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Indian-Spiced Shepherd's Pie

by . Featured in SIMPLY NIGELLA
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Introduction

My children love this. Actually, I don't know anyone who's eaten it and doesn't. While it's spicy (though you can reduce the heat to taste) and vibrant, it is also cosy and comforting, and blends the familiar with the less traditional in a way that gives me quiet satisfaction.

The impetus to use a sweet potato mash for the topping was simply because it was so much easier than peeling and mashing regular potatoes, and they work so well against the hot, exuberantly spiced meat, especially when tempered with lime and ginger juice.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

My children love this. Actually, I don't know anyone who's eaten it and doesn't. While it's spicy (though you can reduce the heat to taste) and vibrant, it is also cosy and comforting, and blends the familiar with the less traditional in a way that gives me quiet satisfaction.

The impetus to use a sweet potato mash for the topping was simply because it was so much easier than peeling and mashing regular potatoes, and they work so well against the hot, exuberantly spiced meat, especially when tempered with lime and ginger juice.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Indian Spiced Shepherd's Pie
Photo by Keiko Oikawa

Ingredients

Serves: 4

Metric Cups

For the topping:

  • 1 kilogram sweet potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons white peppercorns
  • 6 cardamom pods (cracked)
  • peeled strips from 1 unwaxed lime and juice of ½ lime
  • approx. 1 litre cold water
  • 4 centimetres piece fresh ginger (peeled) - plus more for filling (see below)

For the filling:

  • 3 cloves garlic (peeled)
  • 4 centimetres piece fresh ginger (peeled)
  • 1 onion (peeled)
  • seeds from 6 cardamom pods
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 500 grams minced lamb
  • 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 100 grams red lentils
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons worcestershire sauce

To decorate:

  • 4 teaspoons nibbed or finely chopped pistachios

For the topping:

  • 2¼ pounds sweet potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons white peppercorns
  • 6 cardamom pods (cracked)
  • peeled strips from 1 unwaxed lime and juice of ½ lime
  • approx. 4¼ cups cold water
  • 1¼ inches piece fresh gingerroot (peeled) - plus more for filling (see below)

For the filling:

  • 3 cloves garlic (peeled)
  • 1½ inches piece fresh gingerroot (peeled)
  • 1 onion (peeled)
  • seeds from 6 cardamom pods
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 x 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • ¾ cup red lentils
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

To decorate:

