Monday, December 08, 2008

Cottage pie

As I have mentioned, I am not using much flour in my cooking at the moment. I find that it is quite possible - indeed, an improvement - to leave flour out of many recipes, including ones for which it is often considered indispensable. For example, in Shepherd's (or cottage) pie, in which it is supposed to help the sauce and mince cohere; as in a Bolognese, well-cooked vegetables (in this case, onions) and a slow reduction of the liquid do the job just as well. And the bonus is that you're dispensing with a flavour-deadening ingredient.

For 3 to 4.

200g pork mince
200g beef mince
2 medium onions, chopped
Sunflower oil, butter
2 bay leaves
150ml chicken stock (I used half a stock cube and water)
1tbsp tomato ketchup
Few shakes soy sauce
5 medium potatoes
35g butter

In a heavy pan, and over a gentle heat, fry the onions in just enough oil and butter to prevent their catching, stirring occasionally. Let them become golden brown. This may take 30 to 40 minutes.

The easiest way to brown the mince is to form it into patties (about eight), and to cook them on a hot grill pan for about a minute each side. Transfer to a bowl. Pour some of the stock into the pan, let it bubble and take up the sediments, and pour it into the bowl with the mince.

When the onions are ready, tip in the mince and juice, and add the bay, ketchup and soy. Bring to a very gentle simmer, breaking up the patties with a wooden spoon. Cook, uncovered, until the stew is thickened - moist, but not runny. Check the seasoning.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, cut them up (you could cut a medium potato into eight pieces), cover them with cold, lightly salted water, and simmer until soft. Drain, and allow them to dry, perhaps in the hot pan. Mash. If they seem too powdery, add a little warm milk (according to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Guardian recently, cold milk causes mash to turn gluey) - just enough to cause them to cohere.

Tip the mince into a warm oven dish. Spread the potato on top. Rather than mixing the potato with the butter, you can cut the butter into slivers and scatter it over the surface, to brown.

Cook at gas mark 6/200C for 30 minutes, or until brown on top.


health funds said...

Hi there Nicholas. I tried this recipe and thanks to you my kids love it!

Nicholas Clee said...

Good! I think the sweetness of the ketchup helps.

elwyn said...

Adapting from Nigella Lawson's recipe for Gamey Shepherd's Pie, I add a 150g can of chestnut puree, incorporating it with chopped Roma tomatoes. This certainly enhances the flavour.

Following Jeffrey Archer's idea (I willingly give credit where it is due) I actually serve this alongside other main dishes at formal dinners because it improves when made in advance and is always enormously popular with men - rather like the savoury equivalent of a trifle - and rather a nostalgic dish.