The traditional shepherd’s pie can be quite bland and my basic Shepherd’s Pie recipe has extra seasonings to liven it up. This one brings a touch of Italian using a Napoletana sauce and with grated Parmesan on the top.
Shepherd's Pie Napoletana
- Preparation time: 30 minutes
- Cooking time: 40 minutes
- 450 g (1 lb) minced lamb/ground lamb
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig or a large pinch of dried
- 225 ml (8 fl oz) red wine (1 cup)
- 500 g (16 fl oz) Napoletana pasta sauce or similar (2 cups)
- 900 g (2 lb) potatoes, floury (about 6 medium)
- 55 g (2 oz) butter (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
- 55 g (2 oz) Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated (½ cup)
Brown the lamb in a large pan over a medium heat, stirring frequently to break up any lumps, about 7 minutes. It should be really well browned. Then remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan with the rosemary and cook until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. There should be enough fat left from browning the meat not to require adding any oil.
Now, return the lamb to the pan and stir in the wine. Loosen any crusty bits from the bottom of the pan and then leave the wine to bubble gently until roughly half of it has evaporated.
Stir in the pasta sauce and then simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into large chunks. Put in a pan of water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes until tender. Drain and return to the hot pan to dry off any excess moisture. Mash with the butter and half the Parmesan.
Preheat the grill to high.
Spoon the meat sauce into a medium-sized ovenproof dish. Top with the potatoes, no need to smooth the surface, then sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Brown under the grill for about 3 minutes.
Serve with seasonal vegetables.
Updated: December 28, 2019
A tasty way of serving fish that is quick to prepare and just right for a summer supper. A thick fillet of sole is grilled/broiled smothered in tiny broccoli florets and a cheesy sauce until the sauce is bubbling and golden.
Gratin of Sole with Broccoli
- Preparation time: 35 minutes
- Cooking time: 10 minutes
- 170 g (6 oz) broccoli florets (a medium head of broccoli)
- 40 g (1½ oz) butter (3 tbsp, or ³⁄₈ stick)
- 40 g (1½ oz) flour (⅓ cup)
- 300 ml (10 fl oz) milk (1¼ cups)
- 115 g (4 oz) cheese, grated (1 cup)
- 4 large sole fillets, each weighing about 170g (6 oz)
- salt and freshly milled black pepper
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- butter for greasing
- 28 g (1 oz) Parmesan, grated (¼ cup)
- cayenne pepper
- You will also need a vegetable steamer and a large baking tray/sheet.
Preheat the grill/broiler to high.
Cut the broccoli into florets, trimming and discarding the stems. Then separate the florets into 1cm (½ inch) chunks. Steam for about 2 minutes, until just tender. Remove the steamer from the pan and set to one side.
Now melt the butter in a small pan add the flour.. Stir until smooth. Let this cook gently over a low heat for 1–2 minutes, until it starts to bubble.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in the microwave for 1 minute, which will then make it easier to blend into the roux. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring continuously until there is a smooth sauce. Return to the heat, bring the sauce to the boil, and then stir over a gentle heat until it thickens.
Remove from the heat and vigorously stir in the cheese until it has melted and blended into the sauce. (Just use the heat of the sauce to melt the cheese. Don’t put the pan over heat on the stove as this will make the cheese go oily.) Set to one side.
Next season the fish and then sprinkle over the lemon juice.
Grease the baking tray and place under the grill/broiler for 1 minute to heat up.
Lay the fish on the hot tray in a single layer. They will sizzle as they touch the hot baking tray/sheet.
With the grill/broiler rack 7.5cm (3 inches) from the heat, cook the fish for just 3 minutes and then remove.
Meanwhile, carefully spoon the broccoli into the cheese sauce to evenly distribute the florets. Spoon over the fish and then sprinkle the grated Parmesan.
Put the fish back under the grill/broiler and cook for a further 4 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and beginning to turn golden.
Sprinkle a pinch of cayenne pepper over each piece of fish and serve immediately.
Updated July 18, 2019
Succulent steaks coated with crushed peppercorns and served with a syrupy wine sauce.
Peppered Steak with a Merlot Sauce
- Preparation time: 15–20 minutes
- Cooking time:: 6–18 minutes
- 4 good quality steaks, 3 cm (1¼ inches thick)
- 1½ tsp black peppercorns
- 170 ml (6 fl oz) Merlot wine (¾ cup)
- ½ tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 14 g (½ oz) butter (1 tbsp)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- You will also need a heavy-based frying pan/skillet
First warm a plate in the oven.
