It’s What’s Cooking Wednesday, and today I have an easy recipe for Shepherd’s Pie that is so versatile, it can go from being weeknight fare to entertainment worthy. So happy first day of November, and let’s get cooking!
When my husband Jim was growing up, his maternal grandparents lived right next door to him in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His grandmother had been a World War I war bride from England, who had spent her teenage years working as a cook’s assistant in a large house. Think Daisy on Downton Abby. When the house was turned into a hospital during the war, she met Jim’s grandfather, and the rest is history. This time spent in a kitchen during one of the most austere times in English history ingrained in her a lifetime of frugality and creativity in every aspect of her life. One of the things Jim remembers clearly is his grandmother’s habit of saving the leftover vegetables from dinner and using them in a new way later in the week.
While I routinely save a serving of vegetables that is large enough to use as a side dish for another meal, if there are only ¼ cup of peas or a handful of carrots, I have been known to put them down the disposal. Oops. But since I discovered how easy homemade Shepherd’s Pie is, those days are gone. Once you see how good this dish is, you will start freezing those handfuls of vegetables to save for another life. This wonderful meal is just one of the ways I’ve found lately to reincorporate these veggies into something that’s just plain delicious!
Shepherd’s Pie usually falls into the category of peasant food, which conjures up all sorts of unpleasant memories. But in reality, it is just a smart, economical way to cook and feed a family. We have also seen it on menus in restaurants recently, so I think it is enjoying a resurgence. Originally, Shepherd’s Pie derived its name from its meat content, which was lamb or mutton. But today’s interpretations, also called Cottage Pie, can be made with ground beef, leftover pot roast, stew meat or meat substitute for my vegetarian friends.
Lately, I have experimented with making the top mixture half mashed potatoes and half sweet potato, swirled together and it is not only pretty, but healthy and delicious as well. Today, I used plain mashed potatoes and sprinkled a little grated cheddar cheese on top.
Recipe Ingredients for Shepherds Pie
One pound beef, lamb, or meat substitute
1/8 cup flour
Butter and olive oil for browning
1 and 1/2 cup beef or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 cup carrots
1 cup onions
1 cup celery
1 cup mushrooms
*To use up leftovers, replace the above vegetables with whatever you have on hand; brussel sprouts, green beans, or corn. The possibilities are endless!*
½ cup peas
Any other leftover veggies you want to add
1 Tbs. grated parsley or herb of choice
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 cups mashed potatoes (bakers or sweet)
Substitute Four Cheese instant mashed potatoes for equally great results. Don’t ask me how I know this.
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Put olive oil and butter in large pan and saute veggies. Remove to a plate.
Add 1 Tbsp. each of olive oil and butter to pan. Brown meat until done or heated through if already cooked. Sprinkle meat with flour and stir for one minute. Add broth, tomato paste, parsley and Worchestershire and stir to create the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put veggies back in and warm through. Now is the time to add the peas if using frozen.
Place meat/veggie mixture in large pie plate, casserole dish or individual ramekins. Top with prepared mashed potato mixture and sprinkle top with grated cheese and a tsp of paprika, if desired.
Bake at 325 for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and heated through.
So there you have it. An easy Shepherd’s Pie that is comfort food to the max. Just add a green salad and your meal is complete. I think you will enjoy this meal of the ultimate comfort food that is so appropriate for the chillier days of fall.