A favorite of mine in British cuisine are meat pies. Beyond those unfortunate chicken-pot-pies in the frozen section at the grocery store, it’s not something I see very often in the wild. But this time of year, when half my days are rainy and gray and the other half are freezing cold—I want something warm from the oven. So I was surprised to discover that in spite of a number of steak pies, eel and fish pies, and others featuring game and fowl—there wasn’t a classic shepherd’s pie to be found.
And so it was Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to the rescue. My friend Gordon had sent me The River Cottage Year cookbook a few years ago for Christmas—and it’s a great guide to thinking about seasonality in modern Britain. Of course, it didn’t contain a recipe for shepherd’s pie either. But poking around online led me to his mum’s recipe posted on the River Cottage series website. Did Hugh lead me astray? As my friend Elaine noted when eating it, “More things should be cooked in wine.” I did modify it slightly to be cooked in individual portion-sized ramekins.
This first post also gave me insight into one of the things I didn’t think about when starting Tine Life—the trouble of food photography. I’m a graphic designer, I’ve been art directing photo shoots and taking pictures on my vacations (and cats) for years. And I’ve been reading the usual food blog suspects for an equally long time. Sure, for the time being I’m limited by what I can do with natural light in my Pacific Northwest winter kitchen window and a Sony point and shoot camera—but how hard can it be?
Hugh’s Mum’s Shepherd Pie
This is a perfect recipe for leftovers from a roast lamb dinner with mashed potatoes.
About 2 ½ pounds leftover roast lamb, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
Any juices or gravy saved from the joint, and/or concentrated lamb stock made from the bone
1 small glass of red wine
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Up to 2.5 pounds creamy mashed potatoes (made with 2 ½ pounds large, floury potatoes, ¾ cup whole milk and ¼ cup butter)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wide saucepan big enough to accommodate all of the ingredients. Brown the meat in the pan, then remove onto a plate.
2. Sweat the onions in the same pan until just beginning to turn lightly golden. Return the meat to the pan, along with any gravy, juices or stock, the wine and a tablespoon each of tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce, then season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for a few minutes, adding a little water if the mixture looks dry. Taste for seasoning and add a little more tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt or pepper, as you see fit. Simmer gently for another 20–30 minutes, until the meat is tender and the flavors well blended. Do a final taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Again, add a little more water, or wine, to loosen the mixture if you think it needs it.
3. Put the meat in a pie dish or casserole dish (or divide in four ramekins) and pile the mash on top, covering the meat completely. Use a fork to rough up the surface of the mash. Bake in a fairly hot oven (400° F) for 30–40 minutes until the mash is nicely browned on top and the sauce is bubbling up around the edges. Serve at once.