Fanny often wants to convince us that she is the undeniable, bona fide, irrefutable real deal when it comes to recipes, techniques, knowledge and skill. This is the entire basis of the partwork series, she is sharing her veritable gifts with us. At times she is blatantly blunt in telling us that her way is the right way. Other times she is, honestly, a little more subtle but absolutely as concrete in her message. For a simple dish of Shepherds Pie she takes us back in time to Old England to discover what this traditional pie meant to our ancestors, but makes it evident that we have been making it wrongly all these years by the simple addition of a single word. This is Fannys' Real Shepherds Pie.
Well it would be if I wasn't insistent on fiddling with the recipe, twiddling out the meat and tiddling it up for vegetarians. Fanny uses a tangible mixture of cold, cooked lamb or mutton and finely minced lean gammon as the base for her pie, I use a packet of ready cooked Puy Lentils. So handy, and I think still valid, still in the spirit of the dish - a quick transformation of so-called leftovers and cupboard staples. It happens to be International Year of Pulses too, whoever knew that such a thing should exist. If Fanny were here in 2016 I am sure she'd celebrate with a special book. Or two. Or three.
Fanny mixes her meat with a grated onion, freshly milled parsley, a little stock and seasoning, so do I with the newly elevated, internationally celebrated, legitimate lentils. I was clearly 'keeping it real' during the preparation too, as the grating of the onion resulted in streams of actual tears in the kitchen that simple chopping alone would not have uncovered. It seems a little odd to grate them in the first place and not cook them, but was we know Fanny is indubitable, so I don't question it.
It's all seemingly fairly standard so far, no hints of the 'real' nature that Fanny promised with the pie. The filling goes into a dish and Fanny urges us to get on with the topping. Surely just mashed potato? Everyone knows that a Shepherds Pie is topped with mashed potato, don't they? Think again, authentic fans, Fanny has some flour up her sleeve. She does mash up her pre-prepared steamed (of course, never boiled) potatoes, adds some butter and boiling milk. Then she beats to a smooth paste before working in the flour to create a pastry paste consistency. She rolls it out and tops the pie with it. I was hoping for piping.
Fanny calls this Potato Crust. She finishes it off by marking it in a criss cross fashion with a hot, wet knife in trellis lines. Then a quick brush with egg wash before the oven. The pie emerges well risen, and quite, well, crusty looking. It's an original texture, both fluffy and crispy and tucked underneath are the simply flavoured pulses, shining and singing among the parsley and the sweet grated onions. All-in-all it's a delightful pie. We only have Fannys word that this is the truly defacto real deal. I'm happy to just enjoy the pie. Who would question Fanny anyway?