How do you define comfort food? Maybe it’s food that you grew up with that brings back fond memories (sloppy joes or mac & cheese, anyone?). Maybe it’s something that you rely on when you’re stressed or feel like you want to curl up under a mound of blankets and hibernate.
However you define comfort food, it doesn’t have to be unhealthy, ground you to the couch, “I’ll surely regret this later” kind of food. For me, comfort food is usually something warm and hearty that not only feeds the body but the soul too. It’s the food equivalent of a really good book you can’t put down or a Harry Potter ⚡ movie marathon. My Cottage Pie with Horseradish Cauliflower Mash fits neatly into this category. It bridges the gap between comfort food and food you can feel good about later.
What’s the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie?
Shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb meat, specifically. Cottage pie swaps out the lamb for beef, or even turkey, if you want to be a rebel. Otherwise, they are really the same beast. Traditionally, both dishes are also topped with mashed potatoes before baking, but I prefer the easy swap of low-carb creamy cauliflower as my cottage pie topping.
Are frozen vegetables considered processed food?
Technically yes. However, one needs to consider the spectrum of processed foods. Minimally processed foods such as whole frozen fruit and vegetables, nuts, canned tomatoes, and tuna are often processed at their peak to retain maximum nutritional quality. Though I still favor fresh veggies over frozen, I don’t feel bad about making the swap for convenience because I know that the nutritional content is still clean. On the other end, heavily processed foods such as frozen pizza and pasta as well as canned soups and sauces are what I like to stay away from because they almost never offer the same nutritional quality, nor depth of flavor, as the real thing. They also often include unnecessary filler ingredients, binders, thickeners, and preservatives that don’t belong anywhere near my meals.
That being said, there are some vegetables that I never buy frozen because the texture of the end product is so different compared to the fresh version. For example, frozen brussels sprouts are pretty unpalatable to me because they always turn out mushy and over-cooked compared to the delicious slightly crunchy texture of fresh, roasted brussels sprouts. I can totally understand why so many people grew up loathing this particular veggie because I can imagine that they were probably eating the mushy frozen sprouts, rather than the tasty fresh ones. Whatever you choose to buy, check the labels. There’s a huge difference between a bag of frozen veggies that you cook with butter and herbs and a bag of frozen veggies with a preservative-laden butter and herb sauce included in the mix.
A note for special diets
This Cottage Pie is grain-free, gluten-free, and friendly for Paleo, Keto, SIBO, and Whole30 diets if prepared as written below.
But sometimes, I just want a little cheese – who doesn’t? If your diet allows dairy, this cottage pie can level-up with the addition of 1 cup of shredded white cheddar or gruyere, which I sprinkle on top of the filling right before I layer the cauliflower mash. You can also blend this directly to the mash if you prefer.
Cottage Pie with Horseradish Cauliflower Mash
Yield 6 large portions
- 1 tbsp garlic oil (may sub 1 tbsp avocado oil plus 2 cloves minced garlic)
- 1 1/2 lb grass fed beef (may sub ground turkey or blend 50/50)
- 1 cup green onion, chopped
- 2 cups frozen pea and carrot mix
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (may sub 1 tbsp dried)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
For cauliflower mash:
- 1 medium head (about 5 cups) cauliflower, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter (or ghee for Whole 30)
- 2 tbsp horseradish paste
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic oil (may sub 1 1/2 tsp avocado oil and 1 clove minced garlic)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 1/2 tbsp chives, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
For the filling:
- In a large dutch oven or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add garlic oil and ground beef. Brown fully and then drain excess grease.
- Lower heat to medium. Add green onions to the meat mixture and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add frozen pea and carrot mixture, parsley, cumin, salt, pepper. Stir gently and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes or until peas and carrots are cooked through. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if needed.
For the cauliflower mash:
- In a large, microwave-safe bowl combine chopped cauliflower and ghee.
- Microwave for 6 minutes. Remove from heat, stir to coat butter over the top of the cauliflower, and microwave for an additional 6 minutes. The cauliflower should be easily speared with a fork at this point.
- Add cauliflower, horseradish, garlic oil, salt, and pepper to your food processor. Pulse until well-blended and creamy. If you do not have a food processor, this can be done in a blender or even with a hand mixer, though I find it turns out creamiest in a food processor.
- Stir in chives until well incorporated and taste for salt and pepper. Adjust if needed.
- Spread the cauliflower mixture over the top of your meat and veggie mixture
- Place the pie in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. I like to keep the pan covered with an oven-safe lid (or foil) for the first 15 minutes and then remove the top for the final 15 to allow the cauliflower to get a bit golden. Serve immediately.
If prepared as-written below, this dish is dairy-free and fits a huge range of diets including Paleo, Keto, SIBO, and Whole30. But sometimes, I just want a little cheese - who doesn't? If your diet allows dairy, this dish can level-up with the addition of 1 c of shredded white cheddar or gruyere, which I sprinkle on top of the filling right before I layer the cauliflower mash. You can also blend this directly to the mash if you prefer.
Serving Size 1/6 of recipe
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 25 g
Sodium 392 mg
Total Carbohydrates 12 g
Dietary Fiber 4 g
Sugars 2 g
Protein 25 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.