He passed the Free North Church and half-smiled at it, thinking of Mrs. Ogilvy and Mrs. MacNeil. They’d be back, he knew, if he didn’t do something about it. He knew their brand of determined kindliness. Dear God, if they heard that Bree had gone to work and — to their way of thinking — abandoned him with two small children, they’d be running shepherd’s pies and hot stovies out to him in relays. That mightn’t be such a bad thing, he thought, meditatively licking his lips — save that they’d stay to poke their noses into the workings of his household, and letting them into Brianna’s kitchen would be not merely playing with dynamite but deliberately throwing a bottle of nitroglycerin into the midst of his marriage.
“Catholics don’t believe in divorce,” Bree had informed him once. “We do believe in murder. There’s always Confession, after all.”
Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone (Chapter 16 – Unarmed Conflict)
Is it just me, or is Roger perpetually navigating his way through one potential disaster or another? It seems the time bomb in question always involves Bree, at least one other woman and some question of Roger’s manhood…no matter what century they’re in.
It’s no wonder the Church ladies want to make him a meal or two…all that worrying can take the weight off a man!
And nothing quiets a growling wame faster than a hearty Shepherd’s Pie.
Gordon Ramsay. Hmphmmm. While he may not be everyone’s favourite Scot, he is a Chef, and he makes pretty much the best Shepherd’s Pie I’ve ever tasted. Gordo’s French culinary training has transformed this Scottish basic into something spectacular.
His addition of red wine is definitely French, as is the tomato paste, which both add colour and flavour to the lamb. But the biggest difference is in the potatoes that top his Shepherd’s Pie — this isn’t any old mash — instead, Gordon uses Duchesse potatoes: made golden with yolks, rich with butter, cheesy with Parmesan and crisp and light due to the lack of milk or cream.
However, like most Chefs with several human and mechanical dishwashers at his disposal, Mr. Ramsay takes too many steps and uses too many pots and pans. My version simplifies things a bit and gets rid of a few dishes.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
An update on the Scottish lamb and potatoes classic — this is not your Mom’s Shepherd’s Pie.
Yield: serves 6-8
- Ground Lamb – 2 lbs (see notes)
- Fresh Rosemary, minced – 1 Tble
- Fresh Thyme, minced – 1 Tble
- Salt – 1 tsp.
- Pepper – ½ tsp.
- Onions, peeled and grated – 2 medium
- Carrots, peeled and grated – 2 large
- Garlic, peeled and grated – 3 cloves
- Mushrooms, thinly sliced – 6 large
- Red wine – ½ Cup (optional)
- Tomato Paste – 2 Tble
- Chicken stock – 1 Cup
- Worcestershire Sauce – 1 Tble (or 1 minced anchovy)
- Potatoes, peeled and quartered – 2 lb
- Butter – ¼ Cup
- Egg Yolks – 3
- Parmesan Cheese, shredded – 1 Cup, divided
- Salt and pepper – to taste
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Heat an extra large frying pan or saucepan over medium high heat. Add the lamb, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, gently breaking up the lamb to cover the surface of the pan. Cook the meat, using the back of a wooden spoon to break up the meat and stirring occasionally. When the mince is no longer pink, add the onions, carrots, garlic and mushrooms and sauté for approx 5 minutes or until softened. Drain off excess fat.
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Pour in the red wine and reduce until almost dry, then add the stock and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper.
While the meat cooks, cover the potatoes with cold water and add 1 tsp salt to the pot. Boil the potatoes and cook for about 20 minutes until fork tender. Drain and return to the pan. Allow them to sit for 1 minute to steam ‘dry’, tossing gently once or twice. Add the butter and egg yolks and mash thoroughly until smooth. Add half of the parmesan into the potato and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon the meat mixture into an ovenproof serving dish, then spoon the potatoes over the meat, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan, and bake 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden.
Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- No lamb? Substitute regular ground beef…now you have a Cottage Pie.
- I don’t have a terribly green thumb, but I do have a small plot for herbs. Fresh herbs can also be grown in pots on a deck/balcony and have a powerful flavour impact on everything from scrambled eggs to Sunday dinner.
- Because there are only 2 of us, I use 2 loaf-size pans and freeze one for dinner down the road.
- Yellow potatoes result in a slightly creamier mash, but if russets are all you have, by all means, use them.