JUST do an Internet search on Shepherd’s Pie and you will be inundated with numerous recipes.
For the uninitiated, this is not your typical “pie” with a shortcrust pastry base. Instead, the humble potato is the backbone for the hearty meat filling in this dish described as wholesome, tasty and comforting. More importantly, it is affordable to make.
Historically, cottage pie, which uses minced beef, was said to be the precursor to Shepherd’s Pie (which uses minced lamb) in Ireland.
In the 16th century the Irish Catholic community were peasant workers living in cottages, hence the name cottage pie. In an online article, it is stated that during this time, the Irish could not afford beef and were not beef eaters, but the British were.
Mutton was also much cheaper then, having more flavour, and Shepherd’s Pie was called as such because the shepherds raised the sheep.
Although the facts vary, some quarters have cited that British explorer Sir Walter Raleigh introduced the potato to Ireland after returning from his explorations, while others say potatoes washed up on the shores of Cork in Ireland after a shipwreck.
Because potatoes were also cheap produce and peasant families could not fathom wasting leftover roast, the marriage of both mashed spuds and minced meat came about.
But times have changed, and mutton or lamb has become more expensive in Malaysia. You can also opt to use beef for your own version of cottage pie.
I found Alton Brown’s recipe but tweaked it to suit my own preference, especially with the introduction of chilli powder and sweet paprika.
For the mashed potatoes, I wanted to try out my sister’s recipe where she used the white part of spring onions to give it some freshness.
- For mashed potatoes:
- 5 Russet potatoes
- 60 millilitres warm milk
- 45 grams salted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon spring onions (white part, chopped)
- For meat filling:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 25 grams butter
- 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig thyme
- 500 grams minced mutton
- 3 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon harisa paste
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika powder
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri chilli powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- ½ cup water
- In a big saucepan, place unpeeled potatoes and fill with water until potatoes are fully submerged. Set over medium heat, cover and bring to boil.
- Cook until potatoes are tender and mashable.
- Peel potatoes and mash with fork or potato masher. Add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Add in spring onions and mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 180°Celsius.
- In another large saucepan on medium heat, add the oil and butter and stir until smooth.
- Add the onions and garlic. Sweat it until fragrant and onions are translucent, followed by the rosemary and thyme.
- Toss in the mutton, add salt and pepper. Cook meat until it is browned and aromatic on low heat. This should take about 30 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and stir.
- Add chicken broth and spices.
- Finally, add peas and carrots and cook until vegetables are soft for about 30 minutes.
- In a 9 inch by 11 inch casserole, spoon the meat filling and spread evenly.
- Top with mashed potatoes and make sure it covers meat filling. Use a fork to gently scrape the surface to create texture (optional). Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until it bubbles.