Shepherd’s Pie with Dawn Hunt

By Dawn Hunt

Readers may remember that back in October I went to the wonderful Celebrate Samhain event in Peterborough, NH. While there I caught the end of Dawn Hunt’s presentation “Kitchen Witch Workshop”, and regretted not being there from the beginning. However, I started pondering what, if anything, I wanted to do to acknowledge the approaching Yule and Christmas season. Last year the totally awesome Alice Diehl wrote about holiday horror films, but sadly, I don’t think that niche has expanded enough in the passing year to address the subject matter again. Then I remembered Dawn Hunt, and the fact that I love food, and thus my cunning plan of obtaining a seasonal article and a new recipe came to fruition!

Winter. The cold nights keep us in our homes toasty warm on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate and as the wind howls on our window panes. A fire in the hearth and our favorite holiday music in the air reminds us of childhood traditions. Somehow we all have a calling to the Kitchen to stir, bake, melt, sauté and roast. We wait all year long for December; when we can indulge in sweets, savories and our “only-during-the-holiday’s” and “handed-down-for-generations” recipes. Even though seasonal cooking is a must in my sacred Kitchen it seems to hold a bit more magic during the dark time leading up to and through Yule.

So how does a Kitchen Witch celebrate the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”? Because Kitchen Witchery encompasses so many different forms of food magic there is no end to the wonders holiday cooking can bring to your home. Whether you want to tap into the innate magical properties of the food, use it as a symbol or just amp up the spiritual nutrition of your recipes with positive and joyful intentions, the possibilities are endless.

Family traditions play a huge roll during the holidays. So many of my family’s old Christmas traditions and recipes have made their way into my holiday season that the season would not feel complete without them. Think about your holiday traditions and your favorite childhood memories from this cold season of joy. What do you see in your mind’s eye? I see my family scrunch around my grandmother’s too-small dining room table. I am sitting at the card table that has been deemed “the Kids table” and the smell of fresh tomato sauce wafting through the air laced with the hint of roasted ham that will be the second course. I can remember how decorating the sugar cookies was my favorite part (and still is) of the cookie baking process no matter how much my hands hurt from squeezing the pastry bag full of colorful icing. The memory of my father-in-law smiling as he took a bite of the very first Christmas Eve dinner I made for the family sticks out in my mind as one of the happiest I have. All of these moments revolve around food, cooking and the dinner table.

The preparing and sharing of food is such a wonderful way to bring people together. By putting your intentions in the food, or using simple spell, or seasonal recipes you can share a bit of your craft with your loved ones. For someone like me, who was raised in a very traditional Italian Catholic family and now celebrates both the joyous celebration of the Winter Solstice as well as the Christmas holiday season, creating a meal or a dish to share I can bring a bit of my Yule celebration to Christmas dinner and enjoy the spirit of both holidays with my family. My mother always asks me to bring a salad for Christmas dinner. I know this does not sound very impressive. I mean really, who is thinking about salad when there are so many other decadent choices around the table. But my father, who is vehemently against anything green or healthy, gobbles up and goes back for seconds on my Winter Salad. Does he know that I am crumbling the gorgonzola cheese over the greens as a sympathetic magic spell to symbolize the blankets of snow that cover the green earth? Or that the cranberries hold protective powers to keep him safe through the winter months? No, but I do. And sharing a magical meal with the ones I love is the best gift I can give.

Holiday recipes range from cookies to pies to the secret herbs and spices that the turkey is cooked in. But what about all those meals leading up to the big feast of celebration. For me, the holiday food is not just for the one day but starting just after Thanksgiving. The air is cold and the need to make soups and roasts and sweet breads pretty much consumes me! This year, immediately following our first out of state Thanksgiving I just could not wait to begin the cozy nights of Winter. The tree went up and with it all the glitter, lights and ornaments that our kitties will spend the next month trying to bat off their branches. Pine scented candles were lit and I donned my ritual apron with a stag and a sun drawn on it as I prepared the first feast of the holiday season: Shepherd’s Pie.

Shepherd’s Pie is a traditional food that is great for many cold month celebrations; particularly during the festivities of Yule. This is my twist on it that will be featured in my upcoming compilation cookbook with Christopher Penczak and the Temple of Witchcraft: “Tastes of the Temple” published by Copper Cauldron Publishing. It serves 4-6 really nicely so it is ideal for gatherings and celebrations. Remember as you are cooking it that the potatoes have grounding and rooting energy. Envision being connected with the Earth and picture yourself fully grounded as you peel and mash the potatoes. Also, tap into the wisdom energy of the sage when you are putting it in the meat mixture. Sage will help you focus on answers to questions you might have. Share this hearty dish on a cold night or after a long day of hanging lights and shoveling snow. Let its warmth hug you, and your family, from the inside.

2 lbs lean ground beef/bison or lamb (or any combination of these)
1 large onion chopped fine
2 carrots diced
1 cup frozen peas
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (gluten free flour may be substituted)
1 cup beef broth
1 15oz can chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 table spoon chopped fresh sage (or 2 tsp dried)
1 table spoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp dried)

Potato topping
4-5 large potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
2 (or to taste) table spoons butter or margarine
¼ cup milk (more if potatoes are too thick or lumpy)
2oz cream cheese
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, boil the potatoes until tender. Meanwhile preheat oven to 400.

While potatoes are cooking place meat in a large sauce pan or very large skillet. Cook, stirring until meat has browned and is cooked though. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Continue cooking about 10 minutes or until onions have softened. Stir in flour, beef broth, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and herbs. Simmer about 25- 30 minutes until thickened. By this time the potatoes should be ready to be mashed. Drain potatoes and add margarine, milk, cream cheese, sour cream, parsley salt and pepper. Mash until potatoes are creamy and smooth, add more milk as necessary. Set aside. When meat mixture is done cooking remove to oven safe baking pan. A large pan such as you might use for lasagna will do the trick. Spoon the mashed potatoes gently on top of the meat mixture and smooth with the back side of a large spoon. Be sure to spread the potatoes so that no meat mixture is visible from the top. Place pan on a cookie sheet or aluminum foil (to prevent spilling in the oven) in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown.

About Dawn:
Dawn Hunt is the owner/president of Cucina Aurora Kitchen Witchery. Her products include everything from Herb and Energy infused olive oils to cooking tools. Her self-published cookbook has sold more than 250 copies in 6 months. She is currently working on a compilation Cookbook with Christopher Penczak and the Temple of Witchcraft called “Tastes of the Temple” due out in 2011. She teaches classes on Kitchen Witchery, Food Magic, and Seasonal Cooking on the East Coast. To find out more information, to purchase products, or for booking visit