The Ultimate Shepherd’s Pie

 

Traditionally Shepherd’s Pie was a way of using leftover meat the next day, by turning it into a stew and topping it with mashed potato. Though not strictly traditional, this recipe makes, in my opinion, the absolute best shepherd’s pie you’ll ever eat in your life!

 

INGREDIENTS

Two ingredients make this shepherd’s pie absolutely magical: henderson’s relish in the stew, and dijon mustard in the mash. Henderson’s relish is pretty much impossible to find outside of Yorkshire, so Worcestershire sauce such as Lea and Perrins will do as an alternative. I’m pretty sure that Henderson’s relish is the sauce of the gods, it’s revered so much in Sheffield that people have posters of it or collections of limited edition bottles on display in their homes. It’s so popular that several of my Sheffield friends have black dogs named ‘Henderson’. Like all mystical sauces, the exact recipe remains a closely guarded secret.

Dijon mustard isn’t even English, it comes from Dijon in France, as the name would suggest. However, English mustard is so much sharper and tangier than dijon, and the mash in this recipe needs something subtle to life it rather than an overpoweringly sharp tang, so I find that the french mustard works better in this respect. Mustard is made by grinding up soaked mustard seeds and mixing them with white wine, vinegar and salt. Dijon mustard also includes verjus, a French sour grape juice. This mustard is a bit like parmesan, or champagne, in that it has to come from a ‘protected designation of origin’. If it isn’t from Dijon, it’s not technically Dijon mustard.

 

HISTORY

Shepherd’s pie is a variation on cottage pie, which has been around pretty much since the introduction of potatoes to the UK (1584). While cottage pie contains beef, shepherd’s pie uses lamb or mutton as its base. These traditional pies were a way of using up leftover meat and veg, so you can vary this recipe a bit to include whatever vegetables you have knocking around that need using up. Frozen peas are a common addition, although I think they tend to overcook and lose their flavour in this particular dish.

 

WHAT YOU NEED 

Where possible, try to buy local, seasonal and organic/free range ingredients. Apart from it being better to support local businesses and high welfare farming practises, it does make a huge difference to the taste of your food!

 

For the stew:

500g organic lamb mince

2 sticks celery, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 white onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

150g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced and halved

1 bay leaf

1 stick rosemary

3 strands of thyme

2 tsp Henderson’s relish (or worcestershire sauce)

A large splash of red wine

1 can plum tomatoes

Maldon salt and pepper

Olive oil

 

For the mash:

5 medium sized fluffy potatoes, such as maris piper or king edwards

Butter or olive oil, to taste

1 tsp dijon mustard

50ml milk

Two large handfuls of extra mature cheddar, grated

Maldon salt and pepper

 

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cooking Time: 30-40 mins

Serves: 4

 

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Set a saucepan of water to boil. Heat a large glug of olive oil in a large cast iron pot on a high heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, tip in the mince and brown it off, stirring until it’s all coloured and starting to go crispy. Transfer the mince with a slotted spoon to a separate pot, leaving the oil and juices in the pan.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium, tip in the chopped celery, carrot and onion. Add a generous pinch of salt (maldon salt is quite mild) and the bay leaf. Stir and cook down until the vegetables are softened.
  4. Turn the heat up and add the mince back in along with the mushrooms. When the mixture is sizzling and dry, pour in the wine, releasing a cloud of vapours. As the wine is cooking down, add the rosemary and thyme, the leaves only, discarding the stems.
  5. Tip in the plum tomatoes and henderson’s relish. Turn the heat down and let the sauce reduce for about 15 minutes, keeping the tomatoes whole at this point. The liquid will be watery at first. After a while it will start to release some of the oil, leaving a sheen on the top of the sauce. This is when you know it’s sufficiently reduced. Tomatoes are acidic unless cooked enough, so you have to cook them down to this point in order to release the sugars and soften the flavour. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  6. While the sauce is cooking, peel and chop the potatoes into one inch pieces – the smaller the pieces, the quicker they will cook. Boil until you can stick a knife easily into the centre of each piece.
  7. When they are cooked, drain the potatoes with a colander, transfer back to the saucepan. Add in a generous glug of olive oil, or a large knob of butter, a large pinch of salt, some cracked pepper, the mustard and mash until smooth. Keep adding more milk and butter or oil if the mixture is lumpy, it should form a very smooth paste-like texture. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  8. In a gratin dish, pour in the sauce. Using a spatula, tip all the mash on top into the middle. Spread it out to the edges until it’s evenly coated. Grate over the cheese, grind over some cracked black pepper. Bake for 15-20 mins, until the top is golden and bubbly. Serve immediately!

 

ADAPTATIONS

LF – use almond milk in the mash and omit the cheese

GF – this dish is naturally gluten free

V – use vegetarian mince or lentils

Ve – try a vegan shepherd’s pie recipe instead, they usually use lentils as a substitute for mince

 

 

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