By Case D. Fischer
Winter has settled in for us in the hill country of Texas with a bang this year – snow has been a fun and beautiful sight which we don’t get to experience very often. Though it’s not as cold in Texas as other parts of the country or world, and we all know the weather can change on a dime, it’s still fun to warm up by the fire and enjoy some wintertime comfort food. I got to thinking about what would be a fun recipe to share and came up with an idea from a colder part of the world, England. It has long been a staple in many English households, especially those in the countryside – Shepherd’s Pie.
Shepherd’s Pie originated in the UK and Ireland and has roots that are centuries deep in both countries. In Ireland it’s often seen around St. Patricks Day. The name, Shepherd’s Pie came about because the meat used in the dish is traditionally lamb. Ground beef has become a common substitute as well, in fact there are many variations to this dish, but the defining ingredients are ground meat cooked in a thick gravy sauce with onions, peas, and carrots then topped with mashed potatoes before being baked in the oven.
Make this recipe your own by using different meats – ground beef, ground turkey, pork, or lamb, or add different vegetables to the filling. Store bought/frozen vegetables can be used with this recipe as well as fresh vegetables, and frozen ones can be a time saver when you need it. Some variations of this recipe call for vegetables like kale, spinach leaves, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, or lentils. Whatever you have on hand can be included.
Mashed potatoes are used to top off the meat. These can be homemade, leftover or nowadays even bought already prepared at HEB. They are layered over the meat filling and smoothed until touching all edges of the dish. It’s a relatively easy recipe, making the mashed potatoes, preparing the filling, and then assembling the pie in the oven are all the steps to prepare Shepherd’s Pie. For a more flavorful crisp, top off the pie with grated cheese or parmesan.
There isn’t a long simmer time for preparing the filling, which cuts down on cooking time. Using ingredients like tomato paste, flour, and beef broth, or better yet a product like Mom’s Sunday Sauce or another hearty pasta sauce, make a thick gravy for the meat and compliment the smooth, creamy mashed potatoes. If you don’t have the time to bake this dish in the oven for 30 minutes, broiling the pie at 500 degrees F for 5-7 minutes works too since the ingredients are already cooked.
This is a great “prepare ahead” recipe. Leftover cooked meat or mashed potatoes make the assembly fast and then just requires a little time in the oven. You can adapt this recipe for any dietary lifestyles can use this recipe as well. Paleo, keto (using cauliflower mashed potatoes), vegetarian (meatless or plant-based meat), vegan, gluten free, whole 30, and so many more. It lasts about 4-5 days in the fridge and tastes just as delicious when heating up as it does fresh out of the oven. Enjoy!
2 lbs yellow potatoes/Yukon gold potatoes, peeled & halved
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup milk
1⁄3 cup sour cream
1⁄4 cup parmesan cheese1 tsp garlic powder
1⁄2 tsp ground black pepper & salt
1 lb ground beef (or lamb)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2-3 tbsp tomato paste *
2 tbsp all-purpose flour (optional)
1 cup beef broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire
1 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
1⁄2 tsp black pepper
1⁄2 tsp smoked paprika
1⁄2 tsp celery salt (sub sea salt)
2 cups frozen vegetables
*or substitute Mom’s Sunday Sauce for the tomato paste and spices
1. In a large pot bring 5-6 quarts of water to a boil. Using tongs, add in the potatoes and allow water to boil for 10-15 minutes. If you can easily pierce the potatoes with a fork, they are done boiling.
2. Drain the potatoes and add them back into the hot pot. Let the potatoes rest in the pot for 1-2 minutes so any liquid evaporates.
3. Mash the potatoes until no clumps remain. Add in butter, milk, sour cream, parmesan, and seasonings. Stir into the mashed potatoes until fully dissolved. Set aside.
- In a large pan heat 2 tbsp of oil. Add onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes until onions slightly start to brown. Add the ground beef, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, black pepper, smoked paprika, and celery salt. Mix well until the meat it browned (6-7 minutes). (Or substitute Mom’s Sunday Sauce for seasoning here and step 2)
- Add in the Worcestershire sauce and stir until combined. Add in the flour, mix well for 2-3 minutes. Add in the tomato paste and stir until well incorporated and no clumps remain.
- Add in the frozen or fresh vegetables and mix until fully incorporated. If using fresh, let them simmer a little longer to soften.
- Slowly add in the beef broth into the meat and stir until the meat thickens. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Pour the meat mixture into an oven-safe casserole dish. Spread it out into an even layer.
- Spoon the mashed potatoes onto of the meat mixture. Level out the mashed potatoes.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until sides are bubbly and the mashed potatoes begin to brown.