I have been thinking lately about trying my hand at shepherd’s pie (well cottage pie actually). The problem is that all recipes I see are for a family of 10 and I am an old fart living alone.
I usually like to look up the history of a dish and then think about the philosophy behind it. Cottage Pie, the older name for English meat pies, started out as a poor folks dish. Now in the British Isles poor folks traditionally were large families living in very small houses. What does that tell us? Well, for one thing they had to make large meals, being poor they had to use what they had, and probably had to plan meals a week in advance so that food, say a large joint of meat, could be used up before it spoiled. Now that is not exactly the same thing as using left overs despite the usual claim that cottage pie was a way to use up left overs. It also tends to make me think that cottage pie was a simple dish with easy to keep winter vegetables in it. That means it would not have things like tomatoes and celery in there, nor imported spices. So with all that and more in mind let’s look at what I came up with.
First I picked up some 2cup Pyrex bowls as I wanted to make a single serving version. Having more than one bowl gives you the option of serving more than one person, or making up a few of the cottage pies and freezing them to be baked later.
I keep some chopped onion on hand so I sautéed about 3 heaping tablespoons of it in my cast iron skillet. Added 1/3 pound of lean (15% fat) hamburger breaking it up and cooking unil brown
While doing that I heated about 1/4 cup of canned corn (peas & carrots, or cut green beans will work just as well as corn) in the microwave.
I made some beef broth using a bullion cube (described as a cube of nasty chemicals, by someone not trying to live off Social Security) added a 1/2 cup of that (I will use a 1/3 cup next time), and about a tablespoon of flour to make a thick gravy. Added some salt, pepper, and garlic powder for flavor, dumped in the corn (you can hold out the vegetable and layer it in later, but I like the pot pie style meat & vegetable). When well mixed I let that simmer.
While the meat, vegetable, and gravy simmered until the flour in the gravy was well cooked, I made up a cup of instant mashed potatoes. You want to make them very thick. You can make them up anyway you like; me keeping things simple, I just used the potato flakes and water heating them in the microwave.
Now pour the meat & gravy into the Pyrex bowl. Layer the potatoes on top. I crumbled a half slice of Cracker Barrel Cheddar Cheese on top. Put in the over under the broiler for 5 minutes (in this case everything is already hot, so you are only crisping the potatoes, if you are cooking one from the freezer bake at 350-F for about 40 minutes or until the potatoes start to brown). Time to make about 20 minutes.
Let it cool for a few minutes, and eat from the cooking bowl. Yum!
For those who just have to have a list:
1 teaspoon of butter, grease, or oil of your choice
1 small onion chopped
1/3# lean ground meat (I am going to try some deli roast beef broken up in small pieces next time)
1/3 cup of broth appropriate to the meat you use
1 tablespoon of flour
1/4 cup of vegetables
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
3/4-1 cup of instant mashed potatoes
1/2 slice of cheese (optional)