Early this year I made this dish for the first time for my Irish friend and he approved it. Imagine that -- an Irish giving the thumbs up to a first-time Shepherd's Pie maker.
The truth is, making a shepherd's pie is easy although it takes a little bit of effort preparing the mash potato.
I adapted the recipe from Alton Brown's, which you can find it here. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/shepherds-pie-recipe2/index.html
As usual, I found ways to simplify the recipe while keeping the essence of it.
Ingredients (serves about 10 people)
For the mash potatoes:
6 russet potatoes
For the meat filling:
2 onions, chopped
4-5 sticks of carrots, diced small
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2lbs of ground beef (I like 80% lean ground beef)
2 tsps tomato paste (make sure you read the label carefully and avoid buying tomato sauce)
2 pieces of chicken bouillon (dissolve in a little bit of water)
Rosemary leaves and thyme leaves (fresh would be best but dried can be an alternative albeit a poor alternative)
Frozen green peas
Corn Flour/Regular Flour (to thicken the filling if necessary)
1. Boil the potatoes, with skin on, in a large pot of water for approximately 15 minutes (this is what I prefer but other alternative includes peeling potatoes and dicing it before boiling).
2. Rinse the potatoes in cold water and peel the skin.
3. Mash the potatoes with a sturdy fork or a masher.
4. Add 1-2 tablespoon of mayonnaise and 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Add salt to taste. If the mash potato is dry, you can add a splash of milk or cream.
5. Set this aside until the meat filling is ready.
Meat Filling (Pre-heat the oven to 400F while you are doing this)
1. Cook the onions until it turns lightly brown.
2. Add the carrot and cook for 3-4 minutes until soft then add the minced garlic
3. Add the ground meat and and cook the meat until it turns brown.
4. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, chicken bouillon water, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add a dollop of butter.
(Feel free to adjust the amount of sauce/paste/herbs/salt/pepper until you find the flavor that satisfies you)
6. Add the green peas
7. At this point, you want your meat filling somewhat dry. If there is too much liquid, add a little bit of corn starch/flour (dissolved in water first) to thicken it.
Baking the shepherd's pie
1. Transfer the meat filling to a baking dish until it reaches slightly more than half way point.
2. Fill the top with a layer of mash potatoes. I used my hand to form mash potatoes patties and put it on top of the meat filling.
3. Bake this for 20-30 minutes until the edges of the mash potatoes turn slight brown.