Individual Shepherd’s Pies

Intensely sweet little Chantenay carrots turn up like hidden treasure in this variation on shepherd’s pie. It’s a very herby version, with rosemary, thyme and bay, then masses of parsley added right at the end before the mince is hidden under super-thin slices of quickly blanched potato rather than the usual mashed potato. I usually add a squirt of tomato ketchup to shepherd’s pie made with raw meat (as opposed to leftovers from roast lamb) but this time upped the liquid content with a small carton of passata with the carrot cooking liquid. Once the carrots and parsley were added the result was very different to the usual shepherd’s pie mixture. The dynamics of who was eating when gave rise to individual pies but however you present, there is plenty here for four very generous portions.  

Serves 4
Prep: 45 min
Cook: 30 min

250g small Chantenay carrots
1 onion
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½  tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
50g flat leaf parsley
500g minced lamb
1 dsp flour
200g passata
4 potatoes

Trim the carrots, rinse and boil in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain but save 200ml cooking water. Halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a spacious, lidded sauté pan and stir in the onion with the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. Add ½ (half) tsp salt and cook briskly to begin with, reducing the heat so the onion softens without colouring too much. Allow 10-15 minutes for this. While the onion cooks, chop the parsley leaves and peel the potatoes. Use a mandolin to slice the potatoes as if making crisps. Rinse and drop into a pan of salted water. Boil for 2 minutes, drain and spread out to cool slightly. Crumble the meat into the softened onion, increase the heat and stir as it browns. Stir in the flour until disappeared then add the passata, stirring as it thickens before adding the reserved carrot water. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat to avoid sticking, for 20 minutes. Stir in the carrots and chopped parsley. Transfer to 4 individual gratin-style dishes (or one big one) to cool. Arrange the potato in overlapping slices over the pies (or pie) as if making a French apple pie, smear with a little oil as you go. Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6, place the pies on an oven sheet (in case of overspill) and cook for about 25 minutes until the potatoes are crusty and the sauce bubbling round the edge.