Shepherd's pie is like Top Gear - you've seen every incarnation a million times before, you know it's not aiming for the stars, but you don't care because, at the end of the day, nothing entertains you more. Except maybe lap dancing.
Shepherd's pie is one of my all-time favourite dishes. It won't win Michelin stars, but it's a simple and delicious way to take care of dinner for your family or a few of your mates - make extra as they will want seconds. It relies on a simple but effective combination of comforting earthy flavours - and in a climate like ours, you need as much of that as you can get! The mashed potato here is cooked with the skin on ("madness!" I hear you cry) to keep all of the flavour in, and when it's on top of the pie it starts to dissolve into the gravy to thicken it. Use good quality mince, and English people, please resist the temptation to smother it in instant Bisto crap!
- 800g good minced lamb
- 1 x large white onion
- 2 x proper-sized garlic cloves
- 2 x large carrots
- 3 fairly large Maris Piper potatoes
- 2 tbsps mustard
- A few sprigs of rosemary or thyme, tied together with an elastic band
- 500ml good lamb or chicken stock
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A few small chunks of butter, according to taste
- Splash of milk
- Clean your potatoes, then put them in a saucepan with cold water. Boil for 45 minutes-1 hour until the potatoes are cooked through.
- Pour the vegetable oil into a hot pan. Season the mince and season it in batches. Let the mince drain into a bowl and reserve the lamb fat - this will stop your pie from getting too greasy. If you need any extra fat in the pan at any point, use the reserved lamb fat rather than more vegetable oil as it will add extra flavour.
- Peel and roughly dice the onion and carrots into little chunks and cook them in the pan until the onions have softened and the carrots are golden. Add some more seasoning. Chuck in the garlic and a little bit of butter. When the garlic is fragrant, put the meat back in, mix it all together and add the stock and the herbs. Bring it to the boil, then cover and simmer for about an hour and a half until it's thickened. Stir it occasionally.
- Your potatoes will probably be ready before the meat is done unless you're an idiot, so use this time to drain and mash them. Cover one hand with a clean tea towel and use the other hand to peel the potatoes with a knife. Put them back in the saucepan when they're done, either on a VERY low heat (gas) or just on the ring it was cooking on (electric) so that some of the water can evaporate. Season and add butter and a bit of mustard, then a little drop of milk at a time until you have a smooth creamy mash.
- Stick the oven on at 190 degrees. When the meat sauce is done, transfer it to a pie dish, discard the herbs and cover with the mashed potato. Use a fork to score little peaks in the mash that will go crispy and brown. Transfer the whole thing to the oven for about 25 minutes until the top is golden brown.