My first shepherd’s pie

I’ve made countless variations of shepherd’s pie but they all began with this, the first dish I ever made in the kitchen of my basement flat. Serve with a green vegetable or a simple green salad.


  • 1 kg potatoes
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 50 g butter, cut roughly into cubes
  • 800 g-1 kg minced lamb or beef
  • 1 rounded teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 75 g mature Cheddar or similar cheese, grated
  • a little milk
  • a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • sea salt, black pepper


Peel the potatoes and steam or boil until cooked. Meanwhile, peel the onions and chop up fairly small. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, deep frying pan and fry the onions over a fairly low heat until soft and slightly browned. Then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a plate and set aside. When the potatoes are cooked, drain and put them into a large bowl with the cubed butter; keep on one side.

Add the remaining oil to the empty frying pan and set over a fairly high heat. Add the minced meat with the cumin seeds, ground cinnamon, a generous sprinkling of salt and plenty of black pepper. As the meat browns, dig at it with a wooden spoon to separate it.

When the minced meat is well separated and browned, add the fried onions and the chopped tomatoes and mix well. Transfer to a large, fairly shallow ovenproof dish and spread level. Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.

Now mash the potatoes. Beat the eggs in a bowl using a fork and add them to the mashed potatoes with the grated Cheddar and a good sprinkling of pepper. Mix together thoroughly and then add a little milk to make the mash a little less firm than usual. Spoon evenly over the meat and sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan. Cook in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes to 1 hour until the mash topping is golden brown.