Yesterday, a friend of a chef-friend of mine asked me for my shepherds pie recipe.
Like most traditional recipes, every family's is slightly different and generally made from a recipe passed down through the generations from Gran to Mum to the kids.
Britain has long had a reputation for bad food, which is such a shame, because beautiful dishes like this are such a wonderful part of our culinary heritage, making the most of the ingredients available in our small isles. Helen Graves (Freaking AMAZING foodie blogger) did a brilliant Top 100 of uniquely British foods, which should put paid to all those nasty (and untrue!) rumours.
I don't have any pictures because I haven't made it since I began my blog and while I have taken many pictures of past recipe triumphs, my shepherds' pie never got its close-up.
It's not that this isn't a fantastic recipe, it's just that I've been making and it for so long now it's just a part of my repertoire and never got a thought from the camera phone.
One thing that shepherds pie DOES require is lamb. Often you'll see a beefy version, labeled as shepherd's pie but that is really cottage pie. Come on people, the clue is in the name......
I usually make this with lamb shoulder, as I came across this by accident a few years ago, when I'd bought a whole shoulder on sale and used half for a curry. I chopped the rest up really small for this pie and it was easily the best result I've had before or since. You can use left over roast lamb, minced lamb, mutton or hogget if you come across some in the market. Just don't use beef and call it a shepherds pie. Please.
My Best Ever Shepherds Pie.
Serves 6, Takes 1 1/2 hours.
1kg (2.2lbs) lamb shoulder, cut off the bone and chopped coarsley into smallish pieces. (Usually, lamb displayed as 'stewing lamb' is shoulder. Ask your butcher)
6 large floury potatoes
3 large onions, diced
2 large carrots, diced 1cm cubes
2 cloves garlic
500ml free-range chicken stock
large glass red wine
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary, needles removed and chopped
1 large sprig thyme, leaves picked
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
300ml whole milk
salt & pepper
a little finely grated cheese* such as parmesan, mature cheddar, red Leicester etc..
In a large, deep-sided frying pan or casserole, heat the olive oil over a fairly high heat. When nice and hot, tip in all your meat and stir it well through the olive oil. Stir and fry, stir and fry for several minutes, pausing long enough between stirs to let the meat get some good colour on it and then use a slotted spoon remove it all from the pan.
Tip the onions into the pan and cook in the lovely lamby fat for 5-6 minutes, until softening and going brown. Add the carrots and herbs to the pan and cook for a minute before adding the meat back to the pan with the stock, the wine, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, the bay leaves, some salt, plenty of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat to low and cover, leaving to cook for 40 minutes, until the meat is meltingly tender, the onions have all but dissolved and there is little to no liquid left int he pan. You can cook it for longer if you like-up to three hours, just watch the liquid levels.
While the lamb is cooking, do the potatoes:
Peel the potatoes and cut into large, even-sized chunks. Bring to a boil in a large saucepan of salted water and continue to boil for a further 10-12 minutes until tender to the tip of a sharp knife, drain. Let them steam dry for a few minutes before using a potato ricer to make a lovely fluffy pile of dry mash.
In the saucepan you used to cook the potatoes, melt the butter with the milk, some salt and the white pepper. When nice and hot, tip in the riced potato and stir well, adding a little milk if the mixture is too thick. Taste test for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Turn on the oven to 190C 375F.
In a deep baking dish, tip your lamb mixture in to fill to about 2/3 of the way up. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the mince and spread into an even layer. Us a fork to make rough peaks in the mash, almost like meringue. Sprinkle with a little grated cheese and pop in the oven, baking for about 30 minutes, until you have a nice golden brown crust with some crunchy brown bits.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about ten minutes before serving. I usually (always) serve an additional vegetable along with this dish. Steamed peas, green beans, broccoli, roasted beets etc are all lovely, depending on the season.
Having written down the recipe, I totally fancy this now. I'll put it on next week's menu and will add the pics then.