Shepherd’s Pie: A Feast Fit for an Irish Wolfhound

Pacey eagerly chowing down on his Shepherd's Pie on St. Patrick's Day.

Pacey eagerly chowing down on his Shepherd’s Pie on St. Patrick’s Day.

Originally known as “cottage pie,” shepherd’s pie is a traditional British dish made by layering ground meat, mixed vegetables, and mashed potatoes. The dish is a staple of Irish cooking and makes a perfect post-St. Patrick’s Day meal, because it’s a great way to utilize leftovers. When preparing shepherd’s pie for your dog, remember that this is the type of extravagant treat that should only be served in small portions and reserved for special occasions, like St. Patty’s Day.

It didn’t take much finagling for me to make a shepherd’s pie that’s dog friendly. I had to omit the butter, cream, and salt that make mashed potatoes so scrumptious for us humans, but I promise that your dog won’t mind a bit with all the delicious beefy flavor that’s packed into this recipe. I also limited the veggies to peas and carrots, because they’re healthy for dogs and easy for their systems to digest. If you’d like, you could also include some corn kernels and/or green beans. (If you’re going to eat this shepherd’s pie along with your dog, you’ll definitely want to add salt and pepper to yours.)

While the Irish traditionally use lamb in shepherd’s pie, Americans typically use ground beef, which is what I call for in this recipe. If you prefer, you could easily substitute ground turkey.

Shepherd’s Pie

Makes 2 servings

 

3 Yukon Gold potatoes

1/4 cup low fat, low sodium beef broth, warmed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup diced carrots

1/2 lb. lean ground beef

1/4 cup fresh peas (or frozen peas, thawed)

 

1. Place the potatoes in a pot, and fill the pot with enough water to just cover the potatoes. Bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to establish a simmer. Cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes’ flesh can be easily pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes.

2. Drain the water from the potatoes. Once the potatoes have cooled just enough to handle, remove and discard the skins from the potatoes.

3. Place the peeled potatoes in a bowl, and mash with a fork or potato masher. As you mash, add the warm beef broth to help achieve a smoother consistency. Reserve the mashed potatoes for later.

4. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the carrots, and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the beef to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely brown.

6. Stir in the peas, and continue cooking to heat them through.

7. Divide the beef mixture evenly into two small bowls (or dog dishes). Top each portion with mashed potatoes.

8. This dish should be served warm, but be sure that the beef is not so hot that you run the risk of burning your dog’s tongue. Once the shepherd’s pie is assembled in the bowls, I like to give it a few minutes to cool down before serving it.

Note: Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Everyone’s an Irish Setter on St. Patrick’s Day!

Just because our dogs aren’t allowed to partake of the green beer, that doesn’t mean that they should miss out on all the St. Patty’s Day fun. These green, spinach-flavored biscuits are really festive, especially when cut out with a shamrock-shaped cookie cutter, and they are also rich in antioxidants, iron, and fiber.

Some people (erroneously) think that spinach is toxic to dogs, because it contains a substance called oxalic acid. It is true that in extremely large amounts oxalic acid can cause health problems; however, according to veterinarian Marie Haynes, “the amount that a dog would have to eat in order to cause toxicity is so high that it probably couldn’t be done.” So, spinach is A-okay for dogs to eat in moderation, and it makes a beautiful, natural green food coloring for dog biscuits.

I hope you and your dog have a happy and healthy St. Patrick’s Day! In celebration of all things Irish, I’ll leave you with a few canine-centric Irish proverbs:

-A little dog can start a hare, but it takes a big dog to catch one.

-A live dog is better than a dead lion.

-The dog that’s always on the go is better than the one that is always curled up.

-The cat is always dignified . . . until the dog comes by.

Shamrock Biscuits

Makes about 26 (2 1/2-inch by 2 1/2-inch) shamrocks

 

2 cups organic spinach leaves, tightly packed

1 egg

1/2 cup water

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed for dusting

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the spinach leaves in a food processor or blender, and process to a puree.

3. Transfer the spinach puree to a bowl, add the egg and water, and stir to combine.

4. Add the flour, and stir to combine. Use your hands to squeeze and knead the mixture into a smooth dough.

5. Lightly dust the countertop with flour, and roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick.

6. Use a shamrock-shaped cookie cutter to cut the dough into pieces. Arrange the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet.

7. Bake until the biscuits are firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

 

Note: I used all-purpose flour in this recipe to keep the green color as vibrant as possible, but you can substitute whole wheat flour if you’d like.

 

These treats are best stored in the refrigerator.