Gravy powder became popular in England around 1908, when two salt company employees developed a product called Bisto to please their wives, who wanted an easier way to make smooth, good-tasting gravy. The name stands for "brown, season and thicken, in one." Chef Jason Thrasher of the Local Eatery and Pub considers Bisto gravy powder or granules essential for his shepherd's pie recipe, along with HP Sauce. Developed in 1899 by a British grocer, HP Sauce is made with tomatoes, malt vinegar, molasses, sugar, dates, corn and rye flour, spices and tamarinds.
Where's the Bisto?
Bisto is widely available in the United Kingdom, and the Local Eatery and Pub buys it through a British wholesaler. It can also be found on the shelves at Richmondarea Kroger stores.
Makes about 8 servings
Jason Thrasher, chef at the Irish-themed Local Eatery and Pub ( 1106 W. Main St. ), contributed this recipe.
- 3 pounds of ground beef
- 1 pound of frozen peas
- 2 medium-size carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons of gravy powder or granules (Thrasher recommends Bisto)
- 1/2 cup of HP sauce (original)
- 7 large white potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of melted butter
Place the potatoes in a pot with just enough water to cover them, and bring the water to a boil.
Add a generous amount of salt to the boiling water. Once the potatoes are tender enough to break with a spoon, remove the pot from the heat and drain the water. Add the cream and half of the butter, then mash thoroughly, adding salt and pepper to taste.
In a second pot, brown the ground beef with the onions, making sure to cook the beef thoroughly. Use a ladle to skim the fat off the top of the browned beef, leaving some of the fat for flavor.
Mix the gravy granules into approximately 2 cups of cold water. Add the gravy mixture, carrots and peas to the ground beef and onion. Add more water if necessary to cover. Simmer until the carrots are fork tender, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add 1/2 cup of HP sauce to the pot and mix it through. The mixture should be cooked down at this point, so that there is little water left and it has taken on a thicker gravy texture.
Pour the hot ground-beef mixture into a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish and top evenly with the mashed potatoes. Use a fork to "plow the field" (make long lines through the mashed potato). Brush the remaining melted butter on top of the potatoes.
Place the casserole in the oven under the broiler and heat until the top of the potatoes takes on a golden-brown color, about 6 minutes. (Note: The casserole can also be broiled in 8-ounce, individual-size casserole dishes.) Serve the shepherd's pie with HP sauce on the side.