Hot on Sunday,
Cold on Monday,
Hashed on Tuesday,
Minced on Wednesday,
Curried on Thursday,
Broth on Friday,
Cottage Pie on Saturday.
From Dorothy Hartley, Food in England, 1954
Above is one approach to using up leftover mutton or hogget. An advantage of such flavoursome meat is that its presence is felt even when the amount is little. This sits perfectly with the view that we should be eating less meat but of better quality. It is definitely worth cooking a larger joint than you might need “hot on Sunday” to set you up for at least one or two more meals. Here are my favourites.
Cold on Monday
Dorothy Hartley was not a great fan of re-cooking leftover meat in other dishes, noting … ‟Cold mutton need not be unappetising. It is a pity to spoil good joints by re-cooking, and better to serve them plain cold, with pickles and salad, keeping less interesting joints for made dishes. The pickles for mutton should always have a fruit element, or be green: pickled damsons, pickled ash keys, spiced cauliflower, French-beans, etc., or small white pickled onions. Mint or caper sauce may also be served with cold meat.”
It is difficult to add to this advice, certainly even shoulder can be good sliced and served cold the following day and pickled damsons and runner bean chutney are two of my favourite accompaniments.
Everyone thinks they know how to make Shepherd’s Pie, but it has changed somewhat over time so first some history. The names Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie are frequently interchanged but it is now generally accepted that a Shepherd’s Pie should contain mutton or lamb whilst a Cottage Pie is made with beef. There are earlier references to Cottage Pie than to Shepherd’s Pie, for example the diarist Reverend Woodford recorded that he had eaten Cottage Pie for dinner in 1791 (although it is not clear precisely what this contained).
Potatoes were first introduced to England in 1520 but they did not become widely accepted until the 18th century and it is probably during this century that both dishes were invented as a way of using up and eking out leftover meat. Shepherd’s Pie originated in the north of England or Scotland, where there were the greatest numbers of sheep. The oldest recipe using this name is dated 1886. Food historian Alan Davidson states that the phrase “Shepherd’s Pie” dates back to the 1870s, when mincing machines made the shredding of meat easy and popular.
Cassell’s New Universal Cookery Book, written by Lizzie Heritage in 1894 gave the following full account of Cottage Pie:
…Required: a pound and a half of cooked potatoes, half a pound to three-quarters of cold meat, seasoning and gravy as below. Cost, about 9d.
The potatoes must be nicely cooked and mashed while hot… They should be seasoned and beaten until light with a wooden spoon. A pie dish should be greased, and potatoes put at the bottom to form a layer from half to an inch in thickness. The meat should be made to a thick mince of the usual kind with stock or gravy…or it may be mixed with onion sauce or any other which might be sent to table with meat. The nicer the mince, the nicer of course will be the pie. The meat doest next, and should be put in the centre of the bottom payer, leaving a little space all around. The remainder of the potatoes go on top, beginning at the sides – this prevents the boiling out of the gravy when the meat begins to cook. Rough the surface with a fork all over, because it will brown better than if left smooth. It may just be brushed with melted dripping or a coat of beaten egg, part of which can then be used in the mashed potatoes. As soon as the pie is hot through and brown it should be served. There are many recipes for this pie, or variations of it, and in some directions are given for putting the meat in the dish first and all of the potatoes on top. The plan detailed above will be found the better, because the meat, being enveloped entirely in potatoes, runs no risk of becoming hard as it would do if exposed to the direct heat of the oven. Any other cooked vegetables may be added to the above, but they should be placed between the meat and potatoes, both top and bottom. If a very savoury pie is desired, make the mince very moist and allow a longer time for baking. The potatoes will absorb some of the gravy and found tasty. In this case the heat must not be fierce at starting, only at the end for the pie to brown well. For a richer pie allow a larger proportion of meat….
Modern recipes, where there is not the same need for thrift, certainly do tend to include a much greater proportion of meat. For example, Jamie Oliver uses 1¾ lb of meat for 6 people and recommends a 2″ layer of meat topped with a 1″ layer of potato. With less people cooking joints of meat, it is often made now by cooking minced fresh meat, although shredded meat from a cheaper cut cooked slowly on the bone gives a better flavour and more interesting texture.
3 pint/1.75l capacity dish that is at least 2 inches deep. (see notes below)
500g cooked shredded meat (easiest to do before the joint if completely cold)
½ stick of celery
bunch of thyme
salt and pepper
½ pint of leftover gravy
For the vegetable base:
1 large onion
½ stick of celery
salt and pepper
For the potatoes:
2½ lb floury potatoes
¼ pint whole milk
1 small onion
¼ tsp salt
1 egg yolk
Finely chop the onion and celery, season with salt, pepper and a few thyme leaves, and cook gently in a little of the lamb fat until soft and lightly coloured. Cut the carrots into half rings and cook these briefly to soften slightly.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the peeled potatoes until soft. Meanwhile gently heat the milk with the flavourings and leave to infuse.
Shred the meat from the bones using a couple of forks. It should be shredded reasonably finely so that no cutting is required and to double check that all the meat used is tender. This is easiest to do before the meat is cold.
When the potatoes are cooked drain them into a colander. Remove the flavourings from the milk and put the milk into the hot saucepan in which you just cooked the potatoes so that the milk is warm (re-heat if necessary). Put the potatoes through a ricer into the milk. Blend the egg yolk with a tablespoon of cold milk and stir this into the potato. Mix until smooth.
Place the cooked vegetable base in the bottom of the dish and then cover this with the meat. Pour on sufficient gravy to barely cover the meat.
Top with the potato and rough the surface with a fork to help it brown. Place on a baking tray (to protect the oven from spills) and place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C. Cook until the top is nicely browned and the whole dish is bubbling hot.
The prepared Shepherd’s Pie may be covered and refrigerated once cool for cooking the next day. In this case remove the dish from the oven to bring it up to room temperature before cooking and allow a little longer cooking time to ensure the meat is thoroughly re-heated.
The quantities given will serve 4 for a main course supper.
The quantity of potato required will depend on the exact dimensions of the dish used. The dish needs to be at least 2 inches deep to allow sufficient room for the three layers but a deeper dish will give a greater proportion of meat to potato. For a smaller Shepherd’s Pie a 2 pint capacity dish (1.2l ) will suffice.
The name rissoles may not sound that appetising but most cuisines have their own versions, varied by the herbs and spices used and the accompaniments – some variations are suggested below. The strength of flavour in the meat transfers so readily to the breadcrumbs that you will feel that you are eating pure meat so rissoles are a very economical way of making a small amount of leftover meat go further.
8 oz cooked hogget
1 small onion
1½ oz fresh breadcrumbs
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 level tbsps chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small egg, beaten
salt and pepper
Either mince both the onion and the meat through the finest blade of a mincer or chop them finely in a food processor. Then add the rest of the ingredients and combine thoroughly.
Divide the mixture into six portions and shape each into a round cake shape with your hands. Coat each rissole with seasoned flour, cover and chill for at least half an hour.
Shallow fry for 5 minutes a side.
Variations: For spicy rissoles add half a red or green pepper and use chilli powder in place of the cinnamon. For a Middle Eastern flavour try adding ½ a teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander. A yoghurt and mint dip is a perfect accompaniment.