On a chilly autumn day what more could you want than a rich, warming dinner. To me shepherd’s pie is the ultimate comfort food – thick, creamy mash and deeply savoury sauce packed full of healthy veg. It’s always something I crave when the nights start to draw in and the leaves start turning crunchy and falling to the ground, perfect after a long walk on a blustery Sunday afternoon. This is the sort of meal that makes me yearn for a wood burning stove and a glass of red.
Shepherd’s pie (or cottage pie if you prefer beef) is a wonderful prepare-ahead dish you can leave in the fridge ready to baked later. You can also freeze it – ideal if you want to make a big batch – defrost a pie the fridge while you’re at work and pop it in the oven when you get home then all you have to do is prepare a quick side and put your feet up while it bakes. You can play around with the vegetables; I always use carrots, celery and something oniony like leeks but I also chuck in whatever else I have to hand. Courgettes melt into the sauce making it thick and creamy, parsnips and celeriac work well in the mash or the sauce and butternut squash tastes great with the lamb.
- 300g lean lamb mince
- 1 carrot
- 1 stick celery
- 2 shallots
- 1 small courgette
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp gravy powder/browning
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 100ml red wine
- 250ml water or beef stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 twigs thyme
- 1 twig rosemary
- salt and pepper
- 2 large potatoes
- 2 tspn butter
- 50ml milk
Get a heavy based pan nice and hot and brown the lamb. Turn the heat to low and add the vegetables.
Sweat the vegetables until softened then stir in the flour, gravy powder and tomato paste. Pour in the wine and simmer until reduced.
Add the water or stock, tuck in the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary. Cover partially with the lid (halfway is fine) and simmer gently for 30–45 mins stirring from time to time until the sauce is thick. Taste and season.
Pour the lamb sauce into a deep, oven proof dish and chill.
Microwave or bake the potatoes, when soft mash or rice them and add the butter, milk and some salt. Beat until smooth.
Heat the oven to 200°C.
Spread the potato over the lamb leaving a rough finish which can brown. Sprinkle the top with a little pepper. (If chilling or freezing, allow to cool and cover the top with two layers of clingfilm.)
Bake for 40 mins until golden brown on top.