Three of my dearest friends are English, and I have spent a decent amount of time in their fair country in recent years, so when I heard that Sam was sponsoring an English food cooking event, I knew I wanted to participate. What I didn't expect is that Mr. Food Musings would want to participate, too.
A few days ago, we were walking down the street on our way to buy a few things for dinner. Out of the blue, he says to me, "What are you going to make for Fish & Quips day?"
Well, knock me over with a spaghetti noodle. Mr. FM is incredibly bright but his memory is, shall we say, highly selective, and it views mundane things such as dinner guests and doctors appointments and Very Important romantic anniversaries as wholly irrelevant to his success as a human being. So for him to ask me about Fish & Quips day definitely meant something. It did not mean that I had mentioned it and he'd remembered and asked out of interest in his sweetie. It meant that he had, for whatever reason, gotten interested in it on his own.
When he asked what I was making, I was immediately suspicious. I sensed a trap but, like a hunter stalking its prey, I knew that too much enthusiasm might startle him. So I nonchalantly replied, "I was thinking about something from one of Nigella's cookbooks." We walked on towards the market and he appeared to be lost in thought.
A few minutes later, he announced, "I'm going to make Shepherd's Pie."
You could have swapped the spaghetti noodle for a saffron thread.
Mr. FM does not cook much. He is great with coffee and toast, as well as a sandwich (although he occasionally cuts into hard unripened practically green tomatoes rather than juicy ripe red ones if I am not watching). But he only makes dinner about four times a year -- usually when I've thrown a tantrum about being too tired, overwhelmed, or uninspired to cook it myself. (Or maybe I've hinted that I do more than my fair share of household chores. I might say something like that every once in a big, blue moon.) He certainly never just announces what he's going to make, though. Never. As I started to think about the implications of his last statement, he spoke up again.
"But I don't know how."
Ah, yes. Okay. Suddenly I saw what was going on. Mr. FM has his own blog now, you see, and he's going about making friends in the blogsophere -- starting with mine. He wanted to participate in Fish & Quips but needed my help. Ever the dashing gentlewoman, I threw down a metaphorical cape over his puddle of kitchen ineptitude and nobly offered my assistance. He gratefully accepted.
We made the pie on Saturday night, and it was delicious. We ate almost the entire thing in one sitting, in fact. Then he chronicled it yesterday. As a result, I find it necessary, as a servant of Truth and Light, to set the record straight about a few things. What follows is a summary of our duties over the course of the meal, and, finally, the recipe.
1 Day Ahead: Catherine
> read through several recipes
> analyzed them for nutritional and seasonal suitability
> determined which one to follow, and with what modifications
> drew up a list of ingredients
1 Day Ahead: Mr. Food Musings
> ate a granola bar
> took an afternoon nap
Morning of: Catherine
> dragged myself from our warm, cozy bed near dawn on Saturday and trudged to the farmers' market in the driving rain
> purchased and paid for everything we needed
> lugged home all the food in a basket that weighed, I don't know, 20-30 pounds
Morning of: Mr. FM
> peeled several pounds of potatoes (with a very sore hand, I might add)
> peeled and chopped carrots
> washed and chopped celery
> mashed garlic
> put it all into the food processor and whirred it about
> boiled the potatoes
> mashed the potatoes by hand (yep, still sore)
> added butter and milk to the potatoes and seasoned them to perfection
> saved the meat from burning. Twice.
> assembled the pie
> put it in the broiler to brown on top
> washed and chopped lettuce and tomatoes
> sliced the avocado
> tossed and dressed the salad with homemade vinaigrette
> did all the dishes
Dinnertime: Mr. FM
> made daiquiris
> chopped leeks
> "watched" over the lamb as it cooked (See also: "saved meat from burning. Twice." under my duties)
> handed me a towel to wipe the sweat dripping from my brow
> poured wine
Adapted slightly from How to Eat
1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup milk
4 TBSP butter
4 leeks, white parts only, chopped and rinsed
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 rib celery, chopped
1 garlic clove
2 TBSP butter
1/2 lb. ground lamb
1 TBSP flour
1/4 cup port wine
1 14-oz. can of whole tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Make the mashed potatoes. Put the potatoes into a large pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until soft enough to mash, about 25 minutes. Drain and return them to the pan over heat for 1 minute to dry off. Push through a ricer and then add milk and butter. Since they're going to top the meat, you want them stiff rather than soft and liquidy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.
Make the lamb mixture. Put the leeks, carrot, celery and garlic into a food processor and whir into tiny bits. Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add vegetables and cook until soft, 10 minutes. (You may need to add a touch more butter or olive oil here.) Add the lamb and break it up with a spoon. Sprinkle in the flour and stir well, then add the port, tomatoes and juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover, season with salt and pepper, and check the lamb for doneness. If it's not cooked through, cook a bit longer. When it is done, put it into a pie plate or small casserole dish. Top with the mashed potatoes. Stick it under the broiler for a few minutes if you want to brown the top, or serve immediately.