Last week I got a rather plaintive remonstrance from my friend C, wondering if I’d quit the food blogger biz (such as it is…). Though it may say more about the quality of entertainments in rural Mozambique than about my prowess as cook or blogger, it was still very nice to know that someone was left wanting by my protracted winter vacation…

Somewhat chastened, I assured her that I was merely taking a break, and that things should be picking up very shortly indeed. And, in sifting through my backlog of recipes and ideas, this “African” shepherd’s pie seemed to be just the thing.

So this one goes out to you, C. I’m hoping that enough of these ingredients are available to you right now–where local and seasonal aren’t just foodie buzzwords, but the WAY. THINGS. ARE. I do, though, have every confidence that you’ll be able to make it work regardless.

In any case, the shepherd’s pie itself was inspired by half a jar of homemade berbere I’d rummaged up from the back of the spice drawer. I’d ended making a batch of this incendiary African spice blend in a somewhat-more-OCD-than-usual spasm of making Ethiopian food from scratch.

Which… mmmyeah… happened all of once. Take it from the pros, by the way, and just buy the bread ready made. Not even real Ethiopians make their own injera these days.

In any case, faced with a mess of face-meltingly hot African spice mix, I got to gooving in a most hippie-dippie Moosewood goddess vibe and came up with this somewhat idiosycratic riff on peanutty west African groundnut stew and traditional sheperd’s pie. I’m sure there’s a multiethnic farming collective somewhere in the Catskills that just got its wings.

For all it’s syncretic liberties– and I DO apologize to Africans and shepherds everywhere–this is really a great dish. With just the right mix of, well, everything, it’s spicy and sweet and savory and packs a ton of virtuous vegetables without really trying (should you care about such things…).

Even now, having finished up the berbere, I regularly whip this out on a weeknight when something delicious and easy is the order of the day. It’s also got an ingredient list that pulls almost entirely from the freezer and pantry cupboard, so I can prepare it with minimal to zero shopping.

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