Friday, January 28, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's pie is not a staple at my house. I knew what the components should be - a lovely lamb stew and mashed potatoes. Those things are staples in my house so I was able to put them together without consulting any sort of recipe. My ingredients and methods are below if you would like a consultation.

The finished dish. I could not have asked for a better winter meal.
The brown flecks are potato peel. I like peely mashed potato, proceed
as you prefer.
However, while the potatoes were boiling and my family was getting hungrier, my husband asked me how long it would have to bake. That I did not know (you can tell I always plan ahead in the kitchen), so I waded into the trusty internet to retrieve an answer. I found, to my surprise, a roaring debate about the proper components for a shepherd's pie. Mostly it was a lamb vs. beef issue. There is also a lot of contention about cheese.

It's all semantics and personal taste; things not worth actually arguing over. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to weigh in. My thought is: of course shepherd's pie is made with lamb. It's called shepherd's pie. Shepherds are people who raise sheep. Therefore their pie is likely to contain lamb. Right?

Debate on about the cheese though. I didn't use any (apparently this is the English way that purists tout) but I am sure it would be delicious with some grated Parmesan or cheddar on top (we Americans do like to cover everything with cheese).

Authentic or not, it was very good. I think this will become a staple at out house. Also, it was local. We raised the lamb, and the turkey in the stock. The potatoes came from nearby in Wisconsin, the carrots from our neighbor, and the dairy was all from the U.P. I even managed to use up some garden kohlrabi that I had lost in the freezer two years ago. Winter vegetables you have on hand, such as rutabaga, parsnips or celeriac, can be substituted for the carrots and kohlrabi.

Shepherd's Pie

Stew Ingredients:
  1. Two teaspoons olive oil
  2. One pound lamb, cut into one inch pieces
  3. Salt and pepper
  4. Two cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  5. 4 or 5 whole allspice berries, ground (or about an 1/8 tsp ground allspice)
  6. One cup stock (I used turkey, any good meat stock will do)
  7. Three carrots, sliced into half to one inch pieces
  8. Two kohlrabi, cut into one and a half inch chunks
  9.  One tablespoon whole wheat flour

The stew, ready for a topping of mashed potatoes. Don't worry if the lamb
isn't quite tender at this point. It will finish cooking in the oven.

Mashed Potato Ingredients:

  1. 2 pounds of potatoes (four to six potatoes), each cut into 6 to 8 pieces
  2. Butter
  3. Milk
  4. Salt
Preheat the oven to 400 F
  • In a pot large enough to hold all of the stew ingredients, heat the olive oil over medium/high heat.
  • Add the lamb, salt and pepper (to taste), garlic, and allspice.
  • Stir and turn occasionally until the lamb is browned on all sides.
  • Add the stock, vegetables, and flour to the pan, stir well.
  • Allow the stock to come to a boil, turn the heat to simmer, cover the pot.
  • Place the potatoes in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
  • Boil until the potatoes are very tender, about 10 or 15 minutes, drain, and return the potatoes to the pot.
  • Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, adding milk, butter, and salt to taste.
  • Spoon the stew into a deep nine inch pie plate, leaving most of the liquid behind in the pot.
  • Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the stew.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • While the pie is baking, simmer the remaining stew liquid, uncovered, to make a gravy. Add a bit of cornstarch if it needs some help to thicken up. Serve this gravy with the shepherd's pie.

This was all I could rescue for lunch the next day.

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