St George's Day feast with shepard's pie.
My husband is a huge history buff (and I just love a good party). He used to teach social studies at a high school, but has moved on to an administrative position. In the last couple of years, we have been celebrating St. George’s Day (April 23rd). This year, we were going to be out of town visiting family, but they were all on board to celebrate with us. My dad even read up on St. George online (yep, he’s the best). So I purchased all the ingredients for shepherd’s pie, the traditional dish served on St. George’s Day, packed it all in a cooler (along with breast milk and frozen homemade baby food), and jammed it in our crammed car (man oh man babies require a lot of junk).

There are two parts to this feast. Make that three. You have to have beer (okay, you don’t have to, but it is strongly encouraged). Preferably an English ale. Preferably Boddington’s Pub Ale. If you have never had it, don’t wait until St. George’s Day 2012, go out and get some now (only, of course, if you’re older than 21). Let it set out for a minute (or five) and enjoy it at cellar temperature (13 °C/55 °F). Then come back here and thank me. Okay, that isn’t necessary, but you’ll probably want to.

Sorry–back to the two parts of this feast. The first is shepherd’s pie. The second is a cake decorated like the cross of St. George. The cake isn’t traditional, but it was fun, and who doesn’t love cake?

Shepherd’s Pie

Note: I made a huge pan of this. If you aren’t feeding an army, feel free to scale it back a little. This fed six for dinner and four leftover portions remained.

3 pounds of ground lamb
about 3 pounds white or gold potatoes
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 large carrots, chopped
10 ounces frozen peas
1 tsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of dry red wine
approximately 3 cups reduced sodium beef stock
1/2 to 1 cup of milk
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1) Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks, cover with water in large pan, and put them on high heat to boil. Cook until to fork tender.
2) Dice the onion and chop the carrots.
3) Brown the meat in two batches over medium high heat. Drain excess fat from the browned meat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens. Add in carrots and allow to soften slightly as well.
4) Add pepper, flour, thyme and stir together for about a minute until the flour is absorbed.
5) Add the peas, wine, and broth. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are tender and the gravy is thickened. Add more broth as needed to achieve a consistency that you are happy with.
6) Mash the potatoes with milk and a little butter (if desired).
7) Spread the beef and vegetable mixture in a large baking dish and spread the potatoes over the top.
8) Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake at 425* until bubbly and heated through, about 20-25 minutes. (Our pan was really full so we placed it on a foil lined baking sheet to catch spills and save the oven. Do this even if you’re not sure if it will bubble over. You’ll be glad you did.)

Verdict: Last year when I made this I used ground beef, instant potatoes and beef gravy out of a jar. Give me a break, I was working full time! Needless to say, this was much better. The flavors came together really nicely. In my opinion, the lamb is what makes this really good. Beef would be fine, but if you’re going to do it, go for the lamb. The is a stick-to-your-insides kind of meal! My mom made a delicious salad to go with the shepherd’s pie and ever since I’ve had a little love affair going on with radishes.
Husband’s take: He loved it all. The print outs of the flag of St. George and the St. George paintings were a surprise. I’m winning the award for wife of the year. Or not. But he very much enjoyed the shepherd’s pie. He won’t be as happy about my love affair with radishes.
Changes I would make: None.
Difficulty: Easy.