It would be pretty hard to write about The Shepherd’s Wife without sharing a recipe for her pie, right? Shepherd’s Pie (aka: cottage pie or pot pie) is a “leftover” dish by tradition. When a farmer’s wife had prepared that large lamb roast on Sunday, Shepherd’s Pie or one of its many variations, was sure to hit the table on Monday night. We have so much to learn from our past, don’t we? Seems many of our answers to living a greener life are like a pair of ruby slippers—a way home right before our eyes all the time.
And basic Shepherd’s Pie is a pretty easy dish—leftover meat and gravy get thrown into a sauté of aromatic vegetables, placed in a casserole dish and topped with last night’s mashed potatoes (unless there are none, in which case you’d need to whip those up). Then it’s into the oven and “ta da!” You have a one-dish supper.
But you know me…I just had to tweak this ever so slightly. Be brave….
When I was out visiting Tracy on her sheep farm, we, of course, discussed recipes. Shepherd’s Pie is a favorite in the Riddle household, but even Tracy has put her own mark on this classic dish. And you know what? Her adjustment sounded brilliant, so it’s part of my recipe too! “I have never been a big fan of peas,” Tracy admitted, “especially canned or frozen. If it’s not right out of the garden, it’s not a good pea.” However, most recipes for a traditional Shepherd’s Pie suggest peas in the stew-like mixture that forms the bottom of the pie. Tracy decided to be brave (LOVE IT!) and substitute mushrooms instead. How brilliant is that?
So it was off to Leo’s house—my local mushroom grower–to pick up a big bag of gray oysters. However, if you decided to make this dish and don’t live near Leo, I think chopped portabella or shitake or a mixture of both would be divine.
Like Tracy, I was thinking already about how I might slightly elevate this humble…pie…OK, that was pretty lame. What was bothering me was the mound of potatoes—not that I don’t love good homemade mashed potatoes—but it sounded a bit…boring. So I literally lift the typical diced carrots out of the meat mixture and created a spiced carrot puree to give those potatoes a flavorful, colorful friend. If this is more than you want to tackle, feel free to keep the carrots in their original spot—I’ll be sure to tell you how.
And one other thing…I purchased a pound of raw ground lamb from Tracy for my Shepherd’s Pie, since I did not have leftover roast. So, I wrote out the recipe using the raw lamb burger, but I will be sure to mention how to adjust for leftovers in the recipe, if you are really being greener than green.
And before you get your wool up…
The lambs that go to market from Tracy’s farm are not tiny enough to fit in your Easter basket (Leave the anthropomorphism to Disney.). Market lambs are nearly fully grown, and live a happy life for about a year to a year and a half out in the pasture with their moms…more or less the same as humanely raised cows, hogs and chickens. And while meat is better left as a side dish rather than the center of the meal if we are serious about ending climate change (see the end of my post on The Compost Cracker for Drawdown Challenge links), it can still be a perfectly green choice, especially in a dish such as this and especially if we buy meat raised by local growers like Tracy, on small farms, who practice humane, regenerative and/or organic agriculture. OK, lecture over—time to cook.
A bit of caution
My casserole was very full and I did experience an oven spill. So be mindful of that, either using a slightly bigger casserole dish to give it extra room or be sure to place a spill guard on the oven rack below your casserole.