I have memories of a pie at school made with mince, served in a flat tray with pastry on top; I think it had a layer of mashed potato under the pastry, too. I've had a similar dish up in the north of England, so that's probably where it originated. We would normally be served this with mashed swede, which was a perfect match for me and this pie. Watery cabbage... not so much.
700-800g good-quality, lean minced lamb or beef, or a mixture of the two
Vegetable oil for frying
2 large onions, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
½tbsp tomato purée
1ltr beef stock (a couple of good stock cubes will do)
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 glass red wine (optional)
2 servings of firmly mashed potato
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pastry
225g self-raising flour
85g shredded beef suet
60g butter, chilled and coarsely grated
1 medium egg, beaten
Season the minced meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat some vegetable oil in a large, heavy frying pan until it is almost smoking, and cook the meat in a couple of batches for a few minutes, turning it with a wooden spoon until it's lightly coloured, then drain in a colander to remove all the fat.
In a thick-bottomed pan, heat some more vegetable oil and gently fry the onion, garlic and thyme without colouring until they are very soft. Add the meat, dust it with the flour and add the tomato purée.
Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, then gradually add the red wine, Worcestershire sauce and the beef stock; bring to the boil and simmer for about 1 hour, until the liquid has thickened. Take it off the heat, check the seasoning and allow it to cool. >
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. To make the pastry, mix the flour and salt with the suet and grated butter. Mix in about 150ml of water to form a smooth dough and knead for a minute.
Roll the pastry on a floured table to about 1cm thick and cut out to about 2cm larger (all the way round) than the shallow pie dish you are using. Transfer the meat to the dish then top with the mashed potato.
Brush the edges of the pastry with a little of the beaten egg and lay the pastry on top of your pie, pressing the egg-washed sides against the rim of the dish and overlapping the rim.
Cut a small slit in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape, or you can use an old-fashioned pie bird if you have one. Brush with beaten egg and leave to rest in a cool place for 30 minutes. Bake for about 40-50 minutes until golden.