Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shepard's Pie

Whether you know it as shepard's or cottage pie, this is an amazing dish. How can it get better than a rich, meaty filling covered in gravy and covered in mashed potato? Unless you are vegetarian of course. But even then you could just use a substitute, there's no need to miss out! Apparently it was originally called a cottage pie; it was a dish of the poor that could use up leftover meat and potato. Some say that shepard's pie is the same made with mutton instead of beef but I reckon that is probably a bit of a myth. Back home I grew up calling it shepard's pie no matter what type of meat you use. There are a million different ways that you could make this and below is my own version, but like everything can be adapted.

I think the one thing that I have always liked to do that is a bit different to most other versions is to make the sauce really rich and thick with extra beef stock and gravy powder. Another thing we would do at home is add a teaspoon of marmite or vegemite, though I haven't done that today. It can sort of be like a substitute for beef stock, although my Dad used to use way too much, so as a child I did not really like mince at all. You can add loads of vegetables but I prefer to stick with peas. If you want another option though, try carrot, mushrooms or a can of tomatoes. The mash can also be made however you like. I like to make a cheesy mash but I have met so many people here that have never heard of doing this so maybe it is a kiwi thing. Or even a my-family thing. Another thing my father would often do is add some chicken stock or a packet of chicken noodle soup to the potatoes before mashing. I often add different vegetables, like sweet potato instead of normal potato, or include carrot or parsnip. I always cook and mash my potatoes with the skins still on, because that is where all the vitamins and stuff are.

Shepard's Pie

500 grams beef mince (or more if you're feeding many)
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion
2 cube beef stock
3 tablespoons bisto (or other gravy powder) or cornflour
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2 cups water
2 cups frozen peas
Salt and pepper (if need be)

5 medium size potatoes (or more, but not too many or it will be too heavy and the meat sauce will overflow)
2 tablespoons butter
A splash of milk
Salt and pepper
A handful of grated cheese (if you like)

Begin with the meat sauce. Chop the onion, heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion for a few minutes, until it's soft. Add the mince and cook until brown, stirring with a wooden spoon to make it nice and crumbly.

Combine the beef stock and bisto (or other similar thickening product) with a little bit of the water to make a smooth paste. Add this, the worcestershire sauce and the water to the meat along with the peas. Turn the heat down and keep it simmering until it is thick. If you use bisto or some other gravy powder you will probably find it is already salty enough but if you used cornflour as your thickener you will want to add a bit of salt and pepper. Just keep tasting it until it is good.

While the meat simmers, turn the oven on to 180 degrees celsius. Chop the potatoes and place them in a large saucepan, cover with water and boil them until they are cooked. I added the chopped up stalk of a head of brocolli because not long ago a friend advised this and I hate wasting food so I figured I'd give it a try. It didn't get so soft as the potato though so if you don't like lumps, don't do this.

When the potato is done add the butter, milk and cheese. Pop the lid back on the pot for a couple of minutes so that the butter and cheese can melt, then mash it up until it is as smooth or lumpy as you like it. Take a large casserole dish, round or square, and spoon the mince into the bottom. Layer the mashed potato on top carefully, because it is heavier than the mince and if your dish is really full the mince might overflow. If you want it to be cheesy, you could sprinkle grated cheese over the mince before adding the potato, and sprinkle more cheese over the top of the potato.

Finally you pop the dish into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or so; long enough for the mince to get a bit thicker still and the potato to get brown and crispy on the top. Serve with a side of vegetables and enjoy!

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