I have a blanket. I did actually. It now belongs to Maryam. Or Hassan when she's not looking. It's a deep blue and white chequered pattern or rather it was. The white has transitioned to a sorry looking beige and the blue is now a faded turquoise.
The edges are frayed and Hassan likes to catch the threads and pull them into a knot around his fingers. What was once a thick stiff cotton has now transformed itself into the most delicate cashmere. I avoid washing the blanket too often from fear it will fall apart. Even then, it has the scent of a new born baby. The fuzziness of a peach. The warmth of a roaring fire.
It didn't always belong to me though. It started life as a bed sheet when my Mummy was small. It was then upgraded to a blanket for the next generation. All my mom's nieces and nephews put their stamp on it before it was handed down to my children. Just like this recipe.
As every family, we have our own recipe for Shepherd's pie. With every generation and every family member, the recipe has changed. Tweaked. Ingredients added. Methods simplified. With every change, the recipe is perfected. Just like that old blanket, it's a family heirloom.
So here is my version of Shepherd's Pie. It is a basic recipe allowing much room for change. A few humble ingredients that meld together to become a gourmet meal. Sometimes I add baked beans to it, other times I omit the carrot and add peas. Fresh herbs never go amiss in this recipe but it doesn't always have to be thyme.
Take this recipe, mould it to your taste, to your family's palate. It will keep you company on a cold evening and make sure you feel warm and fuzzy, just like an old worn blanket.
6 medium floury potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped in 4
6 tbs grated parmesan plus extra to garnish
3 tbs milk
2 tbs oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
500 grams beef mince
1 large carrot, grated
3 tbs tomato paste
3 tbs worcestershire sauce
2 tbs barbecue sauce
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 1/2- 2 cups stock
salt and pepper, to taste
Fill a saucepan with potatoes until they are fully immersed. Bring to boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer until the potatoes are completely cooked through. Drain and mash until no lumps remain. I put my potatoes through the mincer attachment on the Kitchenaid to get them completely smooth. Add the grated parmesan, milk and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat oil on medium heat. Add to it the chopped onions and fry until just beginning to brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the mince and keep stirring and mashing the mince until completely broken up and no clumps remain. Keep stirring until the mince has browned and the water has dried up. Add the rest of the ingredients and season with with salt and pepper. Simmer on medium heat till the gravy is thick, about 40 minutes. Fill a baking dish with the mince gravy and top with the mashed potato. Use a fork to smooth the top, sprinkle with extra parmesan and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Serve immediately topped with extra grated parmesan cheese.