Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shepherd's Pie ... with a Twist

Comfort food is, without a doubt, a necessity during fall and winter. There's nothing more satisfying than a warm stew, a hearty soup or a savory pie. As we turned on the heat in our home the other day, I finally settled into cold weather mode and got to thinking about which comfort foods need to make their way to our dinner table from here on out.

Pastitsio, moussaka, hmmm ... then my thoughts turned to a post I read a couple of weeks ago on Giff and Lisl's The Constables' Larder in which the duo featured their favorite comfort food, the almighty Shepherd's Pie. I'd eaten a few versions of this hearty dish for lunch in a couple of Irish pubs and restaurants in Manhattan while I still worked full-time, but it's been a good five years since. So I decided it was time to try my hand at shepherd's pie.

Now, this is my own version of this versatile dish so you can change up the seasonings, substitute different vegetables (every version I had in the past included just peas and carrots between the beef and mashed potatoes) and add anything you like to the potato topping. I'd like to think I added a Greek touch to this delectable dish, using some cinnamon to season the ground beef, some nutmeg and grated Kefalotyri cheese to flavor the potatoes and a layer of sauteed yellow squash sandwiched between the two.

Be sure to visit Giff and Lisl's blog to read up on their version of Shepherd's Pie, which I will personally try the minute I get some good bacon and a bottle of Worcestershire sauce on my next run to the market.

Shepherd's Pie
Serves 6

Potato Topping:
5 or 6 potatoes, peeled and halved
3/4 to 1 cup half & half (or milk)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/3 cup grated Kefalotyri
Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds of ground beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 large carrots, diced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste

2 yellow squash, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch thick rounds
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Drain, return to pot and heat for a minute or so to allow some liquid to evaporate. Add the butter and mash until smooth. Stir in half & half, nutmeg, Kefalotyri, salt and pepper. (I used more towards a cup of half & half as I wanted the mashed potatoes a little loose so that they wouldn't dry up too much during baking.)

While the potatoes are boiling, make the beef filling. Heat a large skillet on medium high heat and add ground beef. Once the beef has browned, add the onion, butter, cinnamon sticks, carrot and tomato paste. Cook until the carrot is somewhat tender, about 15 minutes (if the beef mixture seems a bit dry add some water or stock). Season with salt and pepper.

Saute the yellow squash, seasoned with salt and pepper, in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until browned on each side.

Place beef filling in the bottom of a pie plate or casserole. Layer with the slices of yellow squash. Top with the mashed potatoes, being careful to evenly distribute the potatoes without mixing with the meat or squash (bring the potatoes all the way to the edge of your dish to seal the "pie").

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes then place under the broiler to slightly brown the mashed potato topping. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.


Giff said...

I like the path you took -- going to have to try this! Now I just have to learn what we have here in the States that is close to Kefalotyri cheese. cheers :)

Ivy said...

It's like a Greek version of shepherd's pie with lovely spices.

Peter G said...

How delicious maria! I love the Greek touches in this. I totally agree with you. Very comforting and very satisfyig!

Peter M said...

MAria, I love the Greek touch to the Shepherd's Pie. You shook up a classic, refreshed it and I think it would be a success on anyone's Sunday table.

The Mistress of Cakes said...

this is ironic...I am making sheppards pie this week...hehe...very tasty spin on an old favorite...

wanted to let you know that I have searched and found some pirate cakes and have posted them for you so you have some inspiration. also i havea recipe fot candy clay that is much easier to work with than fondant and you can make it whatever flavor or color!

Anonymous said...

Great one Maria. I love the cheese in the potato. I have a question for you: what is half and half? I often see it in US recipes and never know with what to substitute exactly.

Ivy said...

Maria, I have an Award for you to collect.

Maria said...

Giff, thank you for being the inspiration! Kefalotyri can be easily substituted with grated parmesan or pecorino romano, but Kefalotyri is pretty easy to find here in NYC, well, Astoria anyway!
Ivy, it was very good and there are so many things you can do to change it up--you can even make it a "faux" moussaka with eggplant slices in between.
Peter, extremely comforting and satisfying! My husband couldn't get enough of it. He was talking about it for days.
Peter, it would be lovely in individual ramekins too. Would make for a nicer presentation on the dinner table that way.

Mistress of cakes, thanks so much for stopping by!
Jodimop, thanks! Half and half is just milk and cream together. So it is richer than milk but not as rich as heavy cream. I love using heavy cream in sauces and what not, but sometimes I try to cut back and use half & half, which acts just as well in sauces and thickens up quite nicely (it just can't be whipped).

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...might have to hunt for the Kefalotyri, but have to give this a go. My husband would love it and we haven't had anything similar since visiting the UK a couple of years ago. Yum!

Maria said...

Thanks so much for dropping by Kellypea, hope to see you again soon! You can really substitute any pungent grated cheese for the Kefalotyri.

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Maria, I love shepherd's pie. It's what I consider comfort food. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and thank you for this delicious recipe.

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Hi Maria. Could you please come by my blog? I've roped you into a quick and easy foodie challenge.

Rosie said...

Just SO delicious maria!

Rosie x