Tristan was horribly sick last week and had to fend for himself for two days straight. After one too many bowls of instant ramen and salt & vinegar potato chips, all he wanted was some home-cooked comfort food. “Something plain with meat,” he said. “What’s more comforting than Shepherd’s Pie,” I thought?
Last spring I bought 2 packages of Olsen Farm’s freshly ground lamb (they claim to butcher the youngest, freshest lambs resulting in succulent meat with virtually no gamey taste) from the U-District farmers’ market with hopes of turning it into lamb ragout over homemade pappardelle. That never happened. So they’ve been sitting in my freezer all this time awaiting their big reveal. There hardly seemed a better way to showcase them than in an 18th century English peasant dish.
I read through at least a dozen Shepherd’s Pie recipes before feeling grounded enough to just wing it. For Tristan’s sake, I wanted something straightforwardly delicious and not too fancy. The following recipe delivered just that. It was so tasty that we ate it for both breakfast and a midnight snack the following day.
Shepherd’s Pie with Lamb Mince
The lamb in this recipe can easily be replaced with ground beef, but then be sure to call it Cottage Pie.
1 ½ pounds waxy potatoes
1 pound ground lamb
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 – 1 ½ cups frozen mixed vegetables (peas, corn & carrots)
2-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Peel and quarter potatoes. Place in a medium saucepan, cover with salted water and boil until tender, 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook ground lamb in a large skillet over medium heat until no longer pink (feel free to add a drizzle of oil if the pan needs it). Drain on paper towels and wipe out skillet.
In same skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add diced onions and sauté until tender and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook a minute or two longer. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the raw, tinny taste cooks out, about 2 minutes. Add broth, Worcestershire sauce and frozen vegetables. Cook, uncovered, over low heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste (and more Worcestershire sauce if necessary).
When potatoes are tender, drain and return to saucepan over low heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and enough milk to mash until smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle in parsley and mix well.
Pour the lamb/vegetable mixture into an appropriate size baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes evenly over the top, then use a fork to create little peaks that will brown when baked. Transfer to oven and bake, uncovered, until brown and bubbly, 20-30 minutes. If desired, place under the broiler for the last few minutes to ensure browning and crisping on top.