Cottage Pie

Cottage pie is a classic British dish. It has been around for centuries with the name dating back to the 1790s. Like shepherd’s pie, it comprises of a meat and vegetable filling – sometimes cooked in gravy –topped with mashed potato. Originally synonymous, shepherd’s pie is now used when referring to a minced lamb filling while cottage pie is used for minced beef. This is a staple meal at home and my mum has made cottage pie for dinner for years (though obviously not every day)! It’s utterly delicious and so easy to cook!

Making cottage pie go further is simple. All you have to do is bulk it out with more veg. Celery and carrot are common additions as are peas and sometimes mushrooms. If you want to add these, small chunks of carrot and celery should be added at the beginning and fried with the onion. When adding extra ingredients, you must take into account any liquid they will bring for example mushrooms will release a lot of juice which you have to account for when cooking. Peas should always be stirred through at the last minute before the filling is poured into the dish to ensure that they keep their colour and aren’t turned to mush. It is also easy to make cottage pie vegetarian or even vegan by using Quorn or soya mince instead of beef.

I have provided two recipes below. One is a dry recipe which does not have a gravy on it and the other is a saucy recipe which includes the gravy. The dry recipe is much faster and still utterly delicious but is far more basic so if you are less confident in the kitchen, it’s worth trying this one first and working your way up to the saucy recipe. There are two different versions of the mashed potato topping which are interchangeable. Again, the dry recipe topping is a bit more basic whereas the saucy recipe is topped with a creamy garlic mash. If you want to give your dish a little bit of that restaurant flare, you can pipe the mash on to provide a beautiful topping and even stir through some chives for a herby flavour.

Check out the recipes below and enjoy!

 

 

Dry recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Cost per portion: about £1.00

 

Ingredients:

500g minced beef

2 cloves garlic

2 onions

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (if you have any)

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp oil

 

For the topping:

500g potatoes

25g butter + 10g to go on top

salt

 

Peel the potatoes, roughly chop them and add them to a pan of cold salted water. Cover with a lid and turn on the heat beneath it. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer until a skewer or fork can go straight through the potatoes and they are soft. Once they are cooked, drain the potatoes and set aside.

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Turn the oven on to gas mark 6 (2000 C).

 

Dice the onions and place into a large pan with the oil.

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Mince the garlic, add to the onions and fry until the onions go translucent.

If you are using a frying pan, push the onions to the outside edge and add a quarter of the beef to the centre. If you are using a standard saucepan, just push all the onions to one side before adding the beef.

Keep stirring the beef in the centre until most of it has browned and then stir it into the onions.

Push the mixture back to the sides and add the next batch of beef.

Continue this until all the beef has been added.

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Stir through the Worcestershire sauce and the tomato paste. Cook for a further five minutes and then pour into an oven proof dish.

 

Mash the potatoes.

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Melt the butter in the microwave and mash it through the potatoes. This should still be a little lumpy.

Add salt to taste.

Spread the potatoes over the meat and rough up the top a little. The tiny bits of potato sticking up will crisp up faster giving a nice crunch when eaten.

Add a few small bits of butter to the top and bake for half an hour.

 

 

Saucy recipe

Prep time: 1hr 10 mins

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Cost per portion: about £1.10

 

Ingredients:

500g minced beef

2 cloves garlic.

2 Onions

1 Large carrot – finely grated

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (if you have any)

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp oil

400 ml beef or chicken stock

(If you have it) 100 ml sherry or red wine

4 tbsp flour

 

 

For the topping:

500g potatoes

25g butter + 10g to go on top

60ml milk

2 garlic cloves, minced

salt

 

Dice the onions and place into a large pan with some oil.

Mince the garlic, add to the onions and fry until the onions go translucent.

If you are using a frying pan, push the onions to the outside edge and add a quarter of the beef to the centre. If you are using a standard saucepan, just push all the onions to one side.

Keep stirring the beef in the centre until most of it has browned and then stir it into the onions.

Push the mixture back to the sides and add the next batch of beef.

Continue this until all the beef has been added.

Add in the stock, wine, Worcestershire sauce and the tomato paste.

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Mix the flour in a bowl with 100 ml water until it is smooth and once the beef mixture is bubbling, stir this in.

Make sure to keep stirring until the sauce has begun to thicken and then leave to simmer for 20 minutes.

Squeeze the grated carrot to try and remove as much liquid as possible. Stir it through the filling and let cook for another 10 minutes.

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The sauce should be thick and coat all the ingredients. If it looks a little runny, sprinkle another tablespoon of flour over beef mix and stir it through.

You can set this aside now or leave it to simmer until the topping is complete.

 

 

While the meat is simmering, turn the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

Peel and chop the potatoes.

Add them to salted cold water and bring to the boil.

Simmer until the potatoes are fully cooked.

