Why Not Try Shepherd’s Pie?
Shepherd’s pie is one of my very favorite meals. It’s wonderfully filling and great comfort food for a cold winter’s day.
It’s also a great way to get my kids to eat some “stealth” vegetables. Obviously shepherd’s pie wouldn’t be shepherd’s pie without peas – but you can add diced carrot, sweet corn and onions – and just about any other vegetable you can think of.
I like to have a meat layer, a layer of peas and then the mashed potato topping. I will add often some finely diced carrots and onions into the meat portion. I have to chop the carrots fairly small so that my kids don’t notice them!
You can vary the meat used if you like. When made with minced lamb, it’s shepherd’s pie. When made with minced beef, it’s cottage pie. You could just as easily use minced turkey, pork or chicken. I have no idea what it would then be called – but it will still taste great and satisfy everyone’s appetite!
Gather Your Ingredients
The first step to making a shepherd’s pie for your family is making sure you have all the ingredients to hand. As mentioned above, you have plenty of scope to change the ingredients whilst still finishing up with a hearty family meal.
Shepherd’s pie is easy to make once you have all of your ingredients together, although the ingredients list can appear just a little overwhelming at first glance. This is because it includes ingredients for the bottom meat layer and the top mashed potato layer.
For the top layer, naturally you need potatoes, along with anything you want to make your mashed potatoes with, such as salt and pepper, butter, and milk.
For the meat layer, start with your ground meat. This can be beef, turkey, or lamb. Add some diced vegetables to it and don’t be afraid to experiment. Whilst there are certainly some standards which are normally expected in a classic shepherd’s pie, e,g, peas, don’t be afraid to mix it up and experiment a little.
As I mentioned earlier, I like to arrange the peas in a layer between the meat and the potatoes. It’s just a bit of a tradition in our house – but you can mix the peas in with the mince if you prefer.
I like diced carrots and onion mixed through the minced meat. Other good options are sweetcorn and green beans. If you’re in a hurry or you just don’t have much time to prep, frozen veggies work perfectly fine with a shepherd’s pie.
You will also need gravy granules, tomato paste (optional), seasonings, garlic, and whatever herbs you prefer.
Cheese is also a useful ingredient. Just grate it and sprinkle it over the mashed potatoes – or you can mix it through the mash if you prefer.
Making Your Shepherd’s Pie
To make shepherd’s pie, as you know, there will be a potato layer and a meat layer. The potato layer takes longest to prep, so start with that first.
Just peel the potatoes and boil them as normal. Once they’re done, mash them up. As mentioned previously, you can mix some grated cheese through the mash if you like. A little ground black pepper is also good – and if you want to spice things up just a little, try adding one or two teaspoons of Dijon mustard to the mash and mixing it in thoroughly.
While the potatoes are cooking, you can preheat the oven. 200C or 400F is about right.
Chop up your chosen veg and start browning your meat in a skillet for a few minutes. Add seasoning to suit your taste and add in the chopped veg once the meat is browned. Let it all cook gently, stirring the meat and veg frequently.
Add the meat and veg into a suitable bowl. You can use a deep bowl or a flat dish with short sides if you prefer. At this point, I sometimes like to add a couple of tablespoons of Worcester sauce. It really adds a zing, but without being overpowering. Your fellow diners will wonder what your secret ingredient is. Don’t tell them!
I then add the peas as a layer – but mix them in with the mince if you prefer. Then you just add the mashed potato layer. Top it with a sprinkling of grated cheese if you like.
After that, you just pop it in the oven. The meat and veg are cooked by now, so you don’t need to cook it for too long. However, if you leave it in for about 30 minutes, you’ll get a lovely golden brown crust which is crispy on top and fluffy once you break into it.
Remember, you can vary this recipe by using different meats, and also by changing the vegetable, if you like. Try it with ground chicken or turkey if you want a slightly lower fat version.
You can even use quorn mince if you want a vegetarian friendly, super healthy, yet filling, “faux” shepherd’s pie.
If using quorn, I recommend using a little extra seasoning – and definitely using Worcester sauce – for a full-on flavor.
Image credit: By Sodanie Chea from Norwalk, Ca, United States (Shepherd’s Pie) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons