Bearhands and I bought the farm in 2005. We were a three man team – Bearhands, Tiger and I (not even kidding!). I worked my off-farm job from 5am-2pm then came home, changed, and got on the harvester until dark. When I came inside I cooked our dinner, then did farm paperwork til I passed out. Every. Day.
Money was tight. Prior to farming I’d earned a reliable wage, I lived within my means, I had savings. I’d taken things like filling the car for granted. After we bought the farm I felt like a poor student again. I’d taken a huge step backwards financially, despite working harder than I ever had.
All this with a bloke I wasn’t married to. I’d taken a massive leap of faith, but I was worried.
In that first year two companies went under owing us thousands of dollars and I feared we’d go under too. During one particularly difficult week, I told Bearhands that would farm with him for ten years, then I was out of here. This was too hard. I was exhausted. I couldn’t sustain the stress.
Bearhands has always been steadfast in his vision. He’s been quick to wipe my tears and coax me back on the tractor. He’s also very indulgent of the fact that nowadays I need to photograph his dinner before he eats it!
I’ve been making this recipe since we first started farming. It’s the simple hearty food that Bearhands likes the most. Back then, if I made this, we’d get a couple of dinners and a smoko out of it. These days, it’s a family dinner that everyone loves. At our place, Bearhands calls it Manda Pie, but the rest of the world know it as Shepherd’s Pie.
Easy Shepherd’s Pie
There are many versions of Shepherd’s Pie, many of which are much fancier than this one. This is EASY Shepherd’s Pie, perfect for tired cooks and their hungry families.
2 brown onions
1kg beef mince (get the good stuff if your budget will stretch to it)
2 beef stock cubes
500g frozen vegetables (I use a mix of peas, corn, carrot & capsicum) or dice your own.
1 400g tin lentils
3 tbs tomato paste
salt and pepper
spuds, milk, butter etc. for mashed potatoes
grated cheese to top
Dice the onion and sauté in a large saucepan over a low-medium heat. Cook until translucent. Cooking the onion over a lower temperature will ensure the onion is sweet and doesn’t become bitter. (The same trick works for garlic).
Turn up the heat, add the mince and brown it while stirring to break up any lumps. Add the frozen vegetables, lentils and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Crumble the stock cubes on top and stir in. Add the water, reduce the heat and simmer for about thirty minutes.
In the meantime, boil your potatoes in salty water for about fifteen minutes or until soft. Then add a splash of milk, a knob of butter and mash. Season to taste.
After the meat mixture has finished simmering, ladle the mix into a large casserole dish (or six smaller dishes for individual serves). Top the mix with mashed potato and cheese and bake for twenty minutes at 180°C, or until the top of the pie is golden brown.
In October my ten years will be up, but I’m not going anywhere. Our hard work seems to have started making sense. We no longer do the work of ten people. We have a book keeper (bless her heart) who has allowed me to retire my terrible accounting skills. I can fill the car up regardless of which day of the week it is and although I’m still up early with the kids, my shift rarely starts at 5am.
This is where our girls make mud pies and yell FASTER as we zoom across the paddock in the gator.
ever made a leap of faith?
did it work out in the end?1