October 6th, 2010
Shepherd’s Pie would seem to date back to the time when potatoes had become an affordable, edible crop, throughout Britain (perhaps from the late 1790’s). Cottage pie is very similar, the difference being that any meat can be used, whereas shepherd’s pie should contain lamb or mutton (and perhaps the odd shepherd). A big difference to other pies would be that the above are topped with potato (originally the pie dish was lined with potato too) – Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management contains a recipe for mutton pie topped with sliced potatoes – this seems to be reserved for Lancashire hotpot these days, since shepherd’s and cottage pies now have a topping of mashed potato.
I seem to remember some quite disgusting shepherd’s pies from my childhood – most contained, minced beef, mashed potato and Oxo, but I also have ghastly memories of an occasional pie containing corned beef and or baked beans! I would imagine that the use of corned beef would date back to the Second World War.
I’ve seen a few variations in recipes – lamb, onions, carrots and potatoes seem standard, quite a few contain anchovies and tomato purée and some contain tomatoes and Parmesan. Mine seems to have developed all on its own…
Shepherd’s Pie recipe:
I used roast lamb leftovers from my last post.
Use the lamb bone/s to make stock – see my recipe here.
1 pint of homemade lamb stock
2 medium sized onions
6 pieces of garlic
8 medium sized desiree potatoes
2 red peppers (any colour will do)
2 small courgettes
8 oz mushrooms
1 bouquet garni
1 tablespoonful of extra virgin olive oil
a sprinkle of chopped chilli pepper
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
a 2 inch squirt of anchovy paste
1 Kallo, organic, beef stock cube
4 rashers of, smoked, streaky bacon (chopped)
1 lb chopped roast lamb (leftovers)
1 lb minced beef (I don’t recommend lean mince for anything, it’s too dry and lacking in flavour)
4 oz mature cheddar (grated)
a splash of red wine vinegar
a glass or two of red wine
a little milk and butter for mashing the potatoes
Chop all your vegetables into small pieces. Use a large cast iron casserole, start by heating some olive oil, sprinkle in the chili and then fry the onions. When the onions start to look a little translucent, add the bacon and fry for a couple of minutes until it changes colour. Next add the beef mince, a little black pepper, the garlic and the beef stock cube. When the mince has browned add the chopped peppers and then with intervals of a couple of minutes, the courgettes, followed by the mushrooms. The reason why I add beef to the lamb recipe, is because I find the lamb a bit too sweet on its own.
Once the mushrooms have been coated with oil, it’s time for the chopped, roast lamb. Obviously it doesn’t need cooking, so once it’s been stirred in, open the tinned tomatoes and include them with the tomato puree and anchovy paste. You can add a little fresh basil (which goes well with tomatoes), if you have some. Stir in the tomatoes and when the liquid starts bubbling, pour on some lamb stock. You may not need it all, what you are looking for is a thick sauce – it’s not a stew, so use your eyes and common sense. Add your wine vinegar, a glass of red wine and the bouquet garni. Bring the sauce to the boil and turn it down to simmer. Now taste it. If the sauce needs a bit more salt, add a little anchovy paste. If you think it needs tomato richness, add some more tomato puree. Do keep tasting your cooking, it’s the only way that you know for sure, what’s going on. Once you are happy with the rough taste, put the lid on the casserole and cook it slowly at 100º C, in the oven, for an hour. Should you find that you have too much liquid, add a dessertspoonful of flour, stir it in and all the lumps will dissolve and thicken the sauce while it cooks in the oven (please note, this won’t work in the same way on the hob).
When the sauce has cooked, remove it from the oven and let it cool down. Mashed potato will sit better on the top if the sauce is cold or cool. Cook and mash your potatoes as you would normally. Always do more than you think you need for this type of dish, because the mash will sink a bit into the sauce. Once mashed, spread the potato on top of the sauce. Finish this off with a little black pepper and sprinkle on the grated cheese. If you’ve cooked your shepherd’s pie sauce/filling in a large cast iron casserole, there’s no need to decant the mixture to another oven dish, the potato can go straight on top. Don’t put the lid back on for the final stage though!
Cook in a hot oven for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes and cheese have gone a golden colour.
There are enough vegetables and ingredients in this dish, so the only accompaniment needed is a nice glass of Rioja.