Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Cottage Pie

When I go on holiday to Thailand, Greece or Italy for example, I never seem to be there long enough to sample all of the food on offer. I'm sure that many of you have experienced that same frustration. Well, I'm actually worse than that. Even at home there just aren't enough days in the week to cook or eat everything I want. Eventually after a few months I tend to have covered most dishes, then I have a flashback and think, I haven't had that for ages. I also spend so much time experimenting with cuisines from around the globe, I often overlook the British classics.

Everybody must have a recipe for Cottage Pie, even though they probably call it Shepherd's Pie. Basically, a traditional shepherd's pie is made with lamb mince, cottage is beef. Apart from that, anything goes! I hate these dishes that when served up just seem to disintegrate on the plate into a puddle of mush. To avoid this, I strain off most of the liquid which when reduced makes a great silky sauce. Anyway apart from tasting great, it's dirt cheap, around £1.50 per head for 4 people. I cook mine on the hob, although you can also cook it in the oven for an hour after frying off the mince and veg.

Ingredients : 500g lean beef mince, chopped onion, large carrot, 2 sticks of celery, tin of chopped tomatoes, 250ml beef stock, half a tube of tomato puree, few sprigs of thyme (stalks removed), small tin of sweetcorn, 2lbs floury potatoes ie maris pipers, milk, 25g butter, tbsp horseradish, seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, tbsp olive oil.

1. Dry fry the mince in a casserole dish / pan and set aside.
2. Saute the onion, celery and carrot in the olive oil.
3. Combine the veg with the mince, tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, thyme, sweetcorn, few lugs of Worcestershire sauce and seasoning. Mix well, cover and simmer for 45 mins / place in oven GM 4.
4. Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water. You time these to be ready about 5 minutes after the meat.
5. Place a sieve over a heavy bottomed pan. Using a ladle or large spoon, gradually strain off the liquid by pressing against the sieve. Don't push too hard as you want to retain the texture of the veg. Place the filling into a pie dish.
6. Mash the potatoes or if you're a gadget freak use a ricer. Add the butter, milk, horseradish and add more seasoning to taste. Spread over the filling and make a fancy pattern. Place under a hot grill until golden.
7. Meanwhile, reduce the liquor until you get a silky smooth sauce. To make it glossy, add a knob of butter. Check the taste as you may need a dash more Worcester sauce or seasoning.

This is a dish than can be prepared hours in advance and then finished off in the oven. It also freezes well. The star of the show however is the sauce for me, the more you reduce it, the more flavoursome it becomes.

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