Drain the potatoes and set aside.

Using the same saucepan, add the butter and let it melt. Tip in the garlic and fry.

The moment the garlic starts to brown or begin to stick, add the milk and heat until the milk is just about to boil.

Remove from the hob.

Mash the potatoes and then add the milk mix. Continue mashing to make a creamy topping.

 

Pour the meat into an oven proof dish and spread on the potato mix.

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Rough up the top of the potatoes and place a few small bits of butter on top.

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Bake for half an hour.

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Serve the cottage pie straight from the oven!

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It’s hard to get a pretty picture of cottage pie!

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy a traditionally British treat to eat for dessert, check out how to make a simple Victoria sponge. It’s incredibly easy to make and tastes delicious! If you aren’t that much of a fan of cottage pie, have a go at making some pan-seared salmon. It only takes 30 minutes but is sure to wow you and your friends.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with another traditional recipe, scones!

H

 

Basic Beef Stir Fry

The most important things when making a stir fry are heat and speed. The oil must be hot enough to cook the ingredients quickly so that nothing turns mushy and any meat you put in doesn’t become rubbery. Woks are ideal for something like this as they concentrate the heat in one area but also make sure that you can move the contents around the pan so everything can be cooked evenly.

Everyone uses different ingredients when they make a stir fry, but for me long strips of carrot and spring onion are essential when noodles are involved. Once they soften, you can twirl them up with the noodles into a delicious ball and eat! If you use rice instead of noodles, I would recommend cutting everything a little smaller – for example cutting spring onions into circles rather than lengthwise into strips. You can also add things like beansprouts for added crunch; peanuts are also a common addition at the end. It should be noted that beansprouts scorch easily at the high temperatures required to make a good stir fry but a way to avoid this is adding them just after the sauce and place them on top of the other ingredients which allows them to steam so they are cooked but still retain their crunchy texture.

In this recipe, I use glass noodles (sometimes called cellophane noodles). These appear transparent when cooked (unlike rice vermicelli which are opaque white) and take on the colour of whatever sauce they are in, so your dish will look beautiful. I am also a fan of standard rice noodles or even stick noodles in stir fry but you have to bear in mind that these are all cooked differently so you have to adjust your timings for the rest of the dish accordingly.

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The glass noodles have taken on all the colour from the sauce but are still shiny and inviting.

The final things which should be mentioned are the meat and the sauce that you decide to use. The high heat means you can seal the meat to prevent all the juices from leaking out but leave the inside relatively uncooked so that when the sauce is added, the meat can cook as the sauce reduces and coats all of the ingredients. Make sure the sauce isn’t too sweet as the sugar can burn, so if you see the sauce getting a bit thick and starting to caramelise, add a tablespoon of water to make sure everything cooks properly.

To give your stir fry a restaurant finish, add some raw beansprouts to one side, sprinkle over some fresh herbs and thinly sliced spring onions. You can also add some crushed peanuts when making dishes like pad thai. As with most dishes, a little garnish goes a long way so I would always recommend experimenting until you find the method of plating up that looks best to you!

 

 

Stir Fry

Prep time: 10 minutes (optional extra 20 minutes if leaving the beef to marinade)

Cook time 10 minutes

Serves 2

Cost per portion: around £1.80

 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp sherry (optional)

2 tsp honey

2 cloves garlic

1 inch ginger

1 bunch of spring onions

1 large carrot

170g frying steak or thinly sliced beef

2 portions of glass noodles

Vegetable oil

 

 

Peel the garlic and ginger and finely chop both.

Stir in the soy sauce, sherry and honey.

Thinly slice the beef and add to the sauce and leave for about 20 minutes (if you have time).

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Peel the carrot and then use the peeler to thinly slice the carrot lengthwise into long strips.

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Slice the spring onions lengthwise into quarters.

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Soak the noodles according to the instructions on the packet but take one minute off the soaking time as the noodles will soften more later – drain the noodles.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and add the carrot and spring onion.

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Once they start to soften, move the carrots and onion to the side of the pan, lift the beef out of the marinade (reserving the liquid for later) and place it into the centre of the pan.

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Turn the beef until all of it is sealed on the outside (and it all looks an opaque brown).

The moment the beef is sealed, add the noodles and reserved marinade and stir to mix everything together.

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Keep cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed into the noodles.

Serve piping hot and enjoy!

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This stir fry also keeps very well in the fridge and can be reheated easily in the microwave.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe and if you fancy a very different dinner, check out my recipe for spinach and ricotta lasagne or if you want to try your hand at a posh dessert, why not make some choux pastry and finish your meal with profiteroles?

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a recipe for an exciting, fancy apple tart.

H

Beef Wellington

Despite popular belief, the Beef Wellington has no known association with the Duke of that name other than sharing a common name. In fact, the first appearance of the name was in the Los Angeles Times just over one hundred years ago when there was a recipe for “Fillet of beef, a la Wellington” however this wasn’t anything like the beef wellington we know and love today. The modern form seems to have only existed for around forty years, however it is very similar to other dishes such as Salmon en Croûte so it could have been around for longer.

Traditionally made with fillet steak, pate de foie gras, mushroom duxelle and puff pastry, the Beef Wellington is rich and filling. It is often wrapped in a crepe before the pastry is added as this prevents the juices turning the pastry soggy! I have found that making a good mushroom duxelle prevents this, so you don’t need to worry about making a fiddly crepe for my recipe below. If you sear the meat properly and make sure all the liquid is absorbed or evaporated off when you make the mushroom mix, there will be a good seal to prevent any juices from leaking out! Although I don’t do it myself, it is not uncommon for people to wrap the duxelle covered wellington in parma ham instead of a crepe.

No single part of Beef Wellington takes more than 10 minutes at most (excluding the cooking) however after each step, the ingredients must be cooled. This is an absolute must as if the beef or the mushroom is warm, the butter in the pastry will melt resulting in the pastry sliding straight off the meat in the oven!

In my recipe, I do not use foie gras or the crepe as I don’t have time to make them and I am trying to do all of this on a student budget. Personally I don’t feel like the flavour of the dish was inhibited by this however if you want to add them, the foie gras is spread over the meat before the duxelle, and then the crepe is wrapped around everything before the pastry is added!

 

Beef Wellington

Serves 2 or 4 (makes 2 large portions or 4 smaller half wellingtons)

Prep time: 20 minutes     Rest time: 1 hour           Cook time: 30 minutes

Price per portions – £3.10 if you make two or £1.55 if you make four

 

2 fillet steaks (about 340g meat)

One large packet of puff pastry (I use prerolled for this)

250g chestnut mushrooms

4 spring onions or one shallot

Butter (or oil) for frying

Salt and Pepper

1 egg – beaten

 

Optional:
Sprig of thyme (small)

60ml sherry, madeira or white wine

One small clove of garlic

 

 

First prepare the mushroom duxelle.

Finely chop the mushrooms and spring onions (or shallot).

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Melt the butter in a pan and once it starts bubbling, add the mushrooms and shallots.

Fry for a minute stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Add in 60ml water (or the wine) along with the salt and pepper (and the thyme and garlic if you are using it – normally I would never condone the use of only one clove or garlic however this is such a small recipe for duxelle that any more garlic would overpower everything!)

Keep stirring the mixture until all the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated – this should take about 5-10 minutes.

Once the liquid has evaporated, you should be left with a paste which holds its shape when stirred. Remove this from the heat and let cool.

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While the duxelle is cooling, heat up a frying pan with some olive oil or butter.

Add the beef and fry for 1-2 minutes on one side to sear the meat. Then sear the edges but not the other side. You want the pan to be very hot so you can caramelise the outside of the beef but not cook the inside.

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Once the beef is seared, remove it from the pan and let it cool for 10 minutes. Cut in half width wise and place the unseared sides together to get smaller but taller pieces of meat.

Once the beef and duxelle have cooled, it’s time to assemble the wellingtons!

Cut your pastry in half as you will be making two wellingtons. If you are using prerolled pastry, place it on a surface and roll it out a little bit more to add another inch or two so it will definitely cover the meat. Cut this piece in half again for the top and bottom pieces of pastry.

Spread a small amount of duxelle onto the lower piece leaving room around the edges and place one of the pieces of meat on top of it.

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Add more duxelle around the sides and on the top of the meat sealing it in to prevent the juices escaping and the pasty going soggy.

Top with the other half of the pastry using a small amount of beaten egg around the outside to seal the pastry together – try not to have any air bubbles.

Using a fork, press down around the edge of the wellington to make sure the pastry has sealed together.

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Repeat this with the remaining meat, pastry and duxelle and place the wellingtons in the fridge for at least half an hour – they can be left like this for several hours if you prepare in advance.

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C)

Remove the wellingtons from the fridge and lightly brush them with the remaining beaten egg.

Bake for half an hour turning at around 20 minutes for medium rare beef.

Let the wellingtons sit for 5-10 minutes before serving so the meat isn’t tough (cover them with some silver foil to prevent them getting too cold!)

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A little seepage around the edge doesn’t matter as long as you remove any liquid before leaving the wellington to rest!
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Serve with roasted vegetables and gravy for a hearty meal.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe, let me know what you think in the comments below! If you fancy making something a little Christmassy for next week, check out my Gingerbread House recipe or for another yummy dinner, try my sticky salmon, it’s not to be missed!

Join me next week on Christmas Day for an incredibly festive Yule Log – it’s quick and easy and can be made up in no more than two hours so is perfect for a last minute dessert!