Shepherd’s Pie: home’s comforts

A white bowl is filled with Shepherd's Pie: ground beef, gravy, peas, corn, potatoes.There is nothing more comforting to me than good ol’ fashioned comfort foods. For each person, “comfort food” means something different. Growing up in an English/Irish home, I grew up with classics such as Shepherd’s Pie. If you don’t know what that is, I’d say you don’t  know what you’re missing — and should explain that it was originally created to use up leftovers. It’s typically a layer of meat with vegetables atop that, coated in a layer of mashed potatoes.

My family makes it from scratch; nevermind the leftovers. It’s a meal into itself these days, and one that always reminds me of my childhood. Here’s how I make mine. 

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 C beef broth
  • 1/3 C finely chopped onions
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1-2 pinches salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp flour added to some milk (into a slurry)
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • 1 C frozen corn niblets
  • 3/4 lb russet potatoes, peeled, washed, cubed, boiled & drained
  • butter
  • light cream
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method

Make the meat mixture:

  1. In a large sauce pan over a medium heat, bring beef broth to a gentle boil and add the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes to infuse the flavours together.
  2. Add the ground beef and work on crumbling it as it slowly cooks in the broth.
  3. Once the beef is no longer pink and there’s a fair amount of liquid in the pot, raise the temperature a bit, add the Worcestershire sauce, pepper and salt, then slowly add the slurry as it begins to boil. Let it thicken a bit into a meat and gravy mixture, then remove from heat and pour the entire mixture into the bottom of a casserole pan. If there is too much liquid, drain a bit from the pot first.
  4. Pour the peas evenly over the meat mixture, then repeat with the corn.

Make the potatoes & rest of the dish:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. In the pot you boiled the potatoes in, add the potatoes, some butter and cream (or milk). Begin to mash them. Add some parmesan cheese (fresh is best), garlic, and a few pinches of salt. If the potatoes have sat and cooled, heat over a low heat while working on the mashing.  Be careful not to over-mash your potatoes or they can become glue-like.
  3. Once satisfied with your potatoes, begin to spoon this over the meat and vegetables in the casserole dish, spreading carefully to cover the entire top of the pie.
  4. Run a fork through the top in cross-hatching patterns. This will help the potatoes to crisp up.
  5. Sprinkle more shredded parmesan cheese over the top of the pie and dot with a few knobs of butter (to help it brown up). Sprinkle some pepper over the top.
  6. Cook for 25-28 minutes or until the potatoes get a little crispy on top and a slightly golden hue.
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