There are many fusion influences on the Indian table, including the British. India had been a British colony for over a century, resulting in a lot of cross pollination of cultural ways. Several of these find their way to the food, some of which we have accepted as staples, such as the much misunderstood curry, a spice blend that started as an attempt by British cooks to get a quick dose of Indian spices on the table. Then there are soups such as the mulligatawny which also originated from this genre of cooking. I get many students who are British/Irish expats who miss Indian food, and want to learn some of the flavors themselves. I do realize that there are differences strictly speaking between British and Irish cooking, but the Anglo-Indian repertoire does embrace both influences. For example, aside from the Shepherds pie that I will be sharing with you today, there is a version of Irish stew also popular with its share of spices and of course carrots, peas and goat meat, which folks enjoy with their share of Basmati.
There are so really set characteristics of Anglo-Indian cooking, other than the fact that they consist of milder flavors, often include ingredients such as raisins, cream and apples and tend to have some hybrid characteristic such as a spiced roast on in today’s case a spiced casserole. Chutneys, tea cakes, and shortbreads are other shared influences to begin naming a few. It is worth also mentioning that Anglo-Indian cuisine is one of the many historical fusions that influence the Indian table, what does make this cuisine distinct is that both the countries enjoy their versions of these specialties. In fact, the person who I did get today’s recipe from talks about Sunday’s in their house being “curry day” and the preparation started early into the weekend.
Today’s recipe, is a popular take on Shepherds Pie a dish originating from the Irish table, that at its most basic form is a baked casserole of ground lamb, covered with mashed potatoes baked until it reaches a lovely comforting consistency. There are many variations on the original, such as this one with herbed potatoes, and my recipe actually has been adapted from something that a friend of mine got from his father. My friend is half Irish, and shares my love of potatoes.
With St Patrick’s Day round the corner, I could not help cobbling up this recipe. Give this a try, it has just a few notes of flavor from cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and a lot of lovely color from the peas and carrots used here. I make this fairly often, as it makes a good one-dish meal for everyone in the family. I sometimes make the base for empanada or samosa fillings, so again like all my recipes it is very versatile.
I like to bake this until the top is just a little crusty, this is a personal preference, so if you like it smooth you can remove it earlier from the oven. This dish also makes a great kids lunch box item, that is easy to fill and eat.
My personal variations to Anthony’s recipe, is to add chopped green Serano chilies instead of cayenne, I like the herby freshness and to thrown in some dried cranberries. I encourage you to play with the flavors, as this is a great dish to welcome spring any day or celebration. A quick note, I am playing with camera equipment as I am transitioning from the old to the new, so my interim pictures are just a little wonky.
Anglo Indian shepherd’s Pie
For the potato topping
5 russet or Yukon gold potatoes (about 11/4 pounds)
4 tablespoons olive oil (can be butter)
11/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese (my addition, for my son)
Freshly ground black pepper
For the base
2 tablespoons oil
2 to 3 green cardamoms (bruised)
1 2 inch stick cinnamon
1 medium sized red onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup celery, very finely chopped
1 granny smith apple diced
1 pound of ground lamb
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup peas
1/3 cup cranberries or raisins
2 Serrano chilies, minced
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
Method of Preparation
Cut the potatoes into half, place in a large pot with plenty of water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, until soft. Drain in a colander and set aside for about 15 minutes.
Peel the potatoes and place in a mixing bowl. Add in the olive oil and the salt ,milk and the cheddar and mash the potatoes until smooth. You can use an electric mixer if you wish. Add in the black pepper and set aside.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil and add in the green cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon and cook for a few seconds. Add in the red onion, garlic and the celery and cook for about 5 minutes on medium low heat, until the onions soften and wilt.
Add in the apple and the ground lamb with the salt and mix well. Stir in the carrots, peas, cranberries or raisins and the Serrano chilies and cook this mixture for about 10 minutes, All the ingredients should be soft and the lamb should be moist and shiny. Remove the whole spices, (they are perfectly edible, but do startle the person taking an unexpected bite) Stir in the cilantro.
Set the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a medium sized casserole dish and layer with the lamb in a single uniform layer. Cover with the potato mixture and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot.