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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