Tag Archives: comfort food

Cottage Pie! Comfort food at it’s best!!

7 Mar

There are days when nostalgia takes over and you want to eat something great that you remember from your childhood.  This is one of those days!  The sunshine from yesterday has gone, replaced by dark clouds.  Its time to eat something really comforting like Cottage Pie.

I remember eating cottage pie at my Grandmothers on a Monday dinner time.  Dinner time , in those days, was always 1300 hours.  If you were a minute late your dinner would be in the dog!!!!  She would have been a great sea captain! 

There is something fantastic about the smell of cottage pie as it cooks in the oven and the crunch as the spoon breaks through the crispy edges of the mashed potato to reveal the luscious beef mix below.  Yum!!!!!!!!  Grandma used to make hers using the beef left over from Sunday Lunch.  There was never very much beef, not even on the Sunday, so she would mince it and pad it out with chopped up vegetables.  I suppose it was one way of getting her Grandchildren to eat them.  Whatever the agenda, I know that we all loved her pie.  While we are talking of not wasting food, for tea we would eat dripping from the roast beef, spread onto warm toast and sprinkled with a little salt.  Oh, the memories! 

There are all sorts of variations on the cottage pie.  Shepherds pie is the most common, and is associated with minced lamb rather than beef.  Cottage Pie was first recorded in 1791 when the potato was used by the poor.  Cottage came from the work cottages they lived in.

I’ve tried all sorts of Cottage Pie recipes.  One included baked beans, some with cheese mixed into the potato topping, some tending towards an Italian version, using pancetta and red wine in the beef mix.  All were really tasty and healthy too.  My favourite though has to be my Grandmas version.  I am serving it with boiled cabbage and gravy.  Heaven!

Grandmas’s Cottage Pie          (Serves 4)

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick celery, roughly chopped
  • 500g (1lb) beef mince (lean)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Splash Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)
  • 500 ml (1pt) beef stock
  • 1kg (2 lbs) old potatoes (I use Maris Piper), peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • Knob of butter
  • A little milk.
    1. Heat the oil in a pan then add the onion, carrots and celery.  Fry on a medium heat for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften but are not coloured.
    2. Add the beef mince, crumbling to break up any large lumps.  When browned, add the tomato puree and Worcestershire Sauce.  Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.  Add the stock, mix well.  Bring to the boil then simmer over a low heat for about 30 minutes.
    3. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. 
    4. Meanwhile, make the mashed potato.  Add the potatoes to salted boiling water, cover and simmer over low heat until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).  Drain well then return to pan.  Add the butter and milk and mash everything together until smooth.
    5. When the beef is ready tip into ovenproof dish.  Top with the potato then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is browned and the beef is bubbling around the edges.
    6. If you want to, you can freeze this at the end of Step 4.  Make sure it is cold before you put it in the freezer.  Defrost and continue with Step 5 when you want to eat it. 

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    Low fat Cottage Pie – really delicious

    18 Oct

    DSCI0415I seem to have been on a diet all my life and yet I never seem to get any thinner so I have. at long last, decided that I need to eat more healthily and make subtle changes that will see the weight come off gradually.  This recipe is one of many that I love in Judith Wills book ‘Top 200 low-fat recipes’.  Some of the recipe are my most loved dishes and I make them frequently but this was the first time I had tried this one.

    So what makes this dish lower in fat and yet taste so good.  Firstly I think it must be because of the addition of some vegetables and baked beans. These not only bulk out the mince but give it a lovely flavour. As I used very leans minced beef this was essential.  She also uses herbs and flavourings to bring all the flavours together. I made a slight change in the herbs I used but it still tasted wonderful.  Finally she has replaced some of the potato with parsnip and has used light mayonnaise and low-fat fromage frais to mash them together instead of butter and cream. You would not believe how tasty the topping was. I think I might use this method of making mash in the future!

    Well here is the recipe, only 400 calories for a generous portion.

