By Darina Allen
I'VE JUST tucked into a delicious shepherd's pie, with garlic butter melting into the crispy potato on top.
I hadn't intended it to be quite so crispy but I put it into the Aga, poured myself a glass of wine and almost forgot about it.
We occasionally make it the day after we have had a roast leg of lamb. It's best made with cooked lamb and leftover gravy; it tastes quite different when it's made with raw minced lamb or beef - the latter apparently should be called cottage pie.
Nonetheless, one doesn't always have leftover cooked lamb, and good fresh mince is the basis of so many heartwarming dishes and myriad other funky ones.
The secret of all mince is freshness - beef needs to be well hung and freshly minced. I am pernickety about mince and will only use it on the day it has been minced, not just for food safety reasons, but because it quickly sours even if it is carefully refrigerated.
If you cannot cook it on the day, form the mince into a flat block and pop it in the freezer. It will keep for several months but it's much better to use it up within a week or two.
Freshly minced pork makes the most delicious homemade sausages or patties. One of these recipes uses fresh herbs as a seasoning, but pork really benefits from spices, particularly coriander and chilli. Chubby little sausages are great dipped in a bowl of sweet chilli sauce which has been sharpened with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
A nice spicy mince mixture is a great standby - it's great with pasta, wrapped in lettuce leaves, or used as a filling for a wrap. With a topping of mashed potatoes it makes a deliciously comforting dish to tuck into on a cold evening.
Buy your mince from your local butcher - he can mince it freshly as you wait and you can choose the cut you want. Remember, for extra succulence, it should have a small proportion of fat.