Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

This is what we commonly refer to in our house as shepherd’s pie.  However, due to this usage, the Pie is convinced that traditional shepherd’s pie is made with ground beef, regardless of the fact that shepherds are generally focused on sheep, not cows.  There have been several arguments over the years.  He won’t even take Wikipedia as a definitive answer.

So.  Cottage pie.  A good way to use up leftover meat of any kind, and to encourage people to eat lovely potatoes.  This one we’re making with ground beef, and adding a few sweet potatoes to the mix.  The amounts I’ve used below are approximate, but make two good-sized dishes of the pie.

Start with 4 or 5 sweet potatoes.  Peel them, chop them up, and then boil them until they’re soft and mashable.

Cottage Pie

Then of course mash them, with a bit of butter.

Cottage Pie

While that’s on the go, you can finely chop 2 or 3 small onions and toss them into a large saucepan with some minced garlic and cook that until the onions are tender and translucent.

Cottage Pie

Add in about 1lb lean ground beef and stir that around until it’s cooked through.

Cottage Pie

Now, what I’m doing here is sprinkling about 1/4 cup flour onto my beef mixture.  For a gluten-free version, use corn starch.

Cottage Pie

Then use that same cup to scoop some of the cooking water out of your boiling sweet potatoes and add it to moisten the mix.

Cottage Pie

Chop up a few small carrots.

Cottage Pie

Add them, together with some frozen corn and frozen peas, to the meat mixture and stir around until they’re all separated and thawed.

Cottage Pie

Add some rosemary if you’ve got it.

Cottage Pie

Now you’re ready for assembly.  Gren seems to think that he is a viable receptacle for cottage pie.  He could be right. If it wasn’t for the corn and the wheat flour, and the fact that he is allergic to beef.

Cottage Pie

Spoon the meat and vegetables into the bottoms of your casserole dishes, filling about 3/4 of the way up. Then take your mashed sweet potato and smooth that over the tops.

Cottage Pie

Everything in there is cooked, so you will just need to heat it thoroughly when you cook it.  Using a glass casserole makes it easy to see if the mixture is bubbly.  These ones I froze for our parents to eat later.

Cottage Pie

Summer Soft Tacos

While it’s in our immediate plans to learn how to make our own tortillas, we haven’t gotten there yet.  So for now we’re using store-bought corn tortillas and that’s working out just great.

Tacos and wraps are great because you can get creative with what you use.  You can use poultry, beef, pork, soy … whatever you want.  You can even use leftovers, add new spices, and come up with whole new dishes.  Plus they’re easy for when you don’t have a lot of spare time at night.  And kids like making their own.  So it’s a win-win situation for all.

This super-easy recipe takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, and by my measurements, feeds 3 people and uses 10 small corn flour tortillas.  You can of course up the recipe for more.

Start by finely chopping up 1 red onion.

Put half that onion in a good-sized bowl and the other half elsewhere.

Then finely chop up 2 tomatoes and add them to the onion.

Ditto 4 leaves lettuce (Romaine).

And an avocado.

And a bunch of cilantro.

Toss.

Liberally season with salt and pepper and lime juice.  Set that aside to get all percolated with cilantro and lime goodness.

In a tiny bowl, mix 2 tablespoons chili powder with 1 tablespoon ground cumin and 1 tablespoon corn starch.

In a medium saucepan, sauté up that other half onion with a clove or two of minced garlic (about 2 teaspoons).

Add in about 1 pound (450g) lean ground beef and stir until browned.  Add in the spice mix and cook for a few minutes longer, until thick and saucy.

Grate up some cheddar cheese and have some sour cream handy as you artfully arrange all your foodie bits around you.

Now take a tortilla and smooth on some sour cream.  Then sprinkle some of your tex-mex meat.

Scoop on some salad and a dropping of cheese.

Roll from one end to the other.

Like rolling a dead person up in a rug.  Or a burrito.  And eat that sucker.  Mmmm.

Eggplant and Beef Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce

What’s better than a nice fall lasagna?

And this one has eggplant in it.  Who doesn’t like eggplant?

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food.  It uses no-boil lasagna noodles, which makes everything so much easier.

First you need to make up a basic béchamel sauce.  Don’t freak out — it’s not that hard.

Béchamel Sauce

Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan.

Dice a small onion and chuck it in.

Add a clove of garlic, or a spoonful of garlic-in-a-jar.

Cook that stuff until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes. 

Add in 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, and then cook, stirring, until the mixture is pale golden and has a nutty aroma, about another 4 minutes. 

Add in 2 1/4 cups whole milk (or suitable substitute) and whisk constantly the whole time.  Add in another 2 1/4 cups milk and whisk until smooth.  Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil and thickens, about 10 minutes.

Use it immediately or press plastic wrap to the surface (to prevent it forming a skin) and let it cool.  You can keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days like that.

Lasagna

Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Put your oven racks in the middle and upper third of the oven.

Slice up 1 1/2 pounds eggplant into 1/4″ rounds and divide between two baking sheets.

Toss with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and bake until tender, stirring and rotating halfway through, about 20 minutes.  Allow to cool, but leave the oven on.

In a large skillet, heat some oil over medium-high.  Add in 1 pound lean ground beef and stir until cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Add some allspice and dried oregano and season with salt and pepper.  You can also add some fresh chopped mint if you like.  Remove from heat and transfer the meat to a bowl.

Pulse 1 1/4 cups (3 1/4 oz) romano or parmesan cheese in your food processor, or use the pre-grated variety.  I prefer using whole cheese because it tends to be less dry.

In a baking dish (size dependent on your noodles, mine were slightly smaller than a 9×13″ pan), spread one cup sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Top with no-boil lasagna noodles to cover (I used three).  Make sure to leave some space between the noodles, as they will expand as they cook.

Layer with half the meat, then another cup of sauce and 1/4 cup of cheese.

Add more noodles, then half the eggplant, a cup of sauce, and 1/4 cup of cheese.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients, reserving the last 1/4 cup of cheese.

Cover lasagna loosely with foil and bake on the top rack until the sauce is bubbling, about 35 minutes.  If you’re worried about spillage from a bubbling lasagna, place a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven to catch drips.

Remove from oven and heat your broiler.  Take off the foil, sprinkle on the last bit of cheese and broil the lasagna until the cheese is browned and bubbling, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Allow your lasagna to cool for about 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes great leftovers.