How times change when you have a new chum in the kitchen. Many years ago I wrote an essay critical of a prominent political figure, who, in the midst of a marriage crisis, announced he was taking on the role of his recently departed wife, and cooking for the kids. His first attempt at glory, he said, was to make a shepherd’s pie, one of his all-time favourites; he found a recipe (any recipe, I’m guessing) and off he went to the supermarket to buy the ingredients.
My criticism? It had nothing to do with the endeavour; more strength to him. It was that, at that time, I looked on shepherd’s pie as a classic example of turning leftovers into triumph, with a bit of effort and some sleight of hand. It’s not, I wrote then, something you start from scratch.
But, how times change when your new chum is a Thermomix and the head-to-head challenge is slow-cooked mince: the Thermomix vs a heavy-based cookpot.
Before I started the challenge my thinking was there was no way slow-cooked mince in the Thermomix would be any match for that cooked traditionally on the stove, stirring, stirring. What a surprise it was when I discovered that the Thermomix version won hands down, (with some assistance from the pot)—the flavours were the same (no surprises there), but the texture of the Thermomix version was sublime. There was no sense of the “crumb” that happens occasionally with long-cooked mince. This version had a sensuousness that was more akin to the texture of slow-cooked apples than any cooked mince I had tasted before. That’s not to say it had lost its structure; it was just perfect.
Plus, the Thermomix version was cooked in half the time, with no stirring, no observations, no burned bottoms, no worries.
The beauty of this breakthrough is that this recipe can be used for any dish that starts with mince and has added flavours and partners—from bolognese sauce to meat pies. It’s there for the taking.
This recipe also used the Thermomix for two of its other great attributes: making great minced meat, and superior mashed potatoes, both fundamental to the perfect shepherd’s pie.
PS: there’s a happy ending to this story. After a brief separation, the couple was reunited and continues to live happily ever after. And, an apology, sir: making shepherd’s pie from scratch is now a permanent part of my cooking repertoire, as long as the Thermomix is there to help.