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Shepherd’s pie

Arguably one of the most comforting foods around, this simple but satisfying dish is a winner any day of the week.

By Adelaide Lucas
  • Serves 4
  • 25 mins preparation
  • 1 hr cooking
Shepherd’s pie

Shepherd's pie. Its very name is evocative of greener pastures, with a weathered shepherd enjoying this simple meal at the end of a long cold day in the fields.

It's thought this British classic – part of a long pie tradition dating back to the Middle Ages – originated in the north of England and Scotland where there were many sheep. It came about in thriftier days as a way to use leftover roast lamb, with the dripping put to good use to keep the meat moist.

According to Alan Davidson's definitive, the most effective way to date shepherd's pie is to trace the introduction of potatoes to England. This New World food was introduced to Europe in 1520 by the Spanish, but wasn't accepted by the British palate until sometime during the 18th century. The invention of mincing machines in the 1870s made the dish even more popular and it's around this time that its name was coined.

As its name suggests, the meat used should be mutton or lamb, minced and simmered in stock with aromatic vegetables until tender and flavoursome. We've added red wine and Worcestershire sauce for depth of flavour. There's no need for pastry with this crowning glory of creamy mashed potato, baked long enough to create a golden crust. So, while a long day in the fields watching over sheep may not be on the cards for you, this dish will still warm the cockles of your heart in winter's depths. Dig in.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 800 gm minced lamb
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 250 ml (1 cup) brown chicken stock (see note)
  • 125 ml red wine
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) Worcestershire sauce
  • 120 gm (1 cup) frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Creamy mash
  • 800 gm desiree potatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 250 ml (1 cup) pouring cream
  • 100 gm butter, softened

Method

  • 1
    Preheat oven to 200C. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, garlic and bay leaf and cook until vegetables are soft and start to colour (7-10 minutes). Season to taste, add mince and stir, breaking up mince with back of spoon until brown (5-7 minutes). Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Add stock, wine and Worcestershire sauce, bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is thick (20-25 minutes). Stir through peas and parsley and season to taste.
  • 2
    Meanwhile, for creamy mash, place potatoes in a pan and cover with cold salted water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook until tender (10-15 minutes). Drain potatoes and return to pan. Add cream and butter and mash until smooth. Season to taste.
  • 3
    Divide mince mixture between four 2 cup-capacity ovenproof dishes. Top with potato and bake until golden (10-15 minutes). Serve with extra Worcestershire sauce to the side.

Notes

WHERE TO TRY THEMRESTAURANT ARRAS
At his restaurant specialising in modern British food, Adam Humphrey lists a 'sea shepherd's pie', as an accompaniment to blue-eye trevalla, among his main courses. 24 Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay, NSW, (02) 9252 6285.
BRITISH INDIA Enjoy an innovative Indian take on traditional shepherd's pie, presented as an individual bhuna gosht pie with Indian spices, vegetables and mashed potato. 270-276 Morphett St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8212 2411.
HARRISON'S Spencer Patrick says his shepherd's pie lunch special is a crowd-pleaser. Maybe the braised lamb shanks, reduced stock flavoured with marjoram and thyme, Vichy carrots and truffle mash has something to do with it. 41 Macrossan St, Port Douglas, Qld, (07) 4099 6364. Brown chicken stock is available from select delicatessens and butchers.

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  • Author: Adelaide Lucas