Monday, April 17, 2017

English Shepherd's Pie

     English Style Comfort Food!
     There are several potato topped meat pie recipe variations in England and Ireland.  Shepherd's Pie is the most well known.  In England, Shepherd's Pie is traditionally made with minced lamb.  Irish Shepherd's Pie is made with ground beef.  Both of these meat pies are topped with a mashed potato mixture and they are oven baked in a ceramic crock or casserole dish.
     Both English and Irish Shepherd's Pie can also be made with leftovers from a previous meal, especially when the leftovers are from a traditional Sunday Roast.  During tough economic times, just about any kind of leftover meat and vegetables has been known to make its way into a Shepherd's Pie, so the list of ingredients can depend on what was cooked the previous day.
     Another kind of potato topped meat pie is English style Cottage Pie.  Cottage Pie is usually made with coarse chopped beef, because this pie was created before mechanized meat grinders were commonly available.  Cottage Pie was originally topped with thin sliced potato, so the topping looked like a wood shingle roof after it was baked.  When a Cottage Pie is topped with a mashed potato mixture, a thick slice of tomato is placed on the potato topping.  Cheese can be melted on top of a Cottage Pie potato and tomato topping too.
     The English Shepherd's Pie filling that people know best is made with a mixture of cooked ground lamb, diced onion, diced carrot, peas and brown gravy.  The topping is buttery mashed potato that are tightened with egg.  The English Shepherds Pie recipe can vary.  The two most common variations are one that has no vegetables added to the meat mixture and the second is replacing the ground lamb with ground beef.  
     I was the chef at an English pub for two years and I made plenty of Shepherd's Pie.  The way to make this English specialty look best is to use individual portion size ceramic crocks or soufflé ramekins.  This way the ground meat and vegetable filling is contained and and the whipped potato topping can be piped on top with a star tipped pastry bag.  The result is an individual portion Shepherd's Pie that has good eye appeal.  
     English Shepherd's Pie Filling:
     This recipe yields 1 individual portion Shepherd's Pie!
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoons unsalted butter (or lard).  
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Sauté till the onions start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Add 6 ounces of lean ground lamb.
     Use a wire whisk to stir and break up any clumps of ground lamb as it cooks.
     Sauté till the ground lamb is fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Step 3:  Add just enough flour while stirring to soak up the grease in the pan and make a roux.  (About 1 1/2 tablespoons.)
     Stir till the roux is combined.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of English Porter or Stout Beer.
     Add 2 cups of rich beef broth.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.  (to taste)
     Stir the stew as it comes to a gentle boil.  
     *The stewed meat filling will be a very thin consistency at this time.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the gravy is a medium consistency that easily coats the ingredients.
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 cup of thawed frozen peas.
     Simmer a few minutes till the peas are tender.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Remove the bay leaf. 
     Let the Shepherd's Pie Filling cool to room temperature
     Set the English shepherd's pie filling aside or chill it for later use.    

     Potato Crust Topping:
     This recipe yields a little more than enough to top 1 individual portion ceramic crock or soufflé ramekin.   
     Step 1:  Place an 9 ounce peeled russet potato in a sauce pot. 
     Cover the potato with water.
     Boil the potato over medium high heat till it is soft.
     Step 2:  Drain the water off the potato.
     Place the hot boiled potato in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter.
     Step 3:  Start mashing the potato with a whisk. 
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of whisked egg while whisking.
     Thoroughly mash the ingredients together till the potato topping medium thick crème potato consistency.
     Step 4:  Let the potato topping mixture cool to less than 100ºF.
     Place the potato topping mixture in a star tipped pastry bag.

     English Shepherd's Pie:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Place the English Shepherd's Pie Filling in an individual portion size ceramic baking crock or soufflé ramekin.  (The volume of the baking crock or ramekin should be about 2 1/4 cups to 2 1/2 cups.  Be sure to leave enough room for the potato topping.)
     Step 2:  Use the pastry bag to pipe the potato topping on the Shepherd's Pie.  (A spiral pattern looks nice.  The topping should be about 1/2" to 1" thick.)  
     Step 3:  Place the ceramic baking mold on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the filling is piping hot and golden brown highlights appear on the potato topping.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Allow the English Shepherd's Pie to cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Place the pie crock on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     English Shepherd's Pie is savory hearty comfort food!

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