Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Childhood Irish Shepherd’s Pie

Me and my brother and sister grew up on Shepherd’s Pie, with either my mom or my dad making it for us at least once a week. In recessionary times in the 80s in Ireland we were always having dinners that stretched  that little bit more, embracing leftovers, and having a dish that would keep if my dad came in from work late. Growing up in my house in the 80s,rice and pasta were never heard of, even pizza was exotic to us. Or dinners were always meat, potatoes, and two veg, like all my other friends homes at the time. Coming from a town in Co. Kerry, rice and pasta came later to us than Dublin City and Cork City. We were a real typical Irish family of the time, very traditional.
With all that said, that is not to say we didn’t eat well!!! To the contrary, my mom’s shepherd’s pie is delicious and so tasty,  I’ve failed to taste another as good. And my dad’s Irish stews with lamb cutlets, or the Irish fry up we used to have every Saturday with chips......these are all fond memorable family meals and I still try to re-create them today.

I’ve tried to put a fancy shmacy spin on some of my childhood classics, but for me I thought it was taking away the most important component of the meal. I make these dinner to evoke these wonderful memories of my family table back in the 80s when I was growing up with my brother and sister. Granted half the time I was arguing at the table with either my brother or sister, but I think of those times with a smile, delighted that not much has changed in our house when we go home to visit, though now there’s more of a variety of things to cook and there’s plenty of wine. The only arguing is over who gets to do the cooking (everyone wants to show off their dishes). It’s family times like these that are so important these days, especially as we hit recessionary again. We must be thankful for our families and the time we get to spend together.

Now on with the Shepherd’s Pie.....I’d mortify myself by saying that I’d always been of the opinion that shepherd’s pie was made with minced meat and potato on top cooked in the oven. So for years previously I’d been cooking it with mince beef/steak. It was to my horror that I learned Shepherd’s Pie is only made with LAMB mince. It was like a light bulb going off. I Mean come on, duh!!, the clue is in the name, like!!! What I’d been making for years was in fact Cottage Pie. Morto!!

So today I’m here to set the record straight and, and go back to my roots and questioned my mother on how she used to make it back in the olden days,  and here’s her recipe:

Serves 4


·         1 lb lamb mince
·         1 onion, diced
·         10 mushrooms, sliced
·         3 carrots, parboiled
·         6 large potatoes, peeled and diced
·         200ml of beef stock cube
·         5 splashes of Worchester sauce
·         1 tbsp of tomato puree
·         1 tbsp of tomato ketchup
·         20g of real irish butter
·         3 tbsp of warmed milk
·         Salt and white pepper

To serve: has to be baked beans and Chef brown sauce


1.       Put a pan of potatoes in cold salted water and boil until soft
2.       Put the peeled, diced carrots in another pan and boil for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.
3.       In a frying pan, fry off the mince then add the diced onion and fry for 3 minutes
4.       Add the tomato puree, ketchup and some stock into the pan and simmer.
5.       Add the mushrooms and carrots and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, adding more stock if necessary.
6.       Preheat oven to 220 degrees.
7.       To get amazing mash potatoes, warm some milk. Drain the potatoes and allow them to stem for a minute or so.
8.       Break the potatoes up with a knife, add the butter, salt and pepper and mash well with a potato masher.
9.       When mashed, add the milk, little at a time (you can always add more, but never take it back).
10.   Set aside and keep warm.
11.   Add frozen peas to the mince mixture and let them thaw for a minute or so.
12.   Add the mince evenly to an ovenproof dish.
13.   Spoon over the mash and if you like make some gashes in the potato for decoration.
14.   Add a further few knobs of butter over the pie to get a golden crust and bake for 20 minutes in the oven.

Everyone has they’re own way of eating shepherds pie, for me only baked beans and brown sauce will do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Serena, I agree there is nothing better than all of us sitting down to a meal with great chat and of course of late the wine, well yourself Tracy and Keith have put me in the halfpenny seat when it comes to cooking, I prided myself at being an ok cook but not so when I sit down to a meal any one of ye have made wow that is all I can say.

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