Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne
As the mercury in the thermometer heads south (but I cannot) my thoughts always turn to comfort food. You know what I mean - the kind of food that conjures up a wood fire in the kitchen, a warm quilt around your shoulders, laughing loved ones busying with meal preparations, and a feeling in the air that is almost like an actual embrace.
Merriam-Webster defines comfort food as “food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” If that’s our definition then this one hits a home run. It’s Cottage Pie.
Cottage Pie is one of those dishes mom and dad used to make when we were young. It takes ingredients that were readily on hand and cheap. Its the kind of healthful dish parents used to feed themselves and a couple children, or scaled up to more generous table sittings if relatives were coming.
This hits so many nostalgic notes with me. Separately the main ingredients are the stuff of childhood supper nightmares. Potatoes, carrots and beef. But put them together and something magical happens. Perhaps its the secret ingredient that my intro quote mentions. Perhaps now with both our parents gone I finally appreciate how much love was part of my daily life. Perhaps it is every child’s fate to never see what is right in front of them until it’s gone.
Cottage versus Shepherd's
There is a subtle difference between traditional cottage pie and shepherd's pie, even though the names are used interchangeably. Cottage pie uses ground beef while shepherd's uses lamb (shepherds tend sheep). Obvious, eh?
One extra ingredient I added that you won’t find in most recipes is wild mushrooms. I’ve been foraging a fair bit of late and have become hooked on identifying and using the edible mushrooms that grow here in Nova Scotia. Before I made this I took the dog for a walk and came back with several choice hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum repandum). They’re wonderfully flavourful, if a little weird looking. They have neither gills or pores, but small “spines” on their underside.
Hydnum are what is called a beginners mushroom because they are so easy to identify and have no poisonous lookalikes. They added a robust, earthy flavour that was absolutely wonderful and they don’t seem to be put off by the cold weather we’ve been having lately. At least not yet...
So if you’re looking for a dinner recipe that is warm and comforting, easy to prepare and wont break your wallet read on.
Cottage Pie with Wild Mushrooms
Prep: 45 minutes | Bake 25-30 minutes | 4 servings
300g fresh wild mushrooms (or Cremini from the store), chopped or torn
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion , diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
500g ground beef
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups beef broth/stock
1/2 cup red wine
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp black pepper
1 kg potatoes (a little more than 2 lbs)
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup gruyere (or parmesan) cheese, grated
Heat a large skillet on high and add the mushrooms to the DRY pan. Allow them to cook until the liquid in them expresses and then evaporates. Remove to a bowl. Note, this is a step you really should do if you're using foraged mushrooms. Really fresh wild mushrooms have a very high water content. Doing this dry fry concentrates their flavour.
Heat oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery (the three are called a mirepoix or soffritto, a backbone of French and Italian cooking) and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until softened. Then add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Then turn the heat to high and add the beef. Cook, stirring and breaking up the beef until it is no longer pink. Then add the mushrooms back into the pan. Sprinkle the flour over the top and mix well. Then add the tomato paste, stock, wine, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer while stirring and let cook until the sauce is reduced and thickened.
Once the sauce is reduced to your liking, turn off the heat and let cool while you cook the potatoes. The sauce that you leave at this point is the amount you will have in the end result, so don't dry it out too much. You want "gravy". Cooling the meat filling while you make the potatoes ensures your cottage pie will have separate layers when baked.
Peel the potatoes, chop into evenly sized pieces, place in a pot with enough water to cover, add some salt, and let cook for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain, mash and add in the cream and butter. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. To assemble, place all the meat filling in the bottom of an 8x8 oven-proof pan. Then add all of the mashed potato and smooth over the top, ensuring to cover to the edges. The sprinkle on the gruyere and a little pepper if you wish.
Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes until the dish is well heated through and the top has become golden brown. Serve with crusty warm bread.
#comfortfood #tradition #oldrecipe #beefrecipe #cheaprecipe #quickrecipes
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