Those of you, who follow me on Twitter will know that I have temporarily left the beautiful island of Taiwan and exchanged it for Abu Dhabi, capital city of the United Arab Emirates. Never mind the cool buildings, the expensive cars and the vibrant nightlife - this is food heaven! On my first day here, my good friend (and the first male author of chick-lit in Afrikaans) Marion Erskine took me to a Lebanese restaurant. Heavenly hummus, more-ish moutabel and succulent pieces of lamb, beef and chicken on skewers. Pomegranate seeds, glistening like precious jewels and olives from Egypt, as big as prunes, I kid you not.
But I digress. I know what you're thinking, "What does all of this have to do with your 'criteria'?" Well, even in the country of excess and opulence, I had to make do with what was available in the kitchen cupboard, when we had the urge for some "home food", in between all the falafel and hummus. So this is my recipe for Cottage Pie, not Gordon Ramsey's cottage pie, not some Beef Bourguignon cottage pie...just an unassuming, non-glamorous, make-do-with-what-you-have cottage pie.
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- some oil
- 750g minced beef
- 250ml beef stock (from a cube is OK, or some red wine is great, too.)
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tin of baked beans in tomato sauce*
- 500g frozen mixed vegetables (stew mix)
- 5 or 6 big potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
- 100ml warm milk
- 4 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
- In a pan, fry the onions and garlic until just starting to soften. Put the onions in a pot and set aside.
- Brown the mince in a little oil and break up any lumps. Do this in batches if you have to. Add the mince to the onions.
- Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and thyme to the mince and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Now add the baked beans and mixed vegetables and simmer for a further 5 minutes or until heated through. If the meat filling is too watery at this time, you can let it simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes to let it reduce. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Meanwhile boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain the water and let it steam dry for a minute. Add the butter and mash with a potato masher or potato ricer. Add the Parmesan. Add the milk a little at a time and stir with a spoon until smooth and creamy. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Pop the meat filling in the bottom of an oven proof dish. Spread the mashed potato evenly over the filling and "distress" the top with a fork. (If you want to be REALLY smart, you can always pop the mash into a piping bag and make a fabulous looking topping...but life's too short, really.)
- Put the cottage pie under a hot grill until the top is nice and golden. Serve with a green salad and whatever else you can find in the cupboards!
Find Marion Erskine on Facebook and on Twitter. His chick-lit novel, Donatello en Volksie, is available here and all good bookstores. He is also the author of Afro-dizzy-act, a funny recount of a foreigner's experiences in Taiwan.