Behold the shepherd’s pie. Or is it cottage pie? It was made with lamb and beef mince. It’s the shepherd’s cottage pie. Anyway, it was good and that’s all that matters.
This was a weekend-long endeavour. I made the mince on Friday, the mash on Saturday and cooked the whole lot on Sunday. The picture above is the Saturday stage. You, of course, could make it all in one go. It’s just that with my whirlwind social life (read: going down the pub) I had to curtail my cookery activities.
Some meat, minced. Sorry, I can’t remember how much I used. Use the power of your brain to work out how much you think you’ll need. If you’re not sure, it’s always better to make too much. Always. You can use lamb or beef or a mix of them. You could, at a push, use turkey mince for healthiness although there is a risk it could be dry and weird.
For the filling:
A couple of carrots, diced smallish.
An onion, chopped
A couple of cloves of garlic, chopped
A beef stock cube (Ssshhh don’t tell anyone)
A couple of tablespoons of tomato puree
A bit of butter
For the topping:
Potatoes. Sorry again, I didn’t measure how much. The correct amount is: whatever will adequately cover the filling. There is some controversy as to the correct ratio of filling to topping. I like them to be equal, Mr B prefers an excess of mashed potato.
Grated cheese (parmesan is good)
Optional extras: mushrooms, peas, whatever you fancy. Go crazy.
Okay, to make the mince, fry/sweat the onions and carrots in a knob of butter (heh, “knob”) until they look glossy and soften. Add the garlic and fry for one minute more. Now add the mince and turn the heat up. If the heat is too low, the juice from the meat will seep out and instead of frying the mince will braise in its own juices. Which is not necessary a bad thing, but does prevent the mince from browning properly and can make it a bit chewy.
Once the meat is nice and brown, crumble the stock cube over it, squeeze over the tomato puree and give it a good few splashes of Worcester sauce. Stir it all up and cook for another couple of minutes.
Now add the beef stock. If you’ve got fresh, then bully for you and you should use that. I used another stock cube. Add enough to just cover the meat. Add a few sprigs of thyme. Now go and have a nice sit down and a cup of tea.
Check back after twenty minutes. It should be simmering away nicely. What you want to happen is that the ingredients soak up some of the stock and it reduces down until there is a sensible amount of liquid for a pie. Use your judgement.
When you’re happy that your mixture is fit for pie, pour it into the pie dish. This is the point where, if you want to go down the pub, you should pop it in the fridge. Everyone knows that mince always tastes better the next day.
If you want to forge ahead, now boil the potatoes. Make the mashed potato as you like it, although here is an important point – don’t make it too wet because it will be soaking up some of the gravy from the filling. I used the traditional milk and butter. If you wanted to add a twist, some mashed garlic mixed in would be nice. Or even some spring onions.
Now, using a spoon, spread the mashed potato over the mince mixture. Be careful not to get them mixed up as I often do so you end up with bits of mince mixed in with the potato. It’s not the end of the world if this happens though.
Now make ridges in the mash with the fork (as shown in the above photo). This is so that when it bakes the ridges will get crispy and brown. Here again you have another opportunity to stick it in the fridge and go down the pub should you so wish.
If you want to forge ahead again (aren’t you keen?) pre-heat the oven to 200C/390F and sprinkle grated cheese atop the pie. Bake the pie until the top is nice and golden (you can probably also see the mince bubbling up round the edges). This should take about half an hour to 40 minutes.
Now eat it! You don’t need to serve much with it because it already contains the meat and potato food groups. I served it with peas. It got compliments and was all eaten in one sitting by three people including one brother-in-law with a large appetite. Mr B had third helpings, which I’ve never seen him do before. A success.