Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas meal...part three

And finally, we have the main course. Upon special request from my mom and sis, I made HALF AND HALF SHEPARD'S PIE. The half and half refers to the half pork and half mutton mixture I used for the meat filling. If I had my way I would have used only mutton, but my picky sis was worried the mutton would be too strong tasting. In a typical Chinese family in Singapore such as mine mutton does not often feature on the dinner table, I know not why. So, if you want to try mutton but is worried about the unfamiliar taste, mixing it with a more neutral meat is one way to get around it. Shepard's Pie is a traditional English dish, and traditionally made with mutton or lamb. Another common version is the one made with beef. This is the American version, often called a Cottage Pie. Beef's out for my family as my parents are Buddhists, hence the half and half. Serves 6.

Pie Filling:

1 stalk celery

1 carrot

1 yellow onion
2 clove garlic

250g minced mutton
250g minced pork
2 tablespoon tomato paste

Small amount stock/water

1 heap tablespoon plain/all-purpose flour

Whatever spices you like. I used sage.

Potato Crust:

Desired amount of potatoes; Depends on the size of your baking dish; a flatter dish with larger surface area would need more, a deeper dish with smaller surface would require less. I used 8 smallish potatoes.
1 tablespoon salted margarine/butter

Small amount of milk
Salt and pepper to season.

Firstly, fry up the meat. As they cook, liquid will come out of the meat. This needs to be drained as they can be quite gross. Once drained set aside.

Next chop up the celery, carrot, onion and garlic. Start off with the onion and garlic, frying them up in the same pot used to fry the meat [you'll be thankful for this when it comes time to do the dishes]. Once the onion gets soft follow up with the rest of the veggies.

Fry til the onion starts to turn brown, then dump the meat back in, along with the herbs or spice, fry a little more, around 5 mins. Next add the flour, tomato paste, and just a little stock first. It is much easier to add more liquid than to take excess liquid away, so always start by adding just a little, then top up. What we are trying to achieve here is a thick gravy that just coats the filling, so that the pie will be nice and moist, but not so much that it turns into a soup. So stir up the mixture and add stock as needed. Taste and season as needed.

Next, the potato crust. Peel potatoes and boil til a knife/fork pierce and slid out of it easily. Drain and let stand a few minutes in the mashing bowl for the steam to evaporate. Dump in margarine and a little milk and mash, adding more milk as needed. Mash according to your preference, either smooth or lumpy. For me, since it's going into a crust, I didn't bother too much with it and left it lumpy. Taste and season.

Now for the fun part, building the pie. There's a few different version of the Shepard's Pie, firstly the way I'll be doing it, topped only with the potato crust, secondly with a layer of potato under the filling and then topped with the potato crust, and lastly to use short crust pastry for a pie shell. I'm going for the simplest, but I'll definitely give the other methods a try another day. For now, press the meat filling into the bottom of your baking dish, then top with the mash. Spread right to the edge of the dish, making sure to cover everything. This is to increase surface touching the mash, as this creates a nice crunchy crust.

Once the meat filling is covered, use a fork to score as much ridges as possible across the surface of the crust. Again, this is to encourage crisping, as more surface is exposed to the heat when the potato crust is scored.

Pop into the oven and bake til you are satisfied with the colour of the crust, roughly 30 mins. All the ingredients are cooked already, so the only purpose here is to crisp and brown the crust and warm up the pie a little. Here's my finished product =P

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