Last night was the fifth of our six client appreciation dinners. I had spent the entire day of prep floating on air. Listening to music, shrouded in my favorite apron, feeling super inspired by the weather and thrilled with my menu. And as I stirred and chopped, whisked and boiled, everything tasted and smelled divine. My kitchen experiences are not always this ideal, but when they are, it’s something I truly relish. I woke up this morning exhausted, but exhilarated. Last night was good.
I’d really been feeling the drizzly, blustery days we’ve been having. The cold air and grey skies pushing me towards my favorite comfort foods, and I just knew that the menu had to echo those desires. It would be all too easy to rely on next week’s holiday for inspiration, but since Thanksgiving isn’t really my favorite, I wanted to go in a different direction. Fog, mist and damp cold. Warm, simple, comforting dishes. Pretty soon I arrived at- what I thought- was the perfect solution. England! I’ll do a meal inspired by some of my favorite traditional British dishes.
The crowning glory of the feast was a spin on a shepherd’s pie, but with grass fed beef. A cottage pie. Now shepherd’s (or cottage) pie, may not sound like the most gourmet dish in all the land, but that’s exactly what I love to do. Take a simple, comforting recipe and kick it up a few notches. I served the pies in these adorable little cocottes and every single one came back empty. And today, for lunch, Taylor and I sat on the couch and devoured the reheated leftovers. The flavors are so rich and savory. Juicy sauce made with tomatoes I canned myself, pumped up with balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire. Creamy mashed potatoes, flecked with scallions sautéed in butter and dotted with a few frozen peas. But it’s the cheese, OH THE CHEESE, that really makes this baby. Go find yourself the best aged, smoked cheddar you can find and crumble it all over this dish. Oh my word. I want smoked cheddar on everything from now on.
If you are looking for the perfect seasonal, comforting, yet not Thanksgiving-y dish to make this fall/winter. THIS. IS. IT. Trust me. And oddly enough, this is something that I would never have laid a finger upon in my former life. Boy would I have been missing out!
- 3 russet potatoes, chopped
- small handful frozen peas
- 1 tsbp butter
- 2 scallions, sliced on a diagonal
- 1/3 cup milk/cream to moisten
- 3oz smoked aged cheddar, broken into chunks
- pinch smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion, peeled, roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove, peeled, crushed
- 2 small carrots, peeled, chopped into small pieces
- 1 celery stalk, trimmed, chopped into small pieces
- 14oz canned crushed tomatoes
- 1½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp Tabasco
- pinch smoked paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups red wine
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- splash balsamic vinegar
- small handful fresh flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 lb ground grass fed beef
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425F. For the potatoes, heat a pan of salted water, adding the potatoes while the water is cold and bring gently to the boil, then simmer until the potatoes are nearly cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, for the beef mixture, heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and gently fry the chopped onion, garlic, carrots and celery for 5-10 minutes, or until softened.
- Add the remaining beef mixture ingredients except for the beef and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Keep warm.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in a separate frying pan over a medium heat, add the beef in batches, if necessary, and fry until golden-brown. Stir the tomato sauce into the beef.
- When the potatoes for the champ topping are almost done, add the frozen peas and cook for a few more minutes until the peas are tender.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat, then gently fry the scallions until softened. Add the milk and heat through.
- Drain the potatoes and peas and mash roughly. Add the warm milk mixture to the potatoes and continue to mash until combined but still chunky.
- Spoon the beef mixture into a medium pie dish and top with the champ. Scatter over the cheese and smoked paprika.
- Place the dish onto a baking sheet and bake the pie for 25-30 minutes, or until the potato is golden-brown.