Traveling the world through cuisine

I dillied and dallied, dallied and dillied…

Chief O'Neil's Pub, Chicago

To this day, I’ve always been surprised at the poor opinion many share of English and Irish cuisine. The noted opinions came from comedians like Denis Leary and Tim Allen, with ideas that the food is boiled all day into a nice liquid you can sip through a straw or it’s just plain bland.

In reality, the region is honestly known for many delicious foods and a wonderful culture associated with it. Granted that back in the Dark and Middle Ages, the foods normally consumed in the region was more basics of meats, fish, and grains. I did find it interesting that potatoes and corn were not introduced into the area until the early 16th century. Since the introduction though, the cuisine has evolved into many roasted meats (with or without savory gravies), sausages, stews, puddings, baked goods, and casseroles.

In the United States, you might find the possibility of a restaurant specializing in traditional food of the UK, but more than likely the sources to try these flavors would be either recipe, or the Public House aka “pub”.

You look at most watering holes and even bars in major cities and small towns, and they’re all based off these pubs normally known to the UK.  While the actual pubs in the UK are slowly dying out due to the global economy, liquor restrictions, and smoking bans, they were always known as the social centers of many towns and villages. You’ll especially see them depicted in almost any period piece movie set in the UK.

Here in the US, it is tougher to find what could be a more “authentic” pub compared to the typical “watering hole” or “sports bar” pretending to be an Irish or English pub. In my book, the menu is what separates one from the other. Granted you will find items like burgers, pizza, and hot wings on American and UK menus alike, it’s the traditional dishes, known as “pub grub” that make my mouth water.

Pub Grub dishes consist of items like steak and ale pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, Sunday roast, ploughman’s lunch, the English/Irish breakfast, and my favorite – Shepherd’s Pie.

The very first time I ever heard of Shepherd’s Pie was in New York City. A friend of the family was engaged to a girl from England, and they were heading to a gathering for dinner. She made what looked like a small casserole that contained a layer of beef, a layer of carrots, and a top “crust” made out of mashed potatoes. Very simple, but it looked delicious. I later tried the same thing, but I felt it was a bit plain. I found that when you add more ingredients and a few seasonings, you can turn this simple dish into a yummy masterpiece.

Here’s my way of doing Shepherd’s Pie:

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • 4 large potatoes
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 1 lb of lamb, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • 1 bag (16 ounces) of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 lb of carrots, chopped (a 16 ounce bag of frozen carrots works nicely)
  • 1 can (19 ounces) of red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can (8 ounces) of tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp of worchestire sauce
  • 1 tsp of granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp of dried basil
  • 1 tsp of dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp of paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Peel potatoes and boil in a large pot until soft.
  2. Strain out the water and mash the potatoes. You might want to add a little milk to the potatoes to make the mash more creamy.
  3. In another large pot, heat up the olive oil on medium. When the oil is hot, place the onion into the oil and cook until soft.
  4. When onions are soft and starting to brown, add in the ground beef and lamb. Cook until browned.
  5. When the meat is browned, add in the mixed vegetables, carrots, kidney beans, tomato sauce, worchestire sauce, granulated garlic, basil, and parsley. Sprinkle salt and pepper into the mixture at your discretion.
  6. Stir thoroughly and continue cooking until everything is hot.
  7. Preheat oven to 350°
  8. Take a large baking dish and brush some oil around the bottom and sides.
  9. Spoon in the meat/vegetable mixture into the dish and fill about 2/3 of the height of the dish.
  10. Take the mashed potatoes and spread them on top of the mixture in the pan like a crust. Sprinkle the paprika on top of the potato layer.
  11. Place the pie into the oven and heat for 30-45 minutes, just until the top of the pie becomes more golden or even some browning occurs.

Quick Notes

I usually use frozen vegetables for this, simply because it’s easier. You’re welcome to use fresh vegetables, just make sure you chop them into small pieces. I also suggest if you use frozen vegetables to let them thaw a bit.

Again, for ease of preparation, I like to mix the meat and vegetables together. If you feel more creative and/or daring, then cook the meat separate from the vegetables and make layers.

Variations

You’re welcome to variate the meat if you’re not into lamb (or can’t get it). Lamb and beef are usually the staples of Shepherd’s Pie, but feel free to experiment.

Many recipes suggest sprinkling some shredded cheddar cheese on top of the potatoes before the paprika. I’ve done it and liked it, but wanted to keep this as a variation.

Healthy It Up

For Zuzana’s Candida diet, we made a second pie that is totally free of meat and potato. To replace some of the meat, we added more kidney beans. To replace the potatoes, we boiled cauliflower and mashed it up with some milk to make a nice substitute.

Tags: casserole, English, Irish, meat, pie, potato, shepherd

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