This week I ordered lamb from Conway Locally Grown, a regional variation on CSAs that I’ve blogged about here in the past. We do not ordinarily eat red meat. As a matter of fact, I had been years and years without eating it until December 2009. What happened then? A friend who has an annual winter solstice party with homemade whole-grain pizza included lamb on the pizza. He’d raised the lamb himself, so it had, as he put it, “zero carbon miles.” I had to try it. I admit it; it was way better than any red meat I’d ever had. So when my father, who is visiting us for a week, wanted to try the lamb from Conway Locally Grown, I said “okay” and ordered it. Thus we had a very Greek-inspired shepherd’s pie tonight, made almost entirely of local ingredients.
For the mashed-potato topping:
- 4 medium potatoes (I used three big Yukon gold potatoes and one red potato)
- 1-2 tablespoons of kefir or buttermilk (or yogurt mixed with a little milk)
- 1-2 ounces Greek cheese, crumbled (I used a sheep and goat feta-type with Greek herbs)
For the meat and vegetable mixture:
- several cloves of garlic (7 or 8 if you like a lot of garlic or if the cloves are small)
- 8/10 pound ground lamb
- 3 good-sized red peppers, sweet or hot (I used marconi and Hatch)
- 1 pint home-canned tomatoes (yes, you can use a 14-ounce can of good store-bought tomatoes if you don’t have home canned ones)
- 2 or 3 small carrots or half of one large
- two sprigs fresh rosemary (about 1/2 teaspoon dried)
- three of four sprigs fresh oregano, leaves only (about 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 cup zucchini, preferably blanched or sauteed, drained thoroughly, and chopped roughly (I used some I had frozen)
Optional: eggplant, sliced and sauteed. *See seasonal note.
Begin by dicing the potatoes and slicing three of the garlic cloves. Put the potatoes and garlic in a suitable pot and boil until the potatoes are tender. I also salted the water with a “Greek” seasoning made here in the Ozarks called Cavender’s. When the potatoes and garlic are done cooking, pour off the water and then put the pot back on the stove briefly to cook off excess water. You can turn off the potatoes at this point until the meat mixture is ready.
While the potatoes are boiling, crush or finely chop the rest of the garlic. Add it and the ground lamb to a heavy-bottomed pot (I used a 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven) and cook on medium until the meat is no longer pink. Meanwhile, remove the seeds from the peppers and cut the red peppers into half inch pieces. If your peppers are fresh, add them to the meat mixture immediately. I waited to put mine into the meat mixture until it was mostly cooked because my peppers were from our freezer, from 2009′s garden, and thus already soft.
When the meat is no longer pink, add the pint of tomatoes. You can add the peppers soon thereafter if you have not done so already. Add the rosemary and oregano. (Ours remarkably survived the frigid temperatures we’ve been having, probably because they are planted next to the porch on the south side of the house, with no chance of getting hit directly by the north winds.) Next cut the carrots in halves or quarters lengthwise and cut thin half-moon slices. Add the carrots to the mix. (The carrots came from our garden, protected in a cold frame.) If you have not pre-cooked the zucchini, add it now, sliced and then chopped casually. My zucchini came from the garden via the freezer and thus had already been blanched, so I added it last. Simmer, uncovered, until the mixture has completely thickened. If you have not added the zucchini, add it now, well drained first. Fish out the whole rosemary sprigs.
As the meat mixture starts to get thick enough, you can finish the potatoes. Add the 1-2 tablespoons of kefir or buttermilk (or yogurt/milk mixture) and mash the potatoes well. Now stir in the 1-2 ounces of Greek cheese, like the sheep-goat feta blend I used. You want to leave the cheese in chunks, so that diners get a burst of flavor every few bites.
Divide the meat mixture into individual greased casserole dishes or a single larger casserole dish. You could also leave the mixture in the Dutch oven, if you prepped the meat mixture in it. Now spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture.
*I did not use eggplant because we did not have any in the freezer, and it is not in season here. Of course, it would be ideal for this recipe.
You may also be interested in a shepherd’s pot pie: http://ozarkhomesteader.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/shepherds-pot-pie-using-holiday-leftovers/