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Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie nicely browned!

I obtained this recipe from a book I borrowed from our local library way back in 1995 -title of the book is “Violet Oon Cooks”. It’s still available for borrowing from the Jurong Regional Library at the time  I published this blog article.

I like this recipe because one has only got to buy minced meat and potatoes and that’s it! The other ingredients you should already have in your pantry like onions or milk..When I first encountered this recipe, the only bugbear ingredient was the Worcestershire sauce.

All newbie cooks that just got married and start out cooking(other than lack of time and inexperience in the kitchen) will be wondering if they need to buy this sauce or not, particularly if they will be using it just one time for just one recipe. If you face this dilemma, just skip it ..it’s only 1.5 teaspoon(Worcestershire sauce) and it will hardly be missed because honestly I think what makes this dish is the onions! I used minced chicken for this recipe for this but with all the onions I added in, the meat stew tasted like a hearty beef stew at the end!

I also did not use the stove top to cook this. In earlier years when the children were young, I cooked everything according to the original recipe , following its methods judiciously because I did not know any quick hacks then!

What are some of the hacks I employ now to cook the dish faster?  I simply empty all the ingredients for filling (except for the cornflour mixed with water) into my rice cooker and press once (like I am about to cook rice)

Once the meat stew is ready, open the cover and break up the meat which will ‘stick’ together with a spatula (I use the plastic spatula that is provided with the rice cooker to do this)

I leave the lid up, off the electricity and pour in the 2 tablespoon cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoon water and mix it with the meat mixture. If you are doing it right, then your meat stew or meat mixture will be looking slightly sticky and drier. If you find your meat mixture still in gravy, then add another round of 1 tablespoon of cornflour mixed with 1 tablespoon of water (or 2 tablespoons of cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons of water) and give it a good mix.

Your meat mixture should look like this

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meat mixture fairly dry – not swimming in gravy

As for the potatoes, I also modified my cooking method-I simply softened it in the microwave oven. When I first cooked this, I had bought a microwavable steamer from Mustafa Centre in Little India (kitchenware department).

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I remembered buying it because my stove top cookers were faulty then and I was in between changing to a new one. Since my convection oven which also happens to be my microwave oven was in great condition, I prepared meals in it for almost 2 weeks! Microwave cooking is very quick and it cuts down cooking time to a fraction of the original.

On a positive note, that’s what home ‘disasters’ do to you;force you out of your ‘comfort zone’ to think of a solution and most of the time, you are definitely a better homemaker for it!

As the above recipe calls for 1 kilogram of potatoes (not much really after you peel the skin and what not), and my container for microwaving my potatoes is rather small – I divided my potatoes into half (500 grams at one time) and cooked it twice.

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Each time, microwave at high (mine is 800 watts) and I microwave it for about 8-10 mins per time. Be careful when you remove the cover of the steamer ; open it with the cover facing you and the steam blows away from your face in the opposite direction so that your face does not get a ‘facial’ (trust me, this is not the kind of facial you want to be getting during cooking as this heat can scald!)

I think that’s all the advice or hacks I can think of at this point.

My belief  is  that a recipe should not be overly complicated and should only consist of ideally 3 to 4 ingredients so that it doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket. This is particularly significant if you rotate cooking at home with eating out and don’t use many common pantry ingredients too (like onions, garlic and ginger…you can substitute these with its dried form like onion powder, garlic powder and the like..no problem about that..if the recipe just uses these to add flavour by all means go ahead and do so!)

Try to collect as many simple nutritious recipes to ‘keep’ in your recipe box. As a mum, you can leave behind practical and encouraging recipes for your children to replicate when they get older-your efforts will not be in vain!!

Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Ingredients (mashed potato)

  • 1 kg US Russet Burbank Potatoes
  • 80 g butter (I used 30-40 g)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp evaporated milk or fresh milk (I used low fat milk)
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper powder

Ingredients (filling)

  • 750 g minced topside of beef or mutton (I used minced chicken)
  • 2 large onions, peeled and chopped finely (my family is not so hot on onions so I only used 1.5  large onion)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 1 cup hot water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp cornflour mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil (I used 2 tbsp vegetable oil)

Method

  1. Wash potatoes, place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and continue boiling over high heat till potatoes are soft – about 30 minutes. Test by piercing potato centres with a fork.
  2. Drain water from potatoes and peel them while they are still hot. Add butter, salt, milk and pepper. Mash well with a potato masher or a fork. Do this while the potatoes are still hot and soft. Set aside.
  3. To make filling, heat a wok and add oil. when it is hot, add chopped onions and stir fry till limp – about 4minutes. Add beef; stir fry till colour changes. Add salt, pepper, chicken stock and dark soya sauce. Boil for about 5 minutes. Add diced carrots if desired.
  4. Add cornflour mixture and stir well till mixture turns a little dry and sticky. Turn off the heat.
  5. Place filling at the bottom of an oven-proof glass bowl; press filling well so it forms an even layer. Top with a layer of mashed potatoes and run a fork across the surface to create ‘ripples’.
  6. Bake in an oven, pre-heated at 200 degrees Celsius for 30 – 40 mins, till Shepherd’s Pie is golden brown on top.

Other cook’s notes:

  • This dish can be cooked ahead, cooled and then frozen.
  • One can add in vegetables of your choice (I sometimes add in diced carrots to the meat stew or mixture to make it a more balanced meal)
  • One can serve it with a side like a salad or a soup (I sometimes pair it with tomato soup)

 

 

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