This past Wednesday was St. Patrick’s day and in lieu of going and dripping some miller lite dyed green, I decided to make a hearty meal. Last year I made corned beef and cabbage for the holiday, but that was with store bought corned beef. I’ve since taken a stab at making my own corned beef and I was quite pleased with the results, but I forgot to make any corned beef for the holiday.
After a little thought to Irish dishes, the idea of shepherd’s pie popped into my mind. Shepherd’s pie may be more English than Irish, but it’s a good idea and I could use some of the Flying M Farm lamb I had in the freezer. With the meat taken care of, there’s no better place for inspiration than Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his masterpiece, “The River Cottage Meat Book”.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for Shepherd’s Pie is easy enough, it even includes ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, but there was one catch. The first ingredient is 1 lb of leftover roast lamb. Not having any leftover lamb, I decided to cook up a few fresh roasts. That means turning to an earlier entry for Roast Lamb.
Defrosted, washed and looking quite lamby, it’s time for the fun part. FW’s recipe is a pretty simple one, but with a relatively unique ingredient: anchovies. The basic idea is to cut garlic cloves into thick slices, break a few sprigs of rosemary into short lengths and then cut 4 or 5 anchovy filets into 3 or 4 pieces.
A dozen or so slits are made in the roast and this odd trio is stuffed into the slits.
They’re then put into a very hot, 450 degree oven for what FW calls the “half-hour sizzle”
Half an hour certainly made an impression on the roasts. At this point, the oven is lowered to 325, a glass of white wine is poured over the roasts, and the lambs are returned to roast to your preferred temperature.
I was shooting for a lovely medium-rare at 140 degrees. I set up a remote probe thermometer for 140 and my timer for an hour.
20 minutes of resting went by before I attacked the roasts, but I soon had plenty of lamb to make the shepherd’s pie. Since I had time until dinner, I decided to take FW’s advice and use the lamb bones to make a quick stock.
The lamb shoulder was put in a stock pot, covered with water, an onion and carrot were added to the pot, everything was then simmered for 2 hours. Whittingstall even goes as far as to strain the stock after 2 hours and reduce the stock 1 cup of very condensed liquid. That’s all well and good, but I had company coming and I wasn’t interested in spending 3 to 4 hours reducing stock for Shepherd’s Pie.
With the 1lb of lamb chopped into pea sized pieces, I could get the rest ready. 2 onions were chopped, 2 carrots finely diced, and 1 garlic clove chopped.
A large pan was put over medium-low heat and the onions, carrots, and garlic were sweated until the onion just went soft.
At some point, Kate & Alvin showed up for dinner and Kate decided she should man the camera.
Whittingstall isn’t specific about how much stock should be used, but I suppose a cup of the lamb stock was added to the pan. ½ glass of red wine, 1 tbs of ketchup and 2 tsps of Worcestershire sauce were also added.
Instead of using puff pastry, Whittingstall uses mashed potatoes to cover the filling. That means, I had to make some mashed potatoes.
2 lbs of Yukon gold potatoes were added to salted, boiling water and boiled until they were sufficiently tender. To me, sufficiently tender means it doesn’t take any pressure for a sharp knife to piece a potato.
They were then mashed with a fork and left to steam for a few minutes more. Now it was time for the incredibly tedious part. After heating up 1 cup of whole milk and ½ cup of butter in a pan, it was time to attack the potatoes.
Taking a sample into a bowl, I was extremely pleased with the results of my hard work.
Judging by how much pie was eaten, I say it was a success. When I started this project, I was looking forward to a calm evening with a little cooking and no drunken idiots pretending to be Irish. Seeing as how much work went into this simple dish, I think I’ll join the drunks next year.