To paraphrase erstwhile football hooligan and current market gardener-cum-podgy, cheekie-chappy-apples-and-fackin'-pears Masterchef judge, Greg Wallace, "food don't come any more rustic than this!". I mean, how could it? It's named after someone who raises sheep for a living; who smells of lanolin and moss on a daily basis and for whom ticks are sexually transmitted.
Of course, the dish is also a British classic and piece of piss to make, as well as being cheap. That's probably why it's popular in pubs because they're often too tight to invest in the pricier ingredients needed to make better quality food and or invest in culinary training of their staff. Of course, in most good old British pubs, it's often a second rate version of the dish, as cooked on an industrial scale by some big catering multinational. The meat will be mechanically recovered; comprised mainly of lips and assholes; and probably not entirely ovine in origin, such that it could legitimately be called "jockey's pie". Saying that, industrially-produced shepherd's pie is an ideal accompaniment for that great British beer, Carlsberg, as brewed under licence in the UK in some massive industrial scale plant in the middle of fucking Wales. Food don't come any less rustic than that.
This version is easy and so much better than some crap from the freezer or chiller counter at your local supermarket.
Serve with vegetables and you can feed four adults
500g minced lamb
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1stick of celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
250g mushrooms, chopped
half a tin of tomatoes
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 bay leaf
sprig of fresh thyme
1tsp mint sauce
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
500g potatoes. peeled and cut into chunks
Leaves of a sprig of fresh rosemary,finely chopped (around 1-2 tsp)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Splash of milk
Fry the mince in a pan, pour it into a sieve and drain off the fat. Lamb really is fatty so there will be shitloads of grease in the sink. Add oil to the pan and add onion and garlic. After a couple of minutes, when the onion starts to go translucent, add the celery and carrot. Sweat for 10 minutes then add the mushrooms. Continue to fry (or sauté if you prefer foodie wanker terminology).for another couple of minutes then add the tomatoes and water. Crumble in the stock cube and add the tomato puree. Add the thyme (strip the leaves into the pot), bay leaf, pepper, mint sauce and Worcester sauce. Stir well and leave the lot to stew for an hour.
Meanwhile boil the potatoes for 20 minutes or so. While these are boiling, fry up the garlic and rosemary in a couple of teaspoons of the olive oil. Drain the spuds and put them back in the pan. Start mashing them. Add milk and olive oil, salt, pepper and the rosemary and garlic and continue to mash. If you're feeling energetic, use a whisk as the texture gets smoother to get rid of lumps.
Add the mince mixture to a casserole dish and spoon on the mash so you cover the top of the meat. A this stage some of the TV chefs would probably tell you to pipe the mash onto the meat because it looks nice. Personally I'd say fuck that for a game of soldiers as it all goes down the same way. Just smooth it so it makes a single layer without any gaps. If you want to be vaguely poncey you can do that fork thing to make little peaks and sprinkle on a bit paprika to make it look poncier still. Bake in the oven at 160 for 45 minutes so you get a nice crispy skin on the mash.
Pie ready to go in the oven.
Calpol is optional
As I mentioned for other recipes, replacing the water with red wine makes the meal tastier. This is all well and good, but if I open a bottle of wine I want to drink it and not put it in my dinner.
Like most good cookery pundits, no recipe would be complete without some advice on what to ask from your butcher. Ask you butcher to ask the abattoir worker to give the sheep that is to become your mince a damn good shagging because it really makes the meat tender. Actually, that's not strictly true, since mince doesn't need tenderising, but it's nice to try to brighten the day of someone who kills animals for a living.