Shepherd's pie is one of those things that I've spent most of my life accepting as one thing, but which turns out to be something else entirely. Like many of my acquaintance, I've always thought it was a dish made with minced beef - occasionally with some veg - in a rich gravy, topped with mashed potato. Turns out, shepherd's pie uses lamb, not beef, but is essentially otherwise the same. The beef version is apparently called cottage pie.
Here's my confusion: A shepherd is one who looks after a flock of sheep... surely he wouldn't be wanting a pie made out of one of his flock, or to be in a position where, at the barest hint of a rumbling tummy, his flock transform before his eyes into a buffet of tasty meals?
Perhaps logic should never be involved when naming foodstuffs.
Anyway. Here we have the second of three "Classic... by Sainsbury's" products I recently picked up for a mere £5. It's a decent-sized single-portion package that just needs to be cooked for 25 minutes (45 minutes from frozen). The package describes it as 'Braised minced New Zealand lamb in gravy with carrots topped with fresh buttery Maris Piper potato'. There's one small thing missing from that description - other than punctuation, that is - and that's onion, listed in the ingredients as 7% of the whole, making it slightly more substantial than the carrot (5%).
Now, New Zealand lamb is roundly regarded as good quality stuff, but even the best quality meat is going to lose a certain something when transported over 11,000 miles. No matter how much money one spends on lamb, by the time it's reached the UK high streets, it's generally become a little musty. I'm not sure if the whole 'gravy and veg' thing is meant to disguise this small fact, but it doesn't... certainly not in the case of this shepherd's pie.
Each mouthful is certainly richly flavoured, the potato is creamy and smooth, but the aftertaste borders on vile, and lingers for quite some time. Even after a drink and a sweet dessert, I could still detect hints of the minced lamb on my palate.
Then again, broadly speaking, this has been my experience of lamb in almost any form in recent years. Perhaps I should just accept that I don't much like lamb, and just avoid it entirely... and admit that this is probably not the fairest review in this blog... or at least suggest that shepherd's pie is probably best made fresh...