Warm comfortable English food for an icy cold winter day!
I posted an English cottage pie recipe a few months ago. Cottage pie is almost like shepherd's pie. In England, shepherd's pie is traditionally made with minced lamb and not beef. Cottage pie is made with coarse chopped beef, because this pie was created before mechanized meat grinders were commonly available. To add to the confusion, English shepherd's pies are made with ground lamb, while Irish shepherd's pie is made with ground beef.
Recipes do vary for English shepherd's pie. Some recipes have no mirepoix vegetables. Some recipes add peas. The toppings for shepherd's pie can vary, but most shepherd's pies are topped with a mashed potato mixture. This shepherds pie recipe is made with lamb, mirepoix and peas.
I cooked this recipe as a menu item at an English Pub several years ago. I was the chef of that pub for two years. When I took over the kitchen, the owners were doing the cooking. The English owners were not skilled cooks. They were old musicians who became famous in the 1970's. Every food item in the kitchen was pre-made instant mix food. Instant dried gravy, dried instant mash potatoes and canned soups lined the stock room shelves. The food quality and food reputation of that pub was not very good. The pub had only about 7 unfortunate customers a night, when I took over as the chef.
The owners made the simple mistake of trying to keep their food costs artificially low to make a bigger profit. 17 percent was there goal. A 17% food cost does yield great profits, but the food quality is usually very poor. So the owners were making very profitable food that nobody wanted to eat.
To give an idea about food cost tiers, a casual restaurant's food cost is usually about 20% to 28%. A non profit structured yacht club food cost is 48%. Fine dining restaurant food costs vary between 28% and 35%. A food cost of 17% is dangerously close to a franchised fast food restaurant's food cost. You might say that the English Pub's owners were serving low quality "fast food" budget English food that nobody wanted to buy!
I changed the entire menu to traditional English and Irish cuisine and I made everything the old fashioned traditional way. After I took over as chef, all the food was made fresh and the pre-made instant mixes were never used. The food quality improved and customers began to flow through the doors. By the time I left the pub to pursue other interests, that English pub was serving over 200 customers per night! It just goes to show that even with simple English Pub food, if the quality of the food is good, then good word gets around!
My food cost percentage was a bit higher than the owner's limit, but the owner's realized that it was still very profitable. The menu prices did not change after I took over, so I had to run a tight ship with no waste. My food cost was a reasonable 23% and the menu food was of high quality. So our clientele numbers increased and beverage sales increased too. The English Pub made much more money by serving higher quality food!
The musician owners of the pub liked my approach to increasing profits. When the pub became successful, it was still like pulling teeth to get the owners to purchase more plates and silverware for the increase in business. The pub was in disrepair and all items that were health code violations eventually were repaired.
The nice perk for being the chef at that pub was that English ale and stout were free for me to drink. Two years of free beer is what you would call a college kid's wet dream! I do not miss that little pub too much, but I do miss the free imported English ale!
Englich Shepherd's Pie Minced Meat Filling:
This recipe makes one individual portion!
Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
Add 2 tablespoons of lard or unsalted butter.
Add 3 tablespoons of minced onion.
Saute till the onions start to become tender.
Add 6 ounces of lean ground lamb.
Use a wire whisk to stir and break up any clumps of ground beef as it cooks.
Gently saute, till the ground lamb becomes fully cooked and very lightly browned.
Add just enough flour, while stirring, to soak up the grease in the pan and to create a roux.
Stir and cook the roux for one minute.
Add 1/2 cup of English sweet porter or sweet stout.
Add 2 1/3 cups of rich dark beef broth.
Add 1/4 cup of diced carrot.
Add 1 small bay leaf.
Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Stir the stew, till it gently boils and thickens to a thin sauce consistency.
Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Simmer and reduce the stew, till the sauce becomes a medium gravy consistency.
Add 1/4 cup of peas.
Remove the bay leaf.
Simmer till the peas become tender.
Remove the pan from the heat.
Set the English shepherd's pie filling aside.
Potato Crust Topping:
Boiled potatoes turn out better, when the boiling is started with cold water.
Place 1 peeled russet potato in a pot.
Cover the potato with water.
Boil the potato over medium high heat, till it becomes soft.
Place the potato in a mixing bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon of milk.
Add 2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of whisked egg.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Thoroughly mash the ingredients together. Add a little bit more milk, if the mixture is too thick. The potato topping should be a medium thick creme potato consistency.
Place the potato topping in a star tipped pastry bag.
English Shepherd's Pie:
Place the English shepherd's pie filling into a souffle ramekin or a baking crock.
Place the pie on a baking pan.
Pipe the potato topping on the pie, so it looks nice. The topping should be about 1/2" to 1" thick.
Bake the English shepherd's pie, till the filling becomes piping hot and the potato crust becomes very lightly browned.
Allow the English shepherd's pie to cool to a safe serving temperature.
Place the pie crock on serving plate.
Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.
Warm, comfortable, savory and delicious! Shepherds pie is one of the all time best cold weather entrees. When the potato crust is opened, the aroma of the stewed lamb fills the air with a very inviting aroma. The rich flavors of the lamb, peas and mirepoix vegetables combine for a classic stew flavor.
I have noticed that most modern recipes omit the peas from both shepherds pie and cottage pie recipes. The peas are what gives shepherds pie a nice traditional English flavor. Yum! ... Shawna