Sicilian Shepherds Pie
And this would delight any shepherd I dare say- especially if he is one of my countrymen! Filled with ground lamb, peppers, olives, capers and celery and flavored with rosemary and mint, this lovely, hearty dish has all the flavors of our wonderful island... and then some!
With the dreadful weather we have been having and especially after a day of incessant, torrential rain... something just had to be done! Something hearty and tasty and fun! Some hot and comforting food to make things seem just that little bit better... and that something ended up being this! Enjoy...
This was a very simple dish to make. It took quite a few ingredients, granted... but nothing any Sicilian chef wouldn't have in his pantry- haha! What I mean is the olives and capers... all of the other ingredients are pretty standard... but it is the combination of them all that makes them something special!
I started off by peeling a half of a sweet potato and grating it rather finely. I fried this at a moderate heat for 3-4 minutes, until it began to change in color. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, a little scrape of vanilla, a good bit of nutmeg... and a small sprinkle of coffee! You can use some freshly ground coffee- or what I prefer to use, is just a half teaspoon of instant coffee flakes. The great advantage is that the flakes immediately dissolve and melt into the sweet potato and give it a richer flavor. All that the coffee does, is to take the extreme sweetness down a notch and to make the flavor a little more complex. Try it- you'll like it!
After 3-4 minutes, set the sweet potato to one side to cool and pop your ground lamb into the frying pan. Next, add some diced red pepper, finely diced carrot and celery, finely sliced Spring onion, a little garlic and some finely chopped rosemary. Stir-fry for 4-5 minutes until the lamb is lightly browned all over and has given off plenty of its juices. Now add a good handful of finely chopped mint, some chopped black olives, capers and a squirt of tomato paste. Sprinkle everything with 1 tablespoon of flour and stir well... which should get things becoming rather stick! At this point, deglaze the frying pan with a splash of red wine and a little water. Keep cooking for another 2-3 minutes, add a little water and keep simmering until the tomato paste and flour begin to thicken up the liquids into a nice rich gravy.
Spoon the meat and vegetable mix into an oven-proof dish and then spread the sweet potato on top. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, season lightly with a little more salt, pepper and chili and bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes, then turn on the broiler for a last 2-3 minutes... perfect!
Serve piping hot and forget that you are in rainy Frankfurt- enjoy with a nice glass of Corvo and imagine that you are in The Mother County ;-)