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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Extra Tasty Shepherds Pie

Due to impending home renovations, I need to move my freezers from their current position and I figured it would be a good deal easier to do if they were empty. It sounds a bit crazy to have more than one freezer but I do depend heavily on them. In the kitchen I have a fridge freezer but general family food tends to spill over into a small chest freezer. This is mainly because I batch cook at the weekends and freeze homemade "ready meals" for convenient midweek meals. The other freezer I use for storing the copious amounts of fruit that I harvest during the summer and autumn.

I've given myself a few weeks to work my way to the bottom of the freezers and I have at least glimpsed the bottom of the chest freezer and have even made an inventory so I can plan meals and not buy stuff we don't need. I also instigated compulsory crumble eating over the weekend to eat up the crumbles that I made in the autumn. This measure seemed particularly popular was the family!

The fruit freezer is more problematic as it is still pretty full and mainly with the pints and pints of tomato puree I created from the bumper tomato harvest. I have made several batches of different tomato-themed chutney but there is only so much demand for chutney. I figured I should try to think of ways of eating the stuff in everyday meals. The only thing is, Steve isn't a huge fan of pasta and can only be persuaded to eat it about once a month and, you know what, there are lots of very tasty and convenient jars of tomato-based pasta sauces on the market.

I have in the past used tomato puree to create a Bolognese with minced beef. This can then be used to make lasagna or used with spaghetti.  My youngest daughter is a huge fan and I enjoy it too but my eldest daughter hates anything with minced beef in it and Steve's stomach finds it difficult to deal with so I don't make it very often.

Over the weekend, whilst thumbing through a Waitrose "newspaper", I spied a recipe for lamb and lentils shepherds pie. Steve likes a shepherds pie when made with lamb mince and this recipe called for 250g of minced lamb and 225g of tomato puree so I thought I'd give it a go. As it turned out, the smallest pack of minced lamb I could buy was 500g so that meant a double recipe and a whole pint of tomato puree! One down...

Of course, I couldn't help but fiddle with the recipe. It lacked some obvious tasty ingredients such  as celery, mushrooms, pancetta and garlic and the suggested amount of lentils seemed a bit over the top to me. In addition, my friends Emma and Sarah had bought me a hamper of unusual ingredients for my birthday and set me the challenge of using them creatively and this seemed like a good opportunity to try a couple of those out. A squeeze of umami paste in mashed potato is a taste revelation, if you're never tried it. And chipotle paste used in moderation added a depth of flavour to the mince.

Anyway, I have successfully used up 1 pint of tomato puree from the freezer (passata would work well if you don't have this glut issue) and we had a tasty dinner. The need to make a double recipe, however, means I now have a few extra portions of shepherds pie to put in the freezer I'm supposed to be emptying. Epic fail, as my daughter would say!

Shepherds Pie (makes enough for 2 meals for 4 people)

Olive oil
500g lamb mince
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, diced
Half stick of celery, chopped
500ml tomato puree/passata
77g pancetta
4 mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon chipotle paste (optional)
450ml vegetable stock
250g red lentils
Salt & pepper
800g potatoes, diced
A chunk of swede, diced
1 parsnip, diced
55g butter
A squeeze of umami paste (optional)

Heat some oil in a large frying pan, season and brown the mince. Add the onions, carrots and celery and fry for 5 minutes. In the meantime, heat the passata in a large pan, such as a stock pot. Empty the frying pan into the stock pot. In the frying pan, fry the passata, mushroom and garlic for 5 minutes then stir in the chipotle pasta if using. Add this to the tomato puree then add the stock and lentils. Put the lid on the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add more water if needed. In the meantime, preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and prepare the potatoes, swede and parsnip and boil until soft. Drain and tip into a bowl and add the butter, umami (if using), salt and pepper and a splash of olive oil and mash until smooth. Spoon a suitable amount of the mince into an oven proof dish and top with an appropriate amount of mash then place in the oven for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, grate over the cheese and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Serve hot with some fresh vegetables. Assemble the remaining mince and mash into suitable freezer/oven containers, label and freeze.

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