Middle Eastern Shepherds Pie (Low Carb)

Middle Eastern Shepherds Pie

Middle Eastern Shepherds Pie

It’s hard to go past a good shepherds pie to please the family. So when I spied this slightly more exotic twist in one of my favourite cookbooks at the moment, Honey & Co. from the London restaurant of the same name. I just had to try it. My simplified version is soo soo good.

There’s roast cauliflower to provide a generous serve of veggies, spiced beef or lamb to make it more satisfying and a tahini yoghurt mixture as the creamy topping. No stodgy mashed potato here!

Baharat is my preferred spice blend to use here. It’s a wonderful Lebanese blend of 7 spices. If you don’t have it you can always substitute in a simpler combination of 1 teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander and smoked paprika.

The photo includes pine nuts and flat leaf parsley which make it prettier, however in sticking with my 6-ingredient theme I’ve left them out of the recipe.

enough for: 3-4
takes: 60 minutes

1/2 large cauliflower (500g / 1lb)
500g (1lb) minced (ground) beef or lamb
1 tablespoon baharat spice (see variations for alternatives)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
300g (10oz) tahini
300g (10oz) Greek yoghurt

1. Preheat your oven to 250C (480F). Chop cauli into bite sized florettes and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and roast for 15-20 minutes or until cauli is tender and well browned.

2. Meanwhile, brown meat in a little oil in a frying pan on a high heat. When brown add the spice and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes to toast the spices. Remove from the heat and season with salt.

3. Stir tahini well to combine any oil that has separated out. Mix tahini and yoghurt in a bowl. It should look like whipped cream. If it’s too stiff, add more yoghurt.

4. When the cauliflower is cooked, layer it into a round 24cm (9in) springform pan or oven proof frying pan (I used the frying pan I cooked the meat in). Place cooked meat on top of the cauli and finish by covering with the tahini yoghurt mixture.

5. Reduce oven temp to 200C (400F) and bake the pie for 15-20 minutes or until deeply golden brown on top. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving with something green.

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no baharat / different spice – substitute in a simpler combination of 1 teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. Or use another middle eastern spice blend like Ras el Hanout or Berbere spice. Or take it in a more Indian direction and use a curry powder (2 teaspoons should be enough) or garam masala.

vegetarian – replace meat with cooked lentils or chickpeas.

dairy-free – use coconut cream or coconut yoghurt instead of the Greek yoghurt. Or you could replace the yoghurt with water.

no tahini – replace with sun butter (from sunflower seeds), cashew butter or almond butter. Or skip the yoghurt and tahini and sprinkle over almond meal / almond flour, flaked almonds or bread crumbs to make the crust. You could use mashed potato, pureed cauliflower or mashed canned beans.

different veg – roast other veg with or instead of the cauliflower. Zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms and capsicum (bell peppers) are all good. Or try broccoli. You could also soften an onion before browning the meat if you have time. I made the mushroom version recently, they took longer to cook than cauli but were still lovely!

carb-lovers / more substantial – serve with warm pita, flat bread or tortillas or a brown rice salad.

more substantial (low carb) – use extra meat or pinenuts.

short on time – skip the final layering and baking step. Just serve roast cauli with beef on top and tahini yoghurt (no eggs) drizzled over.

Waste Avoidance Strategy

cauliflower – ungrated cauli will keep for weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge. Can be frozen but the texture isn’t as good when defrosted.

minced (ground) beef or lamb – freeze it.

baharat spice / tomato paste – keep them in the pantry.

tahini – I keep mine in the pantry but will keep longer in the fridge if open.

yoghurt – usually has a shelf life of a month or so. Otherwise, have it for another meal like breakfast! Don’t freeze.

Problem Solving Guide

bland – add some salt! And next time maybe use a little more tomato paste or spice.

too ‘sloppy’ – next time brown the meat for longer to remove the water. For now just serve with a spoon 🙂 Allowing it to cool and reheating can also help firm things up.

too dry – if the meat and veg are too dry before layering in the pan, add a little water.

topping too stiff – add more yoghurt or some water for now until you have a soft creamy mixture that looks like whipped cream. Next time stir the tahini more thoroughly before using.

no oven – pan fry cauliflower in a little oil or simmer in water until tender. Then serve cooked cauli and spiced meat with tahini yoghurt mixture on top. Or use the tahini yoghurt mixture as a base and top with the cooked cauli and meat. Or see this skillet shepherds pie.

Prepare Ahead?

Yes! Just make as per the recipe. Will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. If you want to freeze leave out the tahini yoghurt sauce and add after it’s defrosted. To serve warm in the oven (200C / 400F) for 15 minutes or so.

Middle Eastern Shepherds Pie-3
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  • Should have mentioned I made this with mushroom
    Instead of cauli and baked it in a springform pan instead of using my frying pan. Definitely prettier for serving with the springform pan but it did take longer to cook in the oven.

    Leftovers were so good piled on chopped rocket (arugula) from the garden.

  • Made this today. Ten ounces of pure ground toasted tahini (Joyva brand in a can) is way too much. It made the topping almost as stiff as pie crust dough and the flavor dominated the lamb! To limit calories and adjust texture and flavor, next time I will try half the tahini or even less. Other ideas?

    • Hi Jean!

      So sorry your topping was too much.

      Definitely try it with half the tahini next time.

      I’ve booked marked this recipe to make again next week to test myself. Will use the oz measurements on my scale to be sure.

      I haven’t ever come across toasted tahini in a can. Mine is untoasted and comes in a jar.

      I just did some research on Joyva tahini and I think I’ve sigured out the problem!

      In this review, the guys from minimalist baker, found the Joyva brand really thick and difficult to stir.

      The problem with tahini as an ingredient is that the oil separates out. So you have to stir to recombine before using. Sounds like your tahini was tricky to stir so you ended up with less oil and a lot more of the solid sesame protein which is much thicker and when combined with the water in the yoghurt this would make it extra thick.

      So sorry! I need to specify stirring in my recipes.

      Next time if you can use a different brand of tahini that would be great. But for now halving as you suggest (and adding a little water until you get a more pourable consistency is the best fix.

      Does that help?

      • Hi Jean!

        Hi Jean!

        Reporting back…

        I made it again last night – and really enjoyed!

        Thanks for inspiring me to do that.

        The tahini yoghurt mixture came out as expected – looking like whipped cream before I spread it.

        I checked my tahini and it’s just sesame seeds.

        So the dryness you experienced must come down to differences in tahini brands.

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