Coming from a British/Canadian background I grew up with some English food favourites. Shepherd's Pie is a comfort food, no doubt about it. But I like mine dressed up a bit from the average meat and potatoes.
1/2 c panko bread crumbs soaked in 1/4 c milk
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam marsala
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 lbs ground beef
2 tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbs Soy Sauce
1 can whole tomatoes
1/2 cup of red wine like Merlot or a Zinfandel
1/2 c dry bread crumbs
6 medium Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 c pepper Havarti cheese
5 cloves of roasted garlic. (roast a head of garlic sprinkled with oil in a 400 f oven for 20 minutes.)
1/4 c milk
1 tbs butter
1/4 Parmesan cheese, finely grated.
Fry onions, garlic and spices in olive oil, over medium heat until softened, add beef and brown. Add soaked bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce, stirring to coat. Add tomatoes and the juice, and wine. Simmer for 1 hour, if too runny add dry breadcrumbs at the end and stir in. Taste as you go along, add more cumin for earthiness, more pepper flakes for heat and more Worcestershire Sauce for salt and bite.
Meanwhile boil potatoes in medium salted water in a large pot ( water should taste like sea water). When cooked through, mash and add garlic, Havarti cheese, butter and milk. Mash until smooth.
To assemble: Spread meat in the bottom of a large casserole, spread mashed potatoes evenly over top, sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top of potatoes. Bake in 375 F oven for 40 minutes. Can be frozen before baking or refrigerated before baking.
I serve it with a relish made from 1/3 c raspberry/pomegranate jam, 5 chopped pickled cocktail onions and 1 tbs of Worcestershire Sauce. I warm it in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
The meat and toppings can be changed up and made lighter by using ground chicken and a topping of mashed parsnips, ground lamb with a roasted cauliflower puree, or ground pork with a mashed squash topping.