreds!) of contaminants end up in your water supply. Read more about which contaminants here and if you really want to educate yourself here. Protect yourself from these harmful contaminants by using filtered water. This is the water filter I have been using for a while, and I must say that I’m disgusted with the residue that is filtered out. It’s brown and slimey and if it weren’t for the filter I would have been drinking this stuff! I’m very happy with my really clean, thoroughly filtered, and tasty water.
  • Mushrooms add to the meaty texture and also contain some valuable nutrients. They are high in antioxidants and contain the more rare mineral selenium, which prevents inflammation. Mushrooms also contain vitamin D, which we can use in the winter or when we’re spending a lot of time inside. And because mushrooms are high in potassium and low in sodium, they add to your cardiovascular health.
  • Carrots belong in a classic cottage pie, and they add even more nutrients. For this recipe I used rainbow carrots: the yellow and especially the purple ones are more nutritious than the “regular” orange ones. Always buy whole carrots and chop them with their skin because there and right under you’ll find the most nutrients that you don’t want to miss out on!
  • Garlic is super healthy and can fight infections and cure colds, especially if you follow a few rules: Crush, mince, or press the garlic 10 minutes or more before heating so the healthy enzyme allicin can be produced and the garlic is more protected from the heat. Also, if you can find garlic bulbs with a hard stem, choose them over the bulbs with the soft stem because they contain about 3 times more of the healthy allicin and have a richer taste.
  • Instead of onions I like to use shallots. Shallots are smaller, sweeter, and also have anti-inflammatory benefits. They contain more antioxidants than all other onions, so why not use them?
  • Tomatoes are high in vitamins C, A, and K, and the antioxidant lycopene. Cooking tomatoes even boosts the lycopene level!  Because tomato sauce and tomato paste were heated, they also have higher lycopene levels. Always buy organic, since tomatoes score high on the pesticidescale!
  • The “secret ingredient” to add depth to this dish is blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses is a syrupy byproduct of the refining process of sugar cane. It contains all the vitamins and minerals that are extracted when the sugar is refined, and has a distinctive deep, rich taste.
  • Finally, to add some finishing touches, I used herbs, spices, and Celtic sea salt. These ingredients are fantastic to enhance food flavor while having disease fighting antioxidants.

Who would have thought that a cottage pie could be this healthy? It’s also delicious, so make sure you make enough, you won’t have leftovers!

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Healthy Cottage Pie

Servings 2 people

Ingredients

Topping:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes cubed.
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup (nut/grain) milk
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp Celtic sea salt

Filling:

  • ½ ground beef organic and pastured
  • 2 carrots washed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 shallots chopped
  • 5 ounces mushrooms chopped
  • ½ cup lentils
  • 1-2 cups filtered water
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 5 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp dried chili flakes to taste
  • 1 sprig dried rosemary chopped
  • ½ tsp blackstrap molasses
  • Black pepper to taste about ¼ tsp
  • Celtic sea salt to taste about ½ tsp

Instructions

  1. Filling:

    Spice the ground beef with pepper, salt, and paprika powder. Add the ground beef to a skillet on medium heat and cook until not pink anymore. Then add the carrots, shallots, and mushrooms and cook until the carrots are soft. Next, add the garlic (minced 10 minutes before adding to heat), lentils, tomato sauce and paste, chili flakes, rosemary, blackstrap molasses, and some more pepper and salt to taste.  Cook on low heat until the lentils are done, about 20 minutes. While the filling cooks, begin making the topping. Preheat the oven at 375F.

  2. Topping: Steam the sweet potatoes for about 10 minutes. When soft, add them to a food processor with the milk and process until smooth. Add butter and smoked paprika and stir until dissolved.

  3. Finish: Add the filling to a casserole dish and top with the sweet potato mash, scuff it up with a fork. Sprinkle with coarse Celtic sea salt. Bake for 10 minutes.

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