Fruity Pork Cottage Pie

Autumn’s definitely here and the darker evenings call for comfort food. Cottage pie is definitely comforting. Since I didn’t have any leftover meat to make it with, I decided to try some pork mince rather than the usual beef or lamb. (Despite using pork I can’t quite bring myself to call it a Swineherd’s pie.) Fruity, sour flavours often go well with pork so I decided to throw in some sour stuff and balance it with some sweet bits. This is a bit over the top, maybe, but if the balance of sweet and sour is right, then it makes a refreshing alternative to the usual taste of a cottage.

For the “filling”:
2 small or 1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
500 g pork mince
5 or 6 mushrooms – common button ones will do – chopped coarsely
1 apple, cut into big chunks
Skin of ½ preserved lemon, finely chopped
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp sumac
1 tsp ground dried lime
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp tomato purée
10 smallish dried apricots, cut in half

For the topping:
900 g potatoes, suitable for mashing
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp mango chutney, the fruitier and sweeter the better
Small knob butter

In a nice big frying pan, start to soften the onion in a spray of oil. Add the carrot after a minute or so and pour in about ½ glass of water. Let this cook gently for about 7 or 8 minutes until the water has gone. Add the pork to the pan and stir over a medium heat until it starts to take on some colour. (If the pork produces a lot of fat, I think it’s worth pouring some of it off at this point).

Add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes. Add the preserved lemon and apple and cook for another minute or so. Stir in the chilli flakes, cumin, sumac, dried lime, pomegranate molasses, honey, lemon juice and tomato purée. Pour in just enough water to just about cover everything but don’t drown it – you may need as little as 100ml. Bring to a simmer, add a few grinds of pepper (don’t add salt at this stage, since the preserved lemon will be salty already) and stir in the dried apricots. Put on a lid and let it simmer gently for 90 minutes or so. Check and stir every so often. Add more water if it needs it – you don’t want it too thin but you definitely don’t want to let it dry out.

Adjust the seasoning for the mince mix and place it into a reasonably shallow ovenproof dish. Cook and mash the potatoes, but don’t add any butter, cream or milk while mashing however tempting it might be. Stir the mango chutney, the spring onions and the knob of butter into the potatoes and spread over the top of the mince mixture. Fluff the mash up a bit with a fork.

At this point you can set the dish aside and keep it chilled until you want to eat. Reheat the pie at 180°C (for a fan oven) for 30-40 minutes. Make sure that the dish is thoroughly heated through before serving. Personally I don’t mind if the potato picks up a bit of burnt-looking brown because I think it adds a different texture, but if you do mind, then cover with foil for most of the time the pie is reheating.

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