Several years ago when we were still working for high-tech, Jim was sent to Hong Kong on business. Poor Jim we didn’t want him to get lonely so James and I tagged along. We had been there for about a week and were enjoying the food scene. But, this one weekend afternoon we craved something closer to home: we needed English Pub food – something that, as a former English colony, there’s a lot of in Hong Kong. James must have been pretty desperate because he went to the concierge for recommendations. Later that day we found ourselves at The Chinnery. What more could you ask for? Fine dining you say? Not here! But the food was supposed to be great so we stayed.
This is the first time I experienced real “Shepard’s Pie.” The recipe can vary widely. The defining ingredients are minced meat (commonly beef when named Cottage Pie or lamb when named Shepherd’s Pie), typically cooked in a gravy with onions and sometimes other vegetables, such as peas, celery, or carrots. The filling is topped with mashed potato. The pie is sometimes also topped with grated cheese. A lot of people use Parmesan but I find it overwhelms the dish, I prefer a mild cheddar.
Up until this time I thought I was making Shepard’s Pie but nay nay nay. The meat layer was cooked very finely. As Gordon Ramsey states, “It’s all in the mince.” Tiny bits of meat in a rich gravy. Back in the U.S. I was making some “God Awful,” concoction with tomato sauce and big chunks of burger.
When the meal arrived at our table we did what most people do, which is share a bit. I gave Jim and James a single taste, everyone agreed I won the table, but this distinction did not move me to share more. I now have studied the dish and, while still not as good as The Chinnery, mine is pretty damn good. Hope you try it and like it.
1 1/2 pounds, russet potatoes
1/4 cup, half and half
2 ounces, unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon, kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon, freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons, olive oil
1 cup, chopped onion
2 carrots – peeled and diced small
2 cloves, garlic – minced
1 1/2 pounds, ground lamb or beef
1 teaspoon, kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon, freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons, tomato paste
2 tablespoons, Madeira
1 cup, chicken broth
1 teaspoon, Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons, fresh rosemary – chopped
1 teaspoon, fresh thyme – stripped
1/2 cup, English peas – fresh or frozen
cheddar cheese – optional
- Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the olive oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb or beef, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Madeira, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
- Add the peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Top with cheddar cheese if using. Fork the top, this means with fork create peaks and valleys in the potato and cheese top. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.