I don’t know how to be suave, so I’ll just blurt it out. Ryan and I are moving to London. Soon. As in, the beginning of March. Well, truly the timing is a bit wonky, but the important fact is we’re moving to London.
Basically, Ryan’s job gave him a promotion and a transfer to their London office. Exciting right?! I’ll be honest, I’ve felt a ton of emotions about all of this. Excitement, over living in a new city and seeing new sights! Fear, of starting somewhere new. Stress, over all the logistics of moving. Proud, of Ryan’s great accomplishment. Sadness, over leaving my wonderful job and moving away from family and friends. And happiness, that Ryan and I are able to take on this wonderful adventure and live abroad, which is something we have both dreamed about.
It’s been a few weeks since we made the decision and started announcing it to the people closest to us, and now my top emotion is definitely excitement. There’s tons to do as we prepare for our move, but I can’t wait for the museums, experiencing a new culture, and traveling. I have always wanted to see the Globe Theater. I’ve been dying to return to Rome. And now I can do those things more easily. But also, I can’t wait to have new food adventures.
To start the food adventures, I ran out and bought a British cookbook as soon as we officially decided we were going. Barnes and Noble only had one British cookbook, but it’s ok because it was the one I wanted. I bought Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain. This book is gorgeous! Full color pictures, an image of the food for each recipe, and great pictures of places, restaurants, and people from all over Great Britain. However, the book showed me that I need to learn some British jargon because I’m not totally sure what a “knob of butter” equals or how exactly to know if I’ve made “squiffs and quiffs” with the mashed potato topping.
Truly, I don’t know anything about British food, so I decided to start with the only dish I slightly knew about: shepherd’s pie. The recipe is so flavorful, aromatic, and satisfying. It’s the kind of food that as you eat it, the pace of the world seems to slow down, and staying snuggled up in the
apartment flat (I need to practice practise my British lingo) feels like the best thing ever.
I’ll be honest though, the first time I made this, it came out soupy. It tasted delicious, but it was all wrong in texture. The problem was, I followed too closely to the recipe and didn’t listen to my intuition. That might sound counter intuitive, because shouldn’t the recipe lead me in the right direction? Yes, sometimes. But pots, pans, ingredients, and heat levels are different across kitchens and so sometimes the timing in a recipe isn’t what works best for you. For example, the recipe said that a liquid would thicken in a few minutes. It wasn’t thickening, but I moved on anyway, and that’s how I had soupy shepherd’s pie. The next time I made it, I really waited for it to thicken even though it took way longer than a few minutes. My end result was much better because I trusted my eye and watched what was happening in the pan.
So for this recipe, don’t worry too much about times and instead be patient and trust what you see and feel. It will be worth it and you’ll end with something delicious. Most importantly though, if you have any recommendations or advice about London please leave it in the comments!
This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain
2 yellow onions
2 cups chopped carrots
1 tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
sea salt & white pepper
leaves from 8 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 lb ground beef (or veal or lamb)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
zest from 1 lemon
1 cube of chicken stock
1/3 cup of beer (preferably something English!)
2 pounds russet potatoes (I’ve also done this successfully with waxy yellow potatoes)
1 cup of milk
1/2 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
3/4 cup light cream
1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1. Chop the onions and carrots into small, bite sized pieces, about 1/3 inch.
2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in a large sauce pan. Add the onions and carrots. Season with some salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaves. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onions have softened a bit.
3. Add the flour. This will soak up some of the excess liquid. Then add the ground meat, lemon zest, and stock cube. Stir everything until it is all well mixed. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat.
4. Once the meat starts to brown and is sizzling, add the beer. Then, add just enough water so that the meat is 1/2 covered by liquid.
5. Bring everything to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer with the lid askew for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.
6. While the meat is cooking, peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Put the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold salted water. Bring the water to a boil and cook until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork (this can take anywhere between 15-30 minutes).
7. When the potatoes are done cooking, drain the water. Let them sit an steam for a minute or two. Then, mash the potatoes. Add in the remaining butter and slowly add the milk. Mash until you have nice fluffy potatoes.
8. When the meat has been cooking for 30 minutes, heat the oven to 350°.
9. When the meat has been cooking for about 1 hour, add in the sliced mushrooms. Then add the cream. Turn up the heat a bit and bring everything to a boil. Allow to thicken on it’s own for a few minutes
10. Slowly sprinkle in the remaining tablespoon of flour. You might not need the whole thing, but stir in the flour until the meat mixture has thickened. You want the meat to be like it’s in a thick gravy and when you pull a spoon through the pan, it takes a little bit liquid to fill in the spoon’s path.
11. Transfer the meat to an oven safe casserole pan. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top.
12. Spoon the mashed potatoes in an even layer over the meat. Make it pretty or make it messy, whatever look you like. Or try to make a Union Jack, like I did.
13. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until it’s a bit golden on top.
14. Spoon out the finished pie into a bowl or plate.
Messy level: This recipe has a lot of steps, ingredients, and dishes. It’s not hard work, but it does take a bunch of work, so I’m giving it 4 stars. This is the kind of meal you make on a leisurely weekend day because it takes a long time and there’s a lot of clean up. Transferring things between pots, pans, strainers, and casseroles there is lots of opportunity for spills, splashes, and messes. It’s a good recipe, but it’s not clean.