Dear readers, England is not only London as I try to tell myself every time when I find the streets full of people and I get anxious of this busy city. Oxford Street at Christmas time is a hell on earth I can tell. You feel like an ant climing the massive anthill that never ends.
London is full of contrasts. I think it is the city you hate and love at the same time. Nothing works, everything is broken all the time, but at the same time the city is vivid, it is always full of life, the exciting events never run out, there are always people keen for going out and party. I think the pubs capture the essence of London. There are multiple pubs, small and big, old fashioned, modern, oldemen pubs, yougsters’ pubs, fancy pubs, cozy pubs… We have been testing as many pubs as we have been able to. One dish you (almost) always find on the pub menus is the Shepherd’s Pie. English people love their pies, but for me this pie was a mystery. I haven’t ever actually ordered it because I wasn’t sure what kind of pie would be brought to my plate.
By googling the name, I finally found that Shepherd’s pie wasn’t actually a pie at all in the sense of an ordinary English pie. Shpeherd’s pie is what we Finnish people know as ”jauhelihaperunasoselaatikko” (a long word I know), which can be translated as ”mince meat potato mash pie”. This is a famous or should I say notorious Finnish school cantine dish. Every Finn has eaten this dish at school cantines. I have to admit that for me these memories are not the most pleasant ones. As much as Finnish school food is appreciated, the picture of this dish in my mind is some gluey potatomash floating with some greasy mince meat whilst having very watery consistency which means that the spoonful falls off from your fork and it never ends up to your mouth..
To face my bad memories of this dish I decided to cook it myself. I thought it must be even a little bit tasty if English people love it so much..or is the love of it simply explained by the bad British kitchen? To play a good and sweet English housewife, I wanted to test the recipe.
As Australians owe their cuisine mainly to British, my dear Aussie man knew immediately Shepherd’s Pie and he almost smelled it from the corridor when entering home. He loved this dish and I have to say so did I. The home made Shepherd’s Pie was a totally different experience from the ones served in the school cantines back in the 90s. This is a cheap, good and healthy home food.
For the sauce
2 large onions finely chopped
2 tnsp olive oil
500g minced lamb or beef
2 tbsp plain flour
2-3 bay leaves (crushed)
1 tsp thyme
2 small slices of anchovy
1 big tin of chopped tomatoes
3tsp BBQ sauce
300-400ml beef or lamb stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pie:
1/2 dl milk
1 egg yolk
For the top:
1.Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
2. Cut the onions. Cook the onions in the frying pan until they turn to golden. Add the mince meat. Cook until the meat is brown. Add teh flour and the spices. Add the stock, BBQ sauce and the chopped tomatoes. Cook it in a low heat for 1h so that the sauce gets lovely sweet flavour. The secret is slow cooking!
3. Peel the potatoes and cut them into halves if they are big. Cook them under the water for 15min until tender. Make the mash with the smoother stick or electric whisker. Add the butter and milk, egg yolk and a pinch of salt if needed.
4. Build the pie. Set the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Set the mashed potatoes on the top of the sauce. Grate some cheese (Extra mature Cheddar or Parmesan) on the top. Cook in the oven for 20 min so that the top turns to nicely golden brown.