Easter is a time of year when you might have some leftover roast lamb hanging around. Traditionally, it would have made its way into a shepherd’s pie, which is now more often made with fresh mince. Whichever you use, this dish will cheer the bleakest Monday, and you can make it up to the point of baking a day or two in advance.
Prep 15-20 min
Cook 2 hr 15 min
500g leftover roast lamb, or 800g raw minced lamb, hogget, mutton or goat, preferably shoulder, but not lean (or even beef mince if you can’t get hold of any of those)
2 tbsp beef dripping, or lamb dripping, if you have it
1 large onion
2 large carrots
3 celery sticks
2 sprigs each rosemary and thyme
1 tbsp flour
300ml lamb or beef stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1.5kg floury potatoes (eg, rooster, kerr’s pink, maris piper, king edward)
1 tbsp whole milk
Nutmeg, to grate (optional)
1 Remove any excess fat and gristle
If you’re starting with roast meat, roughly chop it into fairly small chunks, stripping off and discarding any large bits of fat or gristle; if there’s a lot of fat, you may need to add more meat, to make the total up to around 500g. Or see step 9 for alternatives.
2 Brown the meat
Whether you’re using roast meat or raw mince, heat the fat in a large, heavy-based casserole dish over a medium-high heat. Fry the meat in batches until crisp and well browned all over, not just beige – with roast meat, be careful not to dry it out. Transfer the browned meat to a bowl and repeat with the rest.
3 Prep the veg
Peel and thinly slice the onion, and peel and cut the carrots and celery into fairly small dice. Pick the leaves from the rosemary and thyme, and roughly chop, discarding the stems (or keep them to flavour another dish). In the same pan in which you browned the mince, turn the heat to low-medium and add the onion– add a dash of oil if the pan is on the dry side.
4 Fry the veg
Cook until the onion begins to soften, then add the carrots, celery and herbs. Continue cooking, stirring regularly, until all the vegetables are tender, but not soft or browned.
Sprinkle over the flour, stir to incorporate it into the vegetables, then pour in a little of the stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to dislodge any stuck-on bits.
5 Finish the pie filling
Stir in the tomato puree, followed by the remaining stock and Worcestershire sauce. Return the meat to the pan, turn up the heat and bring to a simmer.
Turn it down to low-medium again, cover and leave to simmer gently for 45 minutes. Remove the lid, simmer for another 15 minutes, then set aside.
6 Prep and boil the spuds
While the meat is cooking, peel the potatoes and cut any large ones so they’re roughly the same size as the smallest. Put them in a pan of well-salted water, bring to a boil and cook until tender – how long this takes will depend on the size of your potatoes. Drain and put back into the hot pan to steam dry.
7 Finish the topping
Roughly chop the butter. Mash or pass the dry potatoes through a potato ricer back into the pan, then work in the butter and milk, until you have a smooth, fluffy mash. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and nutmeg, if you have it. Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6.
8 Construct the pie, then bake
Spoon the meat mixture into a 30cm x 20cm ovenproof dish and top with the mash– I find it easiest to do this by scattering large dollops across the dish – then gently flattening it out until you have even coverage. Drag a fork down the length of the dish to create ridges in the potato, then bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden on top.
9 Variations on the theme
You can swap sweet potato for the ordinary sort, if you like – treat it in exactly the same way. The sweetness works brilliantly with the savoury flavour of lamb. If you don’t have quite enough meat, or are trying to cut down, make up any shortfall with cooked lentils, adding them to the mix in step 5 along with the meat.