fall = cold. winter = colder. i live in a hemisphere where more than half my year is spent with cold hands and fierce comfort food cravings. bad combo for my aspiring abs. among my top favourite classic comfort foods are meatloaf, stew with dumplings, chicken pot pie and shepherd’s pie. i was going to make a classic shepherd’s pie – just meat, peas, corn, potatoes and cheddar cheese on top and doused in hot sauce and ketchup, but i was really in the mood for mushrooms, remember? creamy mushroom gravy and earthy veggies and black pepper, so i settled on a lamb, mushroom and brussels sprouts shepherd’s pie.the filling is rich, with a dark gravy and plenty of garlic and shallots. the lamb is cooked with a sprinkle of allspice (ultimate fall!), and mixed with the brussels sprouts, and 3 kinds of mushrooms. everything is cooked slowly and simmered to really build the flavour. now, i have a confession to make – and it’s super embarrassing. are you ready? of all the things i can cook, and cook well, the one thing i can’t master for the life of me is mashed potatoes. seriously. i make kick-ass eggs, i can bake a lovely, moist cake, but i can’t get fluffy, pillowy mashed potatoes. how can i call myself a cook?! it’s blasphemy, really. the last two thanksgivings i messed them up, and in favour of all honesty here, i had to make this batch twice and they still weren’t amazing :(. these turned out fine, and the tops got nice and crispy, but i always add too much of one thing and not enough of another. my goal this winter is to fine tune my mashed potato skills. i’ll eat as many potatoes as possible to achieve my goal! (well, after vacation anyway). with that said these shepherd’s pies still turned out delicious, and i put cute honey roasted mini carrots and parsnips on top which made me feel a tiny bit better about my potatoes, so this disclaimer was to urge you to use your own favourite mashed potato recipe for the topping. take your time with the filling – let it simmer until the liquid cooks down so you really get the full taste of the mushrooms and spices and a nice, thick gravy.
Lamb and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie
*makes enough filling for two mini pies as shown, or an 8 inch baking dish
1 pound ground lamb meat
3 cups mixed mushrooms, cleaned, and cut into 3/4 inch pieces (i used white button, crimini, and shiitake)
2 cups halved brussels sprouts
2 large shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon thyme
couple spashes balsamic
fresh groud salt and pepper
1. Heat a large pan to medium high (i of course used my cast iron, but any large, non stick would work as well), add a splash of olive oil, and add ground lamb, breaking it up into small pieces. Sprinkle flour and allspice over the lamb. Sautee until well browned, breaking up the pieces as it cooks, then transfer to bowl along with fat.
2. Add the shallots and garlic and turn heat to medium. Sautee for about one minute, or until shallots begin to turn transclucent. Add brussles sprouts and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasinally.
3. Add mushrooms and cook for another 6 minutes or so, until mushrooms are well browned.
4. Add ground lamb back to the pan, along with any accumulated fat, 1 1/2 cups of the beef stock, and the tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Cover and let simmer on low for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. During this time, make your mashed potatoes (don’t mess them up like i did!)
5. Add remainder of beef stock, couple splashes of balsamic vinegar, thyme and simmer for another 10 minutes until rest of stock is absorbed and gravy thickens. If you gravy doesn’t thicken, turn the heat up to medium high for about 2 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Once gravy thickens, transfer filling to baking safe dish, top with mashed potatoes, salt and pepper and bake for about 35 minutes, until filling is hot and tops of potatoes begin to brown. I like crispy tops so I broiled mine for a couple of minutes.
*if topping with honey roasted veggies, toss them in a teaspoon of honey and drizzle of olive oil and roast in 400 degree oven until almost cooked through. top pies with veggies about 20 minutes into the time they’ve been baking in the oven.