This month’s Cooking Your Calendar Challenge was the old favourite Shepherd’s Pie. We took ourselves over to Erskineville to the beautiful home of artist couple Cherine Fahd and Todd Robinson for a wintery feast of this simple but satisfying classic dish.
Daniel, Cherine and the kids catch up
There are really two steps to making Shepherd's Pie. The first step is preparing and cooking it. The second, somewhat more challenging part, is sexing it up. After it all, it’s a homely looking dish. Not much to look at. You’ve got your beef and you’ve got your potatoes and... well, it's sloppy. It’s a meal that has relinquished the glory associated with refined culinary style, to fulfil its civic duty as an economical, functional and tasty belly-filler. The Shepherd’s Pie has no airs and graces. It doesn’t even bother with the discretion of a pastry shell, preferring to bare all. It’s meaty bits plopped onto the plate in a proud display of delicious vulgarity. Making this look good could be tricky.
If looks could kill
Drew was Chef this time and from the outset he wanted to jazz up the common approach to the pie. Forgoing the recipe’s use of the traditional beef mince, he decided to whip out the crock-pot for a slow-cooked variation, using diced lean beef with vegetables and red wine. The beef cooked all day at his apartment and the delicious aroma soon hinted that the flavour was going to compensate for any aesthetic shortfall. Perhaps blindfolding our guests during dinner was looking to be an option?
Bring on the Winter carbs!
When we arrived in Erskineville with crock-pot in hand, Drew and Rachel immediately took to the kitchen. Rachel shelled fresh peas and Drew worked on the mashed potato that would crown the beef filling. Meanwhile Cherine and Todd’s gorgeous 2 year-old daughter Rei entertained us with a contemporary and very conceptual ballet performance. A couple of bottles of De Bortoli’s Petit Verdot were cracked open as we all relished the impending sleep-in that this long weekend would provide (World Cup 4.30am wake-up call notwithstanding).
Rei puts her best food forward
Twenty minutes in the oven and the pie came out looking pretty good. Let’s face it, this is a hard meal to stuff up too drastically. The slow cooking had tenderised the meat perfectly and the creamy mash had browned to create a crisp lid of carbs. Served simply with steamed green beans and crusty bread, this was definitely a recession-buster meal.
Todd begins the autopsy
So ultimately what the pie lacked in the looks department it made up for in taste. It ended up being the perfect meal for a cold winter's night and Petit Verdot was giving us all a rosy glow. But then Todd surprised us all with his killer "deconstructed" baklava-style dessert of oven baked filo pastry layered with sugar and honey topped with a praline crumble, and served with ice cream. Absolutely amazing. We're definitely putting his recipe on the blog as soon as we get it, so stay tuned.
Dinner is served
All in all, the Shepherd's Pie, De Bortoli Petit Verdot and Todd's dessert was a complete winner of a meal. Just a pity we can't say the same thing about the Socceroos. Good thing we ended up sleeping right through the game.
Thanks to Todd and Cherine for hosting!