Top tip: lamb mince is harder to find than beef mince or pork mince. Do not assume that your local/express/little supermarket will have it.
This is a little bit of faff but it is LOVELY. I haven’t made a shepherd’s (or cottage) pie in ages and I’d forgotten how nice it is.
I have also never bothered seeking out cardamom pods before. You know, the things that look like lemon seeds that you find in pilau rice. They are totally worth finding. They add a fragrance that really lifts the dish, and I’ve started using them in my daal now.
Making the topping. Peel 1kg of sweet potatoes and put to boil with some salt, 2tbsp white peppercorns (I couldn’t find this, used ground), 6 cracked cardamom pods, peeled strips of lime rind from one lime, and juice from half a lime. Nigella boils her sweet potatoes with the skin on, then cools and peels. This seems like too much faff to me so I peeled them and cut them into chunky pieces so I could lift them out afterwards.
Making the meaty bit. Stick 3 cloves garlic, 4cm ginger, 1 onion, 2tsp cumin (Nigella insists on seeds but ground was OK), 2tsp coriander (same), seeds from 6 cardamom pods (did you know they have seeds inside? I didn’t), 2tbsp oil (Nigella says cold-pressed coconut oil but I think that’s probably bollocks and you won’t taste it so any flavourless oil will work), all into a blender and whizz them up. Put into large pan, fry for a bit, add 500g lamb mince, 2tsp garam masala, 1tsp chilli flakes, 1tsp turmeric. Full disclosure: I put all the spices into the whizzing-up stage and it was fine. Add 1 tin chopped tomatoes, 1 tin cold water, 100g red lentils, salt, 2tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Simmer.
While meaty bit simmers. Put oven on to 220c. I don’t know how long Nigella’s oven takes to heat up but the meat is simmering for 25 mins so no need to put it on before this stage. Once the sweet potato is soft, lift out the pieces of sweet potato with a slotted spoon. Chuck away all the other bits. Mash.
Get ready to go in oven. Get your dish. Put meaty bit in dish. Put sweet potato on top. If you like you can do some faffing around with ginger. I didn’t, but I’l describe it anyway. Apparently if you grate ginger, twirls it up in some kitchen roll and squeeze it, you get “ginger juice” to put on top of your sweet potato mash. Put it in the oven.
35 mins later – take it out and it should look like this
On a plate it’ll look like this.
The thing I can’t show you in a picture is the smell. It smells WONDERFUL.