Friends Of Australia Friday Shepherds & Cabs

It’s once again an Australia Time Friday! It’s FRIDAY!!!!

Posting this a bit late on California Thursday as after a very large meal I vegged out on the sofa for a while ;-)

I decided to try making a Shepherd’s Pie. I’ve not made one before. It turned out rather well. Paired with this lowly dish that started life as rustic era leftovers, I chose a Cabernet Sauvignon, of course, as I have a perverse sense of humor ;-)

Looking up recipes for Shepherd’s Pie I found a few thousand in endless variations. Even some made with chicken, turkey or pork and both vegetarian & vegan variations (unclear on the concept of “shepherd” as herding sheep…)

Tossing out the non-red meat versions, and choosing lamb over beef (technically beef is a ‘cottage pie’ today, though the history says in the early days Shepherd’s Pie was allowed as a name for either): The next big divide is “tomato sauce” vs “gravy”.

As tomatoes make the arthritic tendency of some joints to flair, we went the gravy route.

Next stop is “Vegetables or not?”. I chose a middle path. Old School is just meat & onion / garlic. “Re-imagined” is a bucket of all sorts of vegetables with minor intrusions of lamb… What I did was 1 pound of minced lamb, 1 medium onion, 3 cloves garlic, and about 1/2 cup of green peas. Just enough for the occasional pea for color, but not enough to actually notice any peas (yet I can claim I ate my vegetables ;-)

Onion was diced and sauteed for about 4 minutes in olive oil. Then the meat was added in small bits. As it started to lose the pink, the minced and crushed garlic was added, along with salt & pepper and a small drizzle of soy sauce. Many recipes called for Worcestershire Sauce which I don’t have but is mostly soy sauce, so…

The peas were heated in a small pan, and the spuds (4 large) were done in a pressure cooker. The spuds got about 1/2 a stick of butter added, along with salt & some white pepper, and a splash of milk, then the hand mixer made them a creamy mashed.

I removed the meat from the iron skillet and let it cool some during the spuds cooking time. Then added about 2 TBLs of flour to make a roux, and used a bit of potato water to get a gravy going. Meat added back in, the whole thing simmered just a bit, peas stirred in, then time to assemble.

In a 9 in x 9 in flat baking dish, I layered the meat mix on the bottom, spuds over the top, into a 450 F oven for about 20 minutes and done!

You know something is good when you have trouble waddling back into the kitchen after your second plate full of it and still want to try eating more…

Shepherd’s Pie originated as a way to use “leftover” roasted meats and occasionally some vegetables. As this is a way humble beginning, I decided to go to the wine most often consumed with THE most expensive cuts of red meat possible. Cabernet. In this case, Martin’s Pickup Truck. Vintage only 2019, but oddly, it was not in need of much age. Right from the bottle it was smooth and rich. It could stand another year or two to reach an ideal state, but unlike some other Cabs, it was drinkable now. (Some cabs have loads of harsh tannin when fresh and need 5 to 10 years to deposit them as sediment in the bottle and become smooth).

I liked this wine. I’ll be buying more of it. Not anything particularly spectacular about it. Not going to talk about chocolaty notes or a nose of raspberry or any of that kind of stuff. Just a nice drinkable flavorful Cabernet with plenty of varietal flavors to it. Not one of those Cabs where unless you alternate it with chunks of cheese or salami it abrades the tongue with power and tannin. Nope. This is a soft finish drinkable alone from the glass, if you like. Yet it just goes well with a meat dish. Rather like a much older Cab, but straight from the bottle.

The lamb was the same minced lamb as before, also from Australia.

So, having succeeded at Shepherd’s Pie, it’s now going to be one of my regular dishes. I’m Very Happy with the result.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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15 Responses to Friends Of Australia Friday Shepherds & Cabs

  1. Mike b says:

    It’s. Friday night here in Melbourne and now I’ve got a craving for food

    My mum back in the early 70s used to mince up the left over lamb roast for the Shepard’s pie. It was very good

    Another good one is steak and kidney pie.

  2. ChristianS says:

    When buying a leg of lamb, I make sure that there will be enough for leftovers. This gets finely chopped for the next day’s Shepherd’s Pie. I also keep any left over gravy for the matrix base. Carrot and onion chopped, occasionally peas. And some grated cheese on top of the mash for the oven. As with you, very moreish.

