Shepherd’s pie. Its very name is evocative of greener pastures, with a weathered shepherd enjoying this simple meal at the end of a long cold day in the fields.
It’s thought this British classic – part of a long pie tradition dating back to the Middle Ages – originated in the north of England and Scotland where there were many sheep. It came about in thriftier days as a way to use leftover roast lamb, with the dripping put to good use to keep the meat moist.
According to Alan Davidson’s definitive The Oxford Companion to Food, the most effective way to date shepherd’s pie is to trace the introduction of potatoes to England. This New World food was introduced to Europe in 1520 by the Spanish, but wasn’t accepted by the British palate until sometime during the 18th century. The invention of mincing machines in the 1870s made the dish even more popular and it’s around this time that its name was coined.
As its name suggests, the meat used should be mutton or lamb, minced and simmered in stock with aromatic vegetables until tender and flavoursome. We’ve added red wine and Worcestershire sauce for depth of flavour. There’s no need for pastry with this crowning glory of creamy mashed potato, baked long enough to create a golden crust. So, while a long day in the fields watching over sheep may not be on the cards for you, this dish will still warm the cockles of your heart in winter’s depths. Dig in.
At his restaurant specialising in modern British food, Adam Humphrey lists a ‘sea shepherd’s pie’, as an accompaniment to blue-eye trevalla, among his main courses. 24 Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay, NSW, (02) 9252 6285.
Enjoy an innovative Indian take on traditional shepherd’s pie, presented as an individual bhuna gosht pie with Indian spices, vegetables and mashed potato. 270-276 Morphett St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8212 2411.
Spencer Patrick says his shepherd’s pie lunch special is a crowd-pleaser. Maybe the braised lamb shanks, reduced stock flavoured with marjoram and thyme, Vichy carrots and truffle mash has something to do with it. 41 Macrossan St, Port Douglas, Qld, (07) 4099 6364.