Then trim any excess fat from the steaks.
Now crush the peppercorns using a pestle and mortar, or with a flat-ended rolling pin, and spread them out onto a plate. Press both sides of the steaks down onto the crushed peppercorns, shaking off any loose bits as you lift them off.
Get the pan really hot, then reduce the heat and add the oil. Place the steaks in the pan and cook them for 3–4 minutes on each side for rare or 8–9 for medium to well done. Transfer to the warmed plate, cover loosely with foil, and leave to rest for 5 minutes while preparing the sauce.
Pour the wine into the pan and let it bubble up and reduce until it makes a syrupy sauce. Add the balsamic vinegar, butter, and any juices that have run off the steaks. Give it a quick stir and season to taste.
Serve with the sauce poured over the steaks and the mashed potato alongside to soak up the juices.
Updated: October 3, 2018
A great recipe for a family meal.
Cannelloni Al Forno
- Preparation time: 40 minutes, plus 25 minutes, if making the béchamel sauce from scratch
- Cooking time: 55 minutes, plus 10 minutes, if making the béchamel sauce from scratch
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed (minced)
- 340 g (12 oz) minced/ground beef
- 400 g can (½ × 28 oz can) chopped/diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 360 ml (12 fl oz) passata (1½ cups)
- 16 cannelloni shells
- béchamel sauce, made with 300 ml (10 fl oz) milk*
- 115 g (4 oz) mozzarella cheese, grated/shredded (1 cup)
- 55 g (2 oz) Parmesan, grated/ shredded (½ cup)
- You will also need an ovenproof dish large enough to take 16 filled cannelloni shells in a single layer.
- *In the UK you can buy packets of powered béchamel sauce to which you just add milk and heat. However, I can’t find this in Canada and so have to make the sauce from scratch, which is very easy. You will find the recipe below.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), (gas 4).
If making the béchamel sauce from scratch, make it now (see below).
Heat the oil in a large frying pan/skillet then gently fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Now add the meat and brown over a medium heat for 5 minutes, breaking up any clumps as it browns.
Next stir in the tomatoes along with the seasonings. Gently simmer for 10 minutes.
If making the béchamel sauce from a packet, make it now, following the directions on the packet.
Pour half the passata into the ovenproof dish.
Fill the cannelloni shells with the meat mixture, placing them in the dish as you go.
Now pour over the remaining passata and then top with the béchamel sauce.
Sprinkle over the mozzarella and then the Parmesan covering the sauce completely.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown.
In UK the packets of grated mozzarella have no additional additives. In Canada the shredded mozzarella does. To avoid the additives, shred block mozzarella, popping it in the freezer for 30 minutes first to firm up. It will make shredding easier.
- 300 ml (10 fl oz) milk (1¼ cups), warmed
- 1 shallot, skinned and sliced OR a small piece of onion skinned
- 1 small carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
- 1 stick celery, washed and thickly sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 peppercorns
- 28 g (1 oz) butter (2 tbsp)
- 3 tbsp flour
- salt and freshly milled black pepper
Pour the milk into a small pan. Add the vegetables, bay leaf, and peppercorns then bring slowly to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pan and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain the milk, discarding the vegetables and flavourings.
Melt the butter in a clean pan and then, over a low heat, blend in the flour. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and then slowly add the milk, stirring continuously, until the mixture is smooth. Now return the pan to the heat and cook the sauce until it thickens, stirring continuously. Season to taste.
This recipe makes a lovely cranberry sauce with just a hint of port and spices to make it special.
Festive Cranberry Sauce
- Preparation time: 10 minutes
- Cooking time: 15 minutes
- 450 g (1 lb) fresh cranberries (4 cups)
- 90 ml (3 fl oz) port (⅓ cup)
- 115 g (4 oz) light muscovado sugar/soft light brown sugar
- 1 tsp mixed spice/pumpkin pie spice
- ½ orange
- 1 tsp Grand Marnier, optional
Put the cranberries into a medium-sized pan.
Add the sugar, port and spice.
Zest and juice the orange, then add to the pan and stir everything together.
Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and gently simmer for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries soften and are just starting to break up.
Spoon the sauce into a bowl and stir in the Grand Marnier, if using, and then leave to cool.
The sauce can be kept covered in the refrigerator but bring it back to room temperature before serving.