You guys know that I hate to boast, but when it comes to
this Shepherd’s Pie, I can’t help it: it’s really, really delicious. The filling
is cooked very slowly, to allow it to develop huge, glorious flavours, and made
with lamb neck fillet (rather than the usual mince) which becomes gorgeously
tender. The mashed potato on top is made with butter and creamy, garlicky
cheese, to make it extra indulgent. Try this once, and you’ll never go back to
the old ways.
About 250g lamb neck fillet
A small glass of red wine
3 tbsp soft cheese with garlic & herbs
A little cheddar to grate on top
As I mentioned above, this is a low & slow recipe –
you need to allow about two and a half hours for the whole process. Start by
peeling and dicing the onion and carrot, and mincing the garlic. In a large
ovenproof saucepan, melt a generous scoop of butter, then add the onion, carrot
and garlic, with a good sprinkling of rosemary and thyme, and allow it to
sizzle gently over a medium heat.
In the meantime, cut the neck fillet into bite-sized
pieces, and make up the gravy with two tablespoonfuls of Bisto powder and 500
ml cold water. Once the onion is nicely soft and golden, add the lamb, and fry
for a minute or two until it’s just browned (a few areas of pink are fine). Next,
add just enough gravy to cover (you might not need it all), the red wine and
the tomato puree, and stir well. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.
Turn up the heat until the liquid starts to bubble, then put the lid on and
turn the heat right down. Leave for an hour.
After an hour, the meat and vegetables should be nice and
tender. Now you can remove the lid and turn the heat up a little, to help the
When there’s about half an hour left to go, peel the
potatoes and cut into bite-sized pieces. Get them boiling on the hob with a
pinch of salt. If you’re using frozen peas, now might also be a good time to
get them out and pop them in a bowl with some hot water to help them defrost (I
always do this, because otherwise it takes forever to get them to boil on the
hob). At this point, if your filling is still looking quite watery, you might
want to turn the heat up a bit more. You want to end up with a nice thick
The potatoes should need between fifteen and twenty
minutes – prod them with a fork and if they fall apart easily, they’re done.
Drain off most of the water, add plenty of butter and the cheese, and mash
vigorously until lovely and smooth. Now is the time to put your peas on to boil
– don’t be tempted to add salt, as it will make them tough.
Turn the grill on to heat up, in preparation for toasting
the top of the pie. In the same pan you used to make the filling, top it with
the mash (add a spoonful at a time and gently smooth it out – it’s much easier
than you might imagine) and then grate a little cheddar on top. Pop the pie under
the grill for a few minutes.
When the pie is gloriously crisp and golden on top, bring
it to the table with the peas, and let everyone help themselves. Wash down with
a few glasses of good red wine.