Shepherd’s Pie

An easy, comforting meal ideal for those cold nights when you want something satisfying and delicious that will warm you up from the inside.

It’s always made with lamb. Always. An easy way to remember this is that ‘shepherds shepherd sheep’. Just picture the words from the old carol:

“While shepherds watched their flocks by night,

All seated on the ground…”

If you’re picturing sheep right now, we’re on the same page. If you’re imagining those same shepherds tending their flock of cows, then we’ve got a problem.

Despite this, and my obviously needy desire to be a stickler for the rules, the lamb is easily interchangeable for beef. In fact, it’s pretty damn tasty with beef, but just make sure you call it ‘Cottage Pie’. And by all means, make a vegetarian version using soya mince and/or lentils, but you’ll have to call it ‘Shepherdess Pie’.

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RECIPE: Shepherd’s Pie

FLAVOUR PROFILE: Rich and savoury, with a hint of fruity sweetness in the background.

GOES GREAT WITH: It’s great on its own as a one-pot meal, however if you want a bit of greenery, I’d recommend a side of asparagus or a nice leafy salad.

NOTES: Cherry jam is not an ingredient you’ll usually find in a Shepherd’s Pie recipe, but I think it takes a simple meal to the next level and gives it something extra. In the past, I’ve also used redcurrant jelly and cranberry sauce left over from Christmas, both with delightful results.

MAKES: Enough to feed 6

INGREDIENTS:

  •  400g (14oz) LAMB MINCE
  • 1 RED ONION, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. BALSAMIC VINEGAR
  • 2 GARLIC CLOVES, minced
  • 80g (2.8oz) BACON LARDONS
  • 1 tbsp. OIL
  • 2 stalks ROSEMARY, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. picked THYME LEAVES
  • 2 CARROTS, peeled and diced into small cubes
  • 2 heaped tbsp. TOMATO PUREE
  • 1 STOCK CUBE, diluted in 100ml boiling water
  • 200ml (7oz) BEER, preferably Stout or Dark Ale
  • 1 tbsp. CHERRY JAM
  • 6 POTATOES, peeled and diced into large cubes
  • 1 tbsp. BUTTER
  • Dash of CREAM
  • 30g (1oz) CHEDDAR CHEESE, grated
  • Wholegrain mustard, to taste (Optional)
  • SALT and PEPPER

METHOD:

  1. Make the filling: Put the OIL into a large saucepan on a medium-high heat and add the BACON LARDONS. Fry until they have taken on some colour.
  2. Add the RED ONIONS, turn down the heat and cook slowly for 15 minutes. Stir in the BALSAMIC VINEGAR for the last 5 minutes.
  3. Add the GARLIC, CARROTS, THYME, ROSEMARY and TOMATO PUREE. Give it a good stir, then cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the LAMB MINCE, seasoning it well with SALT and PEPPER and cook until it has browned. Add the CHERRY JAM, BEER and the STOCK WATER. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes. Then, remove the lid for a further 10 minutes.
  5. Make the mashed potato topping: Meanwhile, in another large saucepan add the POTATOES in salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes until they’re tender.
  6. Drain the potatoes, leaving them to steam dry for a few minutes. Then mash them with a knob of BUTTER, a drizzle of CREAM and some SALT and PEPPER. If you like, you can also stir in some WHOLEGRAIN MUSTARD.
  7. By now, the lamb mixture should be done. If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, turn up the heat and boil it away for 5-10 minutes. Then leave it to cool for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  8. Build the pie: Tip the filling into a pie dish. Top with the potato mixture, smoothing and pushing it around so that it’s even. With a fork, scrape the top (this will help the topping to get nice and crispy) and sprinkle with GRATED CHEDDAR.
  9. At this stage, you’ve got a few options. You can either finish it in the oven straightaway, in which case 20 minutes will get it nice and golden on the top. Alternatively, you can leave it aside and cook it later. Just put it in the oven for 40 minutes. Or you can freeze it for a rainy day.

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