My mother made shepherds pie often, huge roasting dishes of it. It is still my most favourite comfort food. My Mother NEVER made mushy peas though. Mushy peas are an English side dish and are traditionally served with a steak pie in a pub. Mum never went to pubs poor girl. I love mushy peas. Anyway half way through making my steak pie I lost the will to make pastry. Then I discovered that Miss T was putting some thought into cooking for her British husband. So I thought who better to help her with a Shepherds Pie than a New Zealander living in the United States of America who once lived in London. So I took a left and now I am making you a Sheep Herders Pie aka Cottage Pie. And you do not need pastry.
But first we need to relook at the Mushy Peas. Even the name is cute. I know that sometimes it is hard to like mushy peas especially if they are too watery and too mushy. These are better. Cook them as a treat for someone. They are a gorgeous colour on your plate. And then (just when you thought it was safe) try mushy pea sandwiches!.
MINTY! MUSHY PEAS
In pan, slurp in a little olive oil, add onions and mint and cook for a few minutes, add frozen peas and cook, stir every now and then. When the peas are hot and soft, drop in a couple of dollops of butter, pepper and salt and either mash them or pulse them in the food processer until not too mushy. Serve hot or apparently – cold. Try them.
Brown your meat in hot butter in small batches. Retire to a bowl to rest for a minute. In the same pan saute onions slowly until transparent. Return beef to onions. Toss about. Add beef broth, a slug of worcestershire, and soy sauce and a little balsamic. Cook slowly until the meat is tender. Taste. Adjust. Always taste with a clean metal spoon.
Thicken. Mum used (cornflour) cornstarch. Make a nice medium thick gravy. Salt and pepper to taste.
Turn heat off. Now add your vegetables. Whatever you have. Usually I add frozen peas but not today as we are having mushy peas as a side. Today I have put in egg plant, beans and capsicum and the shaving of a hot pepper and a few leaves and stems of red silverbeet (swiss chard) .. whatever I found in the garden. My mother put in carrots, frozen peas and frozen beans. These will cook in the oven so just gently mix into the hot meat. Add them raw or frozen -it is fine. Be generous with the vegetables.
Ladle into your deep dish, top with tons of roughly mashed spud (potatoes) and then pile a really sharp tasty tasty grated cheese on top of that. Sometimes I add a finely chopped onion to the mashed potatoes.
Into a moderate oven and cook for an hour or so. Now, if you do not know what time you will be serving this dish it will wait in a low oven for ages. As long as it is well covered with potatoes.