The Shepherd's Pie I Never Thought I'd Enjoy
My sweet Irish mother made Shepherd’s Pie on a regular basis when we were kids. I vaguely remember liking it, then as her recipes do, it morphed into something else. Something I didn’t like very much. Something that she put tomato sauce into (why?), and a leftover batch of corn into (yuck). And left out the browning on the top, and used instant mashed potatoes. Oh, cringe: I really didn’t like Shepherd’s Pie.
In an online profile, I once wrote, “I don’t like football, getting up early or Shepherd’s Pie, and that will no doubt always be the case.”
I still don’t like football or getting up early.
The Pelican Inn (and who I went with) changed my mind: Their Shepherd’s Pie was authentic and traditional, far from what my memories were made from. I had to recreate this one, and when I did, it became absolute comfort food and brought me back to my youth (before Mom changed the recipe).
Have you ever searched for recipes for Shepherd’s Pie? There’s a LOT of them out there, far from the real McCoy.
Chicken or turkey Shepherd’s Pie? Ewwww. You gotta use lamb! For all you ground beef die-hards, that’s a Cottage Pie you would be making (just like Moët & Chandon is actually Moe-ET, not Moe-AY… it’s Dutch; look it up🍾).
Prime Rib Shepherd’s Pie? Why would you do that to something so good on its own?
Low-Carb Cauliflower Shepherd’s Pie? Oh, JUST.STOP.IT. Make another recipe. 😜
Or my favorite, the Weight Watcher’s version, with reduced-calorie margarine (so disgusting and bad for you) and extra-lean turkey breast. Hmmm, the flavor comes from where?! 🤦♀️ Again, I add, make another recipe and come back when the diet days are over.
I turned to Gordon Ramsay, a good Brit, for a recipe his Mum made him when he was growing up (he has an updated recipe with grated vegetables, but I prefer this one), and whose ingredients need be as notoriously fresh as his #&*% language. That aside, this is deee-licious. Add a pint of Old Speckled Hen, and I’m yours (oh, that would bring us full circle to who I enjoy this with…💖)!
Let’s get cooking!
Glug of olive oil
1kg minced lamb (about 2.25 pounds)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthways and finely sliced
1–2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp tomato purée
100ml red wine (1/2 cup)
250ml chicken stock (1-1/4 cup)
2 sprigs of rosemary leaves, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the topping
750g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (2 pounds, unpeeled)
50g butter (3-1/2 tablespoons)
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
100g Cheddar cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
50–100ml milk (1/4-1/2 cup)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Put the potatoes on the heat and cook until tender.
Meanwhile put a large frying pan or hob-proof casserole dish over a medium-high heat. Add a dash of oil and fry the mince in batches, seasoning each lot, until well browned. Add the garlic for the last 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Put a little more oil in the same pan and cook the onion, leeks and carrots for 5–7 minutes, until softened. Add Worcestershire sauce to taste, then stir in the tomato purée.
Return the mince to the pan and stir. Pour in the wine, scraping up any bits from the bottom. Bubble for a couple of minutes to burn off the alcohol, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, then add the rosemary and season to taste. Cook gently for 10–15 minutes, until the sauce has reduced slightly and the flavors are well combined. Set aside to cool.
To make the topping, mash the potatoes until smooth then mix in the butter and seasoning, add the spring onion and three-quarters of the cheese and mix again. If the mash is too dry add a splash of milk to loosen.
Put the lamb mixture into a baking dish and top with the mashed potato. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and a little salt and pepper. Run the tines of your fork over the entire top to make little craggy browning bits as it bakes. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until the potato is golden brown and the meat is bubbling underneath.
Serve with fresh peas and lashings of gravy!