16. Shepherd's pie


2 tbsp Bacon, fat (or dripping, or 1 tbsp sunflower oil and 1 tbsp butter)
1 onion, chopped
2 Carrots, finely diced
2 sticks Celery, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs Thyme
2 tbsp Parsley, chopped
675g minced lamb, (or beef for a cottage pie)
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch salt and fresh ground black pepper

For the topping:
900g Potatoes, cooked in their skins
60g Butter
150ml Milk
1 pinch Nutmeg, freshly grated


1. Take a large deep frying pan and heat half the fat in it. Add the vegetables, and fry gently, allowing plenty of time, until patched with brown at the corners, turning them frequently. Scoop out onto a plate.

2. Raise the heat under the pan and add half the mince. Pat it down flat, and leave to fry without disturbing for several minutes until the underneath has browned properly (this is what gives the cooked mince a good rich brown colour, and its proper, deep, meaty savouriness). Then break it all up, turning it over. Repeat the browning process, and then lift the mince out of the pan with a slotted spoon.

3. Repeat with the remaining mince.

4. Drain off excess fat from the pan, and then return the mince and vegetables to it. Sprinkle the flour over the mince and vegetables and stir for about 30 seconds. Next add the herbs (tie bay leaf and thyme in a bundle for easy retrieval at the end of the cooking time), together with the water, tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

5. Bring up to the boil, then turn the heat down very low, and leave to simmer quietly for 45-60 minutes or so. Check every now and then, and add a little more water if it is drying out. By the time it is cooked, the mixture should be moist and succulent and thick. If it seems watery carry on cooking to evaporate off some of the liquid. Taste and adjust seasoning, then tip into a pie dish and leave to cool.

6. Set the oven to 190°C/gas 5. Scoop the potato flesh out of the skins, and mash with 45g butter and enough milk to give a mash that is fairly soft, but will hold its shape.

7. Dollop the mashed potato here and there over the mince, then spread down lightly in an even layer. Use the tines of a fork to make wavy lines (or some other interesting pattern) on the surface. Dot with remaining butter.

8. Bake for around 30 minutes until the top is browned and the juices from the meat are oozing and bubbling up round the edge.

Cook's Notes: What is the difference between shepherd's pie and cottage pie? Shepherd's pie is made out of lamb (or mutton), therefore cottage pie is made out of beef.