Sunday, 28 August 2011

Shepherd's Pie

Last night I cooked a meal for my parents, which even at my age is a fairly terrifying prospect.  There was a lot of stressing over what to cook, how to cook it and when to serve it, and hopefully all without being on the receiving end of any withering put-downs about the quality or quantity of the menu.

In the end, it all worked out fine - I decided to cook various curry dishes from scratch, all of which met with hearty approval (although the availability of large quantities of wine helped somewhat!) but it got me thinking about the relationship between parents, cooking and memory.  Whenever I cook certain dishes, I'm only happy if they resemble the versions cooked by my mother (in particular, Steak and Kidney Pie, one of my all time favourite dishes) and when I'm thinking about planning meals, there are certain dishes that I always fall back on, and these are always dishes that I ate when I was a kid.

Does everyone do this?  And what were your favourite meals as a child that you still cook reguarly - I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments (and also what you have cooked for your parents, and if you found it as intimidating as I did!)

Anyway, after the trials of the meal last night, I decided that today would be all about the comfort food, and so I settled on a Shepherd's Pie - co-incidentally yet another meal I ate a lot as a child - usually on a Wednesday for some reason.  So here is my version on Shepard's Pie (and before you all point out that it's only really a proper Shepherd's Pie if it's made with lamb mince, I know this, but this is the dish I have always known as Shepherd's Pie, and to me it will always be made with beef mince)

500g Minced Beef
700g Potatoes
1 Large Onion (Finely Chopped)
1 Large Carrot (Finely Chopped)
4 cloves Garlic (Chopped)
1tsp Fresh Rosemary
2tbsp Tomato Puree
250ml Red Wine
250ml Beef Stock
1tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
Cooking Oil
Salt and Pepper

Peel and cube the potatoes, then cook for 15 minutes in water with a bit of salt, until the potatoes begin to break up slightly at the edges.  When this starts to happen, drain them and set them aside for later.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat the cooking oil and then add the meat to this, breaking it up as it browns, making sure there are no large lumps left.  Then add the fresh rosemary, onions, carrots and garlic and cook until the vegetables soften slightly.

Cook the filling until the liquid is gone and a lovely rich sauce remains!
Next add the wine, worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and stock and cook on a medium heat until all the vegetables are cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed. Season this to taste and then spread in a layer over the bottom of an oven-proof dish.

Mash the potatoes with some milk and a knob of butter (you can also add 2 egg yolks to this, or use cream rather than milk, for extra rich mash!) and then spread this over the meat in the oven dish.  Use a fork to ensure an even spread, and a nice pattern that will brown up in the oven.

Heat the oven to 200º and put the pie in, and cook for 30 minutes, until the top of the pie has started to brown, then serve with vegetables and lots of gravy for a perfect winter comfort food!

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