Monday, 23 December 2013

My Shepherd's Pie : Christmas special

As a child I would spend a lot of time with my maternal grandparents, especially with my grandfather. I call him Dadun, and he is without a spec of doubt my 'favourite person in the whole world'. He is an excellent storyteller — he can hold you captive for hours together with his tales and animated reminiscences. And as a child I have spent many an afternoon in the magical world Dadun conjured, especially for me. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the tales of deadly demons and ferocious animals, dark, forbidding jungles and haunted dungeons, the stories I loved the most were the ones from his own life.

Dadun stayed in England for a few years, back in the 50s and then he travelled the whole of Europe and parts of Africa before returning to India. And I have grown up on a steady diet of stories from his travels and his stay in England (the reason why I was adamant on going to a British University, England was the fairytale land of my childhood). I have heard the same stories again and again and have never grown tired of them.

Among the stories Dadun shared, the ones I loved the best were the ones that had Ken Shapcott in it. Ken, Dadun's best friend in England, a brother really, one he still remembers and misses dearly. His parents had lost their hearing ability after a shell was dropped near their home during the Second World War and Dadun still refers to them as Mum and Dad. They called him John and would often introduce him to their friends and neighbours as their other son. And then....there was the story about the Shepherd's Pie Ken's Mum would make for my grandfather every time he visited them.

The first time I heard of Shepherd's Pie... I must have been 5 or 6 then and even since I have been smitten. Somehow, I only tasted it much later in life,  but the words were music to my ears. I found a strange sense of comfort in Shepherd's Pie. I had decided that it was the ultimate comfort food long before I had tasted it. And somehow I have always associated it the most with Christmas. Every Christmas, year on year, I have craved Shepherd's Pie.

 I finally had it for the first time in England, at one of the cafes on campus. And the first time around I was a little disappointed. The dish was a tad too bland for my taste, perhaps. I have had it a few times after, and a few of them were memorable eats. And considering my obsession with adding my own little elements to a dish, I trumped up my own version. It is not authentic to the T, but the idea is pretty much the same and it is delicious. Mine has a generous layer of spiced meat topped with cheesy and buttery mashed potatoes to which I add some herbs to add some more flavour. I even add some raisins to the meat for that sweet and tangy surprise. And I love it.

May be this Christmas you could try Shepherd's Pie my way. I am sure you'll be as merry as you can be.

 And here's wishing you a Merry Christmas! 
Merry Christmas!!!!

 My Shepherd's Pie


Minced mutton (keemah) - 750g
Finely chopped onions - 1 cup (packed)
Garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Tomato puree - 5-6 tbsp
Carrots - 2 (grated)
Thyme - 2 tbsp
Oregano -2 tbsp
Sweet paprika - 1 tbsp
Dark raisins - a handful
Red wine - a splash (optional)
Boiled potatoes - 6-7 (large)
Butter 100g  + 50g
Salt and pepper to taste
Sugar to taste
Parmesan cheese - 1/2 cup (grated)


In a  deep pan heat 100 gms of butter and add the chopped onions. Fry until it is translucent and only just begins to catch colour.

Add the garlic paste and fry. Next add tomato puree, grated carrots and cook for a minute or two.

Add the minced meat. Remember to keep the heat high all the while. Stir vigorously. Add sweet paprika and sugar. Fry the meat on high heat until it is brown and the juices have dried. Add a splash of red wine, the herbs, raisins and season well. Stir around for a couple of minutes and take off heat.

Now mash and blend the boiled potatoes with the remaining butter, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Also you could add some herbs to the mashed potatoes.

Pour in the minced meat into the baking tray and even it out to make a thick layer of meat. Top this layer the mashed potato, even it out  with a spatula and then with a fork play around with the surface giving it your own design.

Preheat oven at 200 degree centigrade and then slide in your baking dish chockablock with delicious meat and mashed potato. Bake at 200 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the top is a beautiful, scrumptious golden.

And what you get is a delicious Shepherd's Pie, a little different but all the more delicious!!!!

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