Shepherd's Pie

 I’ve always loved times of transition. Fall and spring are my seasons of choice (transitional times in themselves) but I also relish those few weeks in between seasons. As winter melts into a bright green April and summer waves its heat in the face of June, the world feels as if it is on the verge of something new and exciting. I love that kind of awakening energy and always try to capture it in my cooking.

Recently, I made a Shepherd’s Pie: the perfect dish for that period in March when life isn’t quite spring-like but winter is just hanging on by mere days (I hope). Hearty, warming comfort (so wintery) finds expression in lamb and bright vegetables (so full of spring).
We enjoyed this dish on a particularly cold but also wonderfully sunny St. Patrick’s Day. Stout in hand and heavy sweaters donned, we sat, ate, drank, and witnessed the dynamism that only occurs during days of transition. It felt good. It felt right.

Before spring arrives to stay, make this pie and enjoy the unseasonableness of it all. It won’t last long.

Domestic Deborah’s Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 6

1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
½ pound ground lamb
½ pound lean ground beef
¼ cup stout
½ cup beef or lamb broth
3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs. ketchup
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 cup frozen peas
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
¼ cup butter
¼ cup sour cream
Salt and Pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots and ground meat to pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is browned (8-10 minutes).

Drain the fat and add the stout, broth, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and tomato paste. Simmer until the juices thicken and the flavours come together (8-10 minutes)

At this point, I recommend allowing the meat mixture to cool and refrigerating it over night – this will allow the flavours to develop further and create a much better pie.

When ready to bake the pie, preheat oven to 375 and bring potatoes to a boil in a large pot of salted water. Cook until tender (about 15 minutes). Drain and mash with butter, sour cream and salt and pepper to taste.

Put meat mixture in a 1 ½ quart baking dish, pat with the back of a spoon to create a flat base. Top with mashed potatoes, swirled or forked rustically to encourage crispy edges.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or until mixture is heated through and potatoes are slightly golden.

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