Ultimate Slow-Cooked Shepherd's Pie

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.

Ingredients

Butter
Dried rosemary and thyme
1 large onion
1 fat garlic clove
1 large carrot
About 250g lamb neck fillet
500ml Bisto gravy
A small glass of red wine
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt & black pepper
A pinch of sugar
For the mash:
3 large potatoes
Butter
3 tbsp soft cheese with garlic & herbs
Salt
A little cheddar to grate on top
Peas, to serve

Serves 4

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 gravy thicken.

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 gravy.

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.