Lamb, Spinach and Potato Pie

I’m calling this a pie in the shepherd’s pie mode but instead of a mashed potato topping it has thin slices of potato quickly blanched then arranged French apple tart-style. The slices are tossed with oil, so they slide together nicely and surface slices crisp up deliciously well. I’m not quite sure what happened between this pie coming out of the oven and dishing up but you can see from the photo, some of those crusty potatoes went missing.

Serves 2, generously
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 75 min

1 onion
3 tbsp olive oil
few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
400g lamb mince
½ tbsp flour
150ml red wine
200ml chicken stock
pinch chilli flakes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 carrot
½ chicken stock cube
200g spinach
2 potatoes, approx 300g total

Halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalk. I always start ragu cooking in a spacious frying/sauté pan and then when all the ingredients are in the pan, transfer to a regular saucepan. So, heat 2 tbsp oil in a spacious frying/sauté pan over a medium heat, stir in the onion, bay, thyme and a generous pinch of salt. Cook briskly, stirring often, as the onion begins to look glossy reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until slippery soft, the thyme aromatic. Scrape and cut the carrot into small dice. Dissolve the stock cube in 250ml boiling water. Add the mince to the softened onion, stirring as it browns then dust with flour, stirring until disappeared. Add the wine, stirring as it bubbles away. Stir in the stock, chilli and carrot. Bring up to the boil then tip into a medium sized pan. Simmer, stirring for a few minutes then turn the heat very low and leave to simmer, giving the occasional stir, for at least 30 minutes, probably more like 45, until very thick, all the ingredients merged into a thick, luscious, juicy rather than wet sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Fish out the bay leaf. Stir the spinach into the ragu, stirring as it to wilts and mixes throughout. It will seem an impossibly large amount but will eventually flop down. Spoon the contents of the pan into a gratin dish. Smooth and press down slightly to flatten. I used a 30cm diameter earthenware dish bought in Provence with sloping sides and a depth of about 20cm. Leave to cool while you prepare the potatoes and heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Boil the kettle. Scrape the potatoes, slice wafer-thin almost as thin as if making crisps – I use a mandolin for this. Half fill a medium saucepan with boiling water from the kettle. Add 1 tsp salt, return to boil and slip the rinse potatoes into the boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes, drain, spread out in the colander and leave to cool for a few minutes. Have ready a mixing bowl with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Slip the potatoes into the pan and use as plastic spatula or your hands to toss around and smear with oil. Work round the outside to the middle, building up slices over the pie. Don’t be too neat about this and think French Apple Tart as you go. Cook in a hot oven – 200C/gas mark 6 – for 30 minutes or until the top is crusty and golden.