21 March 2010

Shepherd's Pie (Cottage Pie)


It's hard to find anybody these days who doesn't fancy himself something of a foodie. It's a dreadful word, isn't it? And why anyone would get to feeling uppity about their taste in food, I can't say. I'm no slouch in the kitchen, and I can put a "sophisticated" meal on the table whenever I want to. But you know what guests really get excited over? Comfort food. Simple ingredients, prepared with care, presented with a little flair.

I talk to people all the time who are in a cycle of competitive cookery with their friends. They rarely have anyone in for dinner because they feel they would have to muster up an enormous amount of energy since expectations are so high in their circle. I say, it's time to get real. We're all busy, stressed and tired; we need friendship and comfort, not poached lamb brains on a bed of hummingbird tongues with a rose-scented trockenbeerenauslese reduction (and that's just the first course!).

We had a pair of outstanding cooks to dinner one evening. What did I serve them? Humble shepherd's pie. They genuinely loved every bite of it! Admittedly, my own recipe is put together with a bit more care than some; but it is still "just" comfort food (or, as they say in England, nursery food). Hmm ... I'm trying to remember which wine I served with it. It takes about an hour to get it ready for the oven, so I like to make it a day ahead. If you follow the directions precisely, you will have a shepherd's pie that not only tastes great but can be cut into neat squares for an attractive presentation. Try my recipe and see if it's not a Delightful Repast! And be sure to come back and comment. I'll post my Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie another day.

Shepherd’s Pie

(Serves 8)

I avoid the whole Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie / Lamb or Beef Controversy by making it with turkey. But in my family it's always been Shepherd's Pie, no matter what it's made of.

The Filling


4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 pounds lean (93%) ground turkey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1/4 cup flour
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

The Potatoes


4 pounds russet potatoes
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar

1 Start the filling before the potatoes to allow plenty of time for proper browning. In 12-inch straight-sided skillet, heat oil and cook onion about 5 minutes or until soft. Add ground turkey (or beef) and start browning well. 


2 In the meantime, pare the potatoes and rinse and quarter them. Put the potatoes in a 3-quart saucepan and add cold water to cover and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3 While potatoes are cooking, continue browning the turkey. Proper browning, rather than just "graying," gives the finished dish a richer flavor, making it well worth the extra time it takes. If using lean turkey, as I do, there is no need to drain the fat from the pan. A lot of moisture comes out of the turkey and must evaporate before any browning can occur. Add Worcestershire sauce toward end of browning. When meat is browned (which can take a long time, at least 20 minutes, with lean turkey), add chopped carrots and cook about 10 minutes. Sprinkle flour over all and mix thoroughly. Stir in diced tomatoes and seasonings and cook about 3 minutes. Add frozen peas and remove from heat.

4 When potatoes are done, drain completely, cover and set over low heat for half a minute to dry thoroughly. Remove from heat, mash, add butter and continue mashing. Stir in milk, salt, pepper and grated Cheddar. Potatoes will be a bit looser than you would make to serve as mashed potatoes; this makes spreading easier.

5 Spray 13x9x2-inch baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Line bottom of dish with half the potatoes, then all the filling; top with potatoes. Can be made the day before. Cover and refrigerate until 65 minutes before serving time. Preheat oven to 375. Uncover and bake for 55 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into squares. It can be made with ground beef, if you prefer; but I've found that even people who claim to not like ground turkey can't even tell the difference with this recipe. If using ground beef, though, drain the fat off before adding other ingredients.

8 comments:

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Hi Jean, I love shepherds pie, it reminds me of school dinners and I always order it in cafes.

Thanks for visiting my muffins, in answer to your question about buttermilk, yes they regularly stock it in Sainsburys and Waitrose here. You normally find it on the end of a supermarket aisle with all the creams, creme fraiche, custards etc rather than with the milk. I have heard via Nigella Lawson that you can make your own by mixing milk and live yogurt 50/50 but I've never tried that as I haven't had any trouble buying it.

Jean said...

Hi Sarah--The thing my husband loves about my shepherd's pie, besides the flavour, is that it can be cut into neat squares. He doesn't like the kind that is spooned onto your plate.

Thanks for letting me know where my readers in the UK can find buttermilk. I'll pass it along.

labuonaforchetta said...

Hi Jean! Thanks for reading my blog... I enjoyed yours too! Especially this post since I'm big on comfort food. Someone scoffed at my mac and cheese post but I say boo to that! Comfort food is just as good as foie gras! Thanks again for reading and I'll definitely be checking back soon!

Jean said...

Yes, there is too much food snobbery these days. I'll take a good mac and cheese over foie gras any day.

alissa said...

My husband LOVES shepherd's pie - I just saved your recipe - looking forward to trying it out!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Alissa. Let me know how it turns out for you and how hubby likes it!

Psychic By Internet said...

I definitely agree with you. I am a hardcore fan of comfort food, and, though I love to cook, I prefer the simpler classics over the complicated gourmet dishes.

I know you have a vegetarian version of this as well but I really like the ground beef texture in Shepherd's Pie so I just substituted two packages of Yves Veggie Ground Round for the 2 lb. of ground turkey and I also substituted buttermilk for the milk (because I needed to use up some leftover buttermilk) and it turned out beautifully!

Excellent recipe and the addition of tomatoes and carrots makes it a bit healthier and more interesting. Thanks for sharing! :)

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thank you! I'm glad you liked the addition of tomato. It's not enough to make it tomato-y, just enough to add a little "something."

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