Scottish Shepherd's Pie

This was my favourite dish growing up. The creaminess of the potatoes and the slight spiciness of the beef make a delightful contrast. My granny used to add green peas at the end before baking but it is optional. For a more traditional shepherd's pie, use lamb instead of beef.

Preparation time: 1 1/2 hours
Servings: 4

Meat:

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced parsnips

1/2 cup diced celery

1 lb (500 g) ground beef

2 tsp chopped garlic

1/2 tsp chili flakes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup puréed tomato sauce

1/2 cup beef or chicken stock

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Potatoes:

2 lbs (1 kg) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 tbsp butter

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup grated Parmesan

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a sauté pan or high-sided frying pan. Add onions, carrots, parsnips and celery and sauté for 3 minutes or until vegetables start to soften. Add meat, making sure to break it up with a fork. Sauté for another minute or two or until meat loses its pinkness. Stir in garlic and chili flakes and season well with salt and pepper.

Pour in tomato purée, stock and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until all vegetables are soft and meat is cooked through. Taste for seasoning. It should be quite well-seasoned as it is being topped with mashed potatoes. Place in a large oven-proof casserole or divide between 4 individual ramekins.

Place potatoes in cold salted water and bring to boil. Boil for 5 to 10 minutes depending on size or until tender. Drain well, reserving half-cup cooking water. Place on turned-off burner to dry off.

Mash with a potato masher or whisk with an electric beater. Slowly add in reserved cooking water, butter and enough buttermilk to make a medium-firm purée. Top the meat with the potato mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 F or until heated through.