You know how it is when you're almost asleep, and you think to yourself "Oh, I just know I'm going to dream of happy things - of walks in the park, picnics on the beach, making love under a full moon". And then when you wake up, you realize your dreams were of awkward conversations with George W. Bush and his friends in an untidy college dorm room, and having to upload your school record to a centralized computing system so they can assess your suitability for admission but the instructions don't make sense, even though you're holding your perfect record in your hands - see, it's this sesame seed cake with a full covering of nuts on top which shows you got straight A's, but it's crumbling in your hands, and then you hear that the house you used to live in has suffered a terrible fire, so you go back to visit and the wealthy Indian gentleman who lives there now remembers you, but you don't remember him, and...
(I blame the cake bit on Les' "Top Tranny Vegan Chef" video, by the way.)
Okay, maybe you don't know how it is! But I'm sure you can relate to the feeling of distress and panic even though the dreams make no sense whatsoever.
In my waking life (that's the real one,right?) I spent yesterday afternoon baking myself a large Shepherd's Pie. Purists out there might argue and say it's a Cottage Pie because it uses beef instead of lamb. To them I say "You try finding ground lamb on sale around here!" Shepherd's Pie is possibly my most favorite food of all time, and unless I want to drive many miles and pay through the nose for a meal at an "authentic" Irish pub, I have to make it myself. This time I went large, in order to have leftover portions for my lunches over the next week.
I posted photos and twittered about this exciting event in my life as it happened. My friend Erin even opened a Facebook chat with me just to talk about it, and ended up being inspired to hold a potluck party at her new home when she moves in a couple of weeks. I guess I'll be cooking again when that happens! Another friend, Laura, asked me to share the recipe with her after seeing the photo of the finished product.
So, by request, here's the recipe I used for last night's meal. Bear in mind that I never follow the exact same recipe twice, and that this is probably underseasoned for most American palettes. You can add more salt, pepper, herbs, and even tomato paste if your taste buds need to be tingled more than mine.
All quantities are approximate. Don't blame me if I guessed wrong!
3 lbs ground beef (or lamb if available)
8 red skinned potatoes
8 oz frozen green beans (carrots are traditional too, but I chose not to use them)
1/4 cup low fat milk
2 Tbsps butter or margarine
1 pkt. brown gravy (makes 1 cup)
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp celery salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp dried onions (substitute fresh chopped onions if you have them)
1 Tbsp Masterpiece Seasoning (mixed herbs)
Cook the beef in a large non-stick pan until it is browned all through. Drain off the fat and then place in a large (9" x 15") ovenproof dish. Make sure the beef is arranged in a level layer. Place the green beans in a thin layer on top of the beef.
Cut the potatoes into 1/2" cubes and place in a saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain. Add the milk, butter and half the salt and pepper. Mash thoroughly.
Prepare the gravy according to the packet instructions. Add the remainder of the salt and pepper, celery salt, garlic powder, onions and seasoning. Pour over the beef. Add up to an additional 1/2 cup of water for extra juiciness.
Spoon the mashed potato on top of the beef and green beans, and smooth it out to form a layer reaching to the sides of the dish. Take a fork and drag it across the entire surface of the potato to form thin grooves (the "plowed field" effect). Make grooves perpendicular to the first set, leaving two inches of spacing between each row this time (see photo above).
Bake in the oven at 375°F for 25 minutes. Finish off by broiling for 5 minutes, to brown the top of the potato. (If you're a cheese person, you can sprinkle some grated cheese on the top before broiling.)