Cottage Pie

Summer has officially ended. I can’t kid myself anymore and this past week it was as if someone had turned on a tap. A very big Heavenly tap and the rains came down. Heavy, loud rain, pelting our roof that it woke us a few times during the nights but the type of weather that makes you incredibly grateful to be tucked up warm and cosy and dry in a safe place.

Delicious Cottage Pie

Unsurprisingly, this cooler, wetter weather has me thinking about hearty comfort foods, one of them being my hubby’s favourite Cottage Pie. I’ve always used the terms Cottage and Shepherd’s Pie interchangeably, but strictly speaking, Cottage Pie denotes a beef pie, while Shepherd’s Pie means it is made using lamb or mutton – logical really, seeing as though shepherd’s look after sheep. I’ve tried different versions of this recipe, simpler ones, but I always return to this one. Although a little more work is involved, it is definitely worth it.

You first prepare a basic beef mixture containing onion, garlic, tinned tomato (or fresh if you have the time to peel and prepare the tomatoes) and a little tomato paste. As this mixture is fairly plain and the basis for many different meals, it’s a good idea to prepare in bulk and either used straight away if you’re making a few meals, or it can be frozen to be used later. While this is simmering, get the potatoes peeled and into boiling water until they are soft enough to mash. A few secret ingredients are added to the mashed potato but I’m getting ahead of myself. In a separate pan, leeks, carrots and mushrooms are fried until soft. You can add other veggies, but as I said, after trying many alternatives, I always return to this version – why change something that just works the way it is?

This dish also freezes well so if you can, make a double batch and either freeze half or just the left overs. I then defrost it in the fridge overnight and either zap individual portions in the microwave to reheat or bring a larger dish back up to temperature in the oven. It must be completely defrosted though before you place it in the oven or you risk poisoning your loved ones, and none of us wants that.

Basic Mince Mixture:
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 – 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
500 g beef mince
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tin (± 400 g) chopped or pureed tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in a little oil. Add the mince and fry until it changes colour.
  2. Season well with the salt and pepper.
  3. Mix the tinned tomato with the tomato paste and add to the mince. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Mashed Potato:
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
60 ml sour cream
50 g cheddar cheese, grated
2 large eggs, whisked

  1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and mash until smooth.
  2. Add the sour cream, cheese and eggs and mix. The mixture should be light and fluffy.

2 leeks, washed and sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
125 g mushrooms, sliced
olive oil
300 ml beef stock
1 Tbsp Worcester sauce
30 ml parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
basic mince mixture

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease an oven-proof dish.
  2. Sauté the leeks, carrots and mushrooms in a little oil. Add the stock and deglaze the pan.
  3. Add the basic mince mixture, Worcester sauce and parsley. Taste and season if necessary.
  4. Spoon the mince mixture into the oven dish and top with the mashed potato. Rough up the top of the potato with a fork as if it is too smooth, it creates a hard shell which isn’t great. The roughed up peeks brown nicely in the oven adding a little character.
  5. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Serve with a salad or more veggies on the side.


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Mini Banana and Lemon Puddings

We’re planning some home renovations, not much, but there are a few things that need to be done, so this past week has been filled with trades people visiting our home; measuring, discussing, delivering, quoting. Renovating seems like a great idea and I’m generally a very organised person, but I can already feel a little OCD stress as not only the physical process begins, but the mental one of things not being in their place – losing a little of the usual order of things – I’m sure my aura is whizzing out of kilter too and I’m already dreaming (day dreaming that is as my sleep is taking a knock) of peace, calm and order returning to our humble abode. But that won’t happen for a few weeks at least.

Banana and Lemon Pudding

Are you one of those super chilled out people where nothing phases you and you take everything in your stride? I wish I was, but I have to admit that I’m not. Just writing this now my pulse quickens and I feel a mild tension bordering on panic in my inner core. Oh dear! Perhaps my friend is right and although we often joke about our OCD tendencies, I clearly do prefer things in their place and the apple cart the right way up. Take this for example: how a seemingly minor decision (to a complete home-renovating-novice like me) can have rather annoying and expensive consequences.

Last year we saw a fridge we desperately liked – a beautiful french double door stainless steel ice making beast – and wonder of wonders, it fitted into the space taken up by our existing pantry if we removed the doors and shelves, because as luck would have it, they no longer make fridges to fit into the existing built-in fridge space in our kitchen. Our plan was then to remove the current smaller fridge and utilise that space for a pantry, by installing special shelves/baskets/drawers to make optimal use of the space.  Simple right? Well, we finally bought the fridge the other day and it arrived and I realised how ridiculous I am for feeling the way I do about a fridge, but hey – we’ve all had that one thing we really want, haven’t we?

