Shepherd’s Pie is a homely and one of the coziest comfort foods on a wintry night. I think that is why it translates well into holiday time food. Served to school children in dormitories and to the wealthy in restaurants, such as The Ivy it appeals to all tastes. Shepherd’s Pie is originally known as Cottage Pie and was termed that almost nearly a century before the Shepherd’s Pie. However, the two have been synonymously used since 1877. In early cookery books, the Cottage Pie was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind, and the pie dish was lined with mashed potato as well as having a mashed potato crust on top. The name “cottage” was applied to this kind of meat pie around the time potatoes were being introduced in the UK, because they were affordable for peasants, many of whom would live in cottages. Today, when the terms are properly used Cottage Pie refers to a beef pie or any other meat other than lamb, whereas Shepherd’s Pie refers to when the meat is lamb.
With such history behind the dish, I thought it would fit beautifully into a wintry holiday party in individual servings. However, just because I’m going British doesn’t mean I can’t spice things up a bit, especially for a party where some people would love a little kick in the food. When doing individual servings, it’s a great opportunity to add spice to your food, so I’m doing individual servings of Picadillo Shepherd’s Pie with ground beef to cut down on costs. This recipe is for a party of 3, however you can multiply the quantity as needed.
Individual Picadillo Shepherd’s Pie
1 pounds small russet potatoes (3 to 4)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound ground beef
½ pint fresh cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green olives
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soya sauce
2 tablespoons thinly sliced parsley leaves
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)
3 ramekins (can also be made in one casserole dish)
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Cut the potatoes into quarters. Place in a saucepan with 1 teaspoon salt and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until easily pierced with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, remove peel, and mash with ½ cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until the onion has started to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the beef, season with salt and cook, breaking it up, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, olives and balsamic vinegar, soya sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spread the beef filling evenly in ramekins. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top, then, using the back of a spoon, spread the potatoes into an even layer so that they form a seal between the beef filling and the edge of the pie plate. Brush the top with olive oil, then bake until golden around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes.