When I went back to Singapore for a month in June while X stayed in the country, I prepared a few types of freezer meals so that it would be easier for him to cook his own dinner. There’s frozen marinated pork slices (gochujang, bulgogi and ginger soy sauce) which just need to be stir-fried and go with steamed white rice. I whipped up a batch of meatballs (kept them frozen in a large ziploc bag) to be baked and serve with tomato sauce (that I froze in small containers) and pasta. I stashed small containers of homemade pork stock and a tub of homemade kimchi for mee sua soup and kimchi ramyeon. Lastly, I also made chicken pot pie, lasagna and shepherd’s pie, all-assembled and kept frozen. All X needed to do was to thaw them overnight in the refrigerator and send them to the oven.
There was a lot of prep work and cooking involved, but I realised that having freezer meals on hand can save quite a lot of time (in future dinner preparations) and money (no need to eat out)! So I came up with a new category – “Freezer Meals” and hopefully I’ll be able to add more meal ideas to this category! But first, I’ll need to revamp some of my old posts with new photos and updated steps, and my old shepherd’s pie (warning: ugly photos!) is the first!
Did You Know: Cottage Pie vs Shepherd’s Pie
Originating from United Kingdom and Ireland, a pie made with any kind of meat and mashed potato was traditionally called a cottage pie. Only when it’s made with lamb it would be called shepherd’s pie, because a shepherd looks after sheep. Nowadays, I think many of us just call it a shepherd’s pie regardless of what meat was used.
Minced meat is usually used for my shepherd’s pie and my choice of meat is usually beef. Sometimes I would use pork if I’m making it for friends who don’t eat beef. The meat is sautéed with onions, garlic, mushrooms (my must-have) and carrots. If I have a can of corn kernels on hand I’ll also add some in it.
The filling is seasoned with dried herbs (I just use a pasta herb blend, but you can mix and match your own with parsley, thyme, oregano etc.), Worcestershire sauce (use light soy sauce if you don’t have it) and tomato paste. I like how the tomato paste add a subtle tomato-y flavour and thicken the whole meat filling slightly, but you can omit it or swap it with ketchup. I don’t use up a whole can of tomato paste, so the leftovers are frozen in tablespoonfuls so that I can use them in future recipes.
Over the years of making and eating shepherd’s pie, I’ve realised we love a creamy mashed topping, especially a cheesy one, so I always add in cream/milk and cheeses into the mashed potatoes these days. This time I used mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan, but you can use whatever cheeses you like. You must score the top of the mashed potatoes (I used a fork) so that the sharp edges will brown in the oven. I’ve never tried piping the mashed potatoes as I find it a chore (more things to wash)!
If you are able to boil the potatoes and cook the meat filling at the same time, then you should be able to serve the shepherd’s pie in 1 hour. Make extra and you can freeze the assembled pie for next time! I’ve included instructions on how to assemble and freeze the pie in the recipe below.
The creamy and cheesy mashed potatoes and the juicy and flavourful meat filling will make one damn delicious and comforting meal, so try it and let me know! (;
|1) Boil the potatoes with a bit of salt until they are fork-tender.||2) Drain the potatoes (see Naggy 3). Leave the potatoes in the sieve for 5 minutes to steam-dry the potatoes.|
|3) Mash the potatoes then stir in cream (or milk), cheeses and chives. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.||4) Sauté onion and carrot over medium-high heat until the onion is soft and translucent.|
|5) Add in the ground beef or pork. Break them into small pieces and stir-fry until they are no longer pink in colour.||6) Stir in mushrooms and garlic.|
|7) Add in Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, dried herbs, a pinch of salt and as much freshly ground black pepper as you like. Cook, until the mushrooms have softened and shrunk in size.||8) Remove from heat and transfer the mixture into the greased baking dish.|
|9) Scoop the Mashed Potatoes on top of the Meat Filling and carefully spread to cover it.||10) Use a fork to score the top of the Mashed Potatoes as this will help the top browned and it's ready to be baked!|
- 2 to 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5-inch chunks (you'll need about 400 grams peeled potatoes, see Naggy 1)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 tablespoons cream / milk
- 10 grams grated parmesan
- 20 grams mixed cheese (mozzarella and cheddar)
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons oil
- ½ onion, peeled and finely diced
- ½ carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 200 grams ground beef / pork (See Naggy 2)
- 100 grams fresh button mushrooms (about 6 to 8 pieces), sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon dried herbs (can use a mix of oregano, parsley etc)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Place the potatoes in a small pot. Add water to cover the potatoes. Add in the 2 teaspoons of salt.
- Cover the pot with a lid, place over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender. (A fork should be able to pierce through a piece of potato and break easily.)
- Drain the potatoes (see Naggy 3). Leave the potatoes in the sieve for 5 minutes to steam-dry the potatoes.
- Transfer the potatoes into a mixing bowl. Mash the potatoes then stir in cream (or milk), cheeses and chives (if using). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F (not fan-assisted). Lightly grease a baking dish (mine is a 7-inch) or two if you are serving in individual portions.
(Make it while the potatoes are boiling away)
- Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add in oil, then add in onion and carrot. Sauté until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add in the ground beef or pork. Break them into small pieces and stir-fry until they are no longer pink in colour (see Naggy 4).
- Stir in mushrooms and garlic. Add in Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, dried herbs, a pinch of salt and as much freshly ground black pepper as you like. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have softened and shrunk in size. Taste and adjust seasoning. The Meat Filling should be moist but not wet. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture into the greased baking dish.
- Scoop the Mashed Potatoes on top of the Meat Filling and carefully spread to cover it. Use a fork to score the top of the Mashed Potatoes as this will help the top browned. (See Naggy 2 and 3)
- Bake for 20 minutes in the middle rack until the Meat Filling is bubbling and the top is lightly browned. If the top is not browned enough to your liking, shift the baking dish to the top and switch on the broiler. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes, watching the pie constantly, until it's browned to your liking.
- Remove the pie from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
2) Try to use a ground that has 10-20% fat so that the Meat Filling stays moist.
3) Save the potato water as vegetable stock in other recipes. Let the potato water cool down completely and freeze in small containers.
4) If the beef/pork has rendered a lot of fat, you can drain off the excess fats by using a spoon to scoop them out. Leave enough fats in the Meat Filling to ensure it will stay moist.
5) The pie can be made ahead right up to assembly. Keep the pie covered and keep in the fridge (especially if the weather is warm) until ready to bake. Bake at 200C / 400F for 30 to 40 minutes until the Meat Filling is hot and bubbling. Broil until the top is golden-brown if needed.
6) If you plan to freeze the Shepherd's Pie, allow the Mashed Potatoes and Meat Filling to cool down completely before assembling the pie. Score the top as usual, then freeze the pie, uncovered, for 2 hours. Wrap with 2 layers of aluminum foil and store in the freezer for another day. Thaw the pie overnight in the refrigerator the day before you want to eat it. Bake the pie, still wrapped with aluminum foil, straight from the refrigerator at 190C / 375F for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the Meat Filling is hot and bubbling. Remove the aluminum foil and broil until the top is golden-brown.