Cottage pie, cooking with friends

cottage pie

January has given way to February and despite the tentatively longer days, it’s still freezing in London Town making everyone sink into their scarves while praying for Spring. With the weather being so cold and of course wet (ugh!), it’s still comfort-food time. And when one of my favourite people (and favourite food blogger!) is in town for even more exciting projects (food photographers of the world be very scared!), it goes without question I grabbed the opportunity to cook for Eugenia and have my food feature in and be photographed for Eat Yourself Greek. Wouldn’t you???

Head straight to the recipe.

cottage pie

We Greeks are food-proud. Obsessed and almost narcissistic about “our” food. I remember (fondly) a dear English friend calling me a “food fascist” when I refused to eat tinned ravioli. I didn’t even know it was a thing! The truth is there are so many truly lovely British dishes that are not just slap-bang-in-the-middle the essence of comfort food, they are so easy to make. So when in England, let’s do it like the English; and when it’s cold outside, let’s eat pie. Cottage pie, in our case. With root vegetables in abundance, it’s an easy choice and a no-brainer. As for pudding (glykó), I can’t think of anything better than a rich chocolate tart with fresh raspberries. One thing you can always find fresh in England is raspberries. Keep an eye for this killer tart in the following post.

And so it begins. While Eugenia -her face lit up like a Christmas tree- unpacks her brand new, amazing camera with all the bells and whistles (and I am trying to look impressed), I am peeling away potatoes, carrots and parsnips. I am going over the recipe in my head, confident that I don’t really need to look it up anymore. “You can do it” I tell myself.  All the information is stored in my head. After all, I’ve made this all-time classic winter warmer several times (even in the British summer).

I can already picture it, steaming on a plate: the mince cooked in rich gravy with orange and green specks from carrots and peas poking through, tucked under a layer of creamy, velvety mash, courtesy of the potatoes and parsnips, with the added punch of the English mustard and a generous pinch of freshly ground nutmeg. My mouth is hungry already. With all my ingredients neatly arranged next to the hob, it’s time I started cooking.

For the perfect Cottage pie you will need:

Ingredients:

  • 750gr lean beef mince (the leaner the better, if you’re health conscious)
  • 2-3 large potatoes (you can also use sweet potatoes or half and half) peeled and cut in chunks
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 parsnips (optional), peeled and cut in chunks
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 small glass of red wine (optional)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tsp English mustard or any type mustard
  • Milk or cream (or evaporated milk)
  • A knob of butter
  • Nutmeg, freshly ground
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated parmesan (as little or as much as you want!)

How to make it:

  1. In a large saucepan heat 1-2 tbsp oil over medium heat and gently fry the onion for 8’ – 10’ until golden but not burned. Add the tomato purée and continue frying for a few more minutes until it has released its fragrance too. Raise the heat and add the mince, frying and turning regularly until brown.
  2. Add the wine, if using, and let it simmer for 5’ until most of the alcohol evaporates. Now add the carrots, stir them through and pour the stock and the Worcestershire sauce, season with salt and pepper and give it a good gentle stir, lower the heat and cook gently and uncovered until the carrots are soft, about  30’, and the stock has reduced. By this time the stock should be thick. If not, dust with the flour, mix well to dissolve it and slowly simmer for another 5’-10’.  Throw in the peas, at the last minute, give the mix a good gentle stir and let it simmer for 5’ more before removing from heat.
  3. Now it’s time to crack on with the mash. In a deep pot, cover the potatoes (and parsnips if using) in cold water and bring to the boil. Lower the temperature and simmer until tender for approx 20’. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 C. When the vegetables are done, drain the water and in the same pot mash thoroughly with a potato masher or a fork. Make sure you mash everything well to avoid lumpy bits- be patient my friends! Start adding milk (or cream), one dash at a time and a knob of butter, the mustard and a generous pinch of nutmeg and mix with a spoon. The mash must be velvety and fluffy; not too stodgy and not runny. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Take an ovenproof dish (mine is 18cm x27cm) and pour the mince, spreading it evenly. With a spoon or spatula take big dollops of mash and spread it over the mince to cover it completely. Don’t throw or pour the mash in the mince! For that “wow” factor, take a fork and gently draw wavy lines, vertically or horizontally, from one side of the dish to the other. Continue you’ve made a wavy pattern all over the mash. Finally sprinkle the cheese. Stick in the oven, on the middle shelf and bake for 30’-40’ until the cheese has melted and the top gets golden and crusty. You can use the grill at the very end if you need an extra crunch on your mash. Remove from the oven and wait 10’ before you serve. Voila!

from London with love,

Konstantinos & Eugenia

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