A couple of years ago, we took a coastal road trip down Highway 1 and ended up at Monterey Bay, California, where I re-discovered Shepherd Pie at a local British pub. I had it once when I was young, but Shepherd Pie was not something I had on a regular basis growing up and, for the most part, I forgot it even existed until I saw it on that menu. Now Shepherd Pie makes a regular appearance in our dinner rotation, specifically when it’s my turn to cook.
Shepherd Pie is a basic meal-in-one that can be thrown together using ingredients you already have on hand: potatoes, onion, ground beef, flour, ketchup, beef broth, cheddar cheese, peas and carrots. The best part of this dish is all the substitutions that can be made. In place of ground beef, you could use ground lamb or venison. You can make plain mashed potatoes or garlic mashed potatoes (which is what I use). And you could add peas, carrots, both peas and carrots or neither. It’s perfectly acceptable to leave the vegetables out.
In the interest of time, I usually boil the potatoes at the same time I cook the hamburger in separate pans, of course. It’s also important not to skip the step that requires adding the flour and cooking it for a minute. Cooking the meat and flour together will take away any pasty flour taste. The flour is important because it is a thickening agent for the beef broth. Without it, you’ll end up with a watery beefy gravy in the hamburger instead of a thicker beef gravy.
I customarily use frozen vegetables when I make Shepherd Pie, but canned or fresh will also work. If fresh carrots are used, you will want to cook them ahead of time (either in the microwave or on the stove top) to soften them (unless, of course, you like crunchy carrots in your Shepherd Pie).
So, if you’re looking for a hearty one-dish meal that also happens to make great leftovers, Shepherd Pie in all its cheesy glory fits the bill.
6 large potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sour cream (optional)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola or olive oil)
1 chopped onion
1 1/2 pounds lean ground hamburger (lamb or venison may be used)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 cup frozen peas (and/or carrots)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling. Peel, slice and add potatoes to boiling water. Cook 15 minutes, or until tender but still firm. Drain and mash. Mix in butter. For garlic mash, if desired, add sour cream and minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large frying pan, heat oil. Add onion and cook until clear. Add ground beef (lamb or venison) and cook until well browned. Pour off excess fat. Sprinkle flour over cooked meat, stir to mix thoroughly and cook one minute. Add beef broth, ketchup, peas (and carrots) and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.
- Spread ground beef in the bottom of a two-quart casserole dish. Top with mashed potatoes and generously sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.