Shepherds’ Pie

Some people get confused about the difference between Shepherds’ Pie and Cottage Pie. Even the Wikipedia entry states that the name is interchangeable.  But, it’s quite simple – Shepherds’ Pie is made from lamb (Shepherds look after Sheep), and Cottage Pie is made from Beef. Both are very British in origin, and a good example that despite global opinion, British food is indeed delicious.

I spent many years thinking that I didn’t like Shepherds’ Pie. Then I was served it at a friend’s house. Not being type of person who is rude enough not to give things a try, I found I actually enjoyed it.  I’ve since concluded that this dish was just another victim of the school dinner treatment.

So, today is Sunday, and instead of the usual roast, we are having Shepherds’ Pie.  Despite repeated requests from my husband, it will not be served with Baked Beans (a favourite student meal of his, back in the day). It’s a very straight forward dish, and today I decided to add my own twist by the way of cumin. Cumin and Lamb tend to complement each other really well, being a staple of Moroccan cuisine.  Leek is a great addition, though not used on this occasion.

This is also a great opportunity to use one of my kitchen gadgets – the potato ricer. Sales of this product went through the roof after Gordon Ramsay used it during the first series of the ‘F Word‘!

The quantities for the meat sauce makes enough for around 6, or 4 really generous portions. However, on this occasion I was cooking for 2, so the left over meat sauce was divided and frozen for future use. The potato quantity below is enough for 2, but I wouldn’t necessarily increase by the same proportion as the sauce. Weigh the potatoes out, and rely on your eyes to assess an appropriate amount. The size of the dish will have some bearing, particularly the surface area. In this case I used a small dish which measures in cms – 22.5 x 15.5 x 4.5 deep.

For the meat sauce (for 4-6)

  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 red onion (large) – sliced or diced, it doesn’t really mater
  • 1 aubergine (small) – diced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin – crushed with mortar & pestle
  • 400g tin tomatoes
  • Generous splash of Worcestershire Sauce

First of all, I brown the mince in a pan. Lamb tends to be very fatty, so I like to remove it from the pan and drain as much fat off as possible (please don’t do this under the sink, it will block the u-bend!).  Putting the mince to one side temporarily, add the onion to the pan, and stir for a minute or so. Then add the aubergine, mix well, and saute over a lowish heat for a few minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Add the cumin, the Worcestershire Sauce, mix well, then add the tinned tomatoes. Refill the can with cold water. Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes, before adding the water and the mince. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for at least 45 minutes to make the most of the flavours. Stir occasionally just to make sure the mixture isn’t sticking.

For the potato topping:

  • 500g potatoes
  • Tablespoon butter / marg
  • 100 ml milk
  • 1 egg

Boil the potatoes until soft (usually around 20 minutes). Drain into a colander, and use the pan to melt the butter. Stir in the egg and milk. Add the potato – either use a potato ricer like mine, or mash directly in the pan.

Putting the dish together:

Preheat the oven to 200° C / 400º F / Gas Mark 6.

Spoon the meat mixture into the dish, and top with the potato. Use a fork to smooth the layer, and create a pattern (the artistry in this case was carried out by my husband).

Place in the oven until the potato is golden brown. This will take 20-30 minutes, depending on whether your oven is fan assisted.

Serve with vegetables of your choice, and enjoy!

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