  3. rhoda klapp says:

    EM, you done it right. My cook informs me that cornstarch(=cornflour here) is what you use for the gravy. Lamb does well with tomato, but ketchup makes that something you can decide at serving time. I am not religious about innovative topping ideas, hash browns are fine if that’s your taste, and cheese in moderation.

  4. H.R. says:

    Rhoda Klapp: “[…] hash browns are fine if that’s your taste […]

    I went from mashed potatoes to hash browns because the mashed held too much moisture that precipitated out when baking and thinned the gravy.

    When I cut a square of Shepherd’s Pie, I expect the meat mixture to remain fairly firm such that you don’t need a spoon to get all the goodies that slid off back into the pan or out from under the rest of the pie. I’ve tried many ways to get mashed ‘taties dry enough to not drop moisture into the meat sauce with little success.

    When I switched to hash browns, that problem went away. Hash browns are a texture/plating thing to me and nothing to do with the resulting yumminess at the end of the rainbow.

    Bonus! I also like the crispiness that the hash browns take on and I can get that crispiness to go a good bit deeper than you’ll ever get with mashed potatoes.

    I use Masa Harina (an extremely fine corn flour for tortillas) for thickening the gravy because it adds a subtle, warm flavor that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s also a little better at producing that thick gravy that I prefer. Corn starch is more neutral to the flavor and I sometimes use that.
    Question for the culinary brain trust here: Has anyone used a dark stout for the liquid to make the gravy?

    I’ve considered it, but thought it might overpower the other flavors or stick out like a tenor in the choir hitting a wrong note, so I’ve not tried it.

  5. H.R. says:

    Ooopsie! Either I forgot to close the italic at the end of the Rhoda quote or else it’s that weird html-at-the-end-of-a-line thing E.M. told me about. He can see it. We can’t.

  6. rhoda klapp says:

    Stout does help while making the gravy. Just be sure you drink it, don’t pour it in. (I think your reservations about the overpowering taste are well-founded.)

  7. Paul, Somerset says:

    Your recipe for shepherd’s pie is exactly the same one as the one my mother (and her mother) used, except minus the garlic. They used a little rosemary and/or mint instead. Those herbs go brilliantly with lamb. I also like to add a small dash of Marmite and a big helping of carrots to the mixture, but that’s personal.

    By the way, the same recipe with minced venison is called hunter’s pie.

  8. Another Ian says:

    Checking in late. I’ve been chasing gremlins in the headlights of our Landcruiser. The original lights had got to about match grade so the boys installed LED conversions. With which we got only low beam. Thought I had it last night in a bad (intermittent – the best sort) connection in a multi-plug but then high beam on only one light.

    So I was there but it was Great Northern and the second go at a chicken curry.

    This morning found it. Most manufacturers switch the positive lead to the lights. Toyota the negative. The LED units had the common connection moved to suit Toyota but they’d left a large blob of solder that stopped the connection tab locking in its plug and thus making contact. Seems to work now.

    Been known to knock up a Shepherd’s pie to a recipe not much different to those posted – allowing for local variations.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    Thanks for the various inputs on authenticity! I do sort of remember my Mum making it, but me not paying attention to the details. Dad was more fond of beef (being from the American Midwest / Iowa) so mostly for lamb it was chops of leg-o-lamb.

    What I remembered was mince in gravy with potatoes over and vegetable or not varying with what was in the fridge to “move along”.

    I’m surprised at H.R.’s comment about water from spuds. I fully drain the spuds, then add back about 1 ounce of milk and they have very little excess water to offer to anything else. Perhaps the salt level in your meat is a bit high so it’s sucking the water out of the spuds?

    Try adding a bit more salt to the potatoes and less to the meat mixture… (water flows toward salt).

    I’ve recovered from the Cabernet (it was a 1.5 L bottle…) and moved on to London Gin & Tonic today. I’m going through accumulated “stuff” preparatory to “pack and move” in a couple o fmonths ( I hope). Along the way, I’ve got 3 different “Quake Happened! Oh Shit!” tents I’ve been setting up and sorting out. Today was the 4 “room” 193 sq. ft. one…

    It is currently on the lawn… It’s about 10 x 17 feet for the main area that has two divider walls you can install to make it 3 rooms, then there is a “porch” separated from the rest of about 5 x 5 feet where you can drop bags, park the dog, or change cloths (all doors and walls opaque).

