Shepherd’s Pie with Black Pudding and Bacon

This delicious recipe for Shepherd’s Pie, slightly tweaked, comes from Prue Leith, now 81 years of age and one of the great British cooks of all time. It’s without a doubt the best Shepherd’s Pie I’ve ever eaten.

On the other side of the world, Margaret Fulton began the post-War crusade to improve what we were cooking and eating in Australia, closely followed by Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer.

These four women provided inspiration to aspiring cooks like me. However, I believe the real watershed came with the publication of the Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook in 1970. In the mid-1970s they started to publish a series of paperback cookbooks, covering a different topic in each book. Every few months another title was published and my friend Ferne and I waited impatiently for each one. The recipes were simple to follow with great photography and we both cooked almost every recipe in every book. We spent hours browsing through, jotting down the names of recipes and swapping notes after we made something. They published a book on Chinese cooking, Italian cooking and other cuisines we hadn’t seriously tackled before. Local supermarkets started to stock the ingredients called for in these “exotic” recipes, because people kept asking for them. The children’s birthday cake book was a huge hit with our kids, who often chose the cake they wanted months before the big event. Here’s an interesting article about this cooking revolution.

If you’ve never eaten black pudding, give it a go in this recipe. With the bacon it adds depth to the meat sauce, but you can’t tell it’s there. Black pudding is available in Woolworths and IGA supermarkets under the Clonakilty brand. Adding sweet potatoes to the traditional potato topping is also a winner. Use half and half or any ratio you prefer. Sorry I forgot to take a photo until we had eaten half of it!

2 Tbs oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g minced beef or lamb
100g black pudding, skinned and diced
3-4 rashers rindless streaky bacon, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes, including juice
1 Tbs tomato paste
½ tsp dried thyme
1 beef stock cube (I used an Oxo)
1 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Water or wine (red or white) as required (1 cup or more)

500g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
500g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
50g butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft but not browned. Add the minced beef, black pudding, celery and bacon and cook, stirring, for ten or more minutes, until nicely browned. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, stock cube, sugar and then simmer the sauce for 45 minutes, stirring often. As required during this time, add a bit more water or, if preferred, wine, so the sauce doesn’t stick. After 45 minutes it should be thick and syrupy. Season to taste then spread it in a lasagne-type dish, large enough to cover the meat sauce with the potatoes.

While the meat sauce is cooking, boil the potatoes and sweet potatoes in water to cover, with a teaspoon of salt for 15-25 minutes, or until tender. The sweet potatoes will cook faster than the ordinary potatoes. Cut them into larger pieces, so everything will be cooked at the same time. Drain well, add the butter and mash until light and smooth. Season with salt and pepper then dollop over the meat sauce and spread out evenly with a fork. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top. Dish can be prepared in advance to this point.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake the pie for about half an hour if the mixture is still hot, or about three quarters of an hour if it’s been made ahead and is cold. Serve with a salad or green vegetable.

Serves 6-8


Grilled Lamb Chops with Hummus

Hummus goes well with grilled or roasted meats, especially lamb. This quick and easy recipe for a mid-week dinner for two was inspired by British food writer Simon Hopkinson. It’s perfect for busy couples and is easy to double or triple for bigger families.


4 lamb cutlets or chops
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp dried chilli powder or flakes
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
1 cup hummus (bought or home-made)
A few fresh coriander leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Steamed green vegetable (snow peas, broccolini, green beans)

Mix marinade, add the chops and turn to coat well. Leave for an hour at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge, turning them from time to time. Grill or barbecue the chops, or cook them on a lightly oiled griddle pan for 3-4 minutes each side, or until charred on the outside, but still pink in the middle.

Spread some hummus on two warm serving plates. Arrange the chops on top, two each. Drizzle a little oil around each serving and garnish with coriander leaves and a pinch of cayenne. Serve with a steamed green vegetable such as snow peas, broccolini or green beans.

Serves 2

Eggplant Lamb & Feta Pie


This is a slight variation on a recipe from Donna Hay which appeared in the November issue of the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine. I ran out of yoghurt so the sauce doesn’t feature in my photo.

2 eggplants, thinly sliced into rounds
500g minced lamb
1 cup fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
2 Tbs honey
2 tsp ground cumin
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
2 Tbs pine nuts
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp sumac
150-200g firm creamy feta (I used Danish)
Olive oil for brushing
2 tsp Za’atar seasoning
To serve:
1 cup Greek-style plain yoghurt
2 Tbs shredded mint leaves
Salt to taste
Fresh mint and oregano or marjoram leaves

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a round cake tin or baking dish. I used a metal cake tin which was 22cm in diameter. The original recipe uses a larger one 28cm in diameter. Use what you have, it won’t make a big difference.

