jamaican yuca shepherd’s pie

Ketch up dih fire Ma’hta
Pass me dih gungo peas,
Rub up dih flour Sarah – Lawd!
Feel di evenin’ breeze*

I never thought I’d see the words “Jamaican” and “shepherd’s pie” together in one recipe title. The first conjures up tastes of fried plantains, coconut, and spicy jerk seasoning. The second? Tired ground beef suffocated by dry mashed potatoes stripped of their whipped garlicy glory.  

Sure I’ve had good times with shepherd’s pie. It can be done right, and when it is, it’s at least 10 iron chef points ahead of meatloaf. There is something satisfyingly simple about it that makes me want to put on a peasant dress and go out and milk cows. It’s the same way I feel about stews and artisan bread and wine served in thick, stemless goblets. Good shepherd’s pie can be staid and steadfast, served on a beaten-up harvest table, surrounded by joy. 

So when I saw this pie, all stripped of those old-fashioned ingredients, I was wary. But as it stared back at me from the pages of Veganomicon, I knew I had to answer its rainbow plea.

A recipe that’s multi-step enough to rise to any special occasion, yet everyday enough to stuff in wraps for lunches, this dish can wear many masks. With a curry essence that’s sweeter than traditional Indian curries, this stew can also be made without the cassava (yuca) topping, and served over plain rice. 

Let me warn you about one thing first. As with many vegetarian recipes, there’s a little more prep involved in this one than your average sheep-herdin’ pie. But that’s what husbands (or boyfriends, or girlfriends, or kitchen elves) are for, right? If you’re lacking in a second pair of hands, do it in stages to lessen the load.  

I guarantee this will get you out of your casserole rut. (Does anyone make casseroles anymore?) Or at least out of your one-pot rut. (That sounds much more modern.) And as the skies get grayer by the day here in Syracuse, it might help splash your table with some good Carribbean vibes, mon. 

So let out those dreads and grab the keys–this is one you’ll have to make a special trip for. But don’t worry: I made all the mistakes for you already. What’s left should be all straw huts and sunshine.

*Jamaican Folk Song

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mark’s monday marinades

Why is life always like this? Just when I start getting used to the weekly regularity of Mark’s Monday evening antics in the kitchen, he goes and leaves me.

Don’t panic, dear readers! We’re simply taking the month of June to pursue separate economic endeavors that have dragged us away from our happy existence. <pout> This arrangement will undoubtedly be good for the regularity of posting, for my writing in general, and for my discipline with triathlon training. It won’t be so much for meeting my daily goofiness and hugs quota.

And so, a little tribute to Mark’s wonderful Monday concoctions is in order:

If you’re the one who usually take the reigns in food preparation, you’ll know how utterly fantastic it is to have dinner prepared for you. I think just as many women fantasize about Alton Brown and Mark Bittman as men do about Angelina Jolie.

It’s not the labour I most appreciate the break from (see picture on the right) – it’s the mental energy expended in planning and executing a pleasing and nourishing meal (see picture on the left). Don’t get me wrong, at least half of the pleasure I take in food is thinking, reading and talking about it. Maybe it’s that very pleasure that, when suspended for a moment to allow me some non-food-oriented thoughts, charges through to my palate when it beholds a meal made by someone else. Hence my love for everyone else’s salads (which always taste better than mine), for my mother’s cooking, for great restaurants.

Among the many enjoyable things about the past few May Mondays have been two meaty meals, prepared by my sous chef himself. Since we eat an 87% vegetarian diet (yes, that’s an exact percentage), these morsels of protein shone in their bath of tangy marinade. My muscles and my tastebuds cheered for hours afterwards.

The lamb was local, pasture-raised and organic, thanks again to Wendy of Sweet Grass Farms. When you seldom eat meat, you really appreciate the good stuff. Michael Pollan catches the sentiment better than I could, reflecting on his first experience of shooting a wild animal: “Respect for what is points us in the direction from which we came–to that place and time where humans looked at the animals they killed, regarded them with reverence, and never ate them except with gratitude.” Hm.

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