Shepherd’s pie is a dish that originated in the United Kingdom and generally is made from leftovers from the meat of a lamb. It also can be made from ground meat cooked for a long period of time to create a meal with tender meat. The dish is created from lamb and stock, with mashed potatoes covering the meat mixture to form a crust. When ground beef or any meat that is not lamb or mutton is used in a recipe, the dish is often known as cottage pie. Among the best tips for making shepherd's pie are cooking the meat slowly and then allowing it to cool for a short period of time, making sure that any vegetables used are distributed evenly throughout the pie, adding texture to the surface and using seasonings to enhance or alter the flavor of the dish.
When cooking shepherd’s pie, a quickly cooked meal does not necessarily provide the best version of the dish. If the lamb is fried quickly in a pan before being covered in the mashed potato mixture, the meat can become hard instead of tender. Using a slow cooker and cooking the meat and stock mixture for two to eight hours provides a tender meat that improves the quality of the dish.
Vegetables are often included in a shepherd’s pie recipe, although there is no set type of vegetable that should be used in the recipe. In most traditional recipes for this dish, carrots and parsnips are used. To ensure that there are enough vegetables for each person who will eat the pie, each portion should include one of each chopped vegetable.
Before spreading the mashed potato on the surface of the lamb and stock mixture, the meat should be left to cool for a short period of time. Cooling allows a skin to form on the surface of the meat mixture, which allows the mashed potato to sit on the surface without melting through into the lamb and stock. After the mashed potato is spread on the top of the mixture, a fork can be used to form peaks or spread lines over the surface of the potato. When the shepherd’s pie is cooked in an oven for a short time after the meat and stock is fried or slow cooked for a long period, the peaks or lines add texture to the surface. The cook has the choice of broiling or baking the shepherd’s pie in an oven, with broiling providing a better surface texture of the mashed potato mixture.
Seasoning a shepherd’s pie when the lamb and stock mixture is cooking provides an improved taste for the recipe. In many cases, salt and pepper are the only seasonings used, with bay leaves being used to increase the flavors and taste of a shepherd’s pie. To alter the flavor of this dish, garlic and paprika can be used.