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Prepare superior shepherd's pie

It’s one of the great British comfort food classics, and an economic way of feeding a large family. Shepherd’s pie is always a favourite for kids but, surprisingly, there are lots of conflicting ideas about how to make what should be a simple dish.

Strictly speaking, a proper shepherd’s pie should be made with minced lamb. One made with beef mince is more correctly called a cottage pie, but in fact it doesn’t matter too much. Great results can be obtained with either kind of meat.

Cooking procedure

Brown the meat with some finely chopped onion. Be selective when adding vegetables. A little carrot is fine and will add sweetness. Mushrooms add body and flavour. Peas will lose colour and texture in the lengthy cooking process. Tomatoes and peppers take the dish into bolognese territory, so it's best to avoid them. Good quality stock is essential to make the thick meat gravy.

Simmer your mince slowly and gently, for at least an hour so it is tender and the flavours have a chance to blend.Use floury potatoes for your mash. Add a little butter at the mashing stage but no liquid. Adding cream and egg yolks to the mash, as some recipes suggest, is a little excessive. Season well and ladle over the meat. Fluff the potatoes with a fork to give the rough surface that browns so deliciously in the oven. A fifteen minute blast in a medium to high oven completes the dish.

Grated cheese is an optional addition, but too much can make the dish cloying and greasy. Serve with fresh steamed broccoli, and the traditional accompaniment of brown sauce.

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