Cover the bottom of the pan with eggplant slices, placing one in the middle and the rest overlapping all the way around. Sprinkle with half the crumbled feta. Mix mince, breadcrumbs, honey, cumin, chopped mint, pine nuts and seasoning and tip into the pan, pressing down evenly. Sprinkle with the rest of the feta. Cover the top with eggplant slices, with one in the middle and the rest overlapping around it. You may not use all the eggplant. Brush the eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with the Za’atar seasoning. Bake for 45-60 mins until the eggplant is nicely browned, then stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Mix the yoghurt, mint and salt to taste and serve with the pie. Garnish with fresh mint and oregano or marjoram leaves. Serve with a salad.

Serves 6


Note: you could use minced beef, turkey or chicken instead of the lamb.

Roast Lamb with Anchovies Mustard and Herbs

Some people hate anchovies and to be honest I’m not mad about them eaten just as they are. But when pulverised into a dressing or marinade they provide a powerful Umami boost. I reckon most anchovy-haters wouldn’t even know they are there. The dressing for a Caesar Salad for example wouldn’t be the same without anchovies.

The combination of anchovies, garlic and mustard in this recipe makes it a real winner. Serve with a green salad and a crusty loaf for a Mediterranean-style feast. Or serve with more traditional accompaniments such as roast potatoes and peas or beans. Or try this recent post for Green Bean Salad.

2 Tbs Dijon mustard
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 anchovy fillets, drained
2-3 tsp grated lemon rind
1.5 to 2kg leg or shoulder of lamb, bone in
To serve:
Chopped or whole fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, marjoram or whatever you have)
1 lemon cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 180°C. Combine mustard, garlic, anchovies and lemon rind, using a mortar and pestle, or blitz in a small food processor. Adjust quantities according to the weight of the lamb. Smother the lamb with this mixture, on both sides. Place in a roasting pan and oast for about 1½ hours, or until lamb is cooked as you like it, basting from time to time. A 1.5kg piece will take a little less time than a 2kg one and a boned joint will take longer than one with the bone in. If you like your meat fairly well done it may take up to 2 hours.

Remove lamb from pan and leave to rest, covered loosely with foil, for 15 mins. Carve lamb, drizzle with pan juices and serve garnished with herbs and lemon wedges. Roast potatoes and a salad or green vegetable go well with the lamb.

Serves 6

Lancashire Hot Pot

Lancashire Hot Pot originated in the north west of England and was a popular winter dinner throughout the British Isles when I was growing up. My mother, who didn’t have a large culinary repertoire, made it regularly and we loved it.

It’s basically a lamb stew covered with sliced potatoes, cooked until crisp. In the old days it would have been made with mutton, something we don’t see in the shops these days because the animals are killed much younger. My mother fried the onions and meat in dripping or lard, but I prefer to use butter or canola oil, or a combination.

2 Tbs butter or oil or 1Tbs of each
1 kg stewing lamb, cut into 2cm cubes
2 Tbs plain flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large or 2 smaller onions, diced
500g carrots, peeled and cut into slices or chunks
2 cups beef stock (or water and 2 beef stock cubes)
3 Tbs sherry or red wine (optional)
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
750g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbs melted butter or oil, for brushing
1 tsp dried thyme

Preheat oven to 170°C. Mix lamb with the flour, salt and pepper. Heat butter or oil in a large frying pan and cook the meat over high heat, stirring, until browned. Place in a casserole dish. Add onions to the frying pan and cook, stirring from time to time, until softened. Add to the casserole with the carrots, stock, sherry and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well. Cover and cook for 30-60 minutes, or until meat is almost tender.

Remove lid and cover the meat with the sliced potatoes, starting from the outside and overlapping them slightly. Brush with melted butter or oil, sprinkle with thyme then cover with the lid or a piece of foil. Return to the oven for 45 minutes  or until potatoes are tender. Turn oven up to 200°C. Remove lid or foil and cook casserole until potatoes are browned and crisp. Serve with a green vegetable.

Serves 6

Indian Spiced Roast Lamb with Coriander Chutney

Somewhere towards the end of January I get cravings for a curry. Something spicy and a complete contrast to the food we tend to eat over the holiday period, with ham or turkey as the centrepiece.

As a change from the usual roast lamb with mint sauce, try this Indian-style spicy roast lamb. Serve the lamb with vegetables or skip the vegetables and serve it in wraps. Good for casual entertaining or teenage kids, where you can let everyone fill their own.

When it’s first made the coriander chutney is bright green. I made mine ahead and the colour changed, so it’s not so pretty in the photo.

