Although there’s a long list of ingredients in this recipe, don’t let that put you off as this is a great family dinner. I’ve added in extra vegetables for goodness, and canned lentils to help stretch the protein. Could you ditch the meat and use more lentils and vegetables? Probably, though I haven’t tried it.
2 Tbsp olive oil 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 1 large carrot, peeled and diced 1 small eggplant, coarsely chopped 1 zucchini, sliced 500g (1 lb 2 oz) minced (ground) lamb Salt and freshly ground black pepper ½ tsp ground cumin 1 x 400g (14 oz) canned lentils, drained 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley 1 tsp chopped thyme leaves 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary 140g (about 5 oz) tub tomato paste (see Recipe Notes) 1 Tbsp lemon zest 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar 3 Tbsp standard flour 1¾ cups unsalted meat stock 1.2 kg (2½ lb) potatoes, (choose a type good for mashing, such as agria) 2 Tbsp butter 125ml (½ cup) milk 1 cup grated tasty cheddar
1 Put oil in a large frying pan (skillet) with onion, carrot, eggplant and zucchini. Cover with a lid and cook gently for about 10-12 minutes, until tender. Move vegetables to one side of the pan and increase the heat to high. Add lamb to cleared area in pan. Stir, breaking it apart, with a large fork. Once it is no longer pink, add 1½ teaspoons of salt, plenty of black pepper and ground cumin. Mix in lentils, parsley, thyme, rosemary, tomato paste, lemon zest and vinegar. Stir in flour, then stock, and bring to the boil.
2 Cook gently for 15 minutes, partially covered with a lid, stirring from time to time. Transfer to a shallow-ish pie dish (I use a Pyrex 5-cup pie dish). The mixture should still be sloppy; if it looks dry, add a little more stock.
3 Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Meanwhile, cook potatoes in salted water until tender and mash with butter, adding hot milk to make a light, fluffy purée; keep the purée soft but holding shape. Season well with salt. Spoon dollops of potato mash on top of filling. Scatter with cheese.
4 Put a baking tray (sheet) on an oven rack in the centre of the oven and place Shepherd’s Pie on the tray to catch any spills. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the topping golden. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Use whatever vegetables you have going spare – extra carrots or a parsnip and leek, for instance. The vinegar and lemon zest will help to keep their sweetness in check. Canned lentils are a great source of cheap protein, but you could cook lentils from scratch (even cheaper). They disappear into the mixture, adding bulk and feeding more hungry mouths.
Tomato paste in New Zealand and Australia is thicker and more concentrated than tomato purée. I use Leggo’s Tomato Paste in this recipe.
Tomato concentrate is thicker and more concentrated than tomato paste and is the ingredient I use when making tomato sauce. My favourite tomato concentrate is Mutti Doppio Concentrato. It will last many months in the refrigerator. Keep the cap clean and try and store the tube upright, or in a plastic bag to contain any leakage.
Tomato purée is lightly cooked puréed tomatoes. Tomato sauce, made from fresh or canned tomatoes, has an oil base and other flavourings.
In the UK tomato concentrate is known as tomato purée. It’s confusing, I know.
Finally, the pie can be made in smaller dishes and frozen either before or after cooking. Thaw at room temperature (use a microwave to get thawing underway if you have one), and either fully reheat in a hot oven for about 30 minutes, or cook until golden and bubbling, about 40 minutes (it takes a little longer to cook when it is stone cold to begin with).