Shepherd’s pie is one of my favourite comfort foods. It’s a meat-based pie with a mashed potato topping instead of a crust. In Quebec, where I lived for a good part of my life, it starts with a bottom layer of ground beef and a healthy amount of creamed corn.
In Quebec French, the dish is called “pâté chinois” – literally “Chinese pie.” In Scotland, where it probably originated in the 18th century or so, the meat would have been chunks of mutton or lamb – otherwise it would be called “cottage pie.” No matter what you call it or what ingredients are used, it’s good, honest peasant food.
Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
This recipe is an adaptation on one that a friend’s mother used to make. The carrots give colour and extra nutrients to the dish and make it just a little sweet.
2 lbs ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped finely
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4-6 carrots, sliced into discs and boiled until just barely tender*
5-6 potatoes, mashed with butter and milk
1 can (about 14 oz or 400 ml) creamed corn
1 can (about 14 oz or 400 ml) niblet corn, drained
a few pats of butter to dot the top
salt and pepper, or paprika to season the crust
* Save the water from boiling your carrots to make your own broth!
1) Brown the beef with the onion and Worcestershire sauce, breaking it up into fine bits.
2) For a family-sized serving, place the meat in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan, pressing down lightly. For individual servings use oven-proof dishes like ramekins or onion soup bowls, or small foil take-out pans (available in dollar stores.)
If you plan on freezing this dish, use either a baking dish that has a snap-on lid, or a foil pan with a lid. Label the pan with the name of the dish, instructions, and the date. The pie should be eaten within 2-3 months.
3) Layer the carrots on top of the meat. (When you drain them, you can reserve the cooking liquid for making broth. Same goes for the liquid from the corn.)
4) Mix the two types of corn in a bowl and then spread the corn on top of the carrots. If you prefer to use frozen niblets instead of canned, that works just fine too.
5) Spread the mashed potatoes over the whole dish. Dust with a little salt and pepper, or some paprika. If you are preparing the casserole for eating right away, preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC, or gas mark 6) and dot the casserole with a little butter. If you aren’t going to serve right away, cover tightly and freeze or refrigerate.
6) Place the baking dish in a hot oven with a cookie sheet underneath to catch any drips. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes. Broil for a few minutes if necessary to brown. If the pie has been in the freezer, thaw for 1-2 days in the fridge before baking.
Serves six generously.
Replace the ground beef with leftover lean meat, or buy ground turkey or chicken if that’s affordable where you live;
Opt for mashed sweet potato instead of regular mashed potatoes. Or for the feel of mashed potato with a huge fibre boost, cook up some giant Lima beans with a little garlic and mash them for your topping;
As this casserole can be made however you like it, you can replace the corn with any healthy veggies that are in season.
Note: This post was originally published by me on Bubblews, and was inspired by an earlier post I wrote for the now defunct Yahoo Voices site.