Lamb Shepherd's Pie with Turnip Mash

So I just came inside from a -30 Celcius Windchill day here in Ottawa, ON. Needless to say - my Mediterranean blood is crying for sun and heat. I mean, I'm not saying I need +30 or anything but...

As a chef, it's hard to go 6 months without any fresh local produce. For that reason, it makes sense that we've become so dependent on a heavily fossil fuel driven food system. We all have to eat! And the way we know how to eat fresh is to have much of our food imported year-round, especially during the winter.

Part of that has to do with our food distribution system and the decline of food processing plants in Ontario - but that's another story. We've also lost a lot of our preserving traditions which include fermentation, canning and drying- not to mention turning a blind eye to the ancient traditions of the original First Nations of our area.

So, how do we eat locally now? Fortunately Ottawa has just begun a year-round Farmer's Market and there are a few small retailers that carry local meats, root veggies, preserves and baked goods around town. Plus, there are many who are bringing traditions back to the mainstream.

And why care? Why eat seasonal in the winter? Who wants bland boring root vegetables and roasts and pickles for 6 months? Aren't we supposed to be on raw food diets and cleanses during the winter??

Well, below I've posted a delicious Ballymaloe-Adapted Shepherds Pie recipe with a spin.

In an ideal situation, I try and abide to some traditional food smarts from studying with local nutritionists, herbalists and from my own biochemical science knowledge. And to be honest, it makes me turn up a suspicious eyebrow to many New Years Resolution Diets.:

1. Fermented foods have a lot of nutrition. Foods such as sauerkraut and miso are great for adding good bacteria into your gut to help you digest food properly so vitamins and minerals are more available to your body.

2. It's freezing outside and the Ayurvedic and some Western traditions of eating note that cooling foods that go into the body (such as cucumber, lettuce) actually cool down your body. If you're working in a steamy kitchen or are naturally prone to being warm even when it's in the sub-zero temperatures outside, go for it. However, warm food and fats are helpful to combating the cold!

3. Why are we dieting in the winter? The traditions surrounding Yuletide feasting are an acknowledgement that we are entering a time of year where we need to help one another out. Energy levels are low, food is (was) scarce. Why not enjoy the food and enter the new year grateful for how lucky we are that we can eat copius amounts of food?

Penis shaped eclairs for Christmas Fun..
Penis shaped eclairs for Christmas Fun..

4. Nutritional infusions such as nettle and oat straw are a great way to boost the vitamins and minerals in your body! Much more cost effective than juicing a crate of oranges. Don't worry.. Susun Weed is legit.

Despite that the transportation of food has been around for centuries and isn't going away, I think there can be a more health conscious and ethical way to eat during this time of year that doesn't involve importing a lot of food. I, for one, at least hope that one day we will be at peace with food and the way we consume it. Bottom line is: Listen to your body. And I completely acknowledge that eating 100% seasonally and locally and organically is an ideal, but if we are working towards that, it's for the better!

Lamb Shepherd's Pie with Turnip Mash

Serves 6 Prep time: 30min, Cook time: 30min Dietaries: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Nightshade Free, Almost Paleo

4 tablespoon olive oil
110g or 1 medium chopped onion
30g (1/4 cup) corn or rice flour
2 cups stock, I used chicken stock but lamb or beef is ideal
2 teaspoon tomato paste (optional, omit for nightshade free)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp dried
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb (450g) ground lamb (although the Irish ideal is to use leftover roast lamb, chopped)
2 lb (900g) turnips, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine, or coconut oil

Mash: First, make the turnip mash. Cover the peeled, chopped turnip with cold water in a saucepan. Add 1/2 tsp salt to the water and simmer for about 20 min until soft. Drain and mash while still warm. Add butter substitute or the real deal and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Meat: Heat the olive oil on medium, add the onion, and cook over a slow heat for 5 minutes in a large wide pan. Add the flour and cook until brown. Add the stock, bring to a boil. Add the tomato paste, chopped cilantro, thyme leaves, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the meat to the sauce and cook until no longer pink, continuously stirring.

Put in a pie dish, cover with the mashed turnips and score with a fork. Reheat in a moderate oven 350ºF for about 30 minutes.

Ahh... Turnips
Ahh... Turnips
Cut the root end off and peel as deep as the inner ring you see here.
Cut the root end off and peel as deep as the inner ring you see here.
Chop em up..
Chop em up..
Boil em up.. in salted water!
Boil em up.. in salted water!
Mash and set aside.
Mash and set aside.

Do you have a favourite warm up food? Tweet @evayummers and I'll share your ideas!