    A bit overkill now that the kids are, well, not kids but adults and gone… So probably on the “give away or sell” pile.

    Setting up tents and taking them down, in the summer, in the sun. Oh Joy…. Where’s that gin and tonic?…

    Between cleaning out the garage and testing some of the old stuff, I’ve been a bit slow here. Hopefully that’s OK…

    At this point, 2 cars are set up with the smaller 3 person tents, plus folding / camp chairs, hard hats (Antifa and all…) and some other stuff. One “family bug out” and the other “me crossing the country”. I plan to get a Senior Pass to the Federal system of parks so my next trips will be more camping and less parking lots in the passenger seat in a sleeping bag.

    We’re shooting for about October to be in Florida. Who knows if Wuhan Virus will let us…

    @Another Ian:

    Nice job on the lights! Solder blobs are a bear.


    I’ve done rosemary and mint. Somehow I keep coming back to garlic and pepper ;-)


    FWIW, I’m having repeated clog / halt of my boundary router to AT&T. Don’t know what the problem is, but it isn’t inside my network nor the boundary router. So something at their side or in the wider world.

    Seems to do this at peak usage times… I suspect AT&T cheaped on their capacity and at peak times it craps up…. Or it’s some kind of Denial Of Service attack. But the occasional “red failed connect” light leans me toward AT&T CO equipment failure.

    So if I’m a bit sporadic, you know why.

  10. H.R. says:

    @E.M. re the potato moisture. I don’t think it’s salt. I think it’s the fact that you cooked yours at 450F and I am running 375F. That higher temp would drive off a lot more moisture all around, I’d think. Bottom up and then up from the top.

    I’ll bump up the temp next time I do a pie with mashed potatoes.
    @all – I certainly appreciate all the tweaks, preferences, and historical notes that have been brought up.

    With all those, tips, clues, and hints it would take a cook like my wife to botch a Shepherd’s Pie. (Y’all have heard her recipe for canned green beans with a smoke alarm as one of the ingredients, so I really wasn’t making a joke there.)

  11. steven Fraser says:

    @EM: Martin’s Pickup Truck seems to be available here in Plano. Will give it a try.

  12. jeremyp99 says:

    Good stuff. My 50s childhood saw Cottage or Shepherds Pie on Mondays, if we had had a joint of Beef or Lamb the previous day. Indeed, I still have a hand mincer which I use from time to time to mince leftovers. A simple, cheap and nutritious dish – and one of only two times I **ever** have tomato ketchup, the other being on sausage sarnies (sandwiches!). Fluff the mash with a fork when you put it on the pie, it makes the mash much crispier.

  13. cdquarles says:

    Grandmom made shepherds pie on occasion (she of partly Scots-irish heritage). That reminds me. I was in my local Wally World and there was a frozen, pre-made shepherds pie for sale. Gotta luv it :).

  14. Richard Bellew says:

    May I offer, for your delectation, Moussaka, the Greek version of Shepherds Pie. The recipe my wife prefers is this one from a British chef called Antony Worrall-Thompson. IMHO it is beyond delicious! The recipe is on the BBC’s website, which describes it as “a Greek-style moussaka, made with aubergines (‘Eggplant’ in USA IIRC) and lamb, packed with herbs and topped with two types of cheese.”
    It’s a fairly complicated recipe and the BBC says ‘<60 mins prep time' BUT, the quantities given are for six people. We've found that if we make the full quantity then eat about a third the first evening (yum!) then leave it to cool under a cloth overnight then put it in the refrigerator the next morning it's good for several days and at least two or three more meals. So you amortize the prep time over a total of 3 or 4 meals for the two of us, which is not nearly so daunting. What's more, we both think it tastes even better the second evening
    What we want to try next time is to get some of those foil dishes — the one per evening size — cook them all at the same time then eat one that evening and freeze the others. Should work well but we haven't tried it yet. Watch this space!
    And to drink? We're in France, so Australian wine is near unobtainable. But a local Cote du Rhone does pretty well.

  15. jeremyp99 says:

    Moussaka is a very fine dish indeed

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