Two amateur cooks explore the world of cooking for a Crohn's and Colitis diet

Shepherd’s Pie

Recently, Marnina and I have been on a spree of making new dishes that we have never made before.  Our latest dish was Shepherd’s Pie, a type of savory pie that is popular in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Traditionally, it is a dish made with ground meat or ground lamb (hence ‘Shepherd’) and mashed potatoes.  How Marnina stumbled upon this recipe is beyond me, but she came home the other day and declared that one of our weekday meals would be  Shepherd’s Pie.

Marnina had found a recipe that called for some non-kosher non Crohn’s-friendly food items, so we modified the recipe as usual.  The original recipe called for ground beef, milk, and butter.  However, mixing milk and meat is not kosher.  Therefore, we used soy milk instead of regular milk, and used margarine instead of butter.   We also substituted ground turkey for the ground beef.  Despite the nutrients that ground beef provides, it is often fatty (mostly saturated fat), and someone with Crohn’s (aka Marnina) often has difficulty digesting all the fat.  Hard to digest foods are sent undigested from the small intestine to the large intestine for breakdown by bacteria, and can cause indigestion, bloating, and some other unsavory symptoms.

As you might have noticed so far in this blog, almost none of our dishes include any raw food.  Marnina has trouble digesting uncooked food because the fiber wrecks havoc on her GI system.  Cooking a food (to death, as we say), does not necessarily alter a food’s  fiber content, but it does break down the cell wall structure and soften tissues.  Marnina has mastered the food preparation methods that remove or separate fibrous parts of the food (she is often seen masterfully peeling strawberries and grapes).  If the Shepherd’s Pie recipe had called for non-peeled potatoes, we would have peeled them anyway because the skin provides most of the fiber.  Likewise, if the recipe had called for any type of whole grain, we would have immediately switched out the whole grain for a grain that has been milled, meaning the outer bran layers have been removed.

Pictures are below, followed by the recipe.


Defrosted ground turkey and very large carrots!

Potatoes have been cut!

If you look carefully, you will see Micky Mouse’s face, created with our chopped carrots, onions and ground turkey (and the parsley before it ended up on the floor…)

A view from above.

Combining the meat, onions and spices with tomato paste and white wine.

Meat and vegetables are ready to go!

Mashed potatoes are ready to be spread on top!

Hot out of the oven!

Our life is never complete without turning our food into a missing piece (according to the book by Shel Silverstein)

A view of the inside. YUM!

Shepherd’s Pie

Mashed Potatoes (the top layer)
6 to 8 medium red or gold potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup milk (but be prepared to use more) – We substituted soy milk
2 tbsp butter, cut into smaller pieces – We substituted margarine
handful of parsely, finely chopped -We omitted this because Marnina dropped the Parsley on the floor, oops! (we substituted Herbs d’Provence)

Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until cooked all the way through. You can cut them into smaller pieces to speed cooking. Drain the potatoes, return to the pot, add the butter and mash. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, the parsley and milk. Taste for salt. Add milk – your exact amount of milk will depend on size and number of potatoes. You want the mashed potatoes to be quite moist without crossing over into being liquid. (Frankly, I would say make the mashed potatoes the way you really love to make them; just don’t make it too dry as this all is going to bake before being served).

The Base
1 to 1.5 lb of ground beef – We used 1 lb. of ground turkey
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 large onion, chopped
5 or 6 carrots, finely chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 tsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes (spicy) – (omit these if you have trouble digesting the red pepper seeds)

Cook the ground beef in oil until browned, adding in 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 tbsp of worcestershire sauce, and the dried oregano. Once browned, remove to a bowl.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Add a splash of olive oil to the cast iron pan and saute the onions on medium-low heat until they start to turn translucent, then add the carrots. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then turn up the heat slightly and add the wine and tomato paste. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, for another 5 to 10 minutes, then add in the ground beef, another tbsp of worcestershire sauce, another pinch of salt, and the pinch of red pepper flakes. Let this cook together for 5 or 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and taste for salt and oregano. You’ll note that I’m writing flexible cooking times, but I prefer more time when possible in order to let the carrots soften. If it starts to dry out, add a little more wine (or water or beef stock).

Forming the Pie
Turn off the heat and flatten the mixture out. With a large ladel, place your mash potatoes on top carefully in dollops, trying not to allow the potatoes and meat base to mix. Take a fork, hold it mostly horizontal with the curve of the tines pointing down (like the bottom of a boat) and use this to spread the mashed potatoes around until it evenly covers the dish. I find that this allows you to spread the potatoes more delicately and thus prevents everything from mushing together. For aesthetics, I also like to use the tines of the fork to decorate the top with various patterns.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then turn on the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Let cool for 5 or 10 minutes, then serve.

If you want to add a Middle Eastern flare (as we often do) to the Shepherd’s Pie, you can substitute the worcestershire sauce, oregano, and red pepper flakes for the following amounts of middle eastern spices:

1/3 to 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 to 1/2 tsp ground all spice
2 pinches of ground cumin
pinch of ground nutmeg

Adapted from: The Constables’ Larder


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