My mother's shepherd's pie was made just as in the recipe today, but using leftover roast meat meant it didn't need to cook for as long. The meat was flavoured with tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce, then topped with creamy mashed potato and baked in the wood-stove. I have happy memories of our shepherd's pie and have made it often for my family with fresh lamb. You can also use minced beef and then it would be a cottage pie.
500g minced lamb
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 big onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, diced
2 thyme sprigs
sea salt and ground black pepper
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
pinch of cayenne
1 cup stock, water and 1 stock cube or 1 tsp vegemite
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp tomato sauce or tomato paste
2 tsp corn flour and 2 tbsp cold water to thicken sauce
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4-5 spring onions, finely sliced
1-2 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp milk, preferably hot
1/4 tsp mustard powder mixed to a paste with water (optional)
sea salt to taste
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Heat the oil until quite hot in a sauté pan and brown the meat in two batches and set aside. Add a dash more oil to the pan if needed and fry the onion, carrots and thyme for a few minutes. Return the meat to the pan and season with salt and pepper and add the cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cayenne. Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce or paste and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer partly covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more liquid if needed.
To thicken the sauce, mix the corn flour and water, stir into the meat and cook for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning and flavouring. Mix in the chopped parsley and tip into the baking dish. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Meanwhile cook the potatoes in plenty of water until tender. Drain potatoes and return to the pan and the heat to dry out briefly. Mash with the hot milk, optional mustard and olive oil or butter and then add the spring onions and salt to taste. Pile the mash on top of the lamb stew, rough up the surface with a fork and sprinkle with parmesan. Place the shepherd’s pie on an oven tray and bake until brown and bubbling. Serve with peas and pass the tomato sauce for people to add if they like.
Include celery and garlic with the other vegetables to cook with the meat. You could add cooked lentils, peas or sautéed sliced mushrooms to the meat stew. Add a parsnip, 250g of celeriac or pumpkin to cook with the potato for the mash if you like. For a cottage pie use minced beef instead of lamb and omit the spices. Add a bay leaf and dash of red wine for extra flavour.