I hope I'm not tempting a flurry of emails here, but I've yet to come across someone who doesn't like shepherd's pie and/or its sibling, cottage pie.
It's the stuff that my (and I suspect, many others') childhood was made of - a warming, comforting fest of rich minced lamb, covered in a blanket of crispy-baked mashed potato. If there was ever a perennial family favourite, then shepherd's pie - along with the Sunday roast - is surely it.
The love affair, for me, continues to this day. Though I rarely cook it myself, I still get ridiculously excited if someone cooks it for me (any offers, please feel free to email me...). There's something about those lamby wafts that gets me just... there... every time. And, of course, the prospect of those crunchy, 'umamied' bits of potato... y'know, the bits that everyone scrapes the dish for and fights over. Yep, those, too. In fact, there's not a single aspect of shepherd's pie that doesn't appeal to me.
A week or so ago, somewhere out of left field, I had a thought. I'd been thinking of actually making a shepherd's pie myself for once, when I had a sudden urge (settle down at the back there) for some spice. So maybe I'd make some keema instead.
Oh, HANG ON....
(see where this is going yet? OK, so the title of this post rather gives it away, but go with it...)
And so the idea of a keema shepherd's pie was born. Since I get excited about keema almost to the same extent as I get excited about shepherd's pie, you can probably picture the scene. Yes, it's fair to say I was, well, excited.
So - to the recipe books. And most of all, to the (or my) goddess of reference on all things Indian cookery, Madhur Jaffrey. (I really don't know as much about Indian cooking as I feel I should, after all my years of eating it, so if anyone has other recommendations for great Indian recipe-book authors, please let me know.) I have a few recipes of hers that are personal favourites, including - thankfully - one for keema matar (lamb mince with peas), and another for zeera aloo (spicy potatoes). Both of them come from her 'Simple Indian Cookery' book.
I realise that there are probably about as many different versions of keema matar and zeera aloo as I have had hot dinners, so I won't trot out Jaffrey's here unless you specifically ask me to (leave a comment, and I'll get back to you). Choose whichever versions take your fancy, and then put them together as you would a shepherd's pie - first, a make a layer of lovely, juicy, spicy meat in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, and then pile your spicy potatoes on top so as to completely cover the meat.
Whack the whole lot in the oven at around 180C for 30 mins to heat through properly, and for the potatoes to become irresistibly browned and crispy on top.
At that point, resistance will be futile. Get it out of the oven...
... press your nose up against the glass to have a closer look...
... and then get stuck right in without further delay!
Will you ever make 'traditional' shepherd's pie again?