Shepherd's Pie? Cottage Pie? What's the difference? Well, technically Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb and Cottage Pie with beef, but I tend to use the words interchangeably, what really matters is that it's the kind of delicious, warming comfort food perfect for a gloomy January day, and by cramming in lots of veg you can kid yourself that it's healthy too, especially if you serve it with broccoli and mashed swede as I did.
Ingredients (to serve 4)
450g minced lamb (or beef)
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
130g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
130g frozen peas, defrosted
350ml beef stock
1 tbs plain flour
4 large potatoes
a little milk and butter
Pre heat the oven to 160C, 140 Fan, 325F, gas mark 3.
Place the meat and onions in a flameproof casserole dish and fry together, stirring frequently, over a high heat until the meat is browned and the onion softened. Unless the meat is extremely lean, you don't need to add any fat, the onion will cook in the fat that comes out of the meat.
Reduce the heat to very low and stir in the flour then blend in the stock. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, then mix in the carrots, mushrooms and peas. Taste and season. Cover and cook in the oven for about an hour until the meat and veg are all tender. If you have time to cook it for even longer, you will get a richer tasting, more unctuous mixture.
When the meat mixture is ready, remove it from the oven, uncover and set aside to cool. As it cools, it will "set" slightly and make the potato topping easier to add.
Increase the oven temperature to 220C, 200 fan, 400F, gas mark 6.
Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and boil in salted water until very tender. Mash with seasoning and a little milk and butter - a potato ricer makes wonderfully smooth, fluffy mash. Carefully cover the top of the meat mixture with the potato, adding a fairly small amount at a time evenly over the surface so it doesn't sink into the gravy below. Spread to cover the surface and decorate roughly with the prongs of a fork. Dot with a few tiny specks of butter and return to the oven.
Cook until fully reheated and crispy and brown on top - about 30 minutes.