Sunday, 15 July 2007

Back to Basics #1: Shepherd's Pie

More comfort food. This time, it's back to basics. A friend requested that I post some simple, classic and healthy recipes that she can easily do at home. She is also interested in meals that can be frozen. So here is the first "Back to Basic" recipe: Shepherd's Pie, sometimes referred to as Cottage Pie or Potato Pie, a traditional British dish made of a bottom layer of cooked mince meat and covered with mashed potato (with an optional top layer of cheese). Traditionally, lamb mince is used, but I prefer beef. If fish is used, it is called a Fisherman's Pie. In American, a varient of this pie is called a Cowboy Pie, also referred to as pâté chinois by the French Canadians. A vegetarian version is sometimes called a Shepherdess Pie.

This week's herb blogging is about yet another humble herb that we have in our garden - Thyme (Origin: Southern Europe).

Thyme is a aromatic herb which is part of the mint family. It is a herb that can be used with other herbs because it blends and enhances many other herbs without overpowering them. There are over a 100 varieties available, including lemon thyme, which combines the aroma of thyme with lemons. The one pictured here is the common or garden thyme which has a subtle woody aroma. Thyme is probably best known as one of the primary components (together with sprigs of parsley and bay leaf) of the classic bouquet garni.

Back to the pie: There are many recipes out there and many of you probably have you own family recipes that have been passed down through generations. The first time Ihad Shepherd's Pie was when my sister moved to England more than a decade ago. I couldn't get a hold of her recipe when I made this because she was on vacation so I used this recipe instead, which is a slight variation of a true classic Shepherd's Pie.

My adjustments to the recipe:
I used the leanest minced beef I could find, I added 2 cloves of mince garlic, 2 tbsp of Worcheshire sauce and about a cup of frozen peas to the meat and did not use any butter for the mash potato. We were also too impatient to wait for it to be baked so I put the pies under the grill instead of baking them. That's why the tops of the pies in the photo turned dark brown.

Verdict:
We both really enjoyed this. The meat layer was very flavoursome and a nice contrast to the fluffy mash potato topping. I also liked the cripsy bits of the potato. Quikong even said that I should make this more often. The addition of parsnips and horseradish in the mash potato really lifts up the dish.

For freezing:
Make more of the meat sauce and freeze for use at a later time. The mash potato topping can be easily whipped up when you are ready to make more pie.

This will be my submission to this week's WHB hosted by The Chocolate Lady from In Mol Araan.

31 comments:

Anh said...

Ahhh, this is perfect for the cold weather we have now. I just have some steak last night and still crave for something meaty. Blaming it on the weather and especially your delicious shepherd's pie!

Eva said...

That's exactly what I need for lunch today... I never made it myself but as long as the weather stays like that, there'll be plenty of opportunities... Thanks for reminding me!

Susan said...

Everything is better with a mess of mashed potatoes on top. Nora, I know you are tired of winter, but if you keep making these robust, warming meals, I'm going to long for the cold days all the more. ; ) I love the idea of parsnips and horseradish.

tigerfish said...

Got to make this soon, been procrastinating for a long long time for this pie. Got too many recipes I wanna try!

Nora B. said...

Thanks Anh. I've been very much into meat but happy with hearty soups too. I am soooo impatient to see more recipes and photos from you. Hurry!

Eva, yes this pie was long overdue for me too. Do you like the cute red pie pots?

Susan, well, now that you mention it, there are many things I like about winter, including snuggling under the blankets while watching a DVD at home. I should stop complaining ;-)

Tigerfish - I know what you mean. So many recipes to try, so little time! :-)

Janet said...

I love Shepherd's Pie... it is a real "go to meal" for me in the winter months. I love the little fork pattern you made on the top, it made it brown so nicely.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Nora,
I have never made shepherd's pie and I should!!! I think João would love it.

Yours looks delicious, beef and potatoes with a delicious twist!

Carolyn said...

Wow ~ this sounds yummy! I haven't had Shepherd's Pie in years. It looks great here. Simple, basic, and healthy recipes are my idea of a good time in the kitchen! I enjoyed your mention of all of the adaptations in different countries too. I am just getting into my "rhythm" on blog visiting, so am glad to be returning to your blog today. Thanks for sharing! Have a great day. :-)

katiez said...

Parsnips and horseradish in the mash? Great idea! Mine could usually use a little zip in addition to all of the garlic I put it...
I like the brown bits...

Tartelette said...

I love sheperd's pie...can't wait for winter! Great recipe!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Looks lovely - I love the dishes too! Cottage pie & shepherd's pie are real winners in this house. In England we use lamb for shepherd's, beef for cottage. I don't think it really matters, they're both delicious. I like making it with lamb and adding a little fresh chopped mint.