Anyway, in order for my lovely husband to remove the shelves, doors, hinges and prepare the alcove by sanding and painting, I had to empty the pantry out, thinking it might only take a few days to get new shelving installed in the “new” pantry area. I now have an enormous amount of food, boxes, bottles, spices and jars standing on the dining table, coffee table, any surface in the house really!!! It’s making me crazy. I feel a sense of panic every time I see it and yesterday we had a quote to install the new shelving and it will take minimum TWO WEEKS!!! AAARRRGGGGHHH!! Breathe…breathe…breathe…

Deep breaths in and deep slow breaths out. Do you get where I’m coming from?

Next week the painters arrive to do some internal work on the ceilings (high vaulted ceilings so impossible to do ourselves) and the internal contents of the house (I keep writing “the house” in a way that could mean I’m trying to distance myself from it?) will be plastic wrapped and all the pantry items were supposed to be packed into their new home before then. Painting will take 4 days. It’s school holidays now and my hubby is at home with our little one while I continue working through this time, so at least I’ll escape for a few hours a day, but he is an absolute Saint, remaining up beat and positive while I seem to have turned into some kind of gremlin, spewing concern and disaster! Not good.

So while I can still see the kitchen before being covered in plastic wrap, and I have the ability to locate my ingredients from their temporary home on the table, I decided to do something calming like bake a pudding. This extremely easy pudding to be precise – also a tasty way of using very ripe bananas and bringing in one of my favourite ingredients; lemons.

I’ve only made them as individual portions so can’t give a baking time if you’d prefer to make a single bowl, but it will definitely take a little longer to bake, just keep checking it so it doesn’t overcook.

50 g unsalted butter
¾ cup castor sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
½ cup mashed banana
¼ cup plain flour
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Icing sugar to decorate
Whipped or double cream to decorate

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Grease 6 ¾-cup capacity or 4 1-cup capacity ovenproof dishes and place them in a large roasting pan.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in a small bowl, using an electric mixer, until well combined. Beat in the yolks, one at a time, until also combined.
  4. Add milk, banana, flour and juice. Beat on a low speed until the mixture just comes together. Transfer to a larger bowl.
  5. Beat the egg whites in a clean small bowl until firm peaks form. Gently fold half of the egg whites into the banana mixture, until just combined. Repeat with the second half.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared cups/bowls/dishes.
  7. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come half way up the sides of the dishes.
  8. Cook in the centre of the oven for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until the sponge topping is cooked and feels firm to the touch. Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven, not forgetting about the boiling hot water! Remove the dishes from the roasting pan and let stand for 5 minutes.
  9. Serve warm with a dusting of sifted icing sugar and topped with a blob of cream.


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Pear Coleslaw with Red Wine Vinegar Dressing

I have to tell you that I am absolutely loving Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals. I’m not one for big name cookery books as they normally use lists of ingredients that have to be sourced from Timbuktoo, but around my birthday last year (and since I have to admit), I was complaining about lack of ideas for our evening meal and the limited time in which I have to prepare something both healthy and tasty. Many of you may agree, but after 20 or so years of cooking evening meals, you tend to run out of ideas and get tired of the same old ingredients and dishes.

Pear Coleslaw with Red Wine Vinegar Dressing

In stepped my darling man and walked the city flat to find me a copy of Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. In typical Jamie fashion, his recipes range from flamboyant to combinations of ingredients I would never have thought of trying together, but that’s why he’s Jamie Oliver and I’m, well … Me.

This particular salad is refreshing and crunchy and juicy and colourful and absolutely tantalizing on the taste buds so is definitely going down as a favourite. The secret ingredient added to a stock standard coleslaw? Pear. Yes, grated pear! As well as replacing the standard mayonnaise-type dressing with a mixture of Red Wine Vinegar and good quality Olive Oil and adding a few spicy rocket leaves to complement the sweetness of the pear. Delicious! Raw cabbage never tasted so good!

And with us in the good ol’ Southern Hemisphere enjoying the still sunny yet cooler days of Autumn, this salad uses the perfect seasonal produce.

2 carrots
1/4 white cabbage
1 pear
1 small red onion
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
70 g rocket

  1. If you have one, a food processor comes in really handy as this recipe requires lots of chopping and slicing, but if not, grab your best knife and get busy peeling and trimming the carrots.
  2. Remove the stalk from the pear and peel the onion.
  3. Grate the carrot, pear and red onion into a large bowl and add the thinly sliced cabbage.
  4. Gently whisk the olive oil and vinegar together until well combined and pour over the salad ingredients. Toss together and season to taste.
  5. Lastly, mix in the rocket leaves and serve.


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