For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to master the art of making what those in the UK refer to as “mince.” We call it ground beef. My husband adores mince and tatties (translation: ground beef and mashed potatoes) and his mother makes it better than anyone I know. Here, I’m going to go ahead and put the mince and tatties (and carrots and onions) together into a Shepherd’s Pie, but the mince preparation can stand on its own – if it is as good as my mother-in-law’s of course. Her mince has so much flavor and is so finely crumbled. It just melts in your mouth. I’ve asked her what the secret is again and again. Preparing it is so second nature to her, she’s not sure exactly what I’m getting at. But after years of trying to absorb the knowledge,
These are the tips I’ve been able to glean:
1) Drain the fat after the initial browning of the ground beef.
It seems counter-intuitive, like draining the fat would get rid of the yummy flavor, but in this preparation, flavor is enhanced by an OXO cube and lots of simmering time, which brings me to tip #2
2) After draining the fat, return the browned ground beef to the pot, add a little water and an OXO cube, mix it all up and let it simmer for 20 minutest to half an hour.
The flavor intensifies and the extra simmering time breaks down the beef bits further so you get a finer consistency.
What is the origin of meat pies, you ask? Well, back before there was refrigeration, covering the meat with a crust helped prevent spoilage. When the potato became popular in Britain in the mid-1800’s, a mashed potato topping presented an alternative to the pastry one.
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter – divided
1.5 lbs ground beef (80/20)
1 onion or 2-3 shallots, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 large russet potatoes, cut into large chunks
1 OXO beef bouillon cube
1/2 cup water
Salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup water
5 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1-2 Tbsp butter melted
1. In a stockpot over medium-high heat, add olive oil and melt 1 Tbsp of butter. Add ground beef and break up into little pieces while it is cooking. Brown for about 10 minutes, continuously breaking it into smaller bits and stirring it. Drain the beef through a colander (don’t forget to put a pan underneath to catch the drippings)! Return the beef to the pot and add 1/2 cup of water and one OXO beef bouillon cube. Break up the cube and stir it in until it is completely dissolved and incorporated. Cover and reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot and add the potato. Boil for about 20 minutes or until fork tender, but not mushy.
3. While the meat is simmering and the potatoes are boiling, heat 1 Tbsp of butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sautée until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and continue to sautée until onions are browning, carrots are softened and starting to brown, about 4-5 more minutes.
4. When the mince has simmered for 20 minutes, add the carrots and shallots and stir to combine. Add 1 1/2 Tbsp of cornstarch to 1/2 cup water and stir with a fork until cornstarch is dissolved completely. Add this mixture to the mince and vegetables and stir to combine. Keep heat very low, cover, and let it simmer to a bubble.
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
5. Mash the potatoes with 1/2 cup of milk, adding the milk gradually, until potatoes have reached smooth consistency. Stir in shredded cheddar cheese.
6. In a dutch oven or a shallow, but not-too-shallow baking dish, spread the meat evenly on the bottom. Then spread potatoes evenly on top. Score the top of the potatoes for better browning and crispiness. Drizzle 1 1/2 Tbsp of melted butter on top. Add just a bit of the shredded cheddar cheese on top as well.
7. Bake in 400˚F oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove and let stand for a couple of minutes before serving.