What a whirlwind it has been these last couple of weeks! The start of my new job coincided with the start of the transformation challenge at my gym, and of course the first thing my body did was catch a cold. My body took it harder than usual as the week before I had been on antibiotics for an eye infection, and so my immune system had very little to work with.
Cue one of the hardest weeks I’ve ever had, trying to comprehend the training for my new job through the complete fog in my brain… then on my first training session for the transformation challenge, I then injured one of the discs in my lower back. I made an emergency appointment with the physiotherapy practice aligned to our gym for the same afternoon – which in hindsight, was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I could barely walk a couple of hours after my appointment, but over the next few days I religiously did the rehab exercises my physio instructed me to do day and night. Later in the same week, I went for a follow up and the physio was amazed – out of all the disc injury patients he has ever treated to date, I had one of the fastest recoveries he had ever seen.
And so its been back into training – six times a week – sometimes two hours a day (while watching the back!), combined with a new diet of high fats and low carbs. There’s quite a few misconceptions about diets saying if you’re trying to lose weight you should have both low fats and low carbs (sugar), but if you’re cutting back on carbs your body requires fats in order to have an energy source. Over time, the body starts to use the existing fats in your body as energy, leading to fat reduction.
Believe me – I tried doing the low carb and low fat thing for a little while on top of my training and 9-5, and couldn’t figure out why I was so exhausted all the time. After a talk with our group’s primary trainer, I started to up my consumption of fats (primarily in the form of cheese and eggs) and have noticeably felt the change. So I’ve been flexing my culinary creativity muscles recently (in addition to my other muscles – which are all very sore today), and this Beef Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Mash was a huge winner when considering how to use up some leftover cauliflower mash.
Can you believe that this was the first time I’ve ever had a Shepherd’s Pie? 😉 I hadn’t taken any photos of the process as I didn’t realise how amazingly it would turn out, but I think you’ll be okay!
This is a generously-sized dish which will serve six.
You will need:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil;
- 1 brown onion, chopped;
- 2 large carrots, diced;
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed;
- 200g button mushrooms, sliced;
- 1kg grass-fed beef mince;
- 1 spring rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped;
- Four strands of fresh thyme, leaves removed;
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste;
- 400g crushed tomatoes;
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce;
- 3/4 cup (185ml) beef stock;
- 3 teaspoons gluten-free cornflour;
- 1 cup (120g) frozen peas;
- Salt and pepper.
For the cauliflower mash:
- 1 head of cauliflower, divided into florets;
- 50ml thickened cream;
- 30 grams butter, chopped at room temperature;
- 1/2 cup (60g) grated cheddar;
- Salt and white pepper.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celcius.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally for five minutes or until the onion softens.
Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and mince and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps, for eight minutes or until browned. Add the herbs.
Add the tomato paste, tinned tomato, and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk the cornflour into the stock, add to the mixture and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Stir in peas, season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 15 minutes to cool.
To make the cauliflower mash, bring a large saucepan of salted water (4 litres) to boil. Add the cauliflower florets and allow to simmer (lid off) for 15 minutes or until tender – this will depend on the size of your florets. Drain thoroughly, shaking dry. Using a stick blender, mash the cauliflower until it forms a rough puree. Add the butter and cream, and blend to a smooth puree – add more cream should you need it – but it should be fluffy and not too sloppy. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
To assemble, spoon the beef mixture into a ceramic 6cm deep, 22cm (4L capacity) baking dish. Top with the cauliflower mash and cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Serve with blanched greens or a mixed salad.
While this is a lighter version of the winter carb classic, it by no means skimps on the comfort value! I promise that there will be more recipes to come as I continue on this Total Transformation journey. Next up – Peanut Butter Granola Clusters! xx
P.S. Blogging is now a whole lot easier for me with a tech upgrade! My old Toshiba was huffing and puffing away and constantly kept glitching, so I treated myself to a new machine which I can also use in the kitchen – I quite enjoy watching Netflix as I cook dinner.
Isn’t she a sexy little machine? 🙂 She makes life a lot easier!