A classic cooked with the aid of a wood fire – This is a long process, but bear with me, it is so very much worth it !
Most of us at some time have made shepherd’s pie in one form or another. It is one of those dishes that schoolkids make in “Home Economics” or whatever the cookery class is currently renamed . But how many of us actually make a proper shepherd’s pie?
I don’t usually like to tell people about making a dish ‘properly’, but if we are to be technical there are a couple of things to note.
- The dish similar to this but with beef is technically a Cottage Pie [I am sure I will blog that at some point and attach the link here when I do.]
- As here, it is a much better dish if made from the collected leftovers of a good lamb roast, and raw mince. The meat has more flavour, there is gravy and cooked veg to add too.
- As we are using leftovers, ensure to get them in the fridge as soon as cooking is over. No one wants to get sick!
- The mash potato should be seasoned with white and not black pepper, (this is a great general rule for potato dishes)
- Tomato sauce/ketchup is added to the meat sauce, and if someone wants to add more when you serve, just let them.
- Don’t rush the process, relax and enjoy.
Slow cooking as a process adds flavours and softens meat to a consistency that is incomparable. As a bonus it will fill your kitchen, or in this case garden, with the most wonderful smells too. Fats will render, the flavourful oils of herbs and spices will come to the fore, juices will become the finest jus. It also gives the perfect excuse to have some personal space, “Sorry, I cant come. I have a pot on the stove.”
Slow cooking is a year round thing, though best in winter for many dishes. The need for the oven to be on for hours; the vegetables suitable to be included being in season; the final dish being a warm hug to the soul.
Finally, as I state in the title this was fire roasted – cooked in my pizza oven no less. If you don’t have a pizza oven or a suitable BBQ to cook on, then a slow cooker, or a regular oven will do, but may take longer to get that melting meat needed.
- For the lamb roast
- 1.5 to 2kg leg of lamb, bone-in preferred, An “easy carve’ or boneless is fine if that’s all you can get.
- 1 large brown onion
- 2-3 Carrots
- 1 Leek
- A handful – about 200g green beans
- 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 to 3 sprigs each of Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano – or 1 teaspoon of dried
- a good sprinkling of salt and black pepper
- Approx. 100ml – 1/2 cup Olive oil
- Whatever usual garnish you wish roast potatoes or salad or similar.
- For the Mash
- 1.5 kg good mashing potatoes, floury not waxy.
- 1 large dollop of unsalted butter
- about 50ml or a 1/4 cup of milk
- a handful, up to 1 cup of grated cheese – I used “Tasty” the Australian equivalent of English Cheddar
- Salt and ground White pepper
- For the meat sauce – depending on how much you have left
- 1 slice of bread
- 2 tablespoons – tomato ketchup
Method – Part 1 – First the roast
- Get the wood fired pizza oven or BBQ to about 200°C – 450°F but add no more extra fuel, the fire needs to naturally cool over the cooking process.
- Peel and chop the onion into chunky pieces, about the size of the end of your thumb, place in the bottom of a large fireproof, preferable cast iron pan.
- Repeat with the carrot and leek, ensuring to wash the grit and dirt from between the leek leaves.
- Place the lamb on top. If you wish to stud the lamb with the garlic and herbs, by all means do
- place the herbs and garlic around the lamb, season well and fill the pot to cover about three quarters of the lamb with cold water. Drizzle well with olive oil.
- Put the lid on the pan and into the oven, as far from the fire as possible. Almost close the door, but keep the flue open. As per step one, the idea is to allow the fire naturally die over the next 3 to 4 hours and the radiant heat penetrate the meat slowly, not dry it out.
- Check the meat after the first hour, basting and adding more water if needed. Repeat at the second and third hour mark. If the fire is dying too quickly add charcoal or just a few smaller sticks, the temp needs to stay above 150°C but not climb above the starting point.
- Trim the ends off the green beans, and in the last 30 minutes add them to the pot, ensuring to submerge in the cooking liquid.
- If you are serving any of this as a roast, allow to stand for at least 15 minutes away from the heat. the cooking liquid is an excellent sauce and does not need gravy powder or other thickeners.
- Try not to eat it all in the first go.
- Put everything not eaten in the fridge overnight.
Method – Part 2 – the Pie
- Remove the roast from the fridge and remove all the meat from the bones. No need for finesse, chunks is fine. Large pieces of fat should be discarded, but smaller pieces can remain.
- Remove the fat from the reserved cooking liquid,
- Using a mincer (my hand mincer is shown) process all the meat, Any cooked vegetables that are left*, including the beans and smaller fat pieces. Place all into a large cooking pot with the cooking liquid.
- * don’t add the garnishes or salad or whatever you served the roast with unless you think it will go okay, cucumber does not belong in a shepherd’s pie.
- Roughly chop the potatoes and boil in salted water or preferably steam until soft – roughly 20 minutes. I like to leave the skin on mine for extra flavour, goodness and fibre.
- The meat needs to have a reasonable amount of liquid like a bolognaise. if there is not enough you can add water, stock or a tomato passata, depending on what you have. Bring the meat to a slow boil, then simmer 15 minutes, stirring so not to burn.
- Mash the potatoes – either with a vegetable ricer, or by hand. Then add the butter, seasoning and a little of the milk. Check the consistency and add more milk only if needed, the aim is to have a firm but not stiff mash.
- Add the meat to a deep pie dish, and level out. If making individual pies lay your dishes out all out, and ensure to put even amount in each. The dish(es) should be no more than half full.
- If you want to be super-flashy, you can pipe the mash, but a spoon and dollop will get the job done quicker. Add small amounts of mash to the top of the meat in blobs and then smooth out to evenly cover. Use a fork to mark the top once done.
- Cover the top with the grated cheese and bake at 160°C 325°F for 15 mins until the cheese melts.