Originally this dish served as a way to use the bits and pieces left after a meal of roasted lamb, hence the term, “Shepherd’s Pie.” This dish has evolved over the years to become a treasured and basic part of British pub fare using ground lamb. In our country where lamb is not as popular, ground beef is often substituted. Because ground beef can be a bit bland, soy sauce is added to subtly enhance flavor. A small addition of tomato paste deepens the taste. Instead of beef broth, chicken broth seems to be better than beef as a liquid ingredient along with a mild lager or ale to enhance its pub persona. The potato topping requires a stiff mash with less butter and cream to avoid mushiness. Russets are a good choice.
Shepherd’s Pie Recipe Instructions
Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large white onion
- 2 medium carrots, unpeeled, scrubbed and chopped finely
- 2 lbs. lean ground beef (85%)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 1 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (I find the kind made of a paste is best)
- 3/4 cup light ale or lager (some find O’Doul’s non-alchoholic has the best taste)
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
- 1 cup frozen petite peas
- 2 1/2 pounds russet potaoes cut into 2 inch pieces
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted, melted butter
- 1/3 cup warm half and half
- 1 large beaten egg
- Melt the butter in a large skillet and continue heating until it appears to foam. Cook the onion and carrot in the butter until they are softened. This should take 7 to 9 minutes. Add the meat to the skillet and break it apart into small pieces while cooking. Salt and pepper lightly. Continue until the meat is browned. Put the flour and tomato paste into the mix and cook until the paste begins to deepen in color. This should take about 1 minute.
- Stir the half and half into beef mixture and cook over medium heat until it begins to spatter. Blend in the broth, beer, soy sauce, and thyme, over medium heat. Stir often until the sauce is thickened a bit, 15 to 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and taste. Add salt and pepper as needed. Mix the peas in and pour everything into a broiler-safe, 2 quart dish.
- Potato Topping – Boil the potato pieces with ½ teaspoon salt until tender. (about 20 minutes) Drain the potatoes in your colorful Zak colander. Return to the pan and mash them with the half and half and butter until they are smooth. Taste and season them to taste.
- Adjust the oven rack to an upper middle position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Spread the potatoes evenly over the saucy filling. With a brush, spread the beaten egg over the topping. Use a fork to form ridges in the topping if you like. Bake the pie for about 15 minutes or until it is bubbly. Change the oven setting to broil and broil until the topping is golden brown. (about 4 minutes) Take it out of the oven to cool and rest for 10 minutes or so.
Steps 1 and 2 (filling) can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Have your onions and carrots chopped and ready before beginning.