Thursday, February 25, 2016

Shepherd's Pie with Butternut Mash & Capers

This is the hubs' recipe for shepherd's pie, and it is epic. Born to British parents, he knows a thing or two about hearty, pub-style cooking. This is the kind of thing you'll find in a country pub, perfect for warming you up with a pint alongside. It's also great because it makes so much, so cook it up to feed a crowd, or put some in the freezer for easy meals later in the month.

The slightly sweet butternut-sweet potato mash is the perfect topping for the salty, caper-flecked ground meat (and makes this savory pie gluten-free). We sometimes crumble a little stilton or blue cheese over the top if we're feeling extra cheeky... but that might be a step too far for some.

No pictures yet for this one. Honestly, it's a hard dish to catch an an aesthetic angle, like many good comfort food, casserole-style dishes. But I promise it's worth making, especially if there's a chill still hanging around where you are! And if the temp has already hit 80, as it is here in Los Angeles, file it away for next winter: you'll thank me. In lieu of a Southern Spoon pic, here's a cheat photo of Jamie Oliver's delicious-looking vegan shepherd's pie:

Jamie Oliver's photo, not mine!
Recipe below is original to Southern Spoon, and is very much not vegan.
Shepherd's Pie with Butternut Mash & Capers
Serves 6-8

1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces (about 1.5 cups)
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces (about 1.5 cups)
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon oil (such as olive or canola)
1 yellow or brown onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 packages ground beef (20% fat content works well)
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup frozen peas
1-2 tablespoons capers, drained and coarsely chopped
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 1 anchovy, mashed with a fork (optional!)
1 teaspoon coursely ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or crumbled stilton/blue cheese (optional)

Place the butternut and sweet potato pieces in a medium size pot with water covering the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then place the carrots in a steamer basket, and set the steamer basket on top of the pot with the potato and butternut pieces. Boil/steam the vegetables for 10 minutes. Remove the steamer basket and set the carrots aside (they will go into the pie's meat filling). Drain the potatoes/butternut, and mash them thoroughly with a potato masher or fork. Stir in a pinch of salt, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until onions begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add the ground beef, and carefully stir and break up the beef as it browns in the skillet. Cook for about 6-7 minutes, until beef is mostly cooked through.

While the beef is cooking, whisk the cornstarch evenly into the beef stock. Add the steamed carrots and the stock to the beef, along with the peas, capers, Worcestershire sauce, anchovy paste, pepper, thyme, paprika, and a pinch of salt. Stir carefully to combine, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, then taste and adjust any seasoning-- adding a bit more Worcestershire, capers, salt and peppers, etc, as you like. Simmer for another 5-7 minutes to further reduce the stock.

(At this stage, if you are not using a dutch oven, transfer the ground beef mixture to a large, oven-proof casserole dish).

Carefully dollop and lightly spread the butternut/sweet potato mash over the top of the ground beef mixture, and sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the top. Place the shepherd's pie under the broiler set at high heat for about 3-5 minutes, until the cheese begins to bubble and slightly brown, watching to ensure it doesn't burn.

Serve immediately.

Storage Tip: Shepherd's pie will keep in the fridge, covered, for 2-3 days, or can be covered and frozen for up to 3 months.