Albion Chic: Shepherd’s Pie With Beef and Mashed Cauliflower
Shepherd’s Pie With Beef and Mashed Cauliflower
I asked my friend Ben to show me how he makes his version of Shepherd’s pie. Ben is English and so is the dish, and I’d eaten it at his house a few times before—always mouth-watering, with people stuffing their faces and going for seconds.
Shepherd’s pie is a simple and rustic dish: Take some ground meat (traditionally lamb or mutton), cook it with veggies, top it with mashed potatoes, and bake until hot. It was originally created to use up leftovers from the popular Sunday roast.
It is a forgiving recipe, one where you improvise and don’t obsess over exact measurements. For the demo, Ben asked me to get ground lamb, leeks and white wine for the bottom part, and celeriac and cauliflower to put on top—we were going for a lighter, spring version of the pie. We added carrots and peas for color, and we scented the meat with garlic and a good amount of thyme and rosemary from Ben’s garden. Worcestershire sauce, also English, is a pungent condiment made from vinegar, anchovies, garlic, onion, molasses and other seasonings, and it gives the dish a bafflingly good, very umami flavor—so we added a splash or three.
A few days later, at home, I made the below variation of Ben’s pie—beef instead of lamb, with fresh oregano and mashed cauliflower, and baked in small, individual pie dishes. It turned out scrumptious.
- Serves 2–4
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 small carrots, peeled, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 1 large leek, trimmed, thinly sliced
- 1 pound ground beef, preferably organic and grass-fed
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup white wine
- ¼ cup vegetable or meat stock
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 1 medium cauliflower
- 2–4 tablespoons dairy or nut milk
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and leek, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots soften and the leek wilts, about 5–7 minutes.
- In a bowl, using a fork, mix the beef with the white pepper, salt, oregano and garlic. Add the beef to the skillet, break down to small pieces with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, white wine and stock, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Trim the leaves from the cauliflower, and cut it into small florets. Place in a medium saucepan, pour in enough water to cover the cauliflower completely, and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer until soft. Take one floret out of the water and test with a knife for doneness—it should slice easily. Drain the cauliflower and transfer to a large bowl. Mash it with a potato masher (or process with an immersion blender, or mix with an electric mixer), adding 1 tablespoon of milk at a time, until smooth. Season with salt to taste, and add the nutmeg.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spoon the beef into individual, round 6-inch pie dishes, and cover with a layer of the mashed cauliflower. Alternatively, spoon all the beef into an 8-inch square casserole dish and cover with the cauliflower. Bake in the oven until the cauliflower surface becomes firm to the touch, about 20–25 minutes.