Indian Spiced Roast Lamb with Coriander Chutney

1 leg of lamb
Spicy Marinade:
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp chilli flakes or powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbs lemon or lime juice
1 Tbs oil
1 Tbs tomato paste
1/3 cup plain yoghurt
Coriander Chutney:
1 cup coriander leaves, tightly packed
3 spring onions, sliced
1 long fresh green chilli, seeds removed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
½ tsp ground cumin
Salt to taste
1 Tbs water, if needed
Coriander sprigs
Lemon wedges

Make slashes with a sharp knife all over the lamb. Place in a roasting pan. Place first 5 ingredients for Spicy Marinade in a small frying pan and stir over moderate heat until the spices smell fragrant. Place in a bowl, add remaining marinade ingredients and mix well. Spread all over the meat and rub in well. Leave lamb to marinate for a few hours at room temperature or loosely covered in the fridge overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Cover lamb with foil and roast for an hour and a half. Remove foil and roast for a further 30 minutes or until done to your liking. Remove from the oven and leave to rest, loosely covered with foil, for about 15 minutes, then carve thinly.

Place all ingredients for Coriander Chutney in food processor and process till chunky-smooth, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Add water if it’s too thick.

Serve lamb garnished with with coriander sprigs and lemon wedges with vegetables of your choice and the chutney. Or serve it in warm wraps with the chutney and some extra plain yoghurt and maybe some shredded lettuce or rocket.

Serves 8

Sticky Asian Lamb in a Slow Cooker

Our friend Juliette recently posted a recipe for Slow Cooked Sticky Asian Lamb on Facebook. It looked delicious so I saved it.

The recipe uses a whole leg of lamb, but the other day I was in the supermarket when they decided to mark down all their one kilo packs of forequarter lamb chops to $2 a packet. I couldn’t resist buying a few for the freezer as they were almost giving them away. I decided to make the Sticky Lamb using 2 kilos of chops instead of a leg. It was delicious and would makes a great dish for a large family or casual entertaining.

Sticky Asian Lamb in a Slow Cooker

1 whole leg of lamb, bone in, or 2kg lamb chops
1-2 Tbs oil
½ cup Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce)
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
3 star anise
8 cm piece of ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
2 sticks lemongrass, cut into two and bruised with a meat hammer
4 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
To serve:
1 packet rice noodles
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs toasted sesame seeds
6 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Asian greens such as Bok Choy, steamed

Trim meat, discarding any fat which is easy to remove. Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry meat all over until nicely browned and caramelised. If using chops you will need to do them in 2-3 batches. Place in slow cooker.

Mix all ingredients for the sauce and pour over the meat. If you’re using chops rather than a leg of lamb you will need to add a bit more liquid, so add a cup of water. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 hours on High. Every couple of hours turn meat over to make sure it’s well-covered with the sauce.

Remove meat from slow cooker when it’s very tender and falling off the bones. Using two forks shred the meat, discarding bones and lemongrass. If there’s a lot of fat in the sauce, put it in the freezer until the fat sets on top and can be easily removed and discarded.

Place sauce in a small saucepan and boil to reduce a bit. You want a thickish sticky sauce, but don’t over-do it or you will end up with too little. I didn’t need to reduce my sauce, but this will depend on your slow cooker because they vary a lot in temperature. I shredded the meat and put it back into the sauce in the slow cooker and left it there on Low for an hour, until I was ready to serve.

Cook noodles according to packet instructions, drain, season and add the sesame oil. Pile noodles onto a large serving platter or divide among individual plates. Top with the meat and sauce then garnish with sesame seeds and spring onions. Serve steamed greens in another dish and let people help themselves.

Serves 6-8

Armenian Moussaka

I have two recipes for Moussaka. One is a traditional Greek Moussaka which I make with minced lamb or beef. The other one is called Armenian Moussaka. It’s much quicker to make and a dish I invariably serve the day after we’ve had roast lamb. The quantity of meat is flexible and it’s a good way to introduce kids to eggplant.

Armenian Moussaka

1 very large eggplant (aubergine) or 2 medium
olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tin condensed tomato soup (see notes below)
1 beef stock cube, crumbled
¼ cup red wine or dry sherry
2-4 cups leftover roast lamb, cut into 2cm cubes (see notes below)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
About 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Fry eggplant slices in olive oil on both sides until golden. You will need to do this in 2 or 3 batches. Drain on paper towels. Wipe out the pan with paper towels and add a little more oil. Gently fry onions and garlic until soft then add the meat, tomato soup, stock cube and sherry or wine. Season to taste then simmer for a few minutes, stirring often.

