Cyrus’s Shepherd’s Pie with Oomph and Aah
Minced lamb is very popular in India, not just because it tastes great but also because it is an ideal way to stretch a small quantity into a large family dish. This is a simple take on a favourite of mine - the Country Captain, or Indian shepherd’s pie, which featured among the dishes that I cooked for Her Majesty The Queen on her Diamond Jubilee tour.
|For the topping:|
|4–5||large baking potatoes|
|25ml (1fl oz)||double or single cream|
|A pinch||of ground nutmeg|
|1-2||green bird’s-eye chillies, seeds removed if liked, finely chopped|
|½ tsp||cumin seeds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan and crushed with a pestle and mortar|
|Salt and freshly ground black pepper|
|For the filling:|
|1 tbsp||vegetable oil or rapeseed oil|
|8cm (3¼in)||piece cassia bark or cinnamon stick|
|500g (1lb 2oz)||lamb mince|
|2-3||onions, finely chopped|
|5||garlic cloves, crushed|
|1 tbsp||freshly grated root ginger|
|2 tbsp||ground coriander|
|1 tbsp||ground cumin|
|1 tsp||garam masala|
|2 heaped tbsp||tomato purée|
|2 heaped tbsp||chopped fresh coriander|
You will need a large casserole dish.
First prepare the topping. If you’re in a hurry, cut the potatoes into chunks, boil them in salted water for 20 minutes, then drain and mash. But for the best results, bake the potatoes: preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6, place the potatoes directly on the oven shelf and bake for about 1 hour. Remove the baked potatoes from the oven, and while they are still warm cut them in half and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Push the flesh through a fine sieve or a potato ricer into another bowl.
Whichever method you use to cook the potatoes, once they are mashed mix in the eggs (you can use just the yolks if you prefer, and save the whites for another purpose), along with some cream to loosen the mix. Season with a pinch or two of ground nutmeg, some finely chopped green chilli, crushed cumin seeds and salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.
Now prepare the filling. Heat a large casserole dish, add the oil, and when it’s hot add the bay leaves and cassia or cinnamon, then fry on a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Turn the heat off, add the butter and let it melt.
Put all of the remaining filling ingredients except the fresh coriander in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Turn a medium heat back on underneath the casserole dish and add the filling mixture, along with 100ml (3½fl oz) water. Stir and cook for 5-6 minutes. Stir once more and cook for a further 10-15 minutes, then remove the lid and cook until the mixture is nearly dry. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.
Stir the chopped coriander into the cooked mixture and pour into a baking dish. Discard the bay leaves and cassia or cinnamon and level the surface. Cover the mince with the spiced mash topping and cook on the top shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes until nicely browned. Serve with some crusty bread.