Nora B. said...

Hi Janet, every fork mark was placed there with precision ;-)

Hi Patricia, since João is a meat man, I have a feeling that he will like Shepherd's pie.

Hi Carolyn, I know what you mean about forgetting about recipes like this. It's nice to go back to the classics sometimes. Glad that you dropped by. :-)

Katiez - I tend to put garlic into most things. It's good for you, right? ;-)

Helene - I can't wait for summer!

Amanda - Fresh mint in the lamb mince is a great idea. I'll try that next time, thanks for the tip.

Cynthia said...

Okay, you see the part where you have already eaten from? Continue along that line and dish out mine, that way, things will all tidy showing a clear portion that has already been eaten :)

Lydia said...

I always make shepherd's pie with beef, too, though it's commonly made with lamb. Too hot here in northeastern US to think about winter comfort foods like this, so I will bookmark for the colder weather ahead.

toni said...

This is my first time visiting your blog, and I wanted to grab my fork and dive into the screen! I haven't eaten this kind of thing in years, but when the weather cools off, I'm coming back to this recipe. Absolutely love the addition of the parsnips and horseradish, and I also love the fact that you eliminated the butter, and got too impatient for baking and stuck it under the broiler. I think it looks gorgeous this way!

WokandSpoon said...

Ooo, a nice hearty winter's meal! I like making tuna shepards/fishermans pie topped with sweet potato!
But I always have a soft spot for the original shepards pie!

Meghan said...

i LOVE shepherds pie... these pictures look absolutly perfect!

The Cooking Ninja said...

I love shepherd pie. Yours looks fantastic. My sis made hers with pork instead since my parents don't take beef nor lamb.

Wendy said...

I love comfort food like this and will, no doubt, post my own sheherd's pie recipe later in the year.
Will have to steal your idea of putting it under the grill though! Love those crispy bits.

Nora B. said...

Cynthia, you know I'd gladly share my meal with you.

Lydia, I agree that it's definitely comfort food for colder weather.

Toni, thanks for visiting my blog & leaving a comment. Glad you like the recipe and I hope to see you back here again. :-)

Wok & Spoon - Your fisherman's pie with sweet potato sounds delicious! I will have to try that myself.

Meghan, thanks! I almost forgot to take the photos because we were too hungry. ;-)

The Cooking Ninja - You should ask you sis to think of a name for her version of pork Shepherd's pie...hhmmm Porky Pie?? hee hee

Wendy, I like crispy bits too. Looking forward to seeing your recipe in a couple of months.

Rosa said...

This recipe is almost making me wish it were cold in Nice! Off to buy some tomatoes now... oops, sorry!

sher said...

I love Shepherd's Pie and this looks so delicious. :)

valentinA said...

Woohoo! This does look ever so comforting ! I wouldn't mind having a portion of it right now;)

Aimée said...

Ah yes, Pate chinois is popular here. Restaurants dress it up by using braised venison on the bottom and stirring cheese curd into the potatoes. Yum!

Rose said...

Looks so delicious Nora. I make almost the same dish at home,it's called hachis parmentier but layer the mashed potatoes and ground meet in 2 layers. I will try yours the next time. Have a great week my friend.

Stephen said...

Yum. I love shepards pie. Nothing beats good old meat and potatoes.

Nora B. said...

Rosa, oh you know how to make me jealous! ;-)

Sher, thanks. And your pasta with fresh tomatoes looks wonderful.

ValentinA, I wish I cpuld say that we had leftovers to share but we gobbled it all that night.

Aimée, the Pate chinois your described sounds quite decadent. I would be curious to try it but i doubt that I would be able to find it here. But I do have a French-Canadian friend, so maybe I can subtly hint to her to make it for me :-)

Stephen, I think that's my my partner liked it so much. He's a meat and potatoes kind of guy.

Kelly-Jane said...

I love shepherds pie and make it with lean beef too. Yum :)

KJ said...

I love sheperd's pie. It is one of my favourite things. And it's perfect for this horrendous cold weather. Yours looks delicious.

Anonymous said...

I know this comment is a bit late, but I thought I could share a thought about the broiling/ grilling :)
I also do this, and to help it along a bit I spray the top lightly with some vegetable oil spray (eg canola cooking oil) before sticking it under the grill... My own mother still talks about the golden brown tops on one I made for her over 2 years ago!

Nora B. said...

Kelly-Jane: Lean beef is a good idea. I do try to get the leanest I can get.

KJ: Thanks!

Anon: Thanks for the tip. Spraying oil on is a good idea so I'll try that next time.