Shepherds Pie

Shepherd's Pie is a layered, British casserole made with ground lamb, (shepherds tended the sheep)mixed with vegetables and topped with mashed potatoes. The dish was traditionally made on Monday, with Sunday's leftover roast lamb. In America, beef is commonly used in a shepherds pie, but the British would actually call this a cottage pie. It is one of my favorite British foods, and I can fondly remember that it was served very regularly for lunch at school -when I lived in England. English schools serve their student's full formal sit-down meals (they had to be paid for but were heavily subsidized) which were so much better than the cafeteria fare available in today's American schools! I really wish my son had access to these kind of lunches today! All the children would regularly check the menu each morning to see what was going to be served for lunch. The older students served the younger ones at the table, and made sure that they ate their lunch - and it was always nice to be a server, 'cause it meant more food for you (most of the little ones didn't eat that much! LOL).

This delicious Shepherds Pie recipe is my variation of the classic British favorite. It is made with chicken and has lots of carrots, peas and red and green pepper pieces that add flavor to the ground chicken or beef. Believe me, you can leave out the vegetables if you like, and this dish will be equally delicious (serve veggies on the side). Top it with mashed potatoes and breadcrumbs and bake until browned.

Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs ground chicken
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup diced green & red peppers
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup carrots(optional)
1 medium tomato (optional)
3 hot green chillies (optional)
1 1/2 - 2 lbs potatoes (3 large)
2-3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 cup chicken stock/broth or water
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
handful of fresh cilantro to garnish (optional)
Salt to taste
Peel and quarter the potatoes and boil in salted water until tender.
While the potatoes are cooking add 2-3 tbsp of canola oil to a shallow pan and add onions, carrots and ginger/garlic pastes. sauté over medium heat until tender. If adding tomatoes add them now and cook until soft. Add green chillies, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, pepper powder, chilli powder and garam masala powder, mix well. Add ground chicken and saute for a few minutes. Add the peas and peppers, and saute. Add half a cup of chicken broth or water, and cook, uncovered over low heat for 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through, adding more chicken broth as necessary to keep moist (not wet). mix in the fresh cilantro now, if using.
Mash potatoes in bowl with 1 tbsp of butter, season to taste.
Place chicken in a baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top and even with a fork. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top.
Author's Note:
The breadcrumbs on top add crispiness, color and texture to the mashed potatoes after the baking process, however, this dish can be made without breadcrumbs - or with shredded cheese on top instead. All the spices used are available in any Asian store, however, McCormick does carry many of the spices too.

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