01/09/2011

Cottage Pie

Named in reference to poorer folks, cottage workers who combined the more expensive meats with the less expensive potato Cottage Pie is a simple, fulfilling and cost-effective means of using leftover meat or minced meat.

Similarly named, Shepherds' Pie is more usually made nowadays with lamb mince rather than beef mince although historically, the two were synonymous.

By all means feel free to use well peeled white potato - the point of peeling is to remove all traces of the toxic alkaloid solanine. Potatoes provide a good pack of carbohydrate; the point is to consider whether you need those carbohydrates.

The dish can easily be made more paleo-friendly using mashed cauliflower florets to top.

Let's make our pie ...

I like to use a wide-based sauté pan with a lid, but any pan will do - get some fat softening in it. I like to use a little lard or bacon grease.

Toss in a chopped onion and soften in the fat with the lid on to recirculate the steam.

Break in a couple of pounds of minced beef and ensure that it is well coloured.

Pour in a can of peeled plum tomatoes and break up a little. You can add some tomato purée here if you want more of a tomato flavour and even some Worcestershire Sauce, although that is absolutely optional - we're going to use some mushrooms for a real umami flavour.

Quarter a good amount of mushrooms and add to the dish - I like chestnut mushrooms for their extra nutty flavour.

Add some cubes of carrot, a chopped stick of celery, a clove of minced garlic, some parsley and some thyme.

Add a couple of cups of water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a good simmer, place the lid on and cook on that heat for at least a couple of hours, topping up water if necessary.

Meanwhile make the cauliflower floret mash.

Steam a whole amount of cauliflower, florets removed carefully and excess stalk trimmed. You can keep the outside leaves and stalk for a rough and ready soup or a refined amuse bouche. Steam until just softened.

Place the cauliflower florets into a tall cylindrical vessel and blend down with a hand blended. Take care not to over-blend - we still want some structure, not a fine purée. Add in a generous knob of butter and allow that to melt, folding in with a spatula.

Once the meat has cooked and the almost entirely reduced, spoon the meat into an oven-proof dish.

Using the spatula, carefully place amounts of the cauliflower mash over the top and then spread around to make a smooth topping. In the oven, this topping will go crisp but you can add to that crunchiess with a little gently cracked sea salt. Cheese is another ingredient which goes well here - if you do not eat cheese, just leave it out.

Place the dish into a pre-heated oven at 200C for 20-30 minutes.

Serve out into a wide bowl with some vegetables of your choice.

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