Sunday, October 21, 2007

Who doesn't like a crispy golden crust?

Shepherd's Pie is one of those one-dish meals that make comfort food category without even trying. Mashed potatoes with a savoury mincemeat baked till it forms a crust, with or without salty cheddar on top. First time I made it in some food and nutrition class using chicken mince, with no cheese. Second time I had it, we were in an Irish bar called the Harbor Inn in Wildwood New Jersey. We went almost every night, and thursday nights the Irish owner's Caribbean wife would make steaming trays of the stuff, a mince base with instant mash potato poured on top. I say poured instead of layered because her pie was so liquid you dished it out with a spoon. Many a Friday morning started with a hangover headache accompanied by a scalded oral roof. Reminders of too much cheap alcohol and salty tasty piping hot shepherd's pie.

This is one of those few times where you can make use of the frozen vegetable trio to great effect, but me being me, and Singapore being the place it is, frozen corn is more expensive than fresh. So despite slightly more work, It was fresh corn sliced off the cob, carrots cubed by hand and frozen peas. I guess it was better that way too because the carrots were sweet and not mushy, likewise the sweetcorn. The peas weren't that great, but i could not get a better brand at the Shop and Save.

It was a little on the dry side, especially the one that i refrigerated for the next day, but my family loved it. Next time more milk in the mashed potato and more stock in the mince. You'd notice I use alot of vegetables in my mince, disproportionately some might add, but I like my vegetables. Feel free to halve the quantity.

Mince base
I used 500 gram beef plus 250 Pork, You could also do all beef or same beef to chicken ratio. But authentic Shepherd's Pie uses Lamb. (apparently with beef its Cowboy pie. I say whatever as long as it tastes good.)
4 cloves freshly minced garlic
1 large onion finely diced
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup sweetcorn kernels
1 cup sweet green peas
1 cup stock or water or 1cup water and a stock cube
pinch of rosemary, 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1tsp salt (use less if using stock cube) ground in a mortar and pestle till fine
3 tblsp tomato paste
2 tblsp butter

heat a heavy bottom pan, as wide a base as you can spare, with deep sides.
sweat onions with butter, then add garlic
when fragrant, add pepper mixture then meat
stir ard to break up the mince, and let it brown and cook through till juices dry up. then add the stock/water and tomato paste. simmer for 20 mins till most of the liquid evaporates. add more liquid if too dry and meat still not tender yet.
Add vegetables and cook over low heat for further 10 mins.

Basic Mashed Potato recipe
1kg russet potatoes (or any other white floury potato), scrubbed, skin on (or off, I like it skins on.) cut to large chunks
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 Tblsp Butter (or more) Please DO NOT use margarine. It's worse for you than butter and is not a substitute. If can't eat butter use less, or replace with full cream milk and omit the butter. trust me, else its pointless both taste and nutrition-wise
1 cup milk (or more)

I say or more because some people like their mash creamy, some people like it potatoey, so please, whatever to your liking.

In a large pot of boiling water, add salt and potatoes. They should be done in 12 to 13 mins, do the fork text, they pierce through easily and skins start to fall off easily.
(this is crucial, any longer and yr mash will be gummy or grainy, horrid.)

When done drain and mash immediately, adding the butter first and then gradually the milk. Once again don't over mash it, that encourages a gummy texture, yucks.

When the two components have been prepped, prepare two round shallow pie dishes, I use round glass ones, a square metal one will do if you don't have an attractive pie plate. fill pie dish with mince halfway and top other half with the mashed potato. rough out the top with a fork, top with shredded cheddar and bake in a 220 degree centigrade oven for 15 minutes or till golden brown on top.

When done remove from oven, cool for 15 mins before serving.

*Can be prepared the day before and kept in the fridge before baking. Remove from fridge and straight to oven, but at 200 degrees for slightly longer time. Don't bother bringing to room temperature because condensation will make the potato soggy at the edges etc.

**Serve with fresh greens for an even better meal!


Blogger the baker said...

babe! that looks so delish. i'm sold. i'm saving your recipe and trying it soon! you're making me hungry! haha... hey char kway teow session soon... k? :p

6:46 PM  

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