Spud’s shepherdless pie

I have discovered that green or puy lentils make a perfect substitute for beef or lamb mince in dishes such as spaghetti bolognese, shepherds pie, cottage pie, chilli etc. Simply make the same dish using lentils instead of mince, (cooking the lentils as per the instructions – I used dried lentils and cook them first). Or follow a recipe for a lentil version e.g. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/10035/golden-veggie-shepherds-pie

As with all recipes most ingredients are flexible, if you don’t have celery or bay it wouldn’t ruin the dish, just add a bit of extra seasoning elsewhere. If you don’t have tomato puree, use some canned tom or passata and if you are really desperate ketchup.. will work. I am not proud a dollop of brown sauce is a winner in a nice cottage pie.

I go further and replace the butter with rapeseed oil and the milk with oat milk, organic cheese or no cheese, but it all works the same. I use Marigold Swiss organic vegetable bouillon powder vegan (doesn’t contain milk) it is perfect stock in all dishes even if I am cooking meat. I also use Season’s all in a lot of dishes for easy seasoning.

Spud is pictured below. A long story about our attempts to raise our own meat and ending up with 14 pet sheep (for another post). Spud was born this year to an old ewe we acquired from the farm next door (Doris), we didn’t know that she was pregnant then out popped Spud. Doris didn’t have milk so we bottle raised him. Hence he is so tame and happy to wear sun glasses!





Rediscover mutton

Version 2


Mutton is sheep that is over 2 years old. Well-grown mutton to be one of the finest meats produced on the British isles. While mutton may be difficult to find in your local butcher, it is widely available on the internet. Whatever you choose, shoulder of mutton requires long, slow cooking to bring out the best results. Don’t be put off by the age, 2, 4, 5 yrs it is all good and in my view one of the most ethical meats you can source, based on the age and outdoor lifestyle a sheep lives. The older the best in our house, the flavour and the texture of the meat is amazing, just ask Charles (HRH)!

Ethical plus side, you are eating an animal that has had a longer life, sheep are still kept as grazing animals in a flock so it one of the most naturally farmed animal remaining. Mutton meat might come from a ewe that has been used for breeding or it might be a purpose meat bred slow growing sheep. The latter is the best but we should embrace both.

Serves 4–6
250g/9oz/1¼ cups salted butter, softened and diced
1 large bunch of oregano or rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped

large pinch of salt
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon or generous squeeze of juice
1 x approx 2.5kg / 5½lb shoulder of mutton on the bone

8 banana shallots, peeled and halved lengthways
2 whole bulbs of garlic, peeled and halved
1 x 750ml bottle of red wine
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 140C / 275F / gas mark 1. Put the butter in a food processor. Add the herbs, reserving a little for later, and then the salt, lemon and black pepper. Whizz to a coarse paste – about 20 seconds will do it.

Slather the paste all over the top of the mutton to a thickness of about 5mm / ¼ inch. Put the shallots and garlic in a deep roasting tray and add any remaining herbs. Lay the mutton on top and pour in the wine; the liquid should just be touching the bottom of the meat – if not, top up with water.

Seal the top of the roasting tray with a layer of baking parchment followed by foil. Place the tray in the oven for at least 6 hours (overnight at 100C / 200F / gas mark 1⁄8 works too), or until the mutton is cooked.

Remove the foil and baking parchment and turn the heat up to 200ºC/400ºF/
gas mark 6 to crisp up the crust for 20 minutes. Strain the juices, discarding
the garlic and shallots, reduce a little in a saucepan, uncovered, over a medium heat, season and set aside to use as a gravy.

This is lovely served with braised red cabbage and mustard mashed potatoes.