Food doesn’t have to be sophisticated to be delicious. Repurposing leftovers instead of reheating and having the same dinner all over again adds variety to your meal rotation. So next time you’re making mashed potatoes, be sure to add a few extra potatoes to the pot so you have an excuse to make Shepherds Pie.
The first time Mr. H suggested I make Shepherds Pie, I had to do some research because my mother didn’t make it. I wasn’t exactly sure what was in it and I found there are multiple versions. Everyone has a different opinion. I think the traditional version uses ground lamb but I prefer beef. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE lamb. But not in this. I prefer not to use corn out of season either so I make this with peas and carrots and with no cheese on top.Click here to jump right to the recipe
The easiest way to make Shepherds Pie is to brown up some ground beef, stir in leftover beef gravy and some frozen peas and carrots, then top with leftover mashed potatoes and bake. Easy peasy. And no judgement, people have busy lives, work, kids and all sorts of other distractions. You can even chop up some leftover roast beef and add it to the meat mixture. But if you have a little extra time you can make the beef and potato layers a little more flavourful and interesting. In fact you might even fool your family into thinking they’re not eating leftovers.
I do use frozen peas and carrots because this is still supposed to be a quick, easy meal. Feel free to use fresh, but for this one I’m totally ok with taking a short cut.
How to make Shepherds Pie
Start by finely dicing a couple stalks of celery and half an onion. Sauté in a large skillet in a little olive oil. If you happen to keep bacon fat in the fridge like I do, this is one of those times you can use it, just to add a little flavour to the meat mixture.
Add a big clove of chopped garlic and the ground beef and sauté until the meat is browned. Break up the larger chunks as it cooks. Tilt the pan and scoop out most of the fat. You may have a lot or just a little, depending on how lean your ground beef is. You will want about 2 Tbsp of fat to mix with the flour.
Once the meat is browned, sprinkle flour over the mixture and stir it while it cooks. You need to cook flour mixed in with the fat to make sure it doesn’t taste pasty and to ensure when you add the broth you’ll get a smooth gravy. When you thicken with flour you need to allow time for all the flavours to cook together to get a thick rich meat mixture that doesn’t taste like raw flour. If you prefer to thicken with cornstarch you add it right at the end because it doesn’t need to cook like flour and you only need half as much cornstarch.
Once the mixture is bubbly and thick, add chili sauce and Worcestershire. And horseradish. Definitely not typical for traditional Shepherd’s Pie but it goes with roast beef dinner so why not? Taste and season with salt and pepper. If you don’t have chili sauce, ketchup will work too.
Then add the frozen peas and carrots. Make sure you rinse and drain your frozen vegetables if they’re frosty and clumpy, otherwise you’ll add extra moisture.
Pour the meat mixture into a wide baking dish. You wan’t something that’s large enough that you have extra space at the top, otherwise the filling bubbles and spills in the oven. Something around 12 inches oblong should work.
Hot to top Shepherds Pie
Mix sour cream and milk with the potatoes. The milk helps thin the potatoes so you can easily spread them and the sour cream adds a little zip. If the potatoes are really cold you can soften them by warming them in the microwave. Use a hand mixer to really whip them up so they’ll be light and fluffy and easier to spread on top. If you’re using leftover mashed potatoes, taste them and see if they need any more seasoning. Assuming they already have milk and butter, they may just need the sour cream.
Add large spoonfuls on top of the meat mixture and spread evenly to the edges.
Bake for 45-50 minutes if you’re baking immediately or a little longer if you refrigerate it and bake it later, until the filling is bubbling and the top is lightly browned. The gravy will sneak out along the edges and that’s the best part!
Let your Shepherd’s Pie rest a few minutes before serving. Whipping the potatoes well and adding that sour cream make them thick, light and fluffy.
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 Tbsp bacon fat or oil
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed
- 1 - 1¼ pound lean ground beef
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 ½ cups beef broth
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp chili sauce or Ketchup
- 1 Tbsp drained horseradish
- 1 ½ cups frozen peas and carrots
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cups mashed potatoes
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 2 Tbsp milk
- pinch of salt
- Finely dice celery and onion. Saute in bacon fat or oil until soft. Add ground beef and crushed garlic and cook until browned. Drain any extra fat reserving about 2 Tbsp.
- Sprinkle flour over meat mixture and cook, stirring for a few minutes to make sure flour is cooked. Add beef broth and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Add Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and chili sauce or Ketchup. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Rinse and drain frozen peas and carrots and add to meat mixture. Pour into a wide baking dish.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Combine mashed potatoes with sour cream and milk. Heat if necessary to soften. Season with salt if desired. Use hand mixer for extra creamy potatoes. Spoon over meat mixture and spread evenly to edges.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes until filling is bubbling and top is slightly browned. Bake an additional 10 minutes if made in advance and refrigerated.