Hye Thyme Cafe: September 2015

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Shepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte)

Shepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte): Hye Thyme Cafe
Served with mini cucumbers and tomatoes tossed with a bit of salt, vinegar, and dill.

Although the weather hasn't quite settled into Fall yet, I was having a craving for those cool-weather comfort foods, so I was planning to make a tray of Shepherd's Pie. Then my mind wandered to Izmir Kufte (kofa/meatballs), so I got the idea to make a Shepherd's Pie but to flavor the meat like you would for Izmir Kufte. It didn't turn out tasting quite like Izmir Kufte because of the lack of frying, no breadcrumbs or butter, and not simmering away in tomato sauce for a long time, but it did turn out quite tasty and did manage to satisfy two cravings in one plate.

What didn't occur to me until I pulled the tray out of the oven is that I used corn instead of peas. When I make Shepherd's Pie, I usually make my Mom's version, which includes zucchini and other veggies, but when making a more standard version, I usually use peas and carrots. I think it's all that fresh, sweet corn on the cob I've been eating all summer! In any event, feel free to use peas if you prefer - or use both!

On another note, don't worry if your ingredients aren't exact. I couldn't find a 2 lb pack of ground beef and ended up with 2.25 lb, so instead of freezing or wasting the extra, I went ahead and threw it in. As for the potatoes, there was a 1.5 lb package of mini potatoes next to the russets, so I held a bag in one hand and three large russets in the other and decided the weight of the russets being more than that of the bag was close enough to 2 lbs. You can always taste and adjust the spices to account for the difference.

2 lb potatoes (I used russets)
Roughly 1/3 c milk (or half and half, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.)
3 T butter
1 egg yolk
2 t olive oil
1 lg onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T chili powder (or 2 t chamen)
2 t cumin
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t each salt and pepper
1 can corn, drained
3 T flour
1 T tomato paste
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 c fresh chopped parsley
paprika (smoked or otherwise) - optional

  1. Wash, peel, and cube your potatoes, dropping them into a pot of cool water as you go along.
  2. Bring the potatoes up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until fork tender.
  3. Drain the water from the potatoes, then return the pot to the still warm burner - this will evaporate any residual liquid and give you a chance to make a space and pour in your milk and butter to let them warm up. If you mash your potatoes with cold milk and butter, it can turn out gummy. You could also warm them separately, but why bother? I usually use milk in my mashed potatoes but had a few tablespoons or sour cream that needed to be used up, so I added that as well. 
  4. Mash the potatoes until smooth, with a little salt and pepper, then stir in the egg yolk. If you're meat mixture isn't ready at this point, cover the potatoes to prevent them from drying out.
  5. While your potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, carrot, and garlic until the onions start to turn translucent, then add the beef, breaking it up as it cooks (a large serving fork works well to break up the meat).
  6. Season the meat mixture with the chili powder, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
  7. When the meat is just about cooked through, stir in the corn, then sprinkle the flour over the top and stir to incorporate - this will act as a thickener.
  8. Stir in the tomato paste, sauce, and 3/4 c parsley, and let simmer for a few minutes to reduce and thicken.
  9. Transfer the meat mixture to a casserole dish - most people use an 11x7, but I prefer to use something a little smaller to get a nice, tall Shepherd's pie.
  10. Give your potatoes a last fluff and scoop them over the meat mixture - you can smooth them out, pipe them into fancy spirals, make swirls, etc. if you like.
  11. If using, sprinkle a bit of paprika over the top - I like the smoked paprika.
  12. Bake at 375 for about 30" until bubbly and the potatoes are lightly browned - just don't make the same mistake I did! Place a tray under your baking dish. I thought there was plenty of room between my meat mixture and the top of the pan, and because it wasn't something soupy, I didn't bother and ended up with a lot of spill-over.  :(
  13. Let cool for about 15" before serving to let the meat mixture set like you would for a lasagna so the layers don't slide apart, then hit the top with a sprinkle of remaining parsley and dig in!

Shepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte): Hye Thyme Cafe

Shepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte): Hye Thyme Cafe
Shepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte): Hye Thyme Cafe

Shepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte): Hye Thyme CafeShepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte): Hye Thyme Cafe

Shepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte): Hye Thyme Cafe

Shepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte): Hye Thyme Cafe
Shepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte): Hye Thyme Cafe

Shepherd's Pie (a la Izmir Kufte): Hye Thyme Cafe

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