I don’t know what to call this dish. It’s made along the lines of a Shepherd’s Pie with the mashed potatoes and the minced meat but I have made it my own with the addition of a layer of pumpkin or a mix of pumpkin and sweet potatoes seasoned with nutmeg and grana padano. There is also a layer of greens, which could be spinach or kale so that this pie becomes an all-in-one bake meal and because I like how the different coloured layers makes the pie look interesting. This pie also has both a bottom and top layer of mashed potatoes (mixed with grana padano). Why?
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It bothered me that whenever a portion of the traditional Shepherd’s Pie was served up on a plate, it almost always looked quite a mess – I am sure Shepherd’s Pie was never meant to have neat and separate layers – that’s just a little quirk of mine. The bottom layer of mash potatoes helps to keep all the layers together -provided you follow my recipe for the mash potatoes and don’t add too much liquid to it. With the different layers, this pie takes some time to put together. It does not involve any complicated kind of cooking though. After all, how difficult can it be to boil potatoes and pumpkin or fry up some onions and meat?

This dish can be served hot or cold. The pie in my feature image was served cold, hence, you can see the layers distinctly. If it was served hot, the edges of the pie will be less sharp but it will still hold its shape.

Not A Shepherd’s Pie

Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 50 – 60 minutes
Inactive:
Level: Intermediate not because of any complicated style of cooking but because there are separate layers to prepare and cook before assembling and baking.
Makes: 12″ x 8″ x 2″ tray (30.5 x 20 x 5)cm
Oven Temperature: 360F(180C)
Can recipe be doubled? Yes.
Make ahead? Separate layers can be prepared the night before. Baked pie, taste great hot or cold and keep well through day 2.

Ingredients

Mashed potatoes layer
2.2 lbs (1 kg) russet potatoes
~5 Tablespoons (2.4 oz)(70g) butter
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
6 Tablespoons grana padano*
1/2 teaspoon salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper to taste
Mashed pumpkin/sweet potatoes layer
1.3 lbs (600g) pumpkin/sweet potatoes**
1.5 Tablespoons (3/4 oz)(21g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Kale/spinach layer
14 oz (400g) fresh kale/spinach
OR
7 oz (200g) frozen kale/spinach
Meat, carrot and mushroom layer
1.3 lbs (600g) ground meat of your choice
~1 cup (5.6 oz)(160g) diced onions
~1 cup (5.6 oz)(160g) dice carrots
8.8 oz (250g) button mushrooms
~ 3 – 4 Tablespoons oil
1/4 cup stock of your choice
OR
1 stock cube + enough water to make 1/4 cup
1 Tablespoon worcestershire
2.25 Tablespoons tomato puree
1.5 – 2 Tablespoons anchovy paste
OR
~8 canned anchovies***
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
~1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
Potato starch/corn flour slurry
2 Tablespoons water +  2 Tablespoons potato starch/corn flour
Buttering the pie
~2 Tablespoons (1 oz)(28.3g) butter
* Grana padano has similar taste undertones as parmesan cheese. I prefer the milder tasting grana padano in this dish. It also cost less as it is produced in more regions in Italy.  Substitute with parmesan.
** I usually use 100% pumpkin. When pumpkins are flat tasting, I use 75% pumpkin 25% sweet potatoes for a better flavour.
*** That’s about 1 flat can of anchovies, drained of oil.

Method

Mashed potatoes layer
1. Cook potatoes in their skins. Cover the potatoes with water, bring to a boil and then simmer until cooked through. A skewer should be able to slide in easily.
2. Drain off water completely and when potatoes are still warm, peel off potato skin.
3. Melt the butter.
4. In a large bowl, add the melted butter, heavy cream, grana padano, salt and pepper.
5. Next, add the still warm potatoes and start mashing. I prefer using a potato ricer as it gets rid of all lumps.
6. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. However, as the mashed potatoes should not be at all runny, do not add more cream or butter.
7. Might be refrigerate at this point and used the following day.

Mashed pumpkin/sweet potatoes layer
1. Pumpkins: Remove the skins and seeds from the pumpkin. Sliced into chunks and microwave until soft. Do not add any water. Alternatively, steam the pumpkins. How? Place a trivet or an inverted heatproof vessel (~1″ (2.5cm) height) in a pot. Place a heatproof vessel on it that will hold all the pumpkin. It has to be stable. Fill the pot with water until it reaches close to the bottom of the heatproof vessel where the pumpkin will sit. Place the chunks of pumpkin onto the heatproof vessel, cover the pot and steam on medium heat until pumpkins are soft. Drain the cooked pumpkins of any residual water. Set aside.
2. Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes can be microwaved, boiled as you would potatoes or it could be steamed in their skins. They cook faster than potatoes. Peel skins off sweet potatoes whilst they are still warm. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, add sugar, nutmeg and pumpkins/sweet potatoes. Mash until smooth.
4. Taste and adjust seasoning.
5. Might be refrigerate at this point and used the following day.

Kale/spinach layer

1. Fresh kale/spinach: Blanch in boiling salted water and as soon as it wilts, remove with a strainer and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain in colander and then squeeze kale/spinach to remove remaining water. Set aside.
2. Frozen kale/spinach: Set it over a colander to thaw and drain off excess water. Squeeze kale/spinach further to remove remaining water. Set aside

Meat, carrot and mushroom layer
1. Dice onion finely.
2. Dice carrots.
3. Quarter the mushrooms.
4. In a large frying pan, heat up the pan with the oil and diced onions over medium-high heat. Saute onions until lightly brown around its edges.
5. Add the mushrooms and stir until you are quite sure the mushrooms are dry and not weeping any liquid.
6. Add the ground meat, stir to break up and once it has turned colour (does not need to be cooked at this point), add the diced carrots and all remaining ingredients (except the slurry).
7. Fry for ~5 minutes. Add the potato starch/corn flour slurry. Stir ~ 1 – 2 minutes until thicken.
8. Turn off the burner. Taste and adjust seasonings.
9. Might be refrigerate at this point and used the following day.

Assembling
1. Preheat oven to 360F(180C). Oven rack adjusted to middle.
2. Butter a heatproof vessel that is at least 12″x8″x2″ (30.5x20x5)cm.
3. Use slightly under 1/2 of the mashed potatoes to cover the bottom of the vessel. I find that my bench/dough scraper does a great job in evening out the layer of potatoes. Keep enough potato aside for the final top layer of potatoes.
4. Next, layer the kale/spinach.
5. Then, the meat layer, using the bench/scraper to even out meat layer.
6. Pumpkin/sweet potato layer is next. Clean off the scraper and use that to even this layer as well.
7. Lastly, layer out the remaining mashed potatoes. Take a handful of mashed potatoes, flatten it down between your palms and lay it on the top of the pumpkin/sweet potatoes. Continue until completely covered. Use a clean scraper to smoothen  and level the mashed potato layer.
8. Use the ~2 Tablespoons of butter to butter the entire surface. Use a fork to create patterns if you wish.
9. Bake at 360F(180C) for ~50 – 60 minutes until the top is golden brown.
10. Serve hot or cold.

Tips

This recipe can be easily adapted to suit your taste. Don’t like mushrooms? Add peas. Don’t like carrots? Try chestnuts. Some hard boiled eggs, quartered and embedded between the meat layer not only adds more protein, it looks lovely when sliced through and served.

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