Finally, it has happened.
It was inevitable but I never really believed it would actually be here.
I’ve known it’s been on the way for a while now, but to be honest, I think I was in denial.
OK, here goes ….
…… My little boy, my first-born, is now TALLER than me.
There … I said it … and it sounds too weird for words. My little boy is now definitely a big boy.
He certainly eats like a ‘big boy’ – much, much more than me and more than Steve too. But then when you spend a large chunk of your life powering up and down a swimming pool – it should come as no surprise. Most meals are followed by the question, “Is there any more?” and an hour or so later a large bowl of breakfast cereal will appear – just to fill that last little gap.
And if you were to ask him what his favourite dinner was …. firstly, you would never get a quick answer – it’s a serious subject after all … but when he finally decides, it would almost always be … Shepherd’s Pie. He will eat anything (except for melon – random, I know) but given the choice, a traditional, home-cooked, comfort food like Shepherd’s Pie wins it for him.
But of course, there’s Shepherd’s Pie and there’s Shepherd’s Pie. No grey, greasy mince topped with sloppy mash for Joe – this is how he likes it …
- A base packed with gently spiced lamb mince and a few sneaky vegetables slipped in – food of champions you know!
- Plenty of mashed potato, definitely on the ‘less sloppy’ side – so no milk added.
- A delicious crust of finely shredded leeks and bubbly, melted cheese.
There may seem to be a lot of ingredients and a few extra stages in this Shepherd’s Pie which may make you question whether this really is “gorgeous food – no fuss”. What would I say to that? … sometimes it’s necessary to up the fuss, just a touch, in order to up the gorgeousness enormously. It is absolutely worth it. Trust me. This is a Delia recipe from How to Cook – Book Two and for me has only required a few tiny tweaks – more potato, less leeks and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Most of the time I will double the quantities in order to make one family sized pie and a number of smaller ones to freeze – they are ready to freeze at the end of stage 8.
Easy to prepare ahead of time, freezes like a dream, re-heats beautifully, tastes sublime and … is nutritious and filling for growing boys. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.
Now I’m off to let the hems down on Joe’s school trousers. It wouldn’t do to have him looking like the village idiot, now would it?
- 450g lamb mince
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 75g carrot, peeled and very finely chopped
- 75g swede, peeled and very finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- 300ml lamb stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- Worcestershire sauce, to taste
- 50g mature Cheddar, coarsely grated
- 1 medium leek, cleaned and cut into 1cm slices
- 1.5kg potatoes (a type that will mash well such as Desirée or King Edward) - peeled and cut into even sized pieces
- 50g butter
- salt and pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the onions until they are tinged brown - about 5 minutes. Add the chopped carrot and swede and cook for 5 minutes or so, then remove the vegetables and put to one side.
- Now use the same pan to brown the meat. You may need to do this in a couple of batches.
- After that, give the meat a good seasoning of salt and pepper, then add the cooked vegetables, cinnamon, thyme and parsley.
- Next stir in the flour, which will soak up the juices, then gradually add the stock until it is all incorporated. Finally, stir in the tomato purée. Now turn the heat right down, put the lid on the pan and let it cook gently for about 30 minutes.
- While the meat is cooking, you can make the potato topping. Boil or steam the potatoes until tender (about 20 minutes) with a sprinkling of salt.
- Now, preheat the oven to 200°C, 400ºF (gas mark 6).
- When the potatoes are done, drain off the water, return them to the saucepan, cover with a clean tea towel to absorb the steam and leave them for about 5 minutes. Next add the butter and mash them to a purée - an electric hand whisk makes it a lot less fuss. Taste for seasoning.
- When the meat is ready, taste for seasoning and add a dash or three of Worcestershire sauce, to taste. Now spoon it into a baking dish (mine is about 30cm x 20cm), and spread the mashed potato evenly all over. Now sprinkle the leeks on top of the potato and scatter the cheese over the leeks.
- Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the top is golden and crusty.