Cottage Pie (of sorts)

Because I’m something of a pedant at times, I’d like to get something cleared up: a shepherd’s pie is made using lamb and a cottage pie is made with beef. They are not interchangeable names,’k? 😉

Now that’s sorted, let’s clarify something else: a traditional cottage pie contains diced carrots and celery, perhaps some peas, and is topped with mashed potato.  This is not a traditional cottage pie recipe, but by swapping ingredients you could make it so.

Baked til golden brown

Serves 3-4

1 small swede
2-3 carrots
3-5 potatoes
a knob of butter
1-2 onions, diced
approx. 1 tablespoon oil
500g minced beef
some mushrooms, sliced
500ml good beef stock OR 500ml water & 2 beef stockpots/stock cubes
2 tablespoons cornflour, in a mug, blended to a smooth paste with a little cold water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinny on?  Peeler a go-go?  Ok then…

Set the oven to preheat at gas mark 5/375°F/190°C.

Carrots, swede and potatoes
Now, let’s get cracking with the root vegetable mash topping.

Peel and dice the swede, peel and slice the carrots, peel and cube the potatoes; place everything into a large pan of water and boil until tender.  Don’t bunk off while your veg is boiling – you need to get your pie filling ready.

Diced onionsHeat the oil in a medium pan, add diced onions and cook until soft but not browned.

Add mince and cook, stirring, until the mince becomes that attractive grey colour.

Sliced mushroomsDrain off any excess fat, add sliced mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes.

Stock pots and cornflourAdd beef stock and bring to the boil then turn down heat a little.

To thicken the gravy, ladle some of the hot stock into the mug with the cornflour paste, stir really well to make sure there are no lumps, then tip the whole lot back into the pan, stirring all the time. Simmer for another minute or so then remove from heat.

Minced beef and mushroomsPour into an oven proof dish (or individual ones) and allow to cool slightly. The cooling helps stop your mash sinking.

Add a good knob of butterWhen your vegetables are cooked (you hadn’t forgotten about them had you?), drain them and return to the pan. Add a generous knob of butter and a good helping of salt and pepper. Mash.


Pile mash on topSpoon mashed veg on top of meat and gravy, flatten down with a fork, then bake in the preheated oven for around 25-30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

It’s a good idea to put an empty baking tray at the bottom of the oven to catch gravy overflow.

Cottage pieServed with braised red cabbage and steamed green beans.

Grilled Sea Bass Fillets with White Bean & Artichoke Mash, Roasted Vegetables and Pesto

This meal was built around my recent craving for lemony, garlicky, butter bean mash – the stuff is so damned delicious that despite having a rather large portion with the sea bass, I’m still wanting more.  Be warned, you may find the same thing happens 😉

Sea bass fillets and roast vegFor the roasted vegetables I’ve listed what we used this time, but you can use anything you like, in sufficient quantities for the servings you require.  Do bear in mind different cooking times – either add quicker cooking items later, or vary the size of the chunks.

For the pesto I used walnuts as none of us like pine nuts – of course you can use pine nuts instead, or even cashews.  Whatever you choose, only toast them very lightly so as to bring out the creaminess of the flavour, rather than browning them and making them extra nutty.

The entire meal’s a lot easier to prepare than would be suggested by the length of the post – promise! 🙂


2 sea bass fillets
A drizzle of olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the roasted vegetables
1 medium sweet potato
1 medium onion
1 courgette
1 yellow bell pepper
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
Sea salt

For the pesto:
2-3 handfuls of fresh basil leaves
½ – 1 garlic clove
A handful of very lightly toasted walnuts
50-75g fresh parmesan, grated
Several good glugs of decent quality extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the white bean and artichoke mash
1 tin butter beans (or cannellini, or haricot/navy beans, or a mix)
Âź jar artichoke hearts in oil
1 lemon – juice and finely grated zest
½ – 1 garlic clove, minced
Lots of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ready to create a taste sensation?  Grand!

For the roast vegetables:
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/220°C/425°F.

Put the empty baking tray for the veggies in the oven to heat up…you want it to get really hot before adding anything.

Chop your veggies into suitably sized chunks, put into a bowl along with the olive oil and, using your hands, mix well to make sure everything’s well coated.  If your vegetables have very different cooking times, it will be best to separate them into a couple of smaller bowls for the oil coating process -that way you can easily add them into the pan in stages.

Tip the coated veg chunks onto the heated baking tray, sprinkle liberally with sea salt, toss thyme sprigs on top and slam in the oven.

You can pretty much ignore them now for around 30 minutes while you get on with the other bits – just turn them over at the halfway point to make sure they brown evenly.  Of course that assumes everything’s going in at once – if you’re adding in stages, I’m afraid you’re on your own working out what to add when!


GarlicFor the pesto:
Take the basil leaves, garlic and a good pinch of salt and grind to a paste using either a mortar and pestle, or the pulse setting on a food processor.Walnuts

Olive oilAdd the lightly toasted nuts and a little olive oil and grind again.

Basil, walnut and oil pasteYou’re aiming for a paste that still has a little texture to it – don’t try to make it entirely smooth.

Parmesan added to basil paste Tip paste into a bowl, add about half of the parmesan and a slug or two of olive oil.  Stir gently to mix.  Add seasoning and taste.

PestoContinue to add in grated cheese, olive oil and seasoning until you’re happy with the taste and consistency – you’re aiming for an oozy sauce, where the ingredients are just bound together by the olive oil, but are not swimming in it.

Set to one side and try not to keep tasting it while you cook the rest of your meal.

Continue reading

Beano Bangers and Mash

Day 9 of the Cupboard Challenge and I was running out of steam, so Barn stepped in and took up culinary responsibility.

Barn's cooking abilities & the moon phasesNow, leaving Barn in sole charge of the kitchen can be an…erm…interesting experience.  He firmly believes, and frequently declares, that he can’t cook.  He can.  Sometimes.  Depending upon the lunar cycle, or his Circadian rhythm, or some other such uncontrollable thing.

The point is, nothing is certain.  His offerings can range from restaurant quality, beautifully presented platters of taste sensation, through to scorched, unidentifiable mounds of rubble and goo.

Picture from: Antiques Atlas
Picture from:Antiques Atlas

With the greatest love in my heart, I have to confess that when Barn offers to cook, alone, inside my head a little carny guy starts his patter …

C’mon over and play the kitchen game…you could win big!  Fair food or foul? You decide little lady…wanna take your chance? Roll the plates?

Sometimes, you just don’t fancy taking the chance, and so cooking companionably together is a preferable option.  Other times you’re just too tired and hungry to care…anything on a plate would be great.  And there are times when you just know he’s going to make something fabulous.

Barn's ability to make mashed potato & the moon phasesOn this occasion, Barn offered to cook and stated that ‘mashed potato and something’ was on the menu.  I knew, when carny man started up his blarney, that the dishes were stacked in my favour – one thing that can be said for certain about Barn’s cooking is that he always makes the best ever mashed potatoes. I don’t know what he does that’s different to what I do, but mine are not amazing and his are.  Maybe one day he’ll let us all in on his secret.

Anyway, I gambled, leaving an unsupervised Barn in the kitchen while I went off for a soak in scented bubbles.

Bangers and mashMy faith paid off – Barn came up trumps, producing a cartoon style dinner of bangers and mash, making me grin and giving me one of those “Wow, I love my husband!” moments 😀

Best eaten fresh from the bath, wrapped in clean fluffy things and surrounded by a contented glow.