So how many of you out there know what shepherd's pie is? I am sure some of the more cosmopolitan readers know what shepherd's pie is and might even know what the difference is between that and cottage pie. But for everyone else... First of all, let's get the "is it made out of shepherds" jokes out of the way.
No, shepherds pie is a traditional English dish and consists of basically just ground or minced meat that has been sauteed or fried, has gravy, and is topped with mashed potatoes. This meat traditionally are the left overs from the Sunday roast. Sounds like a good way to use leftovers, doesn't it? There are countless variations on this basic recipe.
For instance, traditional shepherd's pie is made with lamb. When you are using beef, it is known as cottage pie. Another variation is what accompanies the meat. You can add things such as onions, mushrooms, carrots and the like. The gravy is usually made from the drippings of the roast. However, since nowadays, most shepherd's pies are made as the principle dish and not just as a way of using leftovers, you have to get creative on how to make your gravy, but it is not really that hard. So now that you know what shepherd's, or cottage pie is, let me give you a basic recipe.
2 lbs ground meat (lamb or beef)
1 large onion diced
2 carrots diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup flour
2 cups beef stock (if you have to use bullion)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs potatoes (about 2 large ones)
2 cups milk or 1 1/2 cups cream
4 table spoons butter
1/2 to 1 cup cheddar cheese
In large pan add a little cooking oil and allow it to get hot. after it gets hot, add your vegetables and allow them to cook until the onions turn translucent.
Add meat and brown throughly. break up any large clumps. Season slightly. Don't over season because the beef stock will add some salt. This is especially true if you use bullion.
Remove some of the grease from the meat. Don't completely drain because you will used some of that fat to combine with the flour to thicken the gravy.
Add your flour to the meat and stir in. Add in your liquid and bay leaves. Whisk away any lumps from the flour. Simmer until gravy is thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Boil your potatoes until soft. Mash with milk/cream and butter. Season to taste. If you have a really great way of making mashed potatoes, then by all means use them for this recipe.
Remove bay leaves from meat and pour into a casserole dish.
Top meat with mashed potatoes and spread evenly. Top with cheddar cheese.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 30-45 min. or until cheese is melted, potatoes are golden brown and it is all heated through.
This dish is great to prep ahead of time, have ready, and just bake when you intend to serve. Like I said, before, this is only one variation on the shepherd's pie. Play around with it. Add more, take away, use your own mashed potatoes. Make this dish your own.