Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Comfort Food

Winter has finally made it's brisk appearance. Time to pull out some old favorites. A good bowl of saucy pasta? A bowl of chili? A flavorful curry? Or a comforting soup or stew

It originates from northern England and Scotland, where there were large numbers of sheep. Using meat from a leftover roast and covering it with a layer of mash makes another meal. According to wikipedia, the vegetarian version of this is "shepherdess" pie, replacing the meat with tofu or lentils.
A variation to the meat pie, this is a hearty all-in-one meal, piping hot out of the oven. It doesn't take long to make, but can be prepared in advance and baked for mealtime. 

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
½ tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp (15g) butter
3-4 Tbsp milk
1 lb (450g) grass-fed ground lamb or leftover roast, finely chopped or ground*
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 stock cube, dissolved in 1½ cups (360ml) hot water
2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp cold water
1 ½ cups (210g) frozen peas

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). 
  • Place the potatoes in a saucepan. Add salt and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then, turn the heat down and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Test them by poking with a fork, they should pierce easily. 
  • While the potatoes are cooking, coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil. Over a medium-high heat, sauté the onions for 5 minutes until soft. 
  • Add the ground lamb and sauté until brown. Add the carrots and stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. 
  • Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan over the heat for 1 minute to burn off any excess water. Add the butter and milk. Mash to desired consistency (more milk makes for a smoother mash). Season to taste and set aside. 
  • Turn the heat up under the meat. Add the diluted cornstarch water and cook for 5 minutes until the liquid in the pan thickens. Turn off the heat and add the frozen peas, stirring to combine. No need to cook the peas more since they will be baking later. 
  • Transfer the meat and vegetable filling to a 3” deep heatproof baking dish. 
  • On top, make a thick, even layer of mashed potatoes, making sure there are no holes for the gravy to seep through. Using the tines of a fork, rake shallow lines on the surface (this helps crisp up the top). Or, at this point, you can let cool it completely, cover and refrigerate to reheat another day. 
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes until the top of the potatoes are tinged golden brown, and through side of the dish (if you’re using a glass baking dish), you can see the meat sauce bubbling away. 
*VARIATION: Use ground beef instead of ground lamb (this is then called a Cottage Pie.)

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