My family lived in Belgium from 2002 to 2004. Before moving, I had researched Catholic churches in the area and found Our Lady of Mercy, a parish consisting of English-speaking expats, operating out of St Anne’s Catholic Church in Uccle. I emailed the parish and was connected to a Swedish woman married to a British man whose daughter was the same age as my older daughter. Upon arrival in Waterloo, Ylva graciously took my daughters and me to lunch to get acquainted. She took us to The Snug, Waterloo’s very own Irish pub, a casual lunch place where we could eat typical Irish fare or experiment with some of the local Belgian specialties. Trying to help my daughters navigate the menu in French, a language only slightly less foreign to me than to them, I stumbled upon shepherd’s pie: a bed of ground meat in gravy, covered with carrots and peas, and topped with mashed potatoes. Perfect! The girls loved it and this became a staple of our weeknight dinners.
One night I set out to make shepherd’s pie and realized I had no potatoes. I also had no instant mashed potatoes, something I kept in the pantry for just such occasions. So, I scoured the shelves of my cupboards looking for a substitute item to blanket the ground meat and vegetable dish. I found a box of Jiffy cornbread mix and thought to myself, well, let’s take shepherd’s pie south of the border. My girls love Jiffy cornbread mix and they loved tacos so it seemed to be a match made in heaven.
I sautéed the ground meat in a skillet with a packet of taco seasoning. I added to that canned diced tomatoes and a can of corn, poured it into a casserole dish and topped it with the Jiffy cornbread batter. I baked it according to the directions for the cornbread, and served it with a salad. My husband and I topped ours with grated cheddar cheese and my younger daughter added sliced black olives to hers. It was a smashing hit. Thus, the birth of Mexican Shepherd’s Pie.
In 2007 I uploaded the recipe to the popular cooking website, www.allrecipes.com, and soon after, I discovered that my Mexican Shepherd’s Pie was a hit with other families as well. A quick peek today at my posting revealed that I’ve had 402 ratings, with the majority being five stars, and 300 reviews. Yes, many of the reviews include changes to my original recipe, tweakings here and there to make it spicier, or to add more veggies like black beans, but that is a solid representation of a well-liked dish.
With cooler temperatures and the hint of fall in the air, it might be a good time to bake up a dish of Mexican Shepherd’s Pie. You can head on over to http://allrecipes.com/recipe/68806/mexican-shepherds-pie/ and look at all the ways my simple peasant dish has been improved upon, or you can try my original recipe! ¡Buen provecho!
Michelle’s Mexican Shepherd’s Pie
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- garlic powder to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 1 (11 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
- 2 (8.5 ounce) packages Jiffy corn muffin mix, prepared per box directions (each box needs one egg and 1/3 cup milk)
- 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
- 1 (2.25 ounce) can sliced black olives (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Saute the ground meat and onion in a skillet over medium heat. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Cook until meat is evenly brown and onion is tender.
While ground meat is cooking, prepare the corn muffin mix according to package directions. Set aside.
When ground meat is evenly brown and the onion is tender, drain any grease in the skillet, add the tomatoes and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the taco seasoning and hot water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and continue cooking 5 minutes, until thickened. Add corn and stir well.
Transfer meat and corn mixture to the prepared baking dish. Spread the corn muffin batter evenly over top. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until puffed and golden. Garnish with olives and cheese. Serve with a green salad for a quick weeknight meal!