Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Shepherd's pie

My least favourite thing that people say to me is that they are tired. "I'm so tired," they say. Or, worse, "I'm just so tired." It's that "just" that really fucks me off.

I never tell anyone that I'm tired. Ever. Or ill. I keep it to myself. If you are tired, go to bed earlier. Take a sleeping pill. Inhale some lavender, bang yourself smartly on the head. Be really glitzy and hire a private doctor to dose you with propofol. Just don't tell me about it - because I don't care.

(Unless you have a small baby, in which case we will keen and wail together and I will make you tea and say there there.)

My second least favourite thing people say to me is "I'm so busy." Because when you say that, what I hear is "I am incredibly disorganised, I do not know how long an hour is and I don't know how to say 'No'. I am probably also late all the time, but think it makes me seem glamorous."

I do not respect that. I spend my whole life being the fucking bad guy, saying "No, I can't" because I know how long things take; I know what you can reasonably achieve in one day. And it's not very much.

But these days, I sympathise a bit more with people who describe themselves as being a "busy mum". I seem to be in a screaming spin all the time just now, (even though I hate my own guts for saying that), constantly patting my pockets for my keys and racing back into the house five times for bottles, nappies, wallets, shoes. I always seem to be in the car at traffic lights, revving the engine saying "Come on, are you fucking dead or what???!!!!" to the car in front.

Last night I went up to bed - although I didn't actually get into bed and go to sleep - at 8.30pm in order to re-create the kind of idleness I took for granted before I had a baby.

The thing is, Kitty is eating proper food now. Fish fingers and beans, peas, baked potatoes, fish pie, chicken. The whole lot. Nyum nyum nyum, she goes. So I can no longer get away with surviving on cheddar, own-brand chocolate mousse and tea, while spooning shop-bought puree into Kitty's weeny petulant mouth and doing no cooking beyond peeling the lids off takeaway. I have had to hit the stove again. And while I'm cooking for her, I  might as well cook for me. Which is good because it means I eat something. But bad because it means I'll probably get fat again. And it's so fucking time-consuming.

Anyway, that's a long way of saying that it's nursery food a go-go around here right now and today it was shepherd's pie. I've only ever made one once and I muffed it by thinking that I was making a bolognese and adding canned tomatoes, which doesn't work at all.

So here we go, shepherd's pie. Take 2.

Serves about four I'd say.
2 packs lamb mince - about 500g each
1 stick rosemary
2 bay leaves (optional)
2 small onions, chopped
some celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 large potatoes
chicken or veg stock if you have it - about 300ml
red wine if you have it - about a large glassful

1 Fry the onions, celery, rosemary stick, bay leaves and carrot together very gently for about 15 minutes. I say this every time because there's always ONE person out there who is very impatient and puts their onions on a really high heat and burns them and wonders why their dinner tastes horrible. Once the onions look translucent and sort of soft around the edges, throw in your glass of red wine and then turn up the heat high and bubble the wine down.

2 In another pan, fry off the lamb mince, then combine your lamb and veg and stock and simmer on the hob, very low, for 45 minutes. Chuck in some salt and pepper.

3 Now you can, of course, just boil and mash your potatoes, but if you steam (25 mins) and rice the potatoes instead, you will get a delicious crunchy potato topping. You can fashion a steamer out of a colander over a pan of boiling water. If you haven't got a potato ricer or a mouli legume then I suppose you're a bit stuffed.

4 Put your lamb mixture in a baking dish and cover with your potato, dot with butter and bake at 180C for about 25 mins.

Then go to bed, for fuck's sake.

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