My husband and I spent a little time in England when we were just married. He was in graduate school in London and we rented a tiny flat a few tube stops away in Wimbledon...on Crooked Billet, to be exact. We lived next door to a pub, and there was a huge park, the common, right at the end of the lane. We shopped on the High Street, at the butcher, the cheese shop, the fishmonger, we ate endless fish and chips and Indian take out, and we developed a soft spot for classic British farmhouse dishes like this. It's also known as Cottage Pie, and the name suggests humble origins...cheap and plentiful potatoes were a staple food of 19th century rural farm workers who lived in small 'cottages' dotting the countryside.
I made this all the time when our kids were little, usually the classic way, with ground beef and a mashed potato crust. This one is one of a thousand versions you can come up with, by varying the meat and veg, as well as the topping. I'm loving pale sweet potatoes lately. They have a more delicate flavor and less pronounced sweetness than the dark orange variety. I really love the light lemony color of this crust. Scatter fresh thyme leaves across it and you have a rustic masterpiece.
Classic shepherd's pie contains onion and carrot. I bumped up the vegetable presence by adding leek, shallot, and cremini mushrooms.
I intended to use little chunks of lean lamb, but Whole Foods didn't have any, so I went with ground lamb. Fresh thyme and fresh sage gives the gravy a wonderful flavor.
Shepherd's Pie with Sweet Potato Crust
oven to 350
2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
- Peel the potatoes and cut them in large chunks. Put them in a saucepan, cover with water and cook until they are completely tender. A sharp knife should pierce them easily.
1 lb ground lamb, or a mix of ground lamb and ground beef
1 medium onion, cut in wedges
2 shallots, cut in wedges
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
8 cremini mushrooms, quartered
several sprigs fresh thyme, leaves remved
several leaves fresh sage, chopped
- Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Brown the lamb, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks.
- Add the rest of the vegetables and saute for several minutes until the veggies start to soften.
- Add the fresh herbs, then remove the meat and veggies from the pan and set aside while you make the gravy.
2 Tbsp flour
1/3 cup red wine
1 cup chicken stock
- Melt the butter in the same pan, then add in the flour and cook for a minute or two, whisking.
- Whisk in the wine and stock, and heat to a simmer, stirring constantly. When the sauce thickens, add the vegetables and meat back into the pot.
- Cover and simmer for a few minutes, and check the seasoning.
1/3 cup half and half or milk (more if necessary)
salt and fresh cracked pepper
- Mash the sweet potatoes with the butter and half and half. Use a hand held mixer to get a smooth consistency. Add more milk or half and half if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the lamb and vegetable mixture to a deep dish pie plate, or a casserole. Top with the mashed sweet potatoes.
- Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until browned and bubbling. Finish under the broiler if you want more brown color.
What's your favorite fall one pot dinner?