This shepherd's pie recipe is an authentic English version, with my own special twist. This recipe would be good with either ground turkey or fake ground beef (like Yves brand, easily found at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods)—I’ve made it with the fake several times and everybody loves it. Make it vegan by using the Yves “meat”, using Earth Balance margarine and leaving off the cheese.
But DON'T miss out on the Marmite! You should be able to get it pretty readily, even in the U.S. now. The flavor is distinct, and although you won't taste it in the recipe, per se, it can't be omitted and get the same result. —Jennifer St. James
ground beef or alternative
can of chopped tomatoes (fire roasted, if you can)
Peel the potatoes, chop in to about 1/2? to 1?-square pieces and cover with water in a large pot. Put on the stove to boil until soft, about 30 minutes
Sweat the onions in the butter or oil, and after a few minutes, add the garlic. If you want to spice this up, now’s a good time to throw in some chopped chili, either fresh or dried. Once the onion and garlic are soft, add the ground beef and stir, breaking it up and browning it.
Once the meat is nice and brown, add the chopped tomatoes and the Marmite (or stock). I use Marmite in any ground beef/tomato sauce, as it just gives it a deeper flavor, and even those who can’t abide the taste of Marmite (like The Husband) don’t notice it. Add the tomato paste and oregano and let simmer until the liquid in the pan gets a little thicker. You can add a little flour if this isn’t happening quickly enough for you. When it looks about done (15-25 minutes), add the salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.
Hopefully by this time, your potatoes are nice and soft, and by that I mean that when you stick a knife in one of them, it crumbles to pieces. I usually get too impatient and then I get lumpy mash! Drain the potatoes and return to the pan. Add at least a half a stick of butter, if not more. Mash together; add milk to get a creamy consistency. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper.
To assemble: get a nice casserole pan and pour in the mince-beef concoction. (For giving as a gift, use a few aluminum loaf pans or brownie pan that you can get at the grocery store.) Take a big spoon and throw as much potato over the top of the mince as possible; spread evenly over the top. Take the spoon and make sure that the potato topping has lots of ridges and bumps on it—that will make nice crispy edges. Cover with the grated cheese; use as much as you like. Pop it in a 375-degree (F) oven for 30-40 minutes til the cheese is melted and the potato topping is crispy at the edges.