Photo by Sodanie Chea
It’s difficult to imagine what my life would have been like had I not learned how to cook at a young age. And the experiences I have had through my travels inspired me in the kitchen greatly – having sampled the many different flavours of food from all over the world.
From Mexican burritos to tasty satay dishes in Thailand, to the aromas of charcuteries in France and Tunisian couscous with beef stew – all have tempted my palate, been eaten and thoroughly enjoyed.
It doesn’t mean by a long shot that I can do without the staple quality meals I so fondly remember from home. I always say “cottage pie” tongue-in-cheek, because most people assume it is shepherd’s pie, but there is a subtle difference between the two (and an easy one to overcome).
Shepherds tend sheep, so lamb is used inside this dish; cottage pies are filled with beef.
I hope that clears up any misgivings you may have. Anyway, cottage pie has been one of my personal favourites for many an eon. There is something about mashed potato, beef and gravy that just complement each other so well that it is one of those things I just have to have every now and then.
Could it be the slow-cooked beef? Or even the hint of Worcestershire sauce? I don’t honestly know, but I can say what it is for me: the comfort 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)
½ cup butter (unsalted)
1 medium egg
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup fresh whipping cream (36%)
Several sprigs of fresh parsley
3 heaping tablespoons of flour
Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)
Finely chop the onion. Using a large non-stick pan, pour in your oil and heat. Then, add your onion and crushed garlic. Cook until clear then remove from the pan. Using your slowcooker on a medium setting, place your onion mixture inside and cover.
Place your ground beef into the pan you have fried the onion mixture in, and cook on a medium heat. During the cooking process, stir the beef through, ensuring that there is no red to be seen. Once cooked through, strain the residual liquid off and place in your slowcooker.
Pour in your 3 cups of beef broth and add to this your two carrots. Mix well and leave to simmer. Peel and chop your carrots and add this to the beef stock, along with a pinch of salt and pepper for taste, and add the Worcestershire sauce. Leave to cook slowly for 3 hours then add your frozen peas and continue to cook for another hour, allowing enough time for the flavours to blend together.
Peel the potatoes and cook until soft, or just right for mashing, then strain. Add to this the egg, the ½ cup of butter, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the whipping cream. Using a hand mixer, whisk thoroughly until all trace of lumps are gone.
Place your heaping spoons of flour into a cup and add a little cold water to the mixture; blend together to form a paste. Add this mixture to your beef and fold through – this should help to thicken your meat mixture. Once this has taken place, remove from your slowcooker and put into a casserole dish. (There should be at least a 1-inch space from the top of the dish allowing for your potato to be put there.)
Sprinkle over the meat half of your grated cheese, then slice one tomato thinly and sit it on top of the cheese. Put your mashed potato on top of the tomato and sprinkle the remaining cheese. Finally, place your remaining thinly sliced tomato on top. Place in the oven for 30 minutes on 350 F or until the potato takes on a golden colour.
To serve, scoop on a plate and garnish with sprigs of fresh parsley.
Ian Leatt, a former chef in Jersey, the Channel Islands, is general manager at Pegasus Publications Inc.