**I wrote this post at the end of last winter and I am only posting it now! I wanted to write a post so badly about the pivotal role of rain in this country and how exciting the first rain fall is and I had such a difficult time doing it! And then I remembered this post and how I had already wrote about the rain! So here is my thoughts on rain and Shepard's pie from the end-of-the-winter perspective.
The difficult thing about living in Israel is needing to listen to everyone from the US bemoan their terrible, freezing weather, while you are sitting outside in the strong, beautiful, Ramat Beit Shemsh sun watching your children play on their riding toys and color with chalk. It’s really an exercise of patience, but I’m slowly getting used to it.
Thank G-d the weather this winter really has been very nice and sunny. We have had our share of rain storms, but we’re not allowed to complain about those! Rain is a blessing here. If you ever come to visit in the winter, the best advice I could give you is don’t complain about the rain in front of an Israeli. You’ll get “the speech”. I’ve gotten this speech several times, so I’m quite familiar with it. They just remind you in several sentences about how Israel needs rain in the winter and how we should be grateful for the rain and by the end of “the speech” I’ve apologized around 5 times.
Rain is such an integral part of Israel, and I never really realized that until I moved here. All summer long it’s hot. Dangerously hot. No one steps out of their house until 6 in the evening, when the sun starts to retire for the day. Then on Shimini Atzres they say the tfillah for rain, and like magic, after yom tov the sky opens up and it starts to rain and the whole country cools off. Everyone is so excited. I still remember the boys in the parking lot, stopping their game of soccer and yelling, “Yored geshem- It’s raining!”
I’ve been meaning to write about the rain in connection to Israel for so long, and I’m happy that I had a chance to write about it today! Now let’s discuss Shepherd’s pie, yes?
My mother used to make Shepherd’s Pie once in a while, and it definitely was an exciting dinner. I never had made it in my own home, but one day I was chatting with one of my neighbors in the chanaya (parking lot), and she was very pleased to tell me that she was serving Shepherd’s Pie for dinner. I responded with, “Ohhhh right, Shepherd’s Pie. I forgot all about that!”
Of course I then needed to make Shepherd’s Pie for dinner, but I didn’t have a recipe. I searched high and low and finally found a simple and to-the-point recipe. Half the recipes out there called for Beef soup flavoring- why in heaven’s name do you need beef flavoring if you have actual beef?! Then there where those that called for cheese or condiments that I never even heard of before. Then I stumbled across classical Martha Stewart’s website, and I must say, she hit the hammer on the nail! Here’s the recipe from her site: http://www.marthastewart.com/337369/shepherds-pie.
It’s a wonderful recipe, but I added a trick to make it even more fantabulous! It’ll cut out probably a half hour of prep or more and it’s called instant mashed potatoes! I totally learned this from my mother, as she also utilized this time saving technique. Now I must warn you that when I told some of my friends about instant mashed potatoes, they were like, “It tastes so artificial.” Or “My husband would never go for that.” It’s up to you and your family’s preferences. Honestly, I never heard one complaint from my husband, and I happen to love the taste instant mashed potatoes. It’s worth experimenting with. Be discreet and see if anyone could tell the difference.
Here are some things that I add to my instant mashed potatoes- enough boiling water, soy milk for a creamy texture, fried onions if I have time and spirit, salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
3 cups of mashed potatoes, for topping the pie
1 pound ground beef
1 garlic clove, minced
1 onion chopped
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups of frozen peas and carrots
½ cup of water
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celsius
2. Brown the meat in a medium sized skillet. Break up the meat with a spoon until no longer pink. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes or until softened.
3. Stir-in ketchup and flour. Then add the frozen vegetables and water. Cook until veggies are cooked through and the sauce has thickened, approximately 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Transfer the meat mixture to your oven safe baking dish. I would personally use a dish more shallow and wider/longer than the one that I used, shown in the picture.
5. Spread your prepared mashed potatoes on top. It’s supposed to be thick and generous! Make sure to lock in the sides of the dish with mashed potatoes, so the sauceyness does not sneak up on top (like in my picture). Its fine if it does…just letting you know, if you’re concerned about aesthetics.
6. Place in the preheated oven for around 10 to 15 minutes, or until mashed potatoes are crispy on top.