It is very common for a Shepherd's Pie to be made with beef mince, which would technically make it a Cottage Pie, and it it does the job. The fantastic mix of gravy soaked, savoury meat and vegetables with the crusty topping of baked mashed potato is up there with the great and the good of comfort food.
Lamb mince does make a massive difference to this dish that can't be overlooked. There is an earthy sweetness brought to it with lamb that can not be achieved with any other meat.
I have discovered that topping the dish with a mixture of squash and potato gives it an added dimension in the deep amber colour and the nutty sweetness that only squash can deliver.
Tonight I will be combining a good quality lamb mince with some wholesome fresh veg to make a great British classic.
500g lamb mince
cabbage (as much as you feel you would like to add, it gives a deep savoury note to the mixture)
lamb stock cube
3 or 4 potatoes
half a butternut squash
Slice and dice all your veg to chunks that are the size you like to eat.
Heat a pan and add your mince before it begins to smoke. I don't like to add any extra oil because you will get lots out of the meat but if it is sticking to the pan you might want to.
Just as the meat begins to change colour add the onion and leeks to soften. Followed by the rest of the veg about 3 or 4 minutes later.
Crumble a stock cube into the mixture and see how much gravy you have. You want it to be wetter than you would like it to be at the end, but not too wet at this stage.
Taste it before you season it, some stock cubes can be really salty.
Let the meat bubble on the hob gently whislt you boil your spuds and squash. Make sure you give the meat atleast half an hour to smelt all the flavours together,it will be worth it.
Boil the spuds and squash up together until they are soft enough to mash, it will probably take about 25 - 30 minutes depending on how small the chunks are. Drain it the water off, add a knob of butter and mash until you have no lumps left, I sometimes beat it with a wooden spoon or get the electric hand whisk out to get it really smooth.
Put the meat mixture in an oven proof dish and top with the mash.
Depending on how many people you are feeding you might have enough at this stage to make more than one meal. If you are making more than one put them in to seperate dishes now and freeze or chill the ones you want for later when they have cooled down. This way you can just defrost them and cook them when you want them.
Before the pies go in the oven you can top with cheese for an extra savory treat.
Bake at about 190 until the top is golden and bubbling and you can't wait any more.
Eat it in it's own, with some fresh veg or with some baked beans like a real cowboy or add some extra gravy, however you fancy it.
I love it, I hope you do too.