21 March 2010

Shepherd's Pie - Cottage Pie

Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie - Classic British Comfort Food / www.delightfulrepast.com

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 (pictured above) Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie another day.

Shepherd's Pie - Cottage Pie / www.delightfulrepast.com

If you like it, please Pin it and share it!

Shepherd's Pie

(Serves 12)

Sometimes 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

2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 59 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 pounds (0.91 kg) lean* ground turkey, beef, or half of each
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1/4 cup (1.25 ounces/35 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/118 ml) water or broth
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

The Potatoes

4 1/2 pounds (2.04 kg) russet potatoes
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup (10 fluid ounces/296 ml) milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) shredded Cheddar

* If you make it with a high-fat-content meat, you end up with a smaller amount of cooked meat, and so, a smaller amount of filling.

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 4-quart pan 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, water or broth, and seasonings; 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 Lightly grease a 15x10x2-inch baking dish (I use a little extra virgin olive oil). 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 375F/190C/Gas5. 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 (even lean ground beef), though, drain the fat off before adding other ingredients.

* That is not the usual way to do shepherd's pie, but I've done it this way for many years. It's the way to go if, like me, you like your shepherd's pie to come out of the pan in neat squares.

Disclosure: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon .com and affiliated sites. This helps cover some of the costs of running the blog. Thank you for your support. 


If you liked this post, please Pin it and share it!


Unknown 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 | DelightfulRepast.com 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.

Anonymous 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 | DelightfulRepast.com 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 | DelightfulRepast.com 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 | DelightfulRepast.com 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."