In a greased lasagne-type dish layer half the meat mixture, then half the eggplant slices, the rest of the meat, then the rest of the eggplant slices. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Serve with a mixed salad.

Serves 4-6

Note: The original recipe used a tin of chopped tomatoes and half a cup of thick leftover gravy from the roast lamb. So you can either use that or replace the two with a can of condensed soup. if you don’t have any leftover roast lamb, use minced fresh lamb or beef. Once the onions and garlic are soft, add mince and continue cooking and stirring for a few minutes until browned, then add tomato soup (or tin tomatoes and gravy), stock cube, sherry and half a cup of water and simmer for about 15 minutes until the excess liquid has evaporated, meat is tender and sauce is thick.

Lamb with Dried Apricots & Chick Peas

This Moroccan-style casserole makes a delicious mid-week family dinner.

If you have more time to cook at the weekend, it will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and the flavour actually improves with keeping. Or you can double the recipe and freeze half.

If you don’t have any ground cloves just leave them out. The preserved lemon gives a very distinct flavour and is worth getting. You can buy them in specialty shops or make your own from this recipe for preserved Kumquats – just use lemons instead. They keep for months, even years, without refrigeration.

Couscous is a quick and easy accompaniment to serve with this casserole. Place a cup of dry couscous in a bowl and add a cup of boiling water or stock. Stir then cover and leave for 2-3 minutes to swell up. Fluff up with a fork, season to taste and voila, it’s ready to serve.

Lamb with Dried Apricots & Chick Peas2 Tbs oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500-600g lean lamb cut into 2-3cm cubes
½ tsp each ground cumin, coriander and mixed spice
¼ tsp each ground nutmeg, cloves and chilli or cayenne pepper
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can chick peas, drained
1 cup beef stock or water and 1 stock cube
½ cup dried apricots, cut in half if large
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbs preserved lemon rind, chopped (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Couscous, cooked
Fresh coriander, chopped
2 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted

Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan or a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring for 2-3 mins until softening but not brown. Add the meat and continue to cook over moderately high heat until the meat has browned. Add all the spices and continue to cook, stirring, for 1-2 mins. Add remaining ingredients and season to taste. Simmer for 15-30 mins or until meat is tender, adding a little water if necessary. Serve with couscous and garnished with the coriander and pine nuts.

Serves 4

Variations: use raisins, dates, prunes or figs instead of apricots. Use parsley instead of coriander, toasted slivered almonds instead of pine nuts and serve with rice or mashed potatoes instead of couscous.

Lamb & Quince Tajine in a Slow Cooker

Moroccans make their casseroles in earthenware cooking dishes with domed lids called tajines. So the word “tajine” is used to refer to both the cooking pot and the casserole you make in it. Recipes often combine meat or poultry with dried or fresh fruit and sometimes include some honey and a few nuts.

We planted a quince tree about three years ago and recently picked our first quinces. Just two. So I decided to use them in a Moroccan lamb and quince casserole. Instead of using my traditional cooking pot, which I bought when we were holidaying in Marrakesh, I made it in my slow cooker.

Fresh or frozen pomegranate seeds add a nice splash of colour, but they’re not essential. They freeze well – so stash some away when they’re in season. A little goes a long way as a garnish.

I made a large stacking ring by removing the top and bottom from a 425g can of tuna and used it to arrange the couscous in the centre of the plate with the lamb on top.

Lamb & Quince Tajine in a Slow Cooker2 Tbs olive oil
1.2kg lean lamb, cut into 2cm dice (leg or shoulder)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp chilli powder or flakes
1 tsp turmeric
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
½ tsp saffron threads
2 quinces, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 Tbs honey
4 Kaffir lime leaves (optional)
2½ cups chicken stock (or water and a cube)
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
1 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Heat oil in a large frying pan and brown meat on both sides in two or three batches. Remove meat and place in slow cooker. Add garlic and onion to pan and cook gently, stirring, for 5-10 mins or until softened. Add the five dry spices and cook for one minute, stirring.

Add the spice and onion mixture to the slow cooker with the quinces, honey, stock, lime leaves and fish sauce. Cover and cook on High for 5-6 hours (or on Low for 8-10 hours), adding the sweet potato and chickpeas about halfway through the cooking time. Slow cookers vary, so you will have to adjust the cooking time as you go. If possible check and stir the tajine every hour or so.

Serve tajine on a bed of couscous, garnished with chopped coriander, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.

Serves 8

Note: if preferred, cook the casserole in a heavy casserole dish with a lid in the oven at 170°C for about two hours, adding the sweet potato and chickpeas about halfway through.