An absolute classic, shepherd’s pie is one of the ultimate comfort food dinners, and always takes me back to my childhood. Mum used to cook individual pies served in mini ceramic pie dishes, with creamy mash toppings. The edges of the mince filling underneath used to crisp against the sides of the dish, creating this wonderful charred flavour that I always made sure to scrape away from the dish and save for last.
When it came to creating my own recipe, I was determined to replicate that slightly charred flavour in the meat, and of course the creamy mash to go on top. But at the same time, I wanted to create a version that felt luxurious, but that wasn’t full of fat. What’s the point in a comforting recipe when you can’t enjoy whenever you want it?
The first thing I looked at was the mince itself. I love lamb, and good quality lamb tastes incredible. It can however be quite a fatty meat, so I have a few tips to help you keep those calorie numbers down, without compromising on flavour. The first thing is to look for a lean mince. I always buy organic meat as the animal has had an outdoor lifestyle with higher quality food, and organic options often do come as ‘lean’ mince. Try to make sure the meat has no more than 10% fat, though you can get 5%.
The second thing is that, as you may notice, there is no added fat in the recipe other than the butter in the mashed potato. If you fry the mince in a hot enough non-stick pan, the fat in the meat will cook out and allow you to fry the mince without adding any extra. And the final thing? Once the meat is fried, remove it with a slotted spoon, and you have fat in the pan ready for frying off the veg. Nothing extra is added, and if you do have more fat in the pan than you need, this can be drained away from the meat easily without risking losing any meat in the process!
Using this simple method, it’s suddenly possible to make the recipe much healthier without taking away from the overall flavour. And at around 470 calories per portion, there’s plenty of room on the plate for some extra greens on the side! At this time of year, I love dark savoy cabbage and broccoli. So without any further ado, here’s the recipe.
Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
Serves 4, cooking time 1.5 hours
400g lean lamb mince (no more than 10% fat)
Lamb stock pot, dissolved in 400ml boiling water
100ml red wine
1 tbsp. tomato puree
2 tbsp. Worcester Sauce
100g frozen peas
1 tbsp. cornflower
100ml semi skimmed milk
15g salted butter
Finely chop the celery, onion and carrot, make the stock up and add the bay leaf and red wine. Set to one side.
Heat a non-stick pan over a high heat and add the lamb mince. Break up the mince into small, even pieces and fry until the meat starts to caramelise and turn a dark brown.
Remove the pan from the heat, and using a slotted spoon, move the meat into a separate bowl or plate, draining off as much fat as you can.
Check the amount of fat left in the pan. There should be just enough to coat the pan generously. Drain off any excess into the sink (followed by lots of very hot water so you don’t block your sink!).
Add the vegetables to the pan, and fry over a medium heat until they start to soften.
Add the meat back into the pan, and pour over the stock, wine and bay leaf mixture. Add the tomato puree, Worcester Sauce and peas.
Cover with a lid (use a plate or foil if you don’t have one) and turn down to a low simmer.
Cook for 1 hour, checking occasionally to make sure the mince doesn’t dry up.
Meanwhile, prepare the mash. Peel the potatoes and chop into 4cm chunks.
Boil them for 10-15 minutes, or until they are soft through.
Remove from the heat and drain.
Add the semi skimmed milk and get mashing!
Once the texture is thick and creamy, add the butter and a generous amount of black pepper, and mash this in too.
Preheat the oven to 200C, and get ready to assemble your pie.
When the mince is finished cooking, mix the cornflower with 1 tbsp. cold water, and add to the mince to thicken the gravy slightly.
Pour the mince into a casserole or pie dish, then top with the mashed potato. I find that adding blobs of potato over the surface as evenly as I can, then carefully merging them together is the easiest way to do this without disturbing the mince.
Using a fork, carefully run it over the surface of the pie to add texture to the potato to crisp in the oven then bake it for 20 mins to get that crispy topping!
While your waiting, cook up some steamed or boiled greens, and serve on the side of the pie. Perfect.