Have you ever accidentally added the wrong ingredient to a dish and it turned out to be an improvement? This happened to me when I was making shepherd’s pie this week. Not really focusing as I’ve made it so often I squeezed a tube of what I thought was tomato paste into the pot only to realize it was harissa. It brought all the flavors together and added a gentle heat that elevated it from good to great. Please don’t be put off by the anchovy paste – I add it to most slow cooked dishes as it gives a salty richness that’s not in the slightest bit fishy. If you don’t like lamb, simply substitute for beef and call it cottage pie. Either way, it’s the perfect comfort food whether you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or not.
2 lbs minced lamb (or beef)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely diced
1 tablespoon harissa
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
14oz can of tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock
For the topping:
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into similar size pieces
3 medium leeks, trimmed, sliced lengthwise, then into 1/2″ slices and washed thoroughly
8 tablespoons butter, divided
2 oz mature cheddar cheese, grated
1. In a large casserole dish or frying pan, heat the olive oil and fry the onions for approximately 5 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook for a further 5 minutes.
2. Add the lamb (or beef) and increase the heat, stirring frequently until all the meat is nicely browned. About 5 minutes.
3. Add the harissa, tomato paste, anchovy paste, tomatoes and stock. Bring to a simmer and then reduce to a low heat and cook for about an hour. Check for seasoning.
4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the potatoes. Cook until very tender, drain and return to the pot with 6 tablespoons of butter and a generous sprinkling of salt. Mash well.
5. In a frying pan, heat the remaining two tablespoons of butter and gently fry the leeks for 5 minutes.
6. In either a large baking dish or 4 individual baking dishes, divide the meat mixture evenly. Top with mashed potatoes, then leeks, then grated cheddar and finally a sprinkling of fresh thyme.
7. Bake in a 400°F oven for 30 minutes until nicely browned. Serve warm.