In the SCA : Society for Creative Anachronism I am known as Ronan Mac a’ Chaladair, hence the name Ronan’s Shepherds Pie. This is a variation on a classic that will have them coming back for more. This dish was once taken to a Sunday pot luck and I got the pan back dinged and dented from the inside. They wanted to make sure that they ate every last morsel of this dish. Just to note all the meat dishes around the pan were barely touched :) This dish is very hearty meal and filling so be prepared to make sure you have room in the fridge for the left overs that are going to be as good the second night as they were the first.
Traditionally this was a dish that was made with left overs, usually pulled lamb and many will argue that if it is made with beef that it is then a Cottage Pie. Does it really matter what you call it when it tastes so good? Besides, this has both beef and pork! Yum! As said, leftovers, but can be made fresh as well and was popular when the wife would not know when the family was going to be back at home. The dish can be kept warm for hours and indeed if you just take it out of the over it can still stay hot for an hour. The dish holds its heat especially if cooked in a metal pan or cast iron skillet. What really keeps the heat in is the topping of potatoes that will hold in the steam and juices of this wonderful dish.
Ronan’s Shepherds Pie Recipe (Double Batch)
1 lb. ground beef (lean)
1 lb. ground pork (lean)
A dozen or so medium white or yellow and red potatoes
2 cans of carrots drained or 4 medium carrots sliced
1 cup of peas (frozen works well)
1 cup of corn (frozen works well)
1/4 cup of chives
2 tablespoons of parsley
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of sage
2 and 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1/4 stick of butter or about 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce, or there abouts
Salt and pepper to taste
6 sliced mushrooms (the small ones – fresh, not canned)
about a 1/4 cup of shredded Colby Jack cheese
First dice the potatoes to about 1 inch square and then boil them till they soften. These are used to make the mashed potatoes that will be placed on top of the meat and vegetables in your Shepherds Pie. To make them so much the better you place the drained potatoes in a mixing bowl and add in a pinch of parsley, a ping of chives, the butter and a cup and a half of the chicken stock and a bit of milk as needed to make the potatoes smooth and creamy. You can use a mixer but I prefer to use a hand masher and then whip them with a large 3 pronged fork so that you still have some solids of the potatoes. One thing to note, DO NOT PEAL THE POTATOES, just scrub and wash them. Leaving the potatoes skins on will add flavor and color to your dish. (If you have to use russets then make sure you do peal them) Once you have them the consistency that you want them, set them aside and covered for later.
Take the ground meats and place them in an oiled large skillet or wok along with the remainder of the spices with a little salt. Add in also the chives a little at a time as you cook the meat. The salt will help bring out the flavor of the meat as it is cooking. About halfway through cooking the meat add in 4 of the sliced mushrooms and continue cooking till done. Once you have the meat cooked taste it and add in any salt and pepper that you feel you need for the dish just do not add in to much salt or you will kill the dish.
Once you have all meat cooked you will add it into the cooking dish that is safe to put in the oven. I would recommend a roasting pan or covered iron skillet. You can use a square pan with foil but using a dish with a lid will give you the best results. Now add in the vegetables, they will cook themselves as they are in the oven. Make sure to mix them in thoroughly so that everyone will get even amounts of what is going into the Shepherds Pie. After the mixing you will splash the mix with Worcestershire sauce, as much as needed and then lay over the whole mix the remaining 2 sliced mushrooms, these make the dish look oh so much better and will add flavor to both the potatoes and the meat below them.
Now take the potatoes that you made earlier and spread it evenly over the meat and vegetables trying to be careful not to move the mushrooms. That is one of the reasons to make sure the potatoes are creamy and still warm so they can spread smoothly as you add them to the dish. Once you have the potatoes in place you can sprinkle a bit of parsley and chives over that. Now cover the dish and place it in an oven that has been heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or about 176 Celsius. You will bake the dish for about an hour.
This final step is totally optional but I never consider it an option. Take the grated cheese and sprinkle it on top of the potatoes about 10 minutes before the whole dish is done. After adding the cheese put the dish back in the oven uncovered so that it can slightly brown. This adds a wonderful flavor and will fill the whole house with a smell that will make sure that everyone will come to the dinner table to eat. I would suggest that you let the dish sit on the counter for a few minutes covered as right after it comes out of the over it will be extremely hot and will stay that way for some time.
This recipe will serve about 8. Depending on your family size I would say that you will definitely have leftovers especially if served with bread and a salad. Here is a picture of a reheated leftover Ronan’s Shepherds Pie.