50g unsalted butter
sea salt and white pepper
8 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 fresh bay leaves
500g British veal mince
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 organic chicken stock cube
1/4 of a tin of John Smith’s Bitter (110ml)
800g fluffy potatoes, such as Maris Piper
150g button or chestnut mushrooms
200ml single cream
50g Cheddar cheese
Peel the onions and carrots, cut roughly into 1cm pieces, then gently fry in a large pan with a couple of drizzles of olive oil, a knob of butter, a few good pinches of salt and white pepper, the thyme leaves and bay leaves. Cook on a medium to hight heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened. Add the veal mince and flour, grate in the lemon zest, and crumble in the stock cube. Keep cooking, stirring and breaking up the mince, until the liquid from the meat starts to evaporate. Once it starts to fry again and takes on a little bit of colour, pour in the bitter and just enough water to cover the mince by 1cm. Bring everything to the boil, then turn down to a low heat and simmer with the lid askew for 1 hour. Keep your eye on it and stir occasionally.
When the mince has been cooking for about 30 minuter, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Peel and quarter the potatoes and cook them in a pan of boiling salted water for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender and cooked through. Drain, allow to steam for 2 to 3 minutes, season well, then mash with a good splash of milk and a few knobs of butter. Put aside.
At this point, finely slice the mushrooms and add to the mince, then pour in the cream. Season to taste and bring back to the boil for a few minutes, or until the mixture has thickened up a bit. Pour it into an earthenware dish, tin or casserole-type pan (roughly 24 x 24cm) that you’re happy to have in the middle of the table. Grate over the Cheddar, then use a fork to dollop and drop a mountain range of mashed potato over the pie so it looks rustic. Or use a fork to squash it down and make squiffs and quiffs. Put the pie into the oven and cook for around 40 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve with some sprouting broccoli, spring greens and fresh peas.