Long ago, I used to make the great Madhur Jaffrey's "A Kind of Shepherd's Pie" from her 1994 Madhur Jaffrey's Cookbook - Food for Family and Friends. However, due to the difficulty of obtaining minced lamb here and despite having tried the recipe a couple of times with minced beef, in the end I stopped making it.
But in colder weather comfort food calls so a few weeks ago I decided to revive the recipe using the ingredients I can easily get here, so it's become a bit British, a bit Sicilian and a bit Indian. I've kept Madhur's idea of a grilled aubergine base and I think this makes it quite Sicilian too. You can use frozen grilled aubergines, reconstituted as directed on the pack, or just slice an aubergine lengthwise and cook the slices on a tray lined with baking parchment in the oven for 10 minutes. The latter is a tip I picked up from Antonella Clerici and I find that the cooked slices freeze well. The other Sicilian touches are the use of sweet Sicilian carrots, green [French] beans and passata. The Indian part is, of course, the use of spices, though there's another nod to Sicily with the use of cinnamon.
Here's the recipe:
Brit-Sicilian-Indian Shepherd's Pie
1 aubergine, sliced and cooked as above [or use frozen grilled aubergine slices]
100 gr green beans, cooked in boiling water until tender, then drained and cut into small pieces
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
300 gr mushrooms, sliced
1 white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
500 gr mixed minced meat [a mixture of beef and pork if you are in Italy but you can use all beef or lamb]
2 goodly-sized knobs ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
c. 125 gr butter, softened plus a little extra
200 gr passata, made up to 300 gr with water
4 tablesp olive oil
1 tablesp flour
Handful fresh sage leaves, chopped
Arrange the aubergine slices in a large, fairly deep Pyrex or ceramic roasting dish.
Cook the onion and garlic in the oil until softened, then add the carrot slices and soften these too. Add the meat and cook, stirring, until browned.
Add the beans, mushrooms, half the ginger, a little cinnamon and most of the chopped sage and stir for a couple of minutes.
Add the passata mixture and flour, season and stir well.
Turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer for 20 mins.
Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling water till soft but not disintegrating.
Mix the butter with the rest of the sage leaves, a little more cinnamon and the rest of the ginger. Use this to mash the potatoes.
Now pour the mixture in the pan on top of the aubergines and spoon the mash over. Smooth the top with a palette knife. Add a few small knobs of butter and a final sprinkling of cinnamon.
Cook in the oven at 180° C for 15 mins.
Garnish with some whole sage leaves if you wish.