  • 4 teaspoons nibbed or finely chopped pistachios

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/gas mark 7/425°F. Start with the topping, cutting each of the sweet potatoes into approx. 4-5cm / 2in chunks.
  2. Put the unpeeled potato chunks into a large saucepan (with a lid) and add the salt, peppercorns, cracked cardamom pods and lime strips (you don't need the ginger just yet), then add just enough cold water (about 1 litre/4¼ cups) to cover.
  3. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly, put the lid on and cook for about 30 minutes - or until the sweet potato is tender - while you get on with the filling.
  4. Slice the garlic and ginger roughly, quarter the onion, and put them all into the bowl of a food processor with the cardamom, cumin and coriander seeds, and whizz until finely chopped. Alternatively use a bowl and a stick blender, or just chop everything very finely by hand.
  5. Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based pan (with a lid), and then tip this paste in.
  6. Cook for a few minutes or so to soften, stirring frequently, then stir in the garam masala, chilli flakes and turmeric, and tip in the lamb mince, turning it in the spiced onion mixture and breaking it up gently.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes, then fill the empty can with cold water and, swilling it around, pour this in as well. Stir in the red lentils.
  8. Season with the salt and worcestershire sauce, then bring to a bubble, clamp on the lid, lower the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice to stop it catching on the bottom of the saucepan.
  9. When the sweet potatoes are cooked, drain them, reserving the liquid, and leave until cool enough to peel away the skins. Put the flesh into a wide bowl.
  10. Mash the sweet potatoes, using a potato masher, or any gadget of your choice (even a fork would do) and slowly beat in some of the potato cooking water - adding as much as you need to make the mash a less dense, more spreadable consistency - and squeeze in the juice of half the lime. Grate the peeled ginger onto a plate - I use a coarse microplane grater - then spoon the grated ginger into the centre of a piece of kitchen roll. Moving quickly, pull up the edges of the paper and twizzle them, so you have a little wrapped swag-bag, then squeeze and wring out over the mash (an intense ginger juice will drip out). Beat this juice into the mash below. Check the seasoning, tasting to see if you want any more lime or ginger, too.
  11. Once the lamb filling has had its time, ladle equally between 4 small ovenproof bowls or dishes of approx. 400ml / 1½-2 cups capacity (or a larger rectangular dish, measuring approx. 30 x 20 x 5cm deep / 12 x 8 x 2 in deep and 1.6 litre / 6 cups capacity), and then top with the mash, also dividing this equally between the bowls, spreading it to cover the rim of the dishes.
  12. Sit the dishes on an oven tray and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes (or, if you're cooking this in one larger dish, it will need 30-35 minutes). The mash should be piping hot (though it won't get a crust) with the mince bubbling underneath.
  13. On serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of nibbed pistachios over each bowl.
  1. Preheat your oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/gas mark 7/425°F. Start with the topping, cutting each of the sweet potatoes into approx. 4-5cm / 2in chunks.
  2. Put the unpeeled potato chunks into a large saucepan (with a lid) and add the salt, peppercorns, cracked cardamom pods and lime strips (you don't need the ginger just yet), then add just enough cold water (about 1 litre/4¼ cups) to cover.
  3. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly, put the lid on and cook for about 30 minutes - or until the sweet potato is tender - while you get on with the filling.
  4. Slice the garlic and ginger roughly, quarter the onion, and put them all into the bowl of a food processor with the cardamom, cumin and coriander seeds, and whizz until finely chopped. Alternatively use a bowl and a stick blender, or just chop everything very finely by hand.
  5. Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based pan (with a lid), and then tip this paste in.
  6. Cook for a few minutes or so to soften, stirring frequently, then stir in the garam masala, chilli flakes and turmeric, and tip in the lamb mince, turning it in the spiced onion mixture and breaking it up gently.
  7. Add the diced tomatoes, then fill the empty can with cold water and, swilling it around, pour this in as well. Stir in the red lentils.
  8. Season with the salt and worcestershire sauce, then bring to a bubble, clamp on the lid, lower the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice to stop it catching on the bottom of the saucepan.
  9. When the sweet potatoes are cooked, drain them, reserving the liquid, and leave until cool enough to peel away the skins. Put the flesh into a wide bowl.
  10. Mash the sweet potatoes, using a potato masher, or any gadget of your choice (even a fork would do) and slowly beat in some of the potato cooking water - adding as much as you need to make the mash a less dense, more spreadable consistency - and squeeze in the juice of half the lime. Grate the peeled ginger onto a plate - I use a coarse microplane grater - then spoon the grated ginger into the centre of a piece of kitchen roll. Moving quickly, pull up the edges of the paper and twizzle them, so you have a little wrapped swag-bag, then squeeze and wring out over the mash (an intense ginger juice will drip out). Beat this juice into the mash below. Check the seasoning, tasting to see if you want any more lime or ginger, too.
  11. Once the lamb filling has had its time, ladle equally between 4 small ovenproof bowls or dishes of approx. 400ml / 1½-2 cups capacity (or a larger rectangular dish, measuring approx. 30 x 20 x 5cm deep / 12 x 8 x 2 in deep and 1.6 litre / 6 cups capacity), and then top with the mash, also dividing this equally between the bowls, spreading it to cover the rim of the dishes.
  12. Sit the dishes on an oven tray and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes (or, if you're cooking this in one larger dish, it will need 30-35 minutes). The mash should be piping hot (though it won't get a crust) with the mince bubbling underneath.
  13. On serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of nibbed pistachios over each bowl.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD NOTE:
The pies can be assembled up to 2 days ahead. As soon as the pies are cool (and within 2 hours of making), cover each one and refrigerate until needed. Bake for an extra 10-15 minutes, making sure that the pies are piping hot in the centre before serving.

FREEZE NOTE:
Wrap each pie tightly in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and bake as Make Ahead Note.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE:
The pies can be assembled up to 2 days ahead. As soon as the pies are cool (and within 2 hours of making), cover each one and refrigerate until needed. Bake for an extra 10-15 minutes, making sure that the pies are piping hot in the centre before serving.

FREEZE NOTE:
Wrap each pie tightly in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and bake as Make Ahead Note.

Tell us what you think

What 1 Other has said

  • This is such a fantastic twist on a classic recipe! The filling has a fragrant curry paste and the perfect amount of heat. The topping is sharp and zingy and it contrasts the spiced filling beautifully. The whole dish is both comforting and exotic. I serve this all the time; this is a dish that is great for a weeknight meal, but is also great for company. Everyone loves it!

    Posted by joshv41680 on 27th September 2020
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