Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cottage Pie with Potato Slates - low-brow but lovely!

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I love, love, love pretty, primped, posh food - the sort that Neven Maguire does in his restaurant. You know, trio of this, ballotine of that. And while I’m not crazy about foams, I'll happily mop up every last atom of a jus or a reduction - with a suitably high-brow crust of bread, obviously! If a foodstuff is creamed, candied or caramelised, I’m there. A bisque, a carpaccio, an assiette? You bet!
However, sometimes you just need no-nonsense rib-sticking comfort food. The second-coldest winter on record has given me plenty of opportunity to make Cottage Pie. There is nothing like it to chase the Winter blues away. 

While I love this pie topped with rich buttery mash, it can pile on the pounds so this is my low(er) calorie, low brow version with potato slates. As it is stuffed full of vegetables, it needs no accompaniment (except perhaps a low-brow blob of HP or Chef Brown Sauce). In an ironic nod to posh food you could make it in individual portions.

For 4 – 6 portions of no-nonsense rib-sticking Cottage Pie you will need...
... to pre-heat the oven to 180°C when ready to bake the pie
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions (about the size of a tennis ball), finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, peeled of stringy fibres, finely chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
500g of the best minced beef you can afford (make friends with your butcher and get him to mince some round steak while you wait.)
200mls good beef stock
100mls red wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons oxtail soup-mix (the low brow ingredient)
75mls cold water 

500g smallish evenly-sized potatoes (prepared weight) peeled and cut into ½ cm slices
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach, shredded (optional)
100g cheddar cheese, grated
50g parmesan cheese, finely grated 

Low-brow but lovely!

In a medium frying pan over a medium heat, heat half the olive oil. Add the chopped onion, carrot, and celery and cook gently without colouring, until the onions are soft and translucent –6 – 8 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and thyme and cook for a further minute. Transfer to a bowl and return the pan to the heat.
Add the rest of the olive oil and the minced beef and fry until the mince has browned.
Return the cooked vegetables to the pot, along with the beef stock, wine and chopped parsley. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes while you prepare the potato slate.
For the potato slates, place the potato slices in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife but not falling apart. Drain and allow to cool sufficiently to be handled.
While the potatoes are cooling, thicken the meat filling by blending the oxtail soup-mix with the water until smooth and stirring into the simmering meat. Cook for a further 5 minutes then remove from the heat. Transfer to a large pie dish or divide between 4 – 6 individual pie dishes. Pre-heat the oven now, while you finish preparing the pie.
Cover the meat filling with the shredded spinach (optional) and arrange the slices of potato on top in overlapping rows, like the slates of a roof – it is Cottage Pie, after all. Sprinkle with the grated cheeses. Place the dish(es) on a baking tray to catch any juices that may bubble over, and bake in the preheated oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown and the filling bubbling hot.
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