I’d be lying if I said that this was a recipe I felt confident with making.
Yes, I’ve made shepherd’s pie a million times (and what person who’s tired of making hamburgers but can think of nothing else to do with ground beef hasn’t?), but this recipe was so different from any shepherd’s pie I’ve ever made.
It didn’t have a tomato-based mixture for the meat like I’m used to, there were no vegetables in the meat mixture at all, and it didn’t have a cream of mushroom white sauce base as I see pop up occasionally.
Besides, I always thought that this kind of thing was an Irish recipe.
I got all the answers to my questions from a very surprising place… Gordon Ramsay and his popular BBC show “The F Word.”
In what has to be one of the biggest strokes of dumb luck that I’ve experienced in awhile, I was catching up on old episodes of “The F Word” while I was seeking out recipes for this week and in the episode I happened to be watching, Gordon Ramsay was in a recipe face-off with another celebrity where a panel of customers would determine who made the best dish…
And it so happened to be cottage pie. When the celebrity he was cooking with kept calling his dish “shepherd’s pie” Chef Ramsay repeatedly corrected him, explaining that shepherd’s pie is made with tomato paste and vegetables mixed with the meat, while cottage pie was Scottish and made only with meat, onions, and gravy.
Since Gordon Ramsay is the most famous Scottish chef I know of, I decided to give this recipe a try.
I have to say that this came out really, really well. It tasted heartier, more savory then shepherd’s pie, which I really liked. This was another one of those wonderful Disney recipes where I was worried that there was too little seasonings and herbs, but it actually turned out that the lack of seasonings just made the richness of the meat far more wonderful and vibrant.
The gravy base was also quite brilliant, I must say. It was what kept everything all together while still letting it be a meat pie, as opposed to a meat and tomato sauce pie.
My only tricks to this recipe is to use lean beef, the leanest available. Even if you don’t like lean beef, trust me, it just turns out better.
I made one serving with lean beef, the other with 80% (to freeze for later) and while they were both good and completely edible, the leanest cut showcased the meat in a much better way and allowed the mashed potatoes to form a moist, rich topping.
If all you have is more fatty ground beef, cook the beef first, strain off the fat, and use the strained fat to cook the onions… Don’t add additional butter.
And speaking of the mashed potatoes, I used the recipe from Le Cellier that I posted a couple of weeks ago and really whipped them so that they were easy to spread.
There are a number of ways you can put it on top of the meat mixture. At Rose and Crown, they use a star-tipped bag and pipe it around in large circles the top of the pie, and it looks gorgeous.
Gordon Ramsay also uses a piping bag and dots it like dumplings across the top of the mixture, and that looks gorgeous.
Having neither the time or materials for such things, I prefer to slap it on with a spoon, spread it out, and make little peaks using the back of my spoon. Looks not as gorgeous, but tastes the same and that’s enough for me.