My heritage is only a tiny percentage English. But that doesn’t stop me from considering traditional English comfort foods among my favorites. Shepherd’s pie is near top of the list. Classic. Simple. One of the ultimate make-ahead meals. Goes great with a pint.
Born from a need to create a new meal from leftovers when food was scarce, shepherd’s pie is a combination of saucy meat, usually beef or mutton, and vegetables topped with mashed potato. This one here I made last night with ground beef brisket and vegetables from the crisper drawer, topped with mashed cauliflower.
So, it seems that he’s come down with the flu or something of the sort. He’s been sick since yesterday afternoon, sweating and shivering and coughing on the sofa. I thought it would be a silent victory that I’d fortuitously made one of the coziest foods I can think of, but it wasn’t in the cards.
I put him on the BRATT diet and unless you count lemon and honey green tea, puffed wheat cereal, crispbread, banana and plain pasta, he’s eaten practically nothing. Minor disappointment that he couldn’t partake in my first attempt at shepherd’s pie aside, he drank a mug of apple cinnamon Thera-Flu with no complaints while I polished off an embarrassingly large piece of the pie.
Vegetable and Beef Shepherd’s Pie [serves 6]
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 T milk, at least 1% (not skim)
2 T half & half (not fat free)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 lbs ground brisket (or lean beef)
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 c green bulb onions, 1/4″ dice
1 c carrot, 1/4″ dice
1 stalk celery, stringed, 1/4″ dice
1 T fresh garlic, finely chopped, from about 1 large clove
1 T fresh oregano, finely chopped or 2 t dried oregano
1 c beef broth
1 1/2 t tomato paste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the cauliflower. Cook until fork-tender, 8-10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can steam the cauliflower for 10 minutes.) Drain and transfer to a food processor, along with the milk and half & half. Process until smooth. Season with salt and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and ground brisket/beef. Cook until the meat is browned and the vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain the fat and discard.
Add the broth, tomato paste and oregano. Simmer until the juices thicken, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into a 9×13″ casserole or 11″ round roasting dish. Spread the mashed cauliflower over the meat mixture and decorate the top. Bake 30-35 minutes, then broil until the top is golden brown.
I was overjoyed when he requested real food for lunch today, and even more so when he said he wanted it to be a tiny piece of the pie. Even though he’s still a little under the weather and probably didn’t enjoy it all that much, he praised my pie. What a guy. And in my mind, this is the best shepherd’s pie I’ve ever had.