Shepherd's Pie (Cottage Pie)

Originally, Shepherd's Pie was a left over dish, made with the remains of the Sunday roast lamb or beef. The dating of Shepherd's Pie was the introduction of potatoes to England. The Spanish introduced potatoes to Europe in 1520 but they were not acceptable to the British taste until the 18th Century. Potatoes were a new world food and frugal peasant wives used potatoes to serve with left over meats, hence Shepherd's Pie. The introduction of mincing machines in the 1870's made the shredding of meat easy and popular. Shepherd's Pie is a popular dish in England. The Tory MP Jeffery Archer was famous for serving Shepherd's Pie and Krug Champagne at his London penthouse parties where Margaret Thatcher was a regular guest. Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb and Cottage Pie with beef. The following recipe will make eight individual pies for entertaining.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs (900 grams) lean minced lamb or beef
3 medium white onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 plum tomatoes, skinned and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1¼ cup of lamb or beef stock (a stock cube will do)
1 teaspoon freshly chopped
thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Potato topping
1kg (2lbs) potatoes King Edward, Russet or Maris Piper
2oz butter
¼ cup single cream or whole milk
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan or Cheddar cheese for
topping (optional)

Preheat oven 400F (200C - Gas 6)
It is best to fry the mince in batches so not to broil (stew). Season the meat with pepper and salt and fry in batches until browned. Tip the meat into a sieve to drain off the fat. In a clean pan add a little olive oil and fry the carrot, onion, garlic and thyme until soft and golden. Next add the cooked mince, tomatoes and tomato paste with the flour. Mix, stir well and slowly add the stock and Worcestershire sauce blending over a low heat, cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes until mixture has thickened. Place in an ovenproof dish and smooth over evenly. Set aside. While meat is cooking peel and cut the potatoes into even cubes. Place in a saucepan with cold water, bring to boil and simmer until cooked for 10-15 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside to dry off. Rinse the pan and add the drained potatoes and mash slowly adding the cream (milk), butter, pepper and salt until smooth but not runny. Lastly stir in egg yolk and mix well. Next top the meat mixture with the mashed potatoes starting at the edges to make a seal and prevent the pie from bubbling up. Rough up the top with a fork and sprinkle with Parmesan or grated cheese (optional). Bake on the middle rack in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown. Place on cooling rack to cool and serve on warmed plates with peas or vegetables of your choice. This dish can be made in advance and reheated when required. Bon appétit!

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