Monday, November 2, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 19: Frozen Dinners

Beef Shepherd's Pie with Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Makes three 2-person servings

For the filling:
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound ground beef
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound carrots (about 4 medium), scraped and chopped into medallions
1 1/4 cups beef stock
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

For the topping:
3 pounds potatoes
1/4 cup butter
2 ounces cheddar, grated (approximately 3/4 cup)

  • Heat the butter over medium heat until it foams and add the onion. Saute until softened, but not browned.
  • Turn heat to medium-high, add the ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up large chunks of meat as you go.
  • Add the tomatoes, carrots, stock, Worcestershire sauce, oregano and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the potato topping:
  • Peel the potatoes and chop them into approximately 1-inch pieces.
  • Boil in salted water for 20-25 minutes, until very soft and starting to break down.
  • Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot and beat with electric beaters. Beat in the butter and cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • When the filling is ready, add the frozen peas and divide between three 8" x 4" tin foil disposable loaf pans (the ones with plastic lids). Top with potato filling and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon.
  • Cover each of the loaf pans with plastic wrap then their lids. Cool completely in the refrigerator before transferring to the freezer.
  • When you're ready to cook one, defrost in the fridge for 24 hours. Then, remove the lid and plastic wrap and place in the oven. Set the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and set the timer for an hour. The pie should be completely heated through and the potato topping should be starting to brown. Enjoy!
  • If you'd like to skip all the freezing and fix the entire pie at once, preheat the oven to 350 degrees then bake the assembled pie (in a 9"x13" casserole) for 30 to 40 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Tea & Sympathy.

We don't have a microwave (did you know that 90% of American households have one?), so I like to make things in individual portions that can just be cooked rather than reheated. Food tends to taste better that way, too. I don't even miss having a microwave (the kitchen is way too small for one); plus, I learned how to make Kettle Corn on the stove, which was awesome. Anyhow, Shepherd's Pie keeps well and the "disposable" loaf pans can be washed and reused (or recycled). They're just flimsy and have to be pushed back into shape!

In other news, you might have noticed that Saturday was Halloween. Paul and I were invited to a party (thanks to Russ for having us Sooners over), so we had to dress up. If you've been wondering, "Where's Waldo?", he's right here:

This photo makes me laugh. I made the pompom! We were going to dye a shirt, but it came out too purple and we had to make an emergency trip to the mall. We finally found Waldo's polo at Abercrombie & Fitch, where Paul claims he was traumatized.

"What was your costume, Lauren?" you might ask. I was a witch, which isn't terribly creative, but it sure was easy on a week's notice. Plus, I found a great hat and stripy tights, so I was happy.

In case you were wondering, Halloween was originally Samhain, a Celtic festival celebrating the last harvest of the year when the people of each village would slaughter cattle for the winter and throw the bones onto large fires ("bone fire" became "bonfire", the OED says so). Speaking of bonfires, Guy Fawkes Day is Thursday. We decided that burning the Pope in effigy was morally unpalatable, but we did laugh about putting little red shoes on him. Plus, Paul says we can't have a bonfire even though the neighbor lights things on fire in the backyard all the time. Alas, our Bonfire Night celebrations will be lacking a key element this year! Maybe I can scrounge up some Guy Fawkes-appropriate food?


  1. Paul really looks like Waldo! I wish the lighting was a little better on your picture - from what I can tell you looked darling! So sad that the bonfire is out...darn that Paul for being so practical! Love you!

  2. Obviously, I raised a son so secure in his masculinity that he would not only masquerade as Waldo, but would also allow photographic evidence of it. I do believe that I am traumatized by the vision. Burning the Pope in effigy pales in comparison to "Waldo." "The Witch and the Waldo:" Now THAT sounds like a fine adventure! I love you both. It is amazing how much joy the two of you bring to my life! Peace.


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