Here’s another home-cooking classic to add to the collection. It seems pretty appropriate that shepherd’s pie was a staple dish for us, at home on a sheep farm in rural Northumberland. I think this dish was traditionally made with left over meat from a roast dinner, but my Mum usually made it with our own lamb or mutton mince, which was a bit fattier than shop-bought mince and stronger in flavour; it was always really rich and filling. I’ve adapted the recipe here; instead of mince I’m using neck and slowly braising it on the bone. It’s a method of cooking that I love; embrace the tougher, more flavoursome cuts of meat I say. Lamb neck is probably the tastiest part of the animal in my view, and very underrated.
In the kitchen at work, we use veal stock as a base for most of our sauces; for something like this shepherd’s pie for example, we would make a rich jus from reduced veal stock to mix with the filling instead of gravy. The veal bones are slowly simmered in water for 2-3 days in order to extract maximum flavour and body from them. The gelatine extracted from the bones thickens the stock when it is reduced, so you get a naturally thick, rich jus without using flour. This is impractical to do at home, but you can get some way towards a proper jus when making a dish like this by cooking the meat on the bone, or adding bones to the braising liquid like I did with my steak pie and pork belly. After reducing, the resulting sauce will be richer and have more body to it than if you hadn’t used bones.