When I was young I thought shepherd’s pie was what every mom on the street made with seasoned ground beef topped with mashed potatoes. On a trip to England with my mother I ordered shepherd’s pie at a funny little cafe in London near the river and my mother never said anything. The meal was delicious and while driving away in a cab, she leaned over and said, “That shepherd’s pie was made with leftover lamb roast,” and she started to chuckle.
The pie I’d had as a kid is called cottage pie. Shepherd’s pie is made with lamb – shepherd – get it? I can hear you over there in the states… there is no cowpoke called cottage. I know.
I was a really fussy kid when it came to food. I had some physical problems with some food but with other food I was just a silly kid and that was the case with lamb. I didn’t eat venison because that was Bambi and I didn’t eat rabbit because that was Thumper and who could eat a baby sheep? I figured if I could eat it in England I could eat it at home.
People in Maine didn’t eat much lamb. It was very expensive and difficult to source leaving most families with fish, shellfish, beef, chicken or pork. That’s just how it was when we were kids. Times have changed.
Several years ago John and I trekked to Maine for a family reunion. We’d all rented cottages on a lake and we had a terrific time taking turns cooking. Both my brother and sister are really good cooks and my brother is definitely the man you want to have around when it comes to building a fire for roasting marshmallows.
Once we’d passed the jetlag, John suggested we buy lamb chops and cook them on the grill one night. I went to the local Lebanese butcher who specializes in lamb and ordered enough for 12 people. The amount I bought would have cost maybe $25 in Australia (in Australian dollars at the time) so when I saw the bill I nearly fell over. It was $112.50. I looked at John and said, “These had better be perfectly cooked or I’m going to slit my throat.”
In my previous post the other night, we had a slow roasted lamb shoulder rubbed with super ras el hanout from Herbie’s Spices . We had heaps left over so I thought it was about time that I made a real shepherd’s pie.
I looked around the net to find a recipe that wouldn’t be dry and I found one. It’s Jamie Oliver’s recipe filled with onion, carrots, celery and tomatoes. I promise you whether you use his version with lamb mince or mine with leftover lamb roast, you’ll thank me. I added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste because I thought the dish needed it.
John’s 92 year old dad is visiting with us and he ate so much of this that I thought he would pop. Whoever said old people have lousy appetites should meet this guy. He’s every cook’s dream. He loves whatever you put in front of him.
He spent the entire afternoon potting up a new herb garden for me. I think he wants to be sure good food will continue.
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- a small bunch of fresh rosemary
- olive oil
- 500g leftover lamb roast minced or lightly whizzed in a food processor
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 250ml lamb or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock because it was what I had)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5k potatoes
- 100ml milk or cream
- 2 tbs butter
- Peel and roughly chop the onion and carrots
- Trim and roughly chop the celery
- Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves
- Pick the rosemary leaves, discard the stalks
- Heat a large pan on a medium heat
- Add enough olive oil and onion, carrot, celery, garlic and most of the rosemary leaves. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
- Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened
- Turn the heat up, add the leftover lamb that has been minced or whizzed.
- Tip in the tinned tomatoes
- Pour in the stock and tomato paste then bring to the boil
- Reduce to a low heat, leave the lid on but slightly ajar, and simmer for 1 hour until most of the liquid is gone.
- Peel the potatoes, cut them into halves and quarters depending on their size, and put them into a pan of cold salted water
- Boil for about 10 - 15 minutes until tender
- Stick a knife into them to check they’re soft all the way through
- Drain in a colander and return them to the pan
- Add the milk or cream, butter and a pinch of salt and pepper
- Mash until smooth and creamy
- Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF
- Place lamb mixture to a large ovenproof baking dish
- Spoon the mashed potatoes evenly over the top and poke the remaining rosemary leaves into the top
- Drizzle with olive oil, then cook in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden and bubbling
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