Saturday, 10 March 2012

Cottage Pie

I love cooking and feel that I'm pretty good at it.

But that wasn't always the case. My sister, Roxanne, loves to remind me of all of my early disasters. One of the earliest was a cottage pie which I made for the family dinner, when I was about 12 years old, which I added whole black peppercorns to in the hope that they would somehow melt into the meat filling, leaving a pleasant spicy flavour. Wrong. My family spent the entire meal crunching down onto randomly-scattered nuclear bombs, and no number of correctly-made future cottage pies could make up for that one disaster.

So, why did I carry on cooking? Well, I think that it was because I like eating, I like being creative and I like electrical kitchen gadgets, and I could see that if I tried to improve at cooking that I could eventually excel at it and be able to provide myself and my loved ones with an inexhaustable supply of delicious things to eat. And that's why I now do it.

Today's recipe is mercifully nuclear bomb-free, and is a (probably futile) attempt to finally put to rest the ribbing from my family about my early difficulties with this dish. No doubt I will serve it to them and still get asked to: 'pass the salt but not the pepper, thanks' etc (hilarious).

My mum puts a tin of baked beans in her meat filling, while pubs and cafes tend to make their cottage pie fillings a dark, vegetable-free affair. I like a veg-heavy, but baked bean-free, meat filling myself. I hope you do too.

Cottage pie is cheap to make, at £1.50 per serving.

Serves 4


500g ground beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
400ml beef stock
Large dash of Worcestershire sauce
Pinches of salt and pepper
500g floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, peeled and halved
100ml milk
50g salted butter
Olive oil, for sprinkling

In a covered pan on a moderate heat, place the beef, onion, carrot, celery and oil and cook until the beef is browned, the vegetables are soft and translucent, and any liquid has evaporated (30 minutes approx). Add the tomatoes, stock, Worcestireshire sauce and seasoning and cook, uncovered, until the filling is thick and unctuous (1 hour approx). In the meantime, preheat oven to 200c. Boil the potatoes until soft, and then mash with the milk and butter. Transfer the meat filling to a roasting dish and spread the mashed potato on top. Sprinkle olive oil over the mash, to ensure a crunchy crust, and bake in the oven until the filling is bubbling through the crispy mashed potato (30 minutes approx).

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