Through many roads travelled, comfort is always found at home.
It’s difficult for me to imagine what life would have been like had I not learned how to cook at a young age. The foods I’ve tasted on my many travels across the planet, the many different flavours, all have tempted my palate and been thoroughly enjoyed – from Mexican burritos to the tasty satay dishes of Thailand, the aromas of charcuteries in France, to Tunisian couscous with beef stew.
This doesn’t for a minute mean I can do without the staple quality meals I remember from my young days. Like cottage pie. I mention this, waiting for the reaction because most people assume I mean shepherd’s pie. There’s a subtle distinction between the two, easily explained.
Shepherds tend sheep, so lamb is the meat used in Shepherd’s pie; cottage pie is beef. Anyway, cottage pie has been one of my personal favorites for many an eon. There is something about the way mashed potatoes, beef and gravy complement each other that I have to have it on my menu every now and then.
So come now, let’s enjoy again the taste of slow-cooked beef, the almost submerged flavour of Worcestershire sauce, the flavours of home.
8 large potatoes
2 medium tomatoes
½ cup fresh grated cheese
1 cup of frozen peas
2 medium onions
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 garlic cloves (crushed)
¼ cup butter (unsalted)
1 medium egg
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh whipping cream (36 per cent)
Several sprigs of fresh parsley
3 heaped tablespoons flour
Pinch salt and pepper (for taste)
Finely chop the onion. Using a large non-stick pan, pour in and heat the oil, and then add the onion and garlic. Cook until clear; then remove from the pan. Using a slow cooker, turn on the burner to a medium setting, add the onion mixture inside and cover.
Place your ground beef into the pan in which you earlier fried the onion mixture and cook on medium heat. During the cooking process, stir the beef thoroughly, ensuring that there is no red meat to be seen. Then strain off the residual liquid and transfer the beef to your slow cooker.
Pour in the three cups of beef broth, stirring it thoroughly into the beef mixture, and allow to simmer. Peel and chop the carrots and add this to the beef stock, along with a pinch of salt and pepper for taste; also add the Worcestershire sauce at this time. Leave to cook slowly for three hours, then add the frozen peas and cook for a further hour, allowing enough time for the flavors to blend together.
Peel the potatoes and cook until soft, or just right for mashing; then strain. Add to this the egg, the butter, a pinch of salt and pepper and the 1/3 cup of whipping cream. Using a hand mixer. Whisk thoroughly until all trace of lumps are gone.
Place the heaped spoons of flour into a cup and add a little cold water, blending together to form a paste. Add this paste to the beef and fold through. This should help thicken the meat mixture. Then remove the mixture from the slow cooker and put into a casserole dish. (There should be at least one inch of space left for the potato at the top of the dish.)
Sprinkle half the grated cheese over the meat, then slice one tomato thinly and place it on top of the cheese. Now put the mashed potato on top of the tomato and sprinkle the remaining cheese over it. Finally, place the remaining thinly sliced tomato on top. Put the casserole in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes or until the potato takes on a golden colour.
To serve: scoop the cottage pie onto plates and garnish with fresh parsley sprigs.
Ian Leatt is general manager of Pegasus Publications Inc.