Lamb and Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Lamb and lentil shepherd's pie

Lamb and lentil shepherd’s pie

Tomorrow is my birthday and I had hoped this week would be a little quieter than usual so that I could have some time to prepare myself for becoming a year older.  In fact, the opposite happened and I have been busier than ever.  Such is often the way.  This also means that I have not had time to write up a shepherd’s pie that I cooked a couple of weeks ago that was more successful than I anticipated.

It started with us cooking a the lamb shawarma from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem for a family Sunday supper.  I usually look to Ottolenghi for my vegetarian recipes, but could not resist this lamb.  It has had a post-it marking the page for longer than I care to admit.  If you have the book, it is worth making for an alternative Sunday roast: it is marinated in no less than 11 spices and slow roasted for about four and a half hours.  We served ours with the usual array of kebab accompaniments – shredded iceberg, pickled chillies, hot sauce and a little hummus – and with a butternut squash, lentil and feta salad on the side.

Of course, we had some lamb left over, although not a great deal as we were all rather hungry.  Once I had shredded it from the bone, there was about 250g of meat, which would make a very skimpy Shepherd’s pie indeed.  I almost popped it in a tupperware to use for sandwich meat, and then remembered that I used to pad out vegetarian ‘shepherd’s’ pies with lentils and that it could also work well with the lamb.  As it happens, it worked perfectly.  Not only did it stretch the filling to make a pie for two people with a little leftover, but it added another dimension of texture to the shredded lamb. I was worried that the spices from the shawarma would overpower the dish a little, but in the end I could barely taste them, save for a bit of extra heat.

Food waste is one of my biggest bete noires, so the thrill of creating a new meal from old leftovers is pretty unrivalled as far as culinary thrills go.  I have always found more satisfaction in creating something from the odds and ends of the fridge than having a whole supermarket full of ingredients at my disposal.  This is partly why I shop daily rather than do a big ‘weekly shop’ – it is far easier to see what you already have, and then figure out something to do with it.  A shepherd’s pie, or cottage pie, is a perfect way of using up leftovers: the meat, old bits you have lurking around the veg drawer, and the ends of bags of potatoes.  As far as the filling goes, you can add in more or less anything you like.  The idea of creating this as a completely new dish seems like an odd one.  Some people do this with mince, which I prefer not to use if I can help it.

Lamb and Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

100g dried green lentils
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
100ml red wine
250g leftover roast lamb
100ml chicken stock
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper
750g potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tbsp salted butter
Grated cheese, for topping

Cook the lentils according to packet instructions and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200ºc.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan, or chef’s pan, and cook the onion, carrots and celery over a medium heat until soft but not browned, approximately 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and thyme in the last two minutes of cooking.

Pour in the wine and increase the heat a little to let it bubble.  Cook for a couple of minutes until it has reduced a little.  Add the lamb, stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomato ketchup, tomato puree, salt and pepper.  Cook on a medium heat for around 15-20 minutes until the mixture has thickened and most of the liquid has been reduced.  Stir in the lentils and transfer to a suitable pie dish.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes until tender.  Drain and mash with the butter and a little milk until smooth.  Check the seasoning.

Pipe or spoon the mash over the lamb mixture and top with a layer of grated cheese.  Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until the top has browned and the edges are bubbling.  Serve with green vegetables.

One Year Ago:  Cornish Pasties

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Leftover Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken and Bread Salad with Harissa, Pine Nuts and Pomegranate Seeds

Roast Chicken and Bread Salad with Harissa, Pine Nuts and Pomegranate Seeds

This time yesterday I was seeing off the end of a particularly vicious birthday hangover.  To celebrate turning 30, I drank for a sustained period of time from champagne with Thursday breakfast, to afternoon G&Ts, to quinine sours with dinner at Gymkhana, to more champagne with Friday breakfast, to afternoon G&Ts, to copious amounts of gin, vodka and Jager at my Friday night birthday drinks.  After seeing sense and taking myself off to bed at 4am, I was hit with a hangover so debilitating that the only food I could manage was either that I could order to my door or that I could make in a toaster.  Hence having not posted anything here for almost a week.  Birthdays are very distracting, especially when you have friends that are generous at the bar.

By Sunday evening I began to feel well enough to venture back into the kitchen, put all of the empty bottles into the recycling and make something that would vaguely resemble dinner.  Shame prevented me from ordering yet more take out and, sadly, none of the restaurants locally have a dress code that includes ‘snowman pyjamas’, so I was left with little choice. Ollie kindly ventured out to the local supermarket and came back with the ingredients to make the mother of all comfort food:  a roast chicken dinner.  And it was beautiful: roast chicken, gravy, perfect roast potatoes, roasted carrots and green beans.  My contribution to the meal was actually very little – I peeled the carrots – but I had successfully broken out of the slob-zone and was back to real food.

As there is only two of us, we always have a lot of chicken left over from a roast – even from relatively small birds.  My favourite thing to do is to sit down after the meal and strip the last of the chicken from the carcass, putting it on a plate for another purpose later on.  The beauty about cold roast chicken is that it can be used for so many things.  My mother always served us up chicken pie on Mondays to use up the leftover roast.  My particular favourite is an enormous sandwich of roast chicken, a crushed roast potato, a smear of leftover gravy, mayonnaise and rocket on some very thick brown bread – the ultimate sandwich of shame.  This particular bird yielded rather a lot of chicken, so instead I went looking for something a little more substantial, but not a million miles away: a bread salad.

Adding bread to a salad is a great way to bulk out a meal and an alternative to the more traditional carbohydrates of rice and pasta.  It is also a great way to use up stale bread as older bread tends to be more robust when combined with wetter ingredients – fresh bread has a tendency to disintegrate.  Probably the most famous example of this kind of meal is the panzanella – an Italian salad of tomatoes, stale bread, olive oil and vinegar – but recently cooks are experimenting with a larger range of ingredients. This dish combines traditional salad stalwarts – chicken, rocket, tomatoes and olive oil – but is given a middle eastern twist with grilled aubergines, pine nuts, Harissa and pomegranate seeds. For the bread, it is best to use a good middle eastern flatbread, such as levash, but pitta bread will do if you cannot find it. Frying it in a little olive oil until crisp will give the salad an interesting texture.

Roast Chicken and Bread Salad with Harissa, Pine Nuts

  • 500g leftover roast chicken
  • 2 large flatbreads (see above)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 aubergine, cut into 1cm dice
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1½ tbsp harissa
  • 2 large handfuls rocket
  • Seeds of half a pomegranate
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • Sea salt and black pepper

If the chicken has been stored in the fridge, leave it on the side until it reaches room temperature.  Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan, tear up the flatbreads roughly with your hands and fry in the oil until crisp.  You will need pieces of roughly 1-2″ squared.  Put the chicken and flatbreads pieces in a large bowl.  In the same frying pan, heat 2 tbsp of the remaining olive oil and fry the aubergine until browned and tender.  Add this to the bowl along with the cherry tomatoes.

In a small bowl, combine the Harissa and the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Pour over the chicken, bread and vegetable mix and toss until well coated.  Season well and toss through the rocket leaves and scatter the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds over the top.  Serve at room temperature.

Adapted from a recipe by BBC Good Food, serves four as a main course.