Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Shepherd's pie

My least favourite thing that people say to me is that they are tired. "I'm so tired," they say. Or, worse, "I'm just so tired." It's that "just" that really fucks me off.

I never tell anyone that I'm tired. Ever. Or ill. I keep it to myself. If you are tired, go to bed earlier. Take a sleeping pill. Inhale some lavender, bang yourself smartly on the head. Be really glitzy and hire a private doctor to dose you with propofol. Just don't tell me about it - because I don't care.

(Unless you have a small baby, in which case we will keen and wail together and I will make you tea and say there there.)

My second least favourite thing people say to me is "I'm so busy." Because when you say that, what I hear is "I am incredibly disorganised, I do not know how long an hour is and I don't know how to say 'No'. I am probably also late all the time, but think it makes me seem glamorous."

I do not respect that. I spend my whole life being the fucking bad guy, saying "No, I can't" because I know how long things take; I know what you can reasonably achieve in one day. And it's not very much.

But these days, I sympathise a bit more with people who describe themselves as being a "busy mum". I seem to be in a screaming spin all the time just now, (even though I hate my own guts for saying that), constantly patting my pockets for my keys and racing back into the house five times for bottles, nappies, wallets, shoes. I always seem to be in the car at traffic lights, revving the engine saying "Come on, are you fucking dead or what???!!!!" to the car in front.

Last night I went up to bed - although I didn't actually get into bed and go to sleep - at 8.30pm in order to re-create the kind of idleness I took for granted before I had a baby.

The thing is, Kitty is eating proper food now. Fish fingers and beans, peas, baked potatoes, fish pie, chicken. The whole lot. Nyum nyum nyum, she goes. So I can no longer get away with surviving on cheddar, own-brand chocolate mousse and tea, while spooning shop-bought puree into Kitty's weeny petulant mouth and doing no cooking beyond peeling the lids off takeaway. I have had to hit the stove again. And while I'm cooking for her, I  might as well cook for me. Which is good because it means I eat something. But bad because it means I'll probably get fat again. And it's so fucking time-consuming.

Anyway, that's a long way of saying that it's nursery food a go-go around here right now and today it was shepherd's pie. I've only ever made one once and I muffed it by thinking that I was making a bolognese and adding canned tomatoes, which doesn't work at all.

So here we go, shepherd's pie. Take 2.

Serves about four I'd say.
2 packs lamb mince - about 500g each
1 stick rosemary
2 bay leaves (optional)
2 small onions, chopped
some celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 large potatoes
chicken or veg stock if you have it - about 300ml
red wine if you have it - about a large glassful

1 Fry the onions, celery, rosemary stick, bay leaves and carrot together very gently for about 15 minutes. I say this every time because there's always ONE person out there who is very impatient and puts their onions on a really high heat and burns them and wonders why their dinner tastes horrible. Once the onions look translucent and sort of soft around the edges, throw in your glass of red wine and then turn up the heat high and bubble the wine down.

2 In another pan, fry off the lamb mince, then combine your lamb and veg and stock and simmer on the hob, very low, for 45 minutes. Chuck in some salt and pepper.

3 Now you can, of course, just boil and mash your potatoes, but if you steam (25 mins) and rice the potatoes instead, you will get a delicious crunchy potato topping. You can fashion a steamer out of a colander over a pan of boiling water. If you haven't got a potato ricer or a mouli legume then I suppose you're a bit stuffed.

4 Put your lamb mixture in a baking dish and cover with your potato, dot with butter and bake at 180C for about 25 mins.

Then go to bed, for fuck's sake.


  1. "Constantly patting my pockets for my keys" - a kindred spirit !

  2. * I hoped you slammed the door in her face?

  3. I actually really hate Shepherds pie -properly detest it, perchance because my (then recently divorced) father used to make it EVERY BLEEDING SUNDAY. But this actually sounds really tasty!

    *go smear baby nappies (the dirty kind) on busy mums windows*

  4. if you can say no, you're doing well and looking after yourself!
    Being organised with kids is not easy, whatever they say.
    Some people just don't understand, do they- even when they have their own children that they are keeping awake. Commiserations there.

  5. I have spent all evening cleaning my kitchen as some rather grubby plumbers made a mess fishing out the scraps of food that I have chucked down the plughole. This has kept me busy. I was just convincing myself NOT to make my baby son a Shepherd's pie for tomorrow. Is your blog post a sign to be a better mother or shall I go with plan b and squeeze a Ella's into his mouth?

