Shepherd’s pie may have originated in England, but it was adopted by Irish people many years ago. I grew up eating shepherd’s pie. To give my version of this traditional dish a true Irish flair, I have added Guinness stout to the beef mixture.
Shepherd’s pie is comfort food at it’s finest, especially when it has a little Irish flavor thrown in. Hope you enjoy my version of this delicious main course.
- 3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
- 2lb lean ground beef
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and pepper (to season meat and potatoes)
- 1 onion (large)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 cup beef broth
- 2 to 4 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup guinness stout
- 1 tablespoon bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 12oz peas and carrots (frozen)
- 3lb russet potatoes
- 2oz butter (1/4 stick)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
- 1 cup white cheddar cheese (grated)
- 2 packets brown gravy mix
- 1 and 1/2 cup water
- 3fl oz guinness stout
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
Before I start cooking the beef, I usually peel and cube my potatoes, cover them with water and set them to boil in a large saucepan. Add some salt to the cooking water. If you peel your potatoes in advance of cooking the meal, do not add salt until you plan to cook the potatoes. Salty water draws the juices out of potatoes, if they are left to stand too long before cooking. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. After 15 to 20 minutes they should be fork tender and ready to be drained.
While the potatoes are boiling, season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Brown the beef in two to three batches, depending upon the size of your skillet.
Make sure the beef is fully browned before turning into a colander to strain the excess fat.
I like to sit my colander over a glass bowl to collect the excess fat and juices. I then soak it up in paper towels and throw it in the trash. Our water company has requested we limit how much meat fat gets put down the drain. Meat fat can easily clog plumbing pipes.
While the meat is sitting to the side, add the last tablespoon of oil to the pan and brown the onions and garlic in the skillet.
My husband does not like the texture of onions, so here is a little trick I use to include their vital flavor, but eliminate the texture he so detests. I put the fried onions, garlic and the beef broth in my blender, then liquify the onions. I know most gourmet chefs are probably cringing at this idea, but a girl’s got to do, what a girl’s got to do, when her man doesn’t like onions!!!
Return the beef to the skillet with the onions (if you have not liquified them). Next add the tomato paste and dijon mustard.
Pour the Guinness and worcestershire sauce into the meat mixture.
Add the beef broth, or in my case, the beef broth and pureed onions. The broth in this picture looks more like Guinness because of the frothy, liquified onions. Stir the liquids well through the meat mixture.
Spices are next. Toss in the thyme, parsley, sage and marjoram. Another quick stir is needed to disperse them throughout the beef broth.
Brown sugar helps to take away some of the bitterness of the Guinness.
A few bittersweet dark chocolate chips are my secret weapon, to enhance the depth of the Guinness flavor. Mix well to ensure the chocolate melts and melds throughout the skillet. Return the mixture to the boil, then turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the mixture is thick and glossy.
While the meat mixture is simmering, the potatoes should be tender. Strain the potatoes, then mash them, or pass them through a potato ricer. I use a good old-fashioned potato masher. You can use a hand mixer, but be careful not to over-beat these starchy, russet potatoes. They can get gluey if the starch is released by over-beating.
Add the butter and 1/4 cup of sour cream to start. Mix thoroughly with the masher, and add extra sour cream as needed to produce a smooth potato mixture. The exact amount is dependent upon how starchy your particular potatoes may be.
Here is a photo of my finished mash.
When the meat mixture has thickened nicely, pour it into the bottom of a greased 2-quart glass baking dish. My dish is 8″ x 11″.
Top the meat layer with thawed peas and carrots, spreading them evenly over the surface of the meat.
Next comes the potato layer. Spoon the mashed potato over the vegetable layer and spread gently over the top, trying not to disturb the lower layers. When evenly spread, cross hatch the surface with a fork. Place the shepherd’s pie in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees F. Cook for 15 minutes before adding a layer of grated cheese.
If you wish to prepare this dish in advance of cooking, you can cover and store a pre-made shepherd’s pie in the fridge for a day prior to cooking. If you are cooking it after taking it out of the fridge, remember to extend the cooking time to one hour, since it will not be going into the oven hot.
My favorite white cheddar is Kerrygold’s Dubliner cheese, which is available here in the United States.
After 15 minutes of cooking I remove the casserole dish and spread the grated cheese over the top of the potatoes. Reducing the time the cheese is in the oven eliminates the risk of the cheese burning before the pie is fully cooked. Return to the oven and bake for a further 20 to 30 minutes.
The shepherd’s pie is ready when the surface is golden brown and crisping at the edges. Remove it from the oven. While it is cooling, there is plenty time to make a little Guinness gravy to accompany it.
Add the brown gravy packets to the water in a saucepan and whisk together to eliminate all clumps.
Add tomato paste.
Then comes the worcestershire sauce.
And then the key ingredient, the last 3 ounces of Guinness remaining in the bottle. I hate waste, so I decided why not use the last few drops of Guinness to enhance a little gravy to accompany this dish.
Add a teaspoon of brown sugar and whisk the gravy as it comes to the boil. Keep stirring it to prevent any lumps. Remove from the heat once it starts to bubble.
I like to serve my shepherd’s pie with a little Guinness gravy poured over the top, some steamed broccoli and a few mushroom caps, sauteed in oil and a dash of worcestershire sauce.
Shepherd’s pie is one of our family’s favorite meals. I hope you and yours enjoy it as much as we do.
Here is the printable recipe:
Slan agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
P.S. The folks at Kerrygold have never heard of me. I just love their cheese, and thought I might share with you. It brings back memories of my childhood, and the sweet, nutty flavors of Irish cheddar cheese.