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Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie (English-Irish meat pie with mashed potato topping)

(English-Irish meat pie with mashed potato topping)

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Shepherd's pie is a traditional and satisfying British and Irish meal of meat and vegetables topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked until bubbling and browned. The dish is called "shepherd's pie" when made with ground lamb. Use ground beef and it becomes "cottage pie."

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Mashed Potato Topping

  • Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks -- 1 1/2 pounds
  • Milk or cream -- 1/2 cup
  • Butter -- 4 to 6 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste

Ground Meat Filling

  • Oil -- 3 tablespoons
  • Onion, finely chopped -- 1
  • Ground lamb or beef -- 1 pound
  • Tomato paste -- 2 tablespoons
  • Carrots, cut into rounds -- 2
  • Peas -- 1 cup
  • Thyme -- 1 teaspoon
  • Cold stock or water -- 1 1/2 cups
  • Flour -- 1/4 cup
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add a big pinch of salt and cool water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high flame, then reduce heat to medium and continue at a light boil until the potatoes are cooked through, 15 minutes or so.
  2. Drain the potatoes and set them aside to steam dry a bit. Then add the milk and mash to mix the milk in. Then add the butter, salt and pepper and continue mashing until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high flame. Add the onion and saute until translucent, then add the ground lamb or beef and saute, breaking up large pieces, until it the meat is cooked through. Drain off any excess fat, and then stir in the tomato paste and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Finally, stir in the carrots, peas and thyme. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Stir the stock or water and flour together to make a slurry with no lumps. Stir the slurry into the meat and vegetables and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes to thicken.
  5. Pour the meat mixture into a 3-quart baking dish. Top the meat with the mashed potatoes and spread them out evenly. Make decorative impressions in the potatoes with the tines of a fork, if you like.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until heated through and bubbling. Place under a broiler at the end for 1 to 2 minutes to brown the potatoes nicely.

Shepherd's Pie Variations

  • Topping Variations: Shepherd's pie is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. Try substituting sweet potatoes for some or all of the potatoes if you like. Many recipes call for mashing a beaten egg into the potatoes. This addition gives them structure and helps them brown in the oven. Many other recipes call for sprinkling the potatoes with paprika for color. Or top the potatoes with a good English or Irish grated Cheddar cheese before baking.
  • Filling Variations: Ground lamb and ground beef are traditional for shepherd's and cottage pie. But try using ground turkey or chicken instead for a lower-fat version. Ground pork would be tasty too. For vegetables, saute chopped celery or mushrooms along with the onions, or use up some chopped, boiled cabbage from yesterday's dinner. Shepherd's pie can be an good excuse for cleaning out your vegetable crisper. To season your pie, mix it up a bit with Worcestershire sauce, a little bit of red wine, or even a good dash of curry powder.
  • Some versions of shepherd's pie eliminate the carrots and peas altogether and serve them as a side dish. Boiled cabbage is also a popular side dish with shepherd's pie.

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