We’re in the middle of one of the weirdest winters in Maine that I can remember. There hasn’t been much in the way of snowfall; no, this year the headlines have described the massive swings in temperature, from one day to the next. As I type this, it’s 50 degrees and there are 50 mile-per-hour winds blowing. The day before yesterday, we woke up to morning temperatures of -6, with wind chills in the -25 to -30 degree range.
I think these weird, inconsistent swings are wreaking havoc on my internal chemistry. Like trees futilely pushing out Spring buds months ahead of time, I’m feeling a restlessness that normally doesn’t kick in until March or April. I can’t decide whether to get a short haircut and buy new running shoes, or get under an afghan with a bottle of whiskey and a bowl (or three) of Shepard’s Pie.
On the nights where comfort food continues to rule, even as the season winds down, recipes like this are all I want to eat. Ground lamb gets heavily seasoned with curry (don’t cheap out when buying a pre-mixed curry powder; quality matters), and then heaped with buttery, heavy cream-spiked mashed potatoes before taking a spin under the broiler for a few minutes to get everything all brown and bubbly. Left to my own devices, I would eat as much of this dish as there was available.
- 6 yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups cooked green peas
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Add potatoes to a large pot, and cover with water by one inch. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
- While potatoes are cooking, heat the oil over medium heat in a deep skillet or Dutch oven. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onions begin to turn translucent. Add the curry powder, cumin, and turmeric, and stir, cooking briefly for about a minute.
- Add the lamb, and break up large pieces with a spoon. Cook until brown, about ten minutes, then drain off excess fat. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the broiler. Drain the potatoes, return to the pot, and mash thoroughly with a potato masher. Add the heavy cream, two tablespoons of the butter, and salt and pepper, to taste. Stir well to combine.
- Spoon the meat mixture into a casserole dish or pie plate, then top with cooked peas. Top with the warm mashed potatoes, and smooth over the top. Break the remaining tablespoon of butter into little pieces, and sprinkle over the top.
- Run the mixture under the broiler until the top is golden brown. Serve immediately.