    Cottage pie                                     Serves 4

    • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
    • 400g extra lean minced beef
    • 1 large onion finely chopped
    • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
    • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
    • 200g can baked beans in tomato sauce, lightly mashed down
    • 1 tbsp tomato puree
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    • salt and black pepper
    • 300 ml beef stock

    For the topping

    • 400g old potatoes, peeled and cubed
    • 250g parsnips, peeled and cubed
    • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
    • 2 tbsp low fat natural fromage frais
    • 1 tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese
    1. Preheat the oven to 180C/170C fan/gas 4.
    2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and sauté the beef until browned, breaking it up as you go. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.  In the remaining fat sauté the onion, carrot and celery over a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until softened. Add a little water if it looks as though it is getting too dry.
    3. Return the meat to the pan and mix well. Add the beans, tomato puree, herbs, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and stock.  Mix together really well then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water if it looks too dry and is sticking to the pan.
    4. Meanwhile make the topping. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the potatoes and parsnips and simmer until tender. Drain. Mash them with the mayonnaise and fromage frais, season to taste them mash again. If the potato seems too dry add a little skimmed milk.
    5. when the meat is cooked, adjust seasoning if necessary then pour into a shallow oven dish.  Put the potato mix on top and smooth out then sprinkle with the cheese.
    6. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling underneath.

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    Fish Pie, yum yum!

    15 Mar

     There are all sorts of fish pie and I have tried loads of recipes but I still prefer the one I have been making for years.  It isn’t complicated and does not contain a lot of fat, it’s just great comfort food.  I can always tell when a recipe is good as there is silence around the table when people are eating, broken with the occasional mmmm!  Last night, when we had this, was just such an occasion.  The best thing about this pie is you don’t need to get hung up on the contents.  Last night I make it with cod, salmon and prawns.  I never put boiled eggs in as some of my friends hate them and, I have to say, I struggle a bit when they are in a fish pie.  Some people don’t like prawns so if I am feeding them, I simply substitute the prawns with smoked haddock.  This works really well and gives the pie a great smoky flavour.

    I thought todays food trivia could be about cod.  Cod is a really popular fish with dense white flesh and a mild flavour.  The livers are processed to make cod liver oil, an excellent source of vitamins A, D and E and omega 3 fatty acids.  I remember my Mum making me take cod liver oil tablets in the winter when I was a child.  I hated them, firstly because I couldn’t swallow them and, secondly because they repeated on me and left a foul taste in my mouth.  In the UK, cod is the main fish used in the traditional Fish and Chips, along with haddock, but due to popularity, cod is currently at risk of being over fished in the UK, Canada and most other Atlantic countries.  This has caused controversy dating back to 1990, since when various committees and Government Departments have tried to restrict the fishing of cod.  Thankfully, we are still able to buy it but it is now much more expensive than when I first made this fish pie.

    Anyway, here is the recipe.  It is a meal in one so there is no need to add more vegetables when you serve it, unless you want to of course.

    Fish Pie                                 Serves 4 (easily halved or doubled)

    • 250g/10oz white fish fillets (cod or haddock are best), skinned, checked for bones and cut into 2 inch pieces
    • 250g/10oz fresh salmon fillets, skinned, checked for bones and cut into 2 inch pieces
    • About 12 raw king prawns, all shell removed
    • 750ml/1.5 pts semi-skimmed milk
    • 50g/2oz unsalted butter
    • 50g/2oz plain flour
    • 1 onion, peeled and studded with 3-4 cloves
    • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
    • 100g/4oz frozen peas

    For the mashed potato topping

    • 1kg/2lbs potatoes (ones good for mashing)
    • knob of butter
    • a little milk
    1. Heat the oven to 200c/190c fan/gas 6.
    2. Cook the potatoes in salted water until tender.  Drain and mash down.  Add the butter and enough milk to make a soft but firm mash
    3. Put the studded onion and the milk in a pan, slowly bring to a simmer.  Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes.  Make sure the milk does not burn on the bottom of the pan as this will give it a bitter taste.
    4. Remove the milk from the heat, discard the onion and leave the milk to cool a little.
    5. In a separate pan, melt the butter then stir in the flour.  Cook over a low heat for a minute.  Slowly add the milk, stirring between each addition to prevent curdling.  When all the milk has been added bring slowly to a simmer, stirring, and cook until the sauce is thick and smooth.
    6. Add the fish and prawns to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in the chopped parsley and the peas and continue to cook for 1 more minute.
    7. Tip the fish and sauce into the bottom of an ovenproof dish.
    8. Top the fish sauce with the mashed potato then cook in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top is browning and the sauce is bubbling underneath.
    9. Serve, but be careful, it will be very hot!

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