savory shepherd's pie with yam crust: celebrating the arrival of baby 5D.

I love shepherd's pie. Even as a kid, just adored it. The tender meat with herbs, occasional veggies, and sauce saturating the fluffy potatoes piled on top. I would want the flavor all over, so I would swirl and mix it together, and although it looked ugly, it was marvelous.

People prefer their shepherd's pie in different ways, with different ingredients - I think the instinct for peas in a savory sauce comes from mothers placing them there, otherwise, why would you want it with little round globes of squishy-ness?
I made dinner plans in Langley and so hitched a ride out there with our stagette counterparts - it is the epic stag on Schuswap Lake this weekend, and as you can see (and can't see because I cropped certain things out) the boys were 'stoked'. I pity da' Josh.
So I left them getting ramped up, and went over to my other Josh's house. I must admit, it was a distracted night. I was oh-ing and aw-ing over the newest addition to my life - my newest baby (though it has a heavier birth-weight than before!), my Canon 5D. A full-frame thing of beauty. The little brother is jealous. my Xti, but I'll find him a good home.
Wine combined with a new camera is not necessarily a good thing, but in this case, I had to celebrate (and I was taking the skytrain back, so a glass wouldn't hurt). Look at the beauty, the magnificence. Oh it is glorious. And the sound, oh the sound! The shutter caresses the air as it closes, making a rich click, rather than a tinny-sounding snap.
I was so distracted by my new little piece of glory, that I didn't really notice the smoke pouring out of the stove. Turns out that Josh's handle-less oven also likes to create smoke even when we aren't burning the food!! His small yet homey apartment became even cozier as a gray cloud filled it, causing tears and general mirth.
After the smoke was ushered, kindly, out of the apartment, though windows, bathroom fans, and Josh's vigorous towel waving, we sat down to eat. It seems to always be an adventure with these two. Lamb was the first one, we were supposed to have deer shepherd's pie but someone (ahem, Blair) forgot the integral part of the recipe at home across the Fraser River (a bit too far to go back just for some meat), and soon, this Thursday, we will be picnicking down at Wreck Beach, watching the human form of beached wales, in all their nudist glory, parading before us as we partake of some tapas.

But back to the shepherd's pie. Even without the array of spices that I would normally add (I placed my standard recipe below, not the more sparse one that I made last night), we ate comfort in a pan last night. Also refered to as 'Cottage Pie' or 'Potato Pies' (in Aussie-land), this general meal has been in use in Europe for several centuries (ever since the advent of potatoes from the 'New World' and their acceptance into the English culinary stream around the 1700s). It was a good way of using cheap ingredients, carrots and potatoes, to supplement leftover meat to create a hearty meal. Again, like any really good recipe, it was the poor that use to partake of 'cottage pie'. The English, Irish and Scottish all argue that this pie originated within their borders, but no matter where it came from, it is now loved around the world. I think of comfort, and childhood when I eat it. Never a bad thing.
Savory Shepherd's Pie with Yam Crust
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 c. mushrooms, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 lbs. beef (or deer)
1 c. beef stock
1 large can roma tomatoes, puréed with juice
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 c. red wine
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. dried oregano
2tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried thyme
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
pinch of cloves

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 c. half and half (or 2% if you like)
2 tbsp, butter 
salt, to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbs. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. paprika

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Put potatoes in a huge pot of boiling water. Cook until soft. Remove and drain. Add half and half, butter,  salt, nutmeg and Parmesan.

2. While potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a frying pan. Add onion and garlic and saute until brown and caramalized. Add veggies and saute until a bit soft, 3-4 mins. Add ground beef and cook about 8 minutes until most traces of pink has disappeared. Add spices, canned tomatoes and paste, worschestershire sauce, wine and stock. Simmer until reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Spread meat mix at a bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread the potatoes on top. Dust with paprika. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until brown (and bubbling enough to make your oven smoke).

4. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Welcome a new member of the family with comforting goodness.


Anonymous said...

Wow this looks so yummy!
Your camera looks amazing

Sweet Pea Chef said...

Congrats on the new family member! So exciting! What an interesting take on Shepherd's Pie!