Make Sophie Dahl's shepherd's pies meaty, vegetarian, or both.
This recipe is from Sophie Dahl's television series, The Delicious Miss Dahl. Unlike our classic shepherd's pie (opens in new tab) with a creamy plain mash topping, this has champ - an embellished mash with peas, spring onions and cheese. The original recipe is made with lentils, but you can make a meaty version alongside, using half the homemade tomato sauce for each. This is ideal if you're catering a dinner party with guests who have mixed dietary requirements. If you'd prefer an all veggie option, just ditch the meat and use two tins of puy lentils for the filling, or use twice as much minced lamb and make an all-meaty version.
For the champ topping:
- Sea salt
- 6 floury potatoes, peeled and chopped
- Handful of frozen peas
- 4 spring onions roughly chopped
- knob of butter
- 50ml milk
- Freshly ground pepper
- 150g Cheddar cheese, broken into chunks
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
For the filling:
- 2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 4 small carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped into small pieces
- 2 cans plum tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (omit if serving to vegetarians)
- 1 tsp Tabasco
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 175ml red wine
- 200ml vegetable stock
- Couple of springs of rosemary
- Splash of balsamic vinegar
- Small handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 250g lean lamb mince
- 1 tin puy lentils
- For the champ topping, heat a pan of water, season with salt and add the potatoes and bring gently to the boil, simmer gently.
- For the tomato sauce base, heat a large frying pan and add some olive oil. Add the chopped onion, garlic, carrots and celery and fry gently to soften a little for 5-10 minutes.
- Add the tinned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, smoked paprika, bay leaves, red wine, vegetable stock and the rosemary. Stir, then add the balsamic vinegar and some roughly chopped parsley and season well with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil.
- At this stage the sauce needs to cook for a few minutes on a medium heat until the vegetables are soft and then it is ready to be divided in two.
- For the beef mince: Heat a frying pan, add a pack of lean beef mince and fry off until the mince is a nice brown colour.
- Transfer half the tomato sauce into the browned beef. Add the tin of lentils to the other half of the tomato sauce. Leave both frying pans on the hob while you finish the champ.
- Now finish off the champ topping. When the potatoes are almost done add the frozen peas and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Chop the spring onions, melt a knob of butter in a small saucepan and then soften the onions in the butter. Once softened, add the milk and heat gently.
- Drain the potatoes and peas and mash roughly. Add the spring onion mixture to the potatoes and continue to mash until you have lovely chunky mash.
- Spoon either some of the lentil or beef mixture into an individual pie dish.
- Top each of the dishes with champ. Crumble over the cheese and smoked paprika.
- Place your shepherd's pies on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 200ºC/400F/Gas 6 for about 25 - 30 minutes.
Top tip for making Sophie Dahl's shepherd's pies
Swap the lamb mince for beef for a cheaper version. Technically this makes it into a cottage pie.
Can I make this shepherd's pie in advance?
Yes. One of the really great things about this dish is how versatile it is in terms of planning ahead. You can make the filling in advance and chill or freeze without the champ topping. Or you can make and chill freeze the whole thing before the final bake. You can even freeze them after baking if your plans change at the last minute. It's worth making double portions and making this into a batch meal with one to freeze.
How can I keep costs down for a meaty version of this pie?
To make an all-meaty version while sticking to a budget, use both fillings in one pie dish. Layer the lamb sauce in the bottom, cover with the puy lentil sauce, and top with the champ as before.
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