My weekend was cold in more ways than one. Not only has the weather moved back into coolness but I was also working up a blizzard of all kinds of notes and books for my exam (the result of which, in case any of you are wondering, is known only to God and a few people at the grading agency, I certainly didn’t know which way that boat sailed). While Amey shivered in khaki shorts (heavy wishful thinking on his part; it wasn’t warm in the shade) and grappled with the problem of ‘backfill on site’, I wrestled with the concrete mix required to build a dam; warmed with a nice hot cocoa. Not the most fun way to spend what seemed to be a super gorgeous weekend in the sun. But we were inside, being cold; not in the sun. Story of our lives. Why has all my young life been spent taking exams? Isn’t it ridiculous irony that you can’t enjoy youth (and I’m stretching the blasted definition of that word to the extreme in application, after all you are as young as you feel) when you are young? I mean, shucks!!
On the food front, we had bunches of asparagus at home, them being so wonderfully in season right now. Since Amey and I were both short on time, we had quick meals. By that I mean meals quick to prepare, we lingered over them as much as we could before the sight of our books had us hurrying back to the studying. I got a chance to try out this sumptuous recipe for walnut crema from the cookbook A16:Food+Wine, posted by Molly of Orangette. Ready in under ten minutes and an absolute treat of a quick supper. Paired with a scrambled egg and some toast (not as much as in the picture, I don’t know why that has so much toast, it slipped under our visual radar somehow, but doesn’t the plate look pretty!!), it was a quick and satiating meal.
Monday demanded a deeper, more satisfying meal, which decidedly took the form of shepherd’s pie, since it was to be British movie night. I ate this dish for the first time in a small restaurant on Turner Road in Bandra, Bombay many years ago. It was this delicious dish of mutton and potato that was small and rustic and bursting with tomato and cinnamon that I fell in love with instantly. I love the idea of meat and potatoes any way. And Indians have their own version of this, which we call pattice. They are smaller, more individual portions of meat stuffed in a boiled and mashed potato crust which is then covered in semolina and lightly sautéed to develop a crust. Super tasty.
Using what I know goes into those pattices and what I know goes into traditional shepherd’s pies helped me develop my own recipe for them. By no means does this claim to be authentic. From what I understand, shepherd’s pie made use of pieces of leftover meat, the added potato acting as an extender and making a full meal out of it. I use mince or ground lamb here which I much prefer to pieces of meat. I also don’t make a potato base, just a potato topping. The ingredients are a bit of a mix of traditional pattice and pie ingredients. But the result is pure flavour.
Serves 3-4 people
For the filling:
Ground/Minced Lamb – 1 pound
Garlic – 4 cloves, finely chopped
Tomato – 1, diced
Carrot – 1 medium, diced
Celery – 1 stick, diced
Onion- 1 medium, diced
Green Peas – 3/4 cup
Mushrooms (Button or Cremini) – 3/4 cup, roughly chopped
Rosemary – 1 tsp, finely chopped
Thyme – 1 tsp
Chicken broth – 1/2 cup
Chilli powder – 1 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Tomato ketchup – 1 tbsp
Worcestershire sauce – 1 tbsp
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil to coat the pan
For the topping/crust:
Russet Potatoes – 2 large, chopped into chunks
Oil – 2 tbsp
Half-and-half – 3/4 cup
Sharp Cheddar Cheese – 1/2 cup, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
Panko – 1/2 cup
- In a deep vessel, boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water until they are cooked through.
- Mash the potatoes with the oil and half-and-half, adding the pepper.
- Add the cheese and mash as smooth as possible.
- In a large saute pan, heat the oil. To this add the onion and garlic and sauté till the onion is translucent.
- Then add the celery and the carrot and continue frying. When slightly browned in colour, add the tomato, mushrooms, rosemary and thyme. Fry until the oil starts to separate.
- Add the lamb and the peas and mix through to incorporate. Fry the lamb for 5 minutes and then add the chicken broth. Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato ketchup, chilli powder and garam masala. Mix completely.
- Add salt and pepper and cook until the lamb is done and the broth has evaporated just enough to leave a paste-like lamb mixture.
- In an oven-proof dish, layer the lamb mince at the base.
- Cover this with the mashed potato mixture, smoothing it out gently so it makes a crust-like cover.
- Top this with the panko (you can use a mixture of 1/4 cup parmesan and 1/4 cup panko).
- Place into a 325°F oven until the bread crumbs brown.
Serve hot with a side salad.
The use of panko bread crumbs, the super crisp Japanese ones, is a nod to the semolina we use as a crust that I love so well. Semolina would have not been able to stand up to the moisture of this dish. If you’ve never tried shepherd’s pie, I urge you to do so. Very few meals make you feel this warm and fuzzy all over, in a good way. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and shepherd’s pie and one great movie night.
Note to self: I have to try A16. I have lived less than a mile away from it for five years and still haven’t tried this wonderful restaurant with the IACP award winning book.