Monday, 28 November 2011

Shepherd's Pie

This is a fantastic Shepherd's pie. It takes a bit of time and effort but the results are worth it. Instead of mince it uses roughly shredded meat from a lamb shoulder cooked on the bone. The shoulder is marinated in garlic, rosemary and thyme then cooked in a casserole on top of a sauce of onions, wine and tomatoes. It's a win-win situation, the juices from the meat flavour the sauce and the sauce keeps the meat moist and tender. The meat is then pulled from the bones and added to the sauce and the whole lot is crowned with mash.


Think rich, succulent herby shreds of meat topped with fluffy, buttery potatoes and doused in smooth, savoury gravy. Wonderful.

This recipe should serve four, or three comfortably, or two proper fatties. It takes over three hours to cook but you won't be actually doing anything for much more than forty minutes of that.

What you'll need:

750g lamb shoulder
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 large glass red wine (about 200ml)
1 large glass water (about 200ml)
1 stock cube
1tbsp plain flour
loads of butter
fresh rosemary and thyme
freshly ground salt and pepper
Worcestershire sauce
olive oil
a big handful of mushrooms


What to do:

1. First prepare the marinade for the meat. Roughly chop about 1tbsp of fresh rosemary and about half a tbsp of fresh thyme. Peel and roughly chop 3 cloves of garlic.

2. Place the garlic and herbs in a mortar with about 1 tbsp of butter, a splash of olive oil and a generous grind of salt and pepper. Give it a good pounding with the pestle to mix everything together and release the oils from the herbs and garlic.


3. Stab the meat a few times with a knife to allow the marinade to get inside, then smear it all over the meat. Ideally you'd do this the day before, in practice I did it immediately prior to cooking it.


4. Chop the onion and then put it in a heavy bottomed casserole (the type with a lid that you can put on the hob) on a moderate heat with a generous splash of olive oil. Let the onion sweat without colouring for around 10 minutes. Open the wine and set the oven to 175 degrees C.

5. When the onions are soft throw in a level tbsp of flour, stir and fry for a minute or so.

6. Slowly pour in a large glass of red wine and bring to the boil, stirring constantly as it bubbles and thickens.

7. Pour in a glass-worth of boiling water and keep stirring. Crumble in the stock cube, empty in the tin of tomatoes, stir and simmer for a couple of minutes. It should have the consistency of a thin gravy.


8. Put the meat on top of the onion sauce mixture, put the lid on the pot and place it in the oven. Leave it alone for an hour.

9. After an hour has passed chop a big handful of mushrooms then remove the pot from the oven. Taste the sauce and add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and more salt and pepper if it needs it. Throw in the mushrooms then return to the oven for another hour.

10. Halfway through the second hour peel and chop the potatoes, then put them on to boil in a large pan. When they are done drain them, then mash with a splash of milk and loads of butter.


11. After the second hour has passed remove the pot from the oven, take out the meat and set it to one side to rest for a few minutes. Adjust the seasoning in the sauce, then strain off about half of the remaining liquid from the pot to use as gravy, leaving behind all of the solids and enough liquid to make a thick sauce.


12. Shred the meat from the bones using a knife and fork, then shred it a little bit more using two forks. Place the meat in the bottom of your pie dish.


13. Pour over the remaining sauce mixture, then cover with the mashed potatoes. Scuff up the mash with a fork so that you'll get a nice crispy finish. You could add cheese but I don't think it needs it, the lamb is rich and fatty enough and if you've made the mash properly it's full of butter anyway.

14. Put the pie in the oven and bake at the same temperature (175 degrees C) for around 40-45 minutes.


15. Serve immediately with peas or greens, the rest of the gravy and the rest of the wine.
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