I never was someone who liked to eat lamb until I tasted Icelandic lamb. From then on, we’ve kept Icelandic sheep, and we probably always will, despite what a pain in the ass they can be to raise, fence-breakers extraordinaire. They are beautiful, though, and smart, with gorgeous fleeces and delicious milk … so I just don’t raise them to eat them. Mostly.
Here’s my Shepherd’s Pie recipe. It may very well be my favorite dish ever, and I like a lot of things. I started with the Joy of Cooking standard recipe, because I am a Joy of Cooking woman, learned from my grandparents, who taught me how to cook. I think the spice mixture there is dead on perfect all by itself, but I added a few things that sent it over the top, to my palette at least. I want to lick the plate when I’m done. I can hardly believe that this is a zero-milk meal for me, but it is! (except for the wine. Eat local, drink global!) I clean out my pantry and freezer looking for veg to use, and it’s all stuff I grew. Woo. And we foraged the mushrooms in our woods! (and sell them on Etsy!) I use lamb stock because I always make stock whenever we have bones left over from a roast, but I guess you could use another kind. I like the complex sweetness that the parsnips, carrots, peas, lamb and oyster mushrooms all bring to the party.
1 pound ground lamb
1 bell pepper
2 stalks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1 can green beans
1 can corn
1 cup peas
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon mint
1 handful dried black trumpet mushrooms
1 handful dried oyster mushrooms
1 handful dried chanterelle mushrooms
1 quart lamb stock
1 cup Zinfandel
salt and pepper to taste
For the mashed potatoes:
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup half and half
Boil the potatoes in the lamb stock with two teaspoons of salt until tender. Make mashed potatoes, set aside.
Brown the lamb in a cast iron skillet. Remove from pan, leaving fat and juices.
Brown the onion, adding oil or fat as needed. (I use lard.) Remove from the pan.
Brown the bell pepper and celery next. Add the minced garlic at the last minute.
Add back the onions and browned lamb, with all accumulated liquid, back to the pan.
Add the stock that you cooked the potatoes in, then the carrots and parsnips. Add the dried mushrooms. Add the zin.
Simmer until the carrots are beginning to get tender. Add the corn, the green beans, and the peas.
Using a scooper, cover the meat and vegetable mixture with mashed potatoes.
I like to put a dab of butter at the top of each scoop, and sprinkle panko bread crumbs mixed with a little parm. Put into a 350 degree oven until nicely golden on top. One of the smarter things we did years ago was to buy a grill with an oven. When it’s this warm, I love to use it rather than heat up the house.
Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and mint. Yum.