slow-cooked shepherd's pies

serves 6, hands-on time 45 minutes, oven time 2 hours 25-30 min

Cook the lamb filling without the potato topping up to 48 hours in advance. Cool, then cover and chill for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. The fully prepared pie(s) will keep unbaked for 48 hours or can be frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost before serving, then follow the baking instructions in the recipe (step 6), adding an extra 10-15 min to the cooking time.

If you prefer cottage pie, use beef shin or braising steak instead of the lamb shoulder. You could also make a single pie in a 2 litre baking dish - add an extra 10-15 minutes to the cooking time.

Light olive oil or vegetable oil for frying
1.3kg lamb shoulder, diced
1 onion, finely sliced
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
400g carrots, sliced diagonally 1cm thick
2 leeks, sliced diagonally 1cm thick
60g plain flour
2 tbsp tomato purée
300ml red wine
400g tin chopped tomatoes
300m1 lamb/beef stock
A few fresh thyme and/or rosemary sprigs
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

for the topping
1kg maris piper potatoes, cut into 3cm chunks
50g butter
100g mature cheddar, grated

you'll also need...
Large, shallow flameproof casserole with a lid
6 x 300m1 pie dishes (or see tips)

1 Heat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/ gas 3. Heat a glug of oil in the casserole and, when hot, add the diced lamb shoulder. Sear on a high heat for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until browned all over. Set the lamb aside on a plate.

2 Add a little more oil to the casserole, turn down the heat and add the onion. Gently fry for 5 minutes, then add the garlic, carrots and leeks and fry for another 10 minutes, stirring now and then.

3 Return the lamb to the casserole, stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the tomato purée and red wine. Stir well, turn up the heat and bubble the wine for a few minutes to reduce, then add the chopped tomatoes, stock, herbs and Worcestershire sauce. Stir again, season with salt and pepper and put the lid on the casserole. Transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

4 Put the potato chunks in a large pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until soft. Drain well, put back in the pan and leave to steam dry for a minute or so, then mash with the butter until smooth. Taste, season well with salt and pepper and set aside.

5 When the lamb is ready, remove the sprigs of herbs from the sauce, taste and season (you might want to add a little more Worcestershire sauce). Divide the lamb mixture evenly among the 6 pie dishes, then top with the mash. Alternatively leave the lamb in the shallow casserole and top with the mash or spoon into a baking dish (see tips and Make Ahead).

6 Scatter the grated cheese over the pie(s) and bake for 25-30 minutes (see Make Ahead) until the tops are golden and the stew bubbles out around the sides. Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then serve with buttered greens or peas.

per serving: 803kcals, 34.8g fat (16.3g saturated), 55.8g protein, 52.3g carbs (13.3g sugars), 1.4g salt, 9.7g fibre

wine editor's choice: A mellow, oak-aged rioja - choose one labelled crianza or reserva - marries beautifully with these.