St. Patrick's Day Dinner: Cottage Pie
My Irish Heritage
Today is the first day of March, and in just 16 days everyone will be "a little bit Irish".
I'm certainly more than a "bit" Irish (and one glimpse at my reddish-blonde hair, green eyes, and leprechaun-like stature will attest to that!)
My paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Guiney, was born in 1875 of Irish parents. At the age of 16 she became a member of the Salvation Army; she was an officer before the age of 20 and one of the first missionaries to travel to Canada.
I am in awe of Elizabeth's dedication to pursue what she believed in, her passion to do what was needed, and the courage she displayed in moving away from friends and family at such a young age. Unfortunately I never really knew her. She died when I was just 6 months old. If not for her determination, she would not have journeyed to this continent, she would not have met the man who would become my grandfather, and I would not exist.
I love my grandmother, and in the month of March I dedicate my thoughts and my cooking to her memory.
Mary had a little lamb...and peas and carrots and potatoes and called it shepherd pie.— Carb Diva
What (you might ask) is Shepherd's pie? Shepherd's pie is, simply put, leftovers--reinvented with a bit of necessity and a healthy measure of frugality.
The English tradition of meat pies dates back to the Middle ages. Game and mutton pies were popular and served in pastry "coffyns." They 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.
One key ingredient that separates shepherds pie from the Middle Ages "hot coffyn" is the use of potatoes. Potatoes are a new world food and were first introduced to Europe in 1520 by the Spanish. Shepherd's Pie, a dish of minced meat 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.
Sunday dinner centered around a roast. On Monday, you ate roast again, but cold this time. Tuesday the leftovers were chopped/minced finely and reinvented as "pie". (And after that dinners for the remainder of the week went decidedly downhill).
Shepherd's pie was so named because the meat used was lamb (or probably mutton). However, today many cooks make it with beef.
Remove the lamb and your Shepherd's Pie becomes Cottage Pie.
- 4 cups leftover mashed potatoes
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups ground beef or turkey*
- 1 cup carrot, chopped
- 1 cup sliced celery
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups beef or chicken stock
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- Heat oven to 400 F. In a saucepan, gently heat mashed potatoes and milk, stirring occasionally, until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground meat and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. (If using leftover meatloaf you don't need to cook and brown for 5-7 minutes. Just a minute or two to heat is sufficient).
- Add carrot and celery, and cook 5 minutes. Sprinkle in flour, stir, then add chicken broth. Simmer 3 minutes and remove from heat. Add peas and mushrooms. Spoon into an ovenproof casserole and top with the mashed potatoes. Bake until the top is golden, about 40 minutes.
- *In place of ground meat you can substitute 4 cups of chopped leftover roast or meatloaf
What is your favorite "comfort" food?
© 2013 Linda Lum