On the sheep farms of Cumberland tough mutton had to be used up somehow. In a hash (rarely an entirely satisfactory dish anyhow) the meat can be like leather. So the shepherd’s wife chopped the cold tough cooked mutton and beat it in a mortar; it was much better; with thickened stock and potato on top it was delicious and very filling. It became a standard dish, made much easier by the advent of the mincer. It is certainly the simple rather than the high cooking of England but none the worse for that.
Mince the meat, removing all fat and skin and gristle first. Cook the potatoes, peeled and cut in halves, till tender for mashing.
When cool, spread the potato about an inch thick all over the dish, working lightly with a fork. Dot with pieces of butter, or cover with grated cheese. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 350° F., gas mark 4, for 20 minutes, when the top should be golden brown.
The dish may be prepared in the morning and left for cooking until the evening without harm.
©1975 The Estate of Elizabeth Ayrton