Shepherd’s pie is a delicious, hearty combination of meat and vegetables topped off with mashed potatoes and baked. It is a classic British dish and a warm, filling comfort food.
A video on YouTube of Gordon Ramsay making this easy dish came to my attention a little while ago, and I had always been meaning to make it. However, the video contains only basic instructions and is very short. Ramsay instructs you to “grate”, “mash” and “season” but does not include how much of each ingredient to use or how long the dish will take. It’s a sort of rough recipe, without guidelines. I thought that I would take the opportunity to demonstrate how easy it can be to cook on-the-fly, without a set recipe. I have never made this dish before.
The key to doing this — and, I think, to cooking in general — is to not be intimidated. Don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t be afraid to dive in without knowing exactly what’s going to happen. You can’t be afraid of your food.
Basic shepherd’s pie consists of two parts: the potatoes and the filling (which Ramsay calls the “mince”, because he uses minced lamb). Cook the meat and vegetables together with some spices, boil and mash some potatoes, place the potatoes on top of the mince, and bake. It’s quite easy.
I visited my local farmer’s market this morning and picked up some local eggs and a couple pounds of potatoes. Scrub your potatoes and chop them in half to help them boil. Set them in a big pot and boil the water.
I used some red wine in my mince, so I got to know it a little before it was time to add it to the dish.
The potatoes will need to boil until they are quite soft. Give them a poke with a fork every now and then to check their progress. In the meantime, peel (but don’t chop) your veggies. I had some carrots, onions, shallots, and garlic. One of each is a good general rule to use, but you can eyeball it. You don’t want any one vegetable to overwhelm the dish.
In a spacious pan (or saucepan), brown your meat. I used ground beef, Ramsay uses lamb. If you are using beef, make sure to drain the excess fat/grease a couple of times.
Once the meat is browned and the fat drained, grate your veggies into the pan. Grating the vegetables lets them blend in a lot better, giving the filling a great consistency.
I added a handful of frozen peas. I like peas in shepherd’s pie. Season with salt and pepper.
Add a touch of worcestershire sauce if you have it, and a glob of tomato paste, a generous splash of red wine, and some thyme and rosemary. I used ground spices.
When the wine has reduced a little and been mixed in, pour in some chicken stock. Continue to cook the mince until the stock has reduced.
When your potatoes are soft enough, drain and mash them. I left the skins on mine and just smashed them in. To the mash, add a little butter, a generous bit of parmesan cheese, and a couple of egg yolks, if you like.
By now, the chicken stock should have reduced a nice bit. In a suitable baking dish, layer the mince and then the mashed potatoes. Even out the top of the potatoes with a knife, then fluff it a little with a fork. Add some more parmesan on the top if you like.
Bake at 350 until the top starts browning. Mine took just over twenty minutes. Serve, ideally, with a glass of red wine, if you still have some left.