How to make Shepherd’s pie, in both old and new styles

Shepherd's pie

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Shepherd’s Pie prepared in old way, but with modern-day products (1961)

By Cecily Brownstone

Among my collection of old cookbooks is one called “What to Do With the Cold Mutton — A Book of Rechauffes Together With My Other Approved Receipts From the Kitchen of a Gentleman of Moderate Income.”

This wonderfully-titled work (published in New York in 1865) includes everything from soups to puddings, but it is an amusing reminder that the problem of leftover roast meat has been with us for almost 100 years.

Nowadays, of course, we are concerned with what to do with the cold lamb. May we remind cooks that it may be ground and used for croquettes or chopped and mixed with potatoes for hash The top favorite in cold lamb recipes, however, is probably Shepherd’s Pie.

When I was a little girl, roast lamb was often served at our house for a Saturday night company dimer; then for Sunday dinner, much to my delight, the cold lamb appeared in this meat pie with its mashed potato crust. My mother always insisted the real charm of a Shepherd’s Pie was in having the meat and vegetables under the mashed potatoes cut in precise shapes… and we children agreed.

Here’s how we sometimes make Shepherd’s Pie at my house nowadays.

Shepherd’s Pie recipe (1961)

1/4 cup finely-chopped onion
1 teaspoon butter or margarine
3-1/2 4 cups diced leftover roast lamb
1-1/2 to 2 cups cooked diced carrots
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
1 cup chicken bouillon
Salt and pepper
1 envelope instant potato flakes (for making 4 servings of mashed potatoes)
1 egg

In a small skillet cook the onion lightly in the butter; turn into a 2-quart casserole and mix with the lamb and carrots. Break up frozen peas and mix in with the bouillon. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Make up potatoes according to package directions; beat egg until thick and ivory- colored and fold into potatoes. Spread potatoes over meat and vegetables. Bake in a hot (425 degrees) over 40 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Note: The bouillon is not supposed to thicken during the baking.

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Shepherd's pie
Photo by Alex9500/Envato

Old-time shepherd’s pie recipe (1912)

Take a pound of cold mutton, a pint of coid boiled potatoes, one-half an onion grated, one or two cooked carrots; out the mutton and potatoes into small pieces and put them with the onion and carrot into a deep baking dish. Add a cupful of stock or water, salt, pepper and a tablespoonful of butter cut in bits.

Pare and boil four medium-sized potatoes, mash and add cup of cream, salt and pepper to taste, beat until light, then add enough flour to make a soft dough. Roll out and cover the dish with the dough, make a cross cut in the center to allow tie steam to escape, and bake in a moderate oven one hour.

A modern shepherd’s pie is made like the above with the addition of a few capers and a stalk or two of celery.

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