Comforting Shepherd’s Pie

A Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb. A Cottage Pie is made with beef. Everyone with me? I just say this because I am sure there are some people who have always wondered what the difference is. There you have it! It’s a bit obvious when you think about it… shepherds herd SHEEP.

This is my way of making Shepherd’s Pie. Since discovering Heston Blumenthal’s ultimate mash potato recipe, I’ve looked for any excuse to use it. It works so well on my standard Shepherd’s Pie recipe. Just scrumptious.

I love this pie because it’s comforting without being as stodgy as a bowlful of pasta or risotto. If you want to turn it into a Cottage Pie just switch your mince and add thyme instead of rosemary.

Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 4

Ingredients
For the filling:
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 large onion
– 2 diced carrots
– 2 diced celery sticks
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 500g minced lamb
– Salt and pepper
– 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
– Splash of Worcestershire sauce
– 250ml beef stock
– 120ml red wine

For the mash:
– 1kg charlotte potatoes
– 1 tbsp salt
– 250g cold butter
– Parmesan cheese (optional)

Method
1. Finely chop your onion, peel your carrots and dice along with your celery. Warm 1 tbsp of oil in a deep frying pan and add your onion. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add your carrots, celery and garlic. Allow everything to sweat away for 5 minutes or so until soft.

2. Give your rosemary a good old bash in a pestle and mortar to release the flavour. Add your minced lamb to the pan with some salt and pepper and the rosemary. Cook until the lamb is brown.

3. Make up your beef stock if you are using a cube with boiling water from the kettle.  Add a splash Worcestershire sauce to the pan. When it has cooked off, add your stock and the wine. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes.

4. After 30 minutes, your pie filling should be juicy but not too dry or wet. If the mixture is still a little watery, just cook off for a little longer. Once ready, transfer to an ovenproof dish. Preheat your oven to 200°/Gas Mark 6.

5. Now make your mash. I am using Heston Blumenthal’s Ultimate Mashed Potato recipe available online here. Peel and cut your potatoes into 1 inch slices and run under cold water. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add your potatoes. Heston’s recipe requires the temperature of the water to be 70°. I have found this hard to maintain myself and can assure you the mash tastes amazing regardless so don’t worry too much! Simmer the potatoes for 30 minutes.  

6. Drain the potatoes and run under cold water again. Rinse and refill the saucepan again and put it back on the heat. When it’s simmering, add the potatoes again and cook until soft – 5 minutes ought to do it.

7. Drain the potatoes again and place back in the saucepan and on the heat (without water) and just give a shake to cook off any remaining water.

8. Now just mash it! Use a potato ricer if you have one. For this recipe I use 250g instead of the suggested 300g of butter. It’s enough to make a lovely mash without getting a runny buttery bottom to your pie. You may like this though and stick with the 300g. I will not judge you.

I was feeling particularly fancy so after mashing the potato, I put it into a large piping bag with a big nozzle and piped on the potato in espresso cup size swirls. It looks impressive when cooked as the swirls catch the heat and pick up colour, but to be honest, this pie tastes good even if you lump your mash on in clumps!

9. Now just sprinkle with Parmesan and put the pie in the oven for 35-40 minutes or stick in the fridge or freezer for some future point in time. Devour the pie before wrapping yourself up in a duvet and collapsing on your sofa.

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