David: Nostalgia interview and David’s Nan’s shepherd’s pie (with a twist)

Dinners at home – Dinners were very simple when I was growing up. Dad was never home from work and Mum was often working shifts. So dinner would usually just be bog standard. My eating habits didn’t help as I really only liked eating chicken and chips. I didn’t eat vegetables. We ate typical kind of supermarket meals – crispy chicken, chips and beans – which was actually bloody delicious. Bangers and mash. Very standard British food. We ate ice cream for dessert. Cornish vanilla. It was bright yellow.

Curry – I hated curries, stir fries, anything that was remotely exotic. In senior school I had a friend called Paul. His mum is from Sri Lanka. I would go round to his house and play computer games and I would have dinner with his family. His mum would cook curry a lot – which would worry the crap out of me. I didn’t eat that stuff! It was mainly vegetables. The rice I could handle. The chicken was ok, but also worried me becasue at this point I didn’t eat spicy food in weird sauces. But then I found myself sitting round there – just me and his family – and the curry comes out. And I think to myself, “Well ok this smells alright and I guess I’m just going to have to suck this up and eat some curry”. So I think that if I just mush it all up and avoid biting into the vegetables I may get through it. Turns out – pretty nice. This was a big revelation for me and I realised there could be a lot of stuff out there that I may like.

School meals – Well school meals started off horribly for me. I remember there was only one main course and there was a two week rota on the meals. And there were these two meals I just hated – I have never seen anyone else cook them before or after – egg mornay and cod mornay. For a guy who wouldn’t eat peas – eggs were out of the question. And cod mornay was just as bad as I didn’t eat fish. I never tried either dish. The desserts were good though. There were normally two desserts everyday. If you waited until 1:30 you could go up for seconds.

America – In my third year of University I went to study in America for a year. I put on forty pounds. I ate a lot of burgers and not a lot of vegetables. There was so much food.

I remember the cafeteria had tall cylinders full of cereal. One time a group of my friends and I went down to the cafeteria at lunch. We decided to finish the Lucky Charms cylinder. We ate so much of the stuff people’s mouths were bleeding. I can’t remember whether we finished it either.

They had this place called DP Dough which made calzones and if you made up your own kind and ordered enough of it they would name it after you and put it on the menu. My friends and I got one on the menu.

For my recipe – A good shepherds pie – you can’t beat a good shepherds pie. My Nan always used to make a good one. She put peas and carrots in it. That’s how I started eating peas. I guess one of the things growing up that sticks with me is shepherd’s pie with a ketchup smiley face on it. Finished with jam tart and custard. That’s my childhood in a meal basically.

Recipe: David’s Nan’s Shepherd’s Pie (with a twist) Serves 4 – 6

The recipe is adapted from the amazing recipe in the What Katie Ate cookbook by Katie Quinn Davies. The twist involves a few small tweaks: (1) the addition of roasted garlic and parmesan to the mash topping just makes delicious mash more delicious; (2) the addition of chipotle sauce to the mince gives a subtle sweet, smokey flavour. Yum! ; (3) the addition of peas to the pie – to replicate David’s Nan’s version; (4) a ketchup smiley face.

Ingredients:

For the topping:

2 cloves of garlic unpeeled

6 floury potatoes – peeled and cut in half

knob of butter

80ml milk

50 g of parmesan cheese finely grated plus 2- 3 tablespoons to top.

For the filling:

1 tablespoon oil

1 brown onion, finely diced

1 carrot finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

500g lamb mince

500ml beef or chicken stock

1 and 1/2 tablespoons tomato puree

80ml Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons HP Brown Sauce

3 tablespoons chipotle sauce

half a cup of frozen peas

salt and freshly ground black pepper

tomato sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan)/ 200 degrees (not fan assisted). Put the garlic cloves on a baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes until soft. Take them out of the oven and leave to cool.

2. While the garlic is roasting – half fill a large saucepan with cold water. Season the water with a pinch of salt. Add the potatoes. Bring the water to the boil over a high heat and then reduce to simmer. Test the potatoes to see whether they are done by piercing the middle of the potato with a knife. The middle needs to be soft, otherwise your potatoes will be lumpy.

3. Drain the potatoes. Put them back in the pan. I break my potatoes up with a pastry cutter first (as I don’t have a potato ricer), then I mash my potatoes with a potato masher. If you want super smooth potatoes (and you don’t have a ricer) – then push the mashed potatoes through a fine sieve. Frankly this is too much hard work for me and I usually skip this step (read always skip this step). Add the butter and mix. Then add the milk, parmesan and garlic. Note you need to squeeze the soft garlic out of the papery skin on the outside. Season to taste with salt and pepper. At this point a proper cook would put the mashed potatoes in a piping bag. I don’t. But if you want to – you need to use a piping bag fitted with a star shaped nozzle. Leave the potatoes to one side.

4. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and fry until soft – about five minutes. Then add the garlic and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the minced lamb and stir well, breaking up any clumps of meat. Cook until the lamb is nicely browned. Add the stock, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, brown sauce and chipotle sauce and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes then add the peas. Simmer for a further 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened.

5. Spoon the mince into an ovenproof dish. You probably need something with a capacity of about 1.5l (from the photos you can see the dish I used was a teeny bit small). Carefully spoon the potato over the top of the mince (or pipe if you are fancy). Sprinkle with the extra grated parmesan. Bake for 40 minutes or until the potato is golden brown.

6. Squeeze on tomato sauce smiley face.