Thursday, 26 May 2011

Shepherd's Pie

When I changed jobs about ten months ago, I swapped my two hour long train journey for an 16 mile bike ride. I don’t do it every day – if I’d been on my bike today, I would’ve been well and truly soaked in the first mile due to the belated April-style showers we seem to be having – but when I do, I love taking in the landscape as I ride. At the moment, I whizz (okay, trundle) past little woolly lambs and, as of last week, clumps of elderflower blossom.

It’s a lovely way to start and finish the day. The stress of the day melts away as I work up a healthy appetite. Seeing seasonal produce in the fields tends to inspire me when I cook and I’ve been trying to banish any issues with last minute meals or attack of the snacks by being organised with our food. Shepherd’s pie combines two fantastic ingredients which are in season – lamb and jersey royal potatoes – and is easy to prepare in advance. I made one on Sunday night and we’ve been eating it ever since.

Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 4 - 6

500g (lean) minced lamb
150g jersey royal potatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
4 stalks of celery, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
1 sprig of rosemary (or 1 tsp of dried rosemary)
2 sprigs of thyme (or 2 tsp of dried thyme)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp ground mace
100ml lamb stock (or whatever stock that you have)

- Put the kettle on with enough water to boil the potatoes and preheat the oven to 180c.
- With a drop of sunflower oil in the pan, brown the lamb in batches over a high heat. The lamb will let out a lot of fat as it cooks so you may need to drain the pan in between batches as it builds up. I pour this into a cup to save for later.
- Remove the meat from the pan, lower the heat and sweat the onion, celery and carrot in the pan for five minutes until they are soft and the onion is translucent.
- Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until they are tender. Drain them and reserve the water.
- Add the meat back into the pan with the herbs and mace and then stir until combined.
- Pour in the stock and top up with the potato water until the mixture is covered. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then pour into an oven proof dish.
- Slice the potatoes and use them to top the pie. I brushed them with a little of the fat from the lamb and then topped with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 45 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the potatoes and nicely crisp. Serve with peas and other seasonal vegetables.

Now I need to find something to do with the elderflowers!

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