Monday, 27 April 2009

Veal and spinach shepards pie

We have been chatting for a while about how much we liked Shepard's pie and I am ashamed to admit I had never made one before. So I thought it was time to give it a try.
When trying something new, I will generally do a search to find a basic recipe, grab the ingredients, and see what happens. Generally I improvise.

This time I landed on the Channel 4 webpage and Monsieur Gordon Ramsay's recipe.
(Nice little site actually, not only do you get the recipe, but also comments left by readers and a nifty little video that makes the whole process looks ridiculously easy and quick.
Trust me, Shepard's pie is not that quick to make. Though if you get your spuds cooking while you cook the mince, you can coordinate it all into about 30 mins. I made this in advance, and just popped it in the oven about 20 minutes before we wanted to eat.

Anyway, this recipe calls for lamb mince which is virtually impossible to find in Belgium, unless you go to a butchers and ask them to grind it for you. So after much deliberation, I opted for veal.

This is where Gordon's recipe went out the window. I wasn't too keen on adding red wine and garlic to veal mince. And because I'm on a mission to cram as much veg into my meals, I decided to add spinach.

So here's my version of veal and spinach Shepard's pie.
I followed Gordon's quantities, says it serves 4 ... err served 2, maybe 3.

  • 500gr / 17.5oz veal mince
  • 1 large onion, finely grated
  • 1 large carrot, finely grated
  • 1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Handful of thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, needles chopped
  • 300ml / 10 fl oz chicken stock
  • 500gr / 17.5oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 1kg / 35oz potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 50g / 2 oz butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Parmesan, for grating
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 - Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas 4.

2 - Cook the potatoes in some salted boiling water while preparing the mince. When soft, drain and leave to one side.

3 - Fry of the mince in some hot olive oil over a high heat until brown.
This will help colour the sauce. Add in the grated onion and carrot and turn the heat down.

4 - Season and add in the herbs and cook for a few minutes.

5 - Add the chicken stock and cook on a medium/low heat until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly.

6 - Leave the mince to sit while you prepare the mash.

7 - Mash the potatoes adding 2 egg yolks, the butter and season well. I added parmesan at this point, but to be honest, you will need to add a lot of cheese before you can taste it. So if you are going for the slightly 'healthier option', skip the cheese here.

8 - Wilt down the spinach in a pan over a low heat. Don't forget the salt and pepper. Once it is wilted down, place in a sieve and let it cool down enough so you can take it in your hands.

9 - Squeeze out the excess water from the spinach, otherwise your pie will end up being very watery. Extract as much water as you can. Then chop the spinach roughly.

10 - Ready to assemble. In an oven proof dish (no idea of the size, medium, I guess) spoon the mince in the bottom, arrange the spinach in a layer on top of the mince, then add the mash.

11 - Here I followed Gordon's advice and grated the parmesan on top them fluffed the surface of the mash with a fork so it would get nice and crunchy in the oven.

12 - Place in the oven until brown and bubbling.

I wasn't convinced it would taste that nice, but the pie only served 2 1/2 maybe 3 portions and there was lots of mmming over dinner. So I guess it worked out OK.

If I manage to find lamb mince, I will definitely give the real recipe a try one of these days.

A new beginning

First post of 2009 - and it's .... April. How pathetic.

Ok so I have given up on the idea that I will ever finish writing up my posts on Japan. Maybe one day you'll get to see at least the photos as there are some really nice ones.

I really haven't been finding the motivation to write recently, maybe because I've not had a lot to say, maybe because I haven't found the time, but probably because I used to make the most of some quiet time during the day to write a few lines and there has been no quiet time to speak of recently.

I have been experimenting in the kitchen recently and I thought it might be nice to document some of my attempts.
Someone might be looking for inspiration for dinner one day and land on these pages.

I will not be detailing everything to the letter, as I strongly believe that in the every day kitchen, you have to improvise.

Please leave comments if you try them out...