Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mamma's take on a different Shepherd's Pie

I spent my childhood in the beautiful green villages of Kerala and then in the busy, noisy concrete jungle of Mumbai. While everyone else who were in similar situations, picked sides and favorites, I thrived and enjoyed the contrast. I couldn't part with my birthplace's pitch black nights alive with the chirping insects and shining fireflies. But at the same time, I loved the street lamps' orange glow, the insomniac attitude and the freedom in the city, which I embraced in my heart.
My tastes have also never discriminated between the two places. I would crave my South Indian masala Dosas and the same way, I had dreams about biting into a spicy hot Vada-pav whenever I stayed away from my hometowns, for long. 
So pretty much everything I cook will have influences from both and then some I picked up during my stay here. Unlike people, who will always keep the walls high the minute they see someone different, nothing stopped me from befriending and playing with the ingredients. I mixed them and isolated them and married them off with what I knew and what I didnt. And in the run, got some pretty unique recipes. 
Shepherd's Pie is traditionally a British Pie that is made with leftover roast meat, and other sides, sealed with a mashed potato top crust. 
The Shepherd's Pie I tasted was made by a  very amazing cook and friend Christie, in Atlanta. She had all these leftovers after Christmas and invited a couple of neighbors to her place, so that we all could chat while the kids, toddled, crawled or simply lay there and be cute. (Between 5 of us, we had 7 kids!) And as we munched, sipped and talked, her oven timer went off and as she opened it, the aromas that wafted out were very tempting. She wasn't a tease, and treated us all to a piece of her amazing pie, with all the leftovers and some roast lamb with a plush, crisp and chewy blanket of mashed potatoes covering them.
I loved the aromas, and the flavors, but my pepper crazy Indian taste buds, did think it could have been a little more spicy. But Christie made it up with a very spicy Cajun Cranberry Chutney, that she wanted to save for dinner,but let us all taste anyway. After a fun filled evening of swapping recipes and sleepy kids, I returned home, determined to try this pie out. I was crust-o-phobic when it came to making a pie. And this recipe actually didn't need one, so it really made an impression on me. 
After making a simple one, I started off experimenting and finally landed on this recipe. Actually inspired from the Kerala Mutton Stew, which is thick, creamy, delicious and goes well with breakfast flatbreads, this pie is the dinner version of it. The meat is sauteed with the traditional spices and then sealed in a mashed potato top-crust, spiced with amazingly fragrant spices and a little coconut milk. 

Mashed Potato leftovers or fresh, made and cooled---about 2 cups (In case you want to make some...boil 4 large potatoes, skin them, mash them while still hot, with 1 tbsp butter, 4 tsp of milk, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and a dash of fresh ground peppers. Whip them until light and airy.)
Stew meat (Chicken, mutton or beef) cubed--- 1lb
Onions---2 large; peeled
1 sprig curry leaves
Green chilies --2 slit
Whole black Pepper Corns--5 or 6
diced medium sized potato-- 1
1/4 cup green peas
1/4 cup cubed carrots (make sure its the same size as peas)
garlic- 2-3 cloves
Whole cloves--5 to 6
Fennel seeds--- 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon---One 1- inch stick
Green cardamoms--2-3
2 tbsp veg oil
1/2 tbsp vinegar
a little fennel seeds and parsely (optional)

Clean the meat of any fat and rinse in cold water, drain. If you are using red meat, soak in some lemon juice (about 2 lemons) to tenderize it. Now brown the meat in a pan with just a dash of oil, salt, vinegar, black pepper and curry leaves. Keep aside.
In the same pan, add the remaining oil and fry the onions, curry leaves, green chilies and garlic, until fragrant and glossy. Crush the remaining spices lightly and add to the mix, stir well. Continue cooking in med-low heat. Add the carrots and peas, stir well.
Now add the cubed potatoes now, and cover. Let it cook.  Stir occasionally until potatoes and veggies are tender and crumble when applied pressure. Add just a dash of salt. Now add just enough thick coconut milk to make the mix moist and stir in the meat. Dont add too much coconut milk or your pie crust wont stay crisp(see my picture). But the good thing is at this stage, even if you add a little more than necessary, turn it to high heat, once the meat is all done, to make it thicker.
Cook until the meat is cooked all the way and tender. Add more vinegar and salt if needed, according to your taste. Take it off the stove.
The original recipe of Shepherd's Pie is made from leftovers...and like most leftover resurrections, the ingredients have to be cold. Cool down the filling. Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
You can either use a ready made pie crust or you can just use a glass dish for the actual pie. make it somewhat level and spread the mashed potato on top. Its a perfect setting when the filling comes to 3/4 full and the top loaded with mashed potatoes slightly puffing up above the rim. That way, it will get the right amount of heat for a slightly crunchy crust and rich, melt-in-the mouth filling inside. Do leave an insignificant vent for the steam to escape in the mashed potatoes. Scatter a little bit of fennel seeds and parsley on top.

Mine would have looked much better if I didnt go crazy with coconut milk and  a tad more baking time! 

Bake for about 30-35 minutes in the top shelf, until the potato topping is lightly browned. Remove from oven, let it cool down for 5 minutes, serve hot. Accompany it with some steamed veggies and crusty sour dough bread. For dinners, I serve it with extra crisp English muffins, toasted and almond-green beans, and it does make a good lunch scooped up between two burger buns, if you dont mind a little carb overload.

Mine didnt have carrots in them...coz we had glazed carrots leftover!!!

And with this post I conclude the October for Baking theme. Next month is yet something special coming your way....Stay tuned! xxx

No comments:

Post a Comment