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Recipe: Shepherd's Pie

A favorite in my household is my mother's Shepherd's Pie. I've put my own twist on it, but it always gone within minutes of hitting the dinner table. So I got a little curious about where in the world Shepherd's pie, in its many variations, originated:

The English tradition of meat pies dates back to the Middle ages. Game pie, pot pie and mutton pie were popular and served in pastry "coffyns." These pies were cooked for hours in a slow oven, and topped with rich aspic jelly and other sweet spices. The eating of "hote [meat] pies" is mentioned in Piers Plowman, and English poem written in the 14th Century. (Cooking of the British Isles, Adrian Bailey, pages 156-7) The Elizabethans favored minced pies. "A typical Elizabethan recipe ran: Shred your meat (mutton or beef) and suet together fine. Season it with cloves, mace, pepper and some saffron, great raisins and prunes..." (Food and Drink in Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson, page 273). About mince and mincemeat pies.

The key to dating Shepherd's pie is the introduction (and acceptance) of potatoes in England. Potatoes are a new world food. They were first introduced to Europe in 1520 by the Spanish. Potatoes did not appeal to the British palate until the 18th Century. (Foods America Gave the World, A. Hyatt Verrill, page 28). Shepherd's Pie, a dish of minced meat (usually lamb, when made with beef it is called "Cottage Pie") topped with mashed potatoes was probably invented sometime in the 18th Century by frugal peasant housewives looking for creative ways to serve leftover meat to their families. It is generally agreed that it originated in the north of England and Scotland where there are large numbers of sheep--hence the name. The actual phrase "Shepherd's Pie" dates back to the 1870s, when mincing machines made the shredding of meat easy and popular." (The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson, page 717).

Technically, then, this is actually Cottage Pie, according to the Oxford Companion to Food. But my mom called it Shepherd's Pie and that's why I'm going to call it.

So enjoy:

Peel, Chop and Boil 10 Potatoes in salted water until potatoes fall easily apart with a fork.

About ten minutes from the potatoes being done. Begin the next part.

Brown 2 lbs. Lean Hamburger and season to taste with:

Garlic Salt
Black Pepper
Onion (Fresh or dried flakes)
Emeril Lagasse’s Original Essence

Drain grease from seasoned hamburger and set aside.

Steam vegetables of choice and set aside.

Slice enough cheese for three layers in a casserole pan.

Preheat Oven to 375°

Once potatoes are completed, drain (saving ½ C. of the water) and pour into bowl. Mash potatoes until relatively smooth. Pour in a little of the water at a time until the potatoes are easy enough to work with.

Add a small amount of milk and continue to beat. Taste and add salt if necessary. You may also add a little garlic salt, black pepper and onion powder. Continue to beat and then add:

¼ C. Butter (½ Cube)

until potatoes are completely smooth.

In a casserole dish, layer mashed potatoes, hamburger, vegetables and cheese until the pan is full, ending with a last layer of potatoes topped with cheese.

Place in oven until cheese is completely melted.

Serve with:

Salad
Bread

Happy Eating.
Recipe: Shepherd's Pie Recipe: Shepherd's Pie Reviewed by Candace Salima on Friday, August 08, 2008 Rating: 5