  6. Thank God someone else hates the "busy mum".
    It is right up there with "our busy lifestyles" - which really just seems like an excuse to have everything in your house happen in the kitchen/ diner/ lounge as people fly in and out leading their "lifestyles"...

  7. It's when they feel the need to list everything they "have" to do and you think "if we didn't have this conversation we'd both have an extra 10 minutes in our days" that makes me want to scream.

  8. Brill Esther. You never fail to make me smile :)
    Sheperds Pie, nom nom nom.

  9. I LOVE Shepherd's Pie... the ultimate comfort food.

    Someone gave me a top tip once. Add a lot more Worcestershire sauce then you think is right (say 3 tbsp) and towards the end of cooking the mince, a big dollop of Branston pickle. Gives it so much more flavour.

    And this feeds all of us including two sometimes hungry, sometimes inexplicably not hungry, pre-schoolers - often for days on end!

    You're so right about omitting the canned toms - I made the mistake of adding them once. Gross!

  10. Am I going mad because I thought from reading one of your older posts that you didn't much care for lamb??
    Anyway, this is a winning dish in terms of comfort the sweetness of lamb mince and commiserations on having to start cooking again!! X

  11. I lost my keys at a service station recently and had to be towed TWO hours home by some RAC man who looked like Josef Fritzl. It's because I'm so busy, and I have a small baby.

    Awesome recipe, nothing beats it and my 9 month old is a big fan.

  12. prior to a weekend away to attend a wedding, my sister-in-law who doesn't (need to) work, once emailed me while i was AT WORK, saying "i might need you to book my hotel room for me" because she was SO BUSY dashing off to a pedicure.

  13. Can you please blog more? I love your writing! And I don't even mind if you don't post recipes all the time :)

  14. Would it be pedantic and silly to say a big WELL DONE for remembering that shepherd's pie is lamb and cottage pie is mince?

  15. Oh my stars...I love the way you write.

  16. I wondered of this was up your street.

  17. I'm a Mum of two, a part time 'worker' AND an Open University student but I'm not busy. Right now I'm laying sideways on my bed (surrounded by mountains of washing) playing Poisson Rouge on the laptop with my son (it's educational).

    The washing will get put away, the shopping done, the child collected from school and dinner will be cooked.... I've got plenty of time.

  18. I'm sorry but your post disappoints me.

    What about those people who aren't blessed with loads of money. People who have mortgages, rent, grocery bills to pay and so cannot afford to just say "no"?

    I have two children, I work while one naps and the other is at school and again when they are in bed at night, usually to midnight. I am tired because I work to pay bills. I can't afford to say "no".

    Please give us some leeway in your intolerance of people who say they are "so tired".

    Bed at 8.30pm..... I really wish I could.


  19. VB I think you are reading the wrong blog.


  20. Love this post.

    I am JUST SO tired.

    But I have a 10 week old baby.

    Stick the kettle on.


  21. Not loving the long breaks in between posts. Do you see London Liberty Girl, Cupcakes & Cashmere or A Cup of Jo taking breaks? This is my favourite blog but I wish there were more posts!

  22. Sorry Sophie. I know, it's not very professional of me. Stuff keeps getting in the way, like right now both kitty and my husband have a bad stomach bug and I'm knee-deep in puked-on clothes and my ears are ringin with the sound of whining. I will get back on it as soon as I can...

  23. "wrong blog"? That's a shame - I was looking forward to trying the shepherd's pie on the family (not for me - I'm veggie)

  24. Any chance you could post your baby-friendly fish pie recipe please? I don't eat fish so haven't got any recipes up my sleeve, but fish pie sounds like a cracking dish for my daughter. If she EVER gets rid of her cold and therefore tolerates anything more than Ella's pouches ever again, that is.

    Hope Kitty and G recover soon from lurgy. It's shit being the only one without it, as I found the other week when husband and both children came down with a stomach virus while I remained mysteriously immune.

  25. Angel Charlie says: Take as many breaks as you like - you don't work for us. We're just grateful for the ones we get.

    Devil Charlie says: More posts! We demand more posts! Morepostsmorepostsmoreposts... MOAR POSTING!

  26. Do you really use 1kg of mince to feed 4 people? That seems a lot. I thought 500g would be enough. But totally agree - its a common error to think you are making a bolognaise, and to over use tomatoes. Great blog, thanks!