Monday, January 2, 2012

Shepherd's pie

I am going to attempt to get back into a regular posting schedule, so here goes ...

I love shepherd's pie. It's such a hearty, down home, comfort food, meal. Not terribly trendy these days but when I asked the boys what they wanted for dinner, shepherd's pie came up. I guess, boys being boys, just like boy food.

I started working on the shepherd's pie early today 'cos I wanted to have it done and ready to go in the oven along with the crustless quiche that's going to be the main for tonight.

(Just so you're aware, I don't always post what I write on the day that I write them. Some of these don't get posted till weeks later, 'cos I'm trying to stay ahead with all my material and writing while it's fresh. Plus I also don't want to inundate the blog with too many posts at a time.) ;-)

Anyhow, the first time I made the shepherd's pie it took what felt like forever, subsequent times do not feel any shorter because of the time it takes for all the liquid that is added to simmer down to a lovely, thick, gooey mess, that holds everything together. Just remember, wet and gooey = good. The recipe says 30 minutes, it took me closer to an hour, possibly a little more time to get the lamb mixture down to the gooey consistency I wanted.

Here's my RECIPE for the shepherd's pie that I make. I don't recall exactly where I got it from, but it's from one of the many cookbooks that I own.

Ingredients (serves 4):
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, halved, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, trimmed, finely chopped
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 2 tbs plain flour
  • 500ml (2 cups) beef stock
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (about 200g each) desiree potatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 40g butter
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) milk
  • Melted butter, to brush

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add lamb mince and cook, stirring to break up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until lamb changes colour.
  • Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until combined. Add stock, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile: cook potato in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Return to the pan with the butter. Use a potato masher or fork to mash until smooth. Add milk and use a wooden spoon to stir until combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 200°C. Spoon lamb mixture into a 2L (8-cup) capacity ovenproof baking dish. Top with mashed potato and use a fork to spread over lamb mixture. Brush with butter. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until mashed potato is golden brown. Serve immediately

Note: you can use my RECIPE for restaurant mashed potatoes to make the mash instead of doing what the recipe above says, which is what I do, just 'cos the mash turns out a lot yummier.

I usually cook for more than 4 people, so I tend to double the recipe that I'm making. That still fills out an average sized baking dish, though this time, I made too much mash and I had about a spoonful leftover even after I heaped a whole load of mash on top and in the middle.

I also like to be generous with my herbs so I throw in 3 or 4 bay leaves instead of the 1 that the recipe calls for. I have no idea what bay leaves taste like or what flavor they add, but a lot of recipes call for them and I know that if I did not add them, I would notice their lack. :-)

With the salt and pepper, be a bit more generous. I say this because you're topping with mash, and the mash will mellow out the flavor. If you don't have a bit more seasoning in your pie filling, it might taste a bit flat. I also use freshly ground pepper here instead of just standard ground pepper because the flavor is stronger and it doesn't matter if there are black pepper bits in the lamb mixture since there's so much other stuff in it. I also use a blend of chili flakes and assorted peppers instead of just plain pepper because I like that extra kick.

For the mash, I add a little Parmesan cheese into it while I'm whisking and making it up (no herbs in the milk - if you're using the restaurant mashed potatoes recipe you'll know what I mean) just to give it some texture. The mash will turn out to be of a thicker consistency than the silky smooth mash in the recipe 'cos you want it to have structure as a topping for the pie. I also top the mash with grated Parmesan cheese instead of butter. There's enough butter in the mash itself, I don't need to add more.

Since this dish is such a tasty and rich dish on it's own, I don't suggest a fancy side. A simple lettuce, rocket or some sort of green leafy salad dressed with a vinaigrette would be lovely. For a RECIPE of a simple but lovely vinaigrette, go here.

What's the food that you automatically turn to for your comfort food? Was it something your mom or grandma used to make for you when you were a kid? Do you make it for yourself whenever you feel you need a little treat?

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