I know this is the time of year for resolutions of healthy eating, detox and all that, but for me what I need in January and February is some good old comfort food.
Due to the effects of the Man Flu, and the Grumpy Man Flu is a particularly nasty strain which no one understands (are you reading this Mrs G?), I haven't blogged anything over Christmas so apologies for that.
All my best intentions went pear-shaped anyway when I found a half eaten box of biscuits in the cupboard left over from the post - Christmas/New Year purge.
You can keep your bone broth, edamame noodles and kale smoothies. What I need on these cold dark nights is something that will make me feel warm and cosy and that will help me battle the dreaded Grumpy Man Flu.
I can be virtuous for most of the day with tasty, healthy soups and plenty of walking, but my reward must be something comforting to round off the day.
That means slow-cooked stews made with good quality and cheaper cuts of meat, a perfect roast chicken, moist with wine and herbs and a crispy skin. Or maybe a shepherd’s pie, just out of the oven, bubbling at the edges and topped with parmesan sprinkled mashed potato.
Now that's what I'm talking about.
And this is when I will have my kale and healthy green vegetables, as the ideal accompaniment to my plate of comfort.
So I have decided on a shepherd’s pie.
It’s easy to make, simple to cook and tastes like something you have been waiting for all winter.
You can keep all your paracetamol, lozenges, vapour rubs and nasal drops and give me a portion of this shepherd’s pie with some green vegetables. It will surely put me well on the road to recovery, and even if it doesn’t, I’ll feel much better after having it.
Ingredients, serves 4
500g lamb mince
1 lge onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 lge carrot, peeled and finely diced
1-2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp anchovy essence (optional)
few thyme sprigs
salt & pepper
glass of red wine
Lamb stock, about 300ml (Essential Cuisine lamb stock powder is very good)
Mashed potato (about 750g of Desiree, Maris Piper or other floury potatoes)
Fry the lamb mince in a little oil until well caramelised and a good dark brown colour. You are probably best doing this in a couple of batches as you don't want the mince to ‘stew’ in any moisture that comes out during the frying. This will happen if the pan is overcrowded.
Drain the mince of fat and leave to one side while you sauté the onions, garlic and carrots gently in some olive oil until they are just starting to soften a little.
Return the mince to the pan and add the ketchup, worcestershire sauce and thyme. Stir together and then add a glass of red wine and enough lamb stock to keep everything nice and moist. Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer for about 20 minutes, tasting all the time, and adding more ketchup and worcestershire sauce if you think you need it.
Keep adding a little lamb stock if you think it is getting a bit dry but you don't want your mixture to be watery. It should be moist and unctuous but definitely not loose and like a soup.
A shepherd's pie should not be bland. It should taste of lamb and have a little piquancy about it. I sometimes elevate the flavours even more by adding a teaspoon of anchovy essence (anchovies and lamb go really well together). You could try using finely chopped leftover lamb from your Sunday roast instead of mince for a change. Experiment and you will soon find the right balance for your taste buds.
When you have got the taste and texture right after about 20 minutes or so, pour the mixture into your chosen oven dish and leave to cool.
I’m sure you know how to make mashed potato, but for this recipe I use about 750g potatoes, peeled and boiled until tender.
Drain and let them dry off (dry potatoes mean excellent mash) for a few minutes then mash them well (I usually use a potato ricer for this but them I’m a bit of a kitchen gadget nerd) and add a good splash of hot milk and a large knob of butter.
Give everything a good stir (until your arm aches) until the mash is smooth and creamy and adjust the seasoning.
Spread on top of your cooled lamb mixture and rough up the surface with a fork before sprinkling with a handful of grated parmesan.
Bake in a pre-heated 180°C oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the mash is golden brown and the edges are starting to bubble.
Serve straight away with some green vegetables (kale or broccoli) or a pile of buttered peas.