John always looks at me in terror when I say ‘we’re having a dinner party and I am thinking of making …….’ This is not because he hates having people over, or because I have mentioned a dish full of his loathsome enemy, the tomato, but usually because he knows what is about to happen to me! I cook almost every night because I enjoy it and because it’s much healthier. Sadly, this means when I come across other heavier recipes or have ideas for more ‘evil’ food plans, I only get to try them when we are having dinner guests, and with our very busy schedule, this does not happen often. Inevitably, because I don’t make tried and tested recipes or ideas, at some point during the preparations, I am going to have a panic moment when something isn’t quite going according to how I envisioned it in my head! These are the traumatic memories that surface in John’s face when I announce the dinner party menu. However, it always turns out just fine and I actually think, in some crazy way, the problem solving part of the meal preparations is the true thrill for me when cooking and baking.
Our dinner party this past week was no exception to the panic routine. I invited my boss and his wife who are some of our new friends in Waco. They are travelling around Europe this summer and making a stop in England so with the weather finally turning cold here, I wanted to make something from the homeland that was warm and hearty. Shepherd’s Pie was the obvious choice but the only problem was that I wasn’t really happy with the recipes I have made in the past. I turned to Pinterest and various UK websites and decided to doctor a few of them together, taking the ingredients we like and adapting the cooking method to suite my schedule. Despite one small temporary set back, (of course!) it was outstanding and a huge hit with John and our friends. One very important distinction to make here is that Shepherd’s Pie is actually made with ground lamb but when it’s made with beef instead it is called Cottage Pie. Seeing as I abhor lamb (I seriously don’t know how I am Greek!), I went for the ground beef so this is technically Cottage Pie.
All Day Cottage Pie
2 lbs of ground beef (I like to use grass fed beef that is humanely handled- this can sometimes mean the fat content is 85/15 so I try and remove as much fat as possible throughout the cooking process- see below)
1/2 an onion
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups of beef broth
4 tbsp of Worcestershire Sauce
2 tbsp of tomato puree
1 1/2 tsp of ground thyme
3 bay leaves
3 large carrots, sliced
1 cup of red wine
1/4 cup of all purpose (plain) flour
salt and pepper
Heat oil in pan on medium heat. Add finely chopped onions and saute on medium low until really soft and turning golden (about 10 mins) Add finely chopped garlic for about a minute and then remove from the pan and put into a crock pot. Brown beef in pan for about 6-8 minutes and drain off all the fat. Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup of wine, let that soak up and then add 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and thyme. Add meat mixture to crock pot. (I did this the night before and put the ceramic part in the fridge until the next morning.) Add remaining wine, Worcestershire sauce, 1 cup of beef broth, bay leaves, flour, carrots and tomato puree. Stir well and then put on low for 8 hours. (If you don’t want to use a crock pot, add everything into the meat pan and allow to simmer on medium heat for at least 30 minutes)
Do not stir the mix for the last hour. Allow any remaining fat from the meat to come to the surface and then soak it up with paper towels or skim off with a spoon. Remove the meat mixture and place into a large pyrex dish. Allow to cool before adding the potato topping; otherwise the topping will sink into the meat.
Mashed Potato Topping
6-7 red potatoes (peeled and chopped into medium sized pieces)
2 tbsp butter
1/8 cup cream or milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 F. Add chopped potatoes into salted, gently boiling water and leave for 15 minutes. Drain water and mash thoroughly. Whip with butter, milk/cream and seasonings. Salt is the key ingredient in mashed potatoes so feel free to taste and add more if needed.
Put mash on top of meat mix. You will need to put smaller dollops around the surface and then spread it out. If you try to empty all of the mash into one spot, it will sink into the meat and be unevenly distributed. Form little peaks with a fork and then place in the oven for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and golden.
Serve with Ketchup, HP Sauce or extra Worcestershire as preferred.
This was eaten up so quickly, I just barely managed to get a photo of the very last piece.