I could be writing about lovely Spring dishes, with plenty of asparagus, rhubarb and green stuff all around. But not – cottage pie it is. No Spring, no Spring food. Anyway, it is either this or start a monumental rant about the weather on Facebook… The pie itself, is delicious, warming and comforting.
Cottage pie (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 400g of lean minced beef
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon of tomato purée
- 500mL beefstock, made with 1 beef stock cube
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
- 1 teaspoon cornflour
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Leeky potato topping
- 750g of floury potatoes
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- 2 slender leeks, timed and cut into 1cm slices
- 150mL of low fat milk
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a large non stick sauce pan or casserole dish over a medium heat. No need to add olive oil – it is a non stick pan, after all. Put in the minced meat and cook it together with the onions, celery and carrots for about 10min, until lightly coloured. Use a couple of wooden spoons to break up the meat as it cooks
Stir in the tomatoes, the tomato purée, the beef stock, the Worcestershire sauce and the mixed herbs. Season with a generous pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat. Cover loosely and simmer gently for about 40min, stirring occasionally until the meat is tender.
You can start preparing the potato topping. Peel the potatoes and cut them into rough 4cm chunks. Put them in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then down the heat slightly and simmer for 18-20min or until the potatoes are very tender. Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan and fry the leeks for 5min until softened but not coloured, stirring often. Drain the potatoes, then tip them back into the pan, season to taste and mash with the milk (and a little butter) until smooth. Stir in the sautéed leeks and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 220oC. When the beef has been simmering for 40min, mix the cornflour with the cold flour to make a smooth paste. Stir this into the beef and cook for another 1-2min or until the sauce is thickened, stirring often.
Poor the beef mixture into a 2-liter shallow ovenproof dish. Using a large spoon, top the beef with the mash potatoes and leeks. Spoon the mixture all around the edge of the dish before heading into the middle, then fluff it up with a fork.
Bake for 30min until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling.
I have promised not to complaint about the weather on Facebook and extended the ban to all other social media outlets I normally hang out. In here, I shall just carry on posting Winter-appropriate dishes until the weather gets finally better, as a sign of protest. It is a good thing I have plenty of unpublished dishes, as it might be a while before we can move to lighter food… This casserole dish says comfort food all over – it is delicious, filling and feels like something my Mother could have done for Sunday lunch. What else would you want to eat while the snow is slowly pilling outside?
Chicken casserole (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 4 chicken thighs, skinned and cut in half
- 2 tsp of olive oil
- 4 smoked bacon stripes, fat cut off and cut cut into 1cm-wide bits
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
- 150g of button mushrooms sliced
- 500mL dry cider
- 300mL low fat chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 large carrots, cut into 2cm slices
- 1 large leek, cut into 2cm slices
- salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 180c/Fan 160c/Gas 4
Mix the flour and the thyme with a good pinch of salt and pepper into a large freezer bag or bowl. Place chicken into the bag, a few pieces at a time and shake until evenly coated. Reserve the left over flour.
Heat oil in a non stick frying pan until is piping hot. Add the chicken a few pieces at a time and let it fry until golden brown (saving any remaining flour in bag). Transfer to heat proof casserole, like a le creuset or equivalent.
In the same frying pan you used for the chicken, put the bacon, onions and celery . Sauté for 4-5 mins until lightly browned, stirring often. Add the mushrooms to the frying pan and cook for 2 more min. Tip everything into the casserole with the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with the reserved flour.
Pour half the cider to frying pan and stir well to deglaze and remove all the sediments. Simmer for a few seconds, and add to the casserole. Finally, drop in the remaining cider, the stock, carrots and bay leaves.
Cover with the lid and place in the center of the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and add in the leeks.
Return to the stove and let it cook for about half hour, until the leeks are soft.
The calendar claims Spring will be here in a few days, but the weather man (and the knees) say otherwise. As snow starts falling again, it seems Winter will be here forever. It is definitely time for another comforting stew…. Believe it or not, each portion has less than 500 calories.
Rich beef and ale casserole with mash potato (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 medium onions chopped
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons mixed herbs
- 1 kg lean braising beef, trimmed from hard fat and cut in 3cm chunks
- 1 bay leaf
- 500 mL of dark ale or stout
- 250 mL of beef stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato puréee
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 5 carrots (about 275g), peeled and thickly sliced
- 2 parsnips (about 300g) peeled, halved lengthways and sliced
- freshly ground black pepper
Leeky potato mash
- 750g floury potato, peeled and cut in 4cm chunks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 leeks thinly sliced
- 100 mL low fat milk
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180oC
Put the flour and dried herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Fold in the beef chunks and toss in until they evenly coated.
Heat the oil in a oven- and flame- proof casserole dish.When the oil is pipping hot, drop in the onions and season then with salt and pepper. Fry them over medium heat until they are lightly browned (about 5min).
Tip in the beef and mix until coated.
Add the bay leaf, ale, stock, tomato purée and sugar. Stir well and bring to boil. Cover with the lid.
Transfer the casserole from to the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours. At the end of this time, take the casserole out of the oven and stir in the parsnips and carrots. Put the lid again, and return to the over for about 45min until the vegetables are tender.
Leeky potato mash
Put the potato chunks in a large sauce pan and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let boil for about 20min, until the potatoes are very tender.
In the meanwhile, put the oil in a frying pan and heat. When is hot, drop in the sliced leeks and sautée until soft and tender, stirring often.
Drain the potatoes, and put them back in the sauce pan. Season with salt and pepper and mash with the milk until smooth.
Stir in the sautéeed leeks. Mix until they are well incorporated.
After one month of (almost) daily feasts and non stop indulgence, I ended up with a food hangover of biblical proportions. For a couple of days, I’d rather fight my way through the ironing pile than opening a cook book… Unless it was Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weigh, which promises dishes low in calories and big on flavor. Not small on portions, though… Their 4 servings are the equivalent of 6 of my portions, and I normally don’t eat like a birdie. But, all in all, it was exactly what I was looking for. A light soup to keep me going while fighting the hang over.
Minestrone soup (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 celery stick finely sliced
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and finely sliced
- 2 medium courgettes diced
- 1,5L of chicken stock
- 50g dried spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- 200g frozen peas
- 100 savoy cabbage thickly shredded
- 25g of parmesan cheese finely grated
- fresh basil leafs to garnish
- salt and pepper to taste
First, peel the tomatoes. Prepare the iced iced water in advance (basically, water and ice). Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Make a small X in the bottom of each tomato with the tip of a knife. Using a slotted spoon, lower them one a time, into the pot for 10-15seconds. Fish them out and tip them into ice water to cool for about 1 minute. Peel the tomatoes, starting from the X mark on the bottom and pulling back the curled skin. You can now chop tomatoes into dices.
In a large non stick frying pan, heat the oil until it is piping hot and drop the onion. Lower the heat and sautée until is soft and translucent.
Add the celery, garlic, leek and courgettes and drop them into the pan with the onion. Still over a low heat for a couple of minutes, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, pour over the chicken stock and bring to the boil.
Break the spaghetti into short lengths and drop them into the pan. Add the tomato purée and bring the soup back to the boil, then cook for 8minutes stirring occasionally. Add the peas, cabbage and cook for another 5 minutes or until the pasta is just tender.
Season the soup with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan and torn basil leaves if you want.