Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rudolph Pie (Christmas Shepherd's Pie)

My good friend LT was coming to visit for lunch so I decided to make us something nice and warm and wholesome - Nigella's shepherd's pie! I saw this recipe from her Nigella Bites Christmas Special.

In case you didn't know, I'm a fan of Nigella because she always makes cooking seem so easy at home. And you need not be fussed up about 1 or 2 tsp measurements that were a bit off. Yes, it's just according to your taste and what you really like.

When I saw Nigella as the Star for Cook like a Star, I was pretty excited. To me, Nigella is many things - bacon, chocolate, simple, peasy, comfort, indulgent and many more other things. Actually, to me, she would mean chocolate firstly. Although my first two posts on CLAS isn't about chocolate, I wasn't too concerned because they turned out to be a success. Even this third one isn't about chocolate too. But I still like this :)

  • 1 3/4 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 onions
  • 4 carrots
  • 2-4 stalks of celery
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3-5 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound button mushrooms, sliced or quartered
  • 2 1/4 pound minced venison or beef or chicken
  • 2 1/4 pound minced pork
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste, diluted in 1/2 cup water
  • 1 chicken or beef stock cube
  • 1/3 cup Marsala
  • Worcestershire sauce, to taste
  • 9 pounds potatoes (I used a bag of potatoes)
  • 3 1/4 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup full-fat milk
  • 1 stick butter, melted, plus extra to dot on the top
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  1. Pour 2 cups of near-boiling water over the dried porcini mushrooms and leave to steep while you get on with the rest of the cooking. Peel the onions, carrots and garlic cloves and chop them; I use a food processor here, and do them in 2 batches of 2 each.
  2. Pour the oil into a very large, thick-bottomed pan and when it's warm, add the chopped onions, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, sprinkling in salt if the vegetables look as though they might burn.
  3. Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, chop them coarsely and add them to the vegetable mixture along with the button mushrooms.  Add the mushrooms to the vegetable mixture. After about 5 minutes, when the fresh mushrooms have cooked down a bit into the mixture, transfer the vegetables to a plate so that you can start cooking the meat. 
  4. Add a little more oil to the pan then add the minced meats, breaking them up with a wooden fork or spatula. Stir for about 5 minutes until the rawness has left them a bit, add salt liberally, and then return the vegetable mixture to the pan. 
  5. Stir in the flour and, still stirring, pour in the mushroom-soaking liquid, tomatoes, tomato paste, Marsala and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. 
  6. Stir well, cover partly with a lid and turn down the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently with some of the liquid evaporating and the flavours intensifying, for about an hour. Even longer wouldn't do it any harm providing the heat is very low.
  7. Once cooked, taste for seasoning then remove from heat. 
  8. Boil the potatoes in a large pan of salted water until they are nearly tender and then add the parsnips which have been peeled and cut into chunks. Simmer until the potatoes and parsnips are cooked to easily mashable tenderness, but not to the point of disintegration, then drain them and let them dry slightly in the colander while you warm the milk and melt the butter in the heat of the pan that you cooked the potatoes in. Rice the potatoes and parsnips straight into this pan (or mash them) and then grate in some fresh nutmeg and add salt to taste.
  9. Put the meat mixture into a large dish approximately 12 1/2 inches by 14 1/2 inches in size. Then dollop the potato mash on top, spreading with a spatula, taking care to seal the edges to prevent the meat below from bubbling up in the oven. Use a fork to draw lines over the top, then dot with butter and sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce.
  10. Cook in a pre-heated oven for about 30-35 minutes until top is golden brown. Serve while hot.
  • According to Nigella, if it helps you can cook the base in advance (either freezing it or leaving it in the fridge for a few days), which means that when you want to serve the pie, you have only to bother with the topping. Some people are happy to make a shepherd's pie in its entirety and then leaving it to be reheated, but I think that's only OK if you don't need to refrigerate it for days (it does something funny to the texture of the potatoes). An afternoon, even a longer stretch, in a cold wintry kitchen, though, is fine. An easier alternative might be to refrigerate the cooked base and leave the mashed potatoes and parsnips in a plastic wrapped bowl in a cold place in the kitchen for however long you need, bringing the two together just before they go into the oven.
  • If you're cooking this straight away, in other words when everything's still warm, about 10 minutes in a 425 degree F oven should be enough to make it piping hot and golden and crisp on top. If cooking from cold, about an hour in a 375 degree F oven should do it.

This is the base for the shepherd's pie with all the wholesome goodness of the fresh button mushrooms as well as the vegetables including the tomatoes.

Here's the mashed potato covering for the shepherd's pie. If you like it cheesy, feel free to add parmesan cheese.

See the above. That was what was left of the shepherd's pie that was made in a huge dish. After making shepherd's pie from various recipes, to me, Nigella's shepherd's pie literally nailed it. It was definitely the best and the most flavourful to me. You try and tell me your verdict ;)

I'm going to submit this post to Cook like a Star where the Star for this month is Nigella Lawson. Cook Like A Star is an event organized by Zoe from Bake For Happy Kids, and the co-hosts for this month are Anuja from Simple Baking and Joyce from Kitchen Flavours. Do join us by cooking or baking any of Nigella's recipes for the month of August but do remember that it must be a current post. Don't forget to mention 'Cook like a Star' in your posts.


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