There has been quite a bit going on lately. Outside of this blog that is. The past few months have been muddled due to the many things we’re juggling. I’m sorry to say that the continual busy-ness has left little time for much creation in the kitchen.
We just moved into our new home and surprisingly I’m feeling somewhat calm among the unopened boxes. There are light, airy spaces throughout our house and yet places that are wonderfully bold and moody. Even though our home doesn’t really feel ‘lived in’ yet, I’m enjoying how peaceful it is.
Last weekend we whipped up a shepherd’s pie adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food. It uses falling-off-the-bone tender lamb shoulder instead of mince and it was the richest and most heartening thing we’d eaten since moving. Jamie’s Comfort Food is one of those books you’re going to really spend some time with – our copy is heavily bookmarked.
This shepherd’s pie is perfect to use up leftover roasted meat but we roasted a small lamb shoulder especially to make it.
I often tell B that the one thing stopping me from becoming a vegetarian is lamb. Beef, chicken, pork – they are all superfluous to me. When it comes to lamb on the other hand – I am thoroughly and unapologetic carnivorous.
Roast shoulder of lamb gives you the most tender, succulent meat that will fall away from the bone. We rubbed the lamb all over with a little olive oil and added a pinch of salt and pepper. With a splash of water in the tray, we roasted the shoulder for 4 hours in an oven set to 170°C.
Cooking in moist heat accelerates the process of reducing the connective tissue of the meat to gelatinous goodness that falls off the bone making it utterly delicious. We took all the meat and crispy skin off the bone and roughly chopped it. Any fat from the tray was skimmed and put aside.
For the filling, we roughly chopped 3 red onions, 4 carrots, 2 sticks of celery and 1 medium parsnip. Then all it went into a large pan on medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of reserved lamb fat and some picked rosemary leaves.
After 20 minutes or so the veg were lightly caramelised. We added a tablespoon of plain flour, the lamb meat and bones along with 1.5 litres of water. Once brought to a boil, we popped the lid on, reducing it to a gentle simmer for 40 minutes (stirring every now and then) until it looked stew-like in consistency.
2 kg of potatoes were peeled, chopped and cooked in boiling water until they were soft about 15 minutes. Peeling potatoes is never fun – am I right? I always end up accidentally peeling my fingers.
Once the potatoes were drained and left to steam dry a bit, we added a good knob of butter, grated some cheddar cheese and a good pinch of salt and pepper. We used a food mill to give our mash a smooth consistency then left it to cool completely.
Back to the filling mixture. The bones were removed and in batches we poured the lamb stew into a sieve over a bowl letting the gravy drip through. We then popped the gravy in a small pan on a low heat to reduce slowly.
The oven was set to 200°C. Using a little reserved lamb fat, we greased the inside of two medium sized casserole dishes (what you do when you don’t have 1 large pie dish). Rosemary leaves were picked and sprinkled on the base with a handful of fresh breadcrumbs.
The cooled mash was pressed into the dish, covering the bottom and sides in a layer about 1 cm thick. We then spooned in the filling and a couple of spoonfuls of gravy then topped it with the remaining mash. Over the top we grated another handful of cheddar cheese, some breadcrumbs and drizzled olive oil.
Into the oven it went for about 1 hour – turning perfectly crispy and golden. This dish was brilliantly satisfying. When I think of some of my favourite comfort-food eats, this shepherd’s pie is pretty high on the list.