It's been too long. I know. These things happen. Life gets in the way.
It's good to be back!
I hope 2013 has kicked off well for everyone. If you happen to live in The UK, you will have had to deal with the usual weather-based roller coaster ride, including that light dusting of snow we had in January. I hope you took the opportunity to spend the weekend outside and give your inner child free reign for a little while. I went sledging with friends on Hampstead Heath. It was a ton of fun, and served as one of the many weekly reminders of why I love London so much.
But can I just have a little rant? Just a small one. It'll be over in seconds, I promise.
Guys, it's March. And I'm so ready for winter to be over. And it's not.
The truth is, the only time I like winter is when it's snowing. Unfortunately, here in London, right around the time you need to get anywhere, the cons of snow far outweigh the pros. So unless I move to Michigan, Canada or Hokkaido (all places I wouldn't mind staying, fyi), where they do winter better, I'll just have to suck it up, deal with the Seasonal Affective Disorder (otherwise known as SAD. SO SAAAAAAD), and eat. Especially starchy winter comfort food. So I figured…. shepherds pie.
One Friday evening in January/February (I forget..), Adam and I joined forces and made the best veggie shepherds pie there ever was.
I did the bottom bit, with onion, carrots and celery, then little minced 'shrooms, veggie mince, some veggie stock, and a spoonful of Marmite. I know, it's controversial, but it is after all a tried and tested way of adding that certain something (I believe it's called umami in the fancy-pants culinary world) to certain dishes. I love Marmite. Adam hates it. So I had to convince him that the end product would in no way taste like Marmite. We also poured in a swig of red wine… for good luck.
|The wine was essential.|
|Ready for potato-ing.|
I suppose at this point you might have guessed that this did not come from a cookbook. Freestylin'.
We finished the whole thing off by sprinkling a bit of grated cheddar over it. In Adam's words, it elevates the dish from "Oh. Shepherds pie." to "Ooohhhhh, SHEPHERDS PIE." He wasn't wrong.
|Phone cam photo does not do it justice.|
Then I almost dropped it all on the floor. But let's not get into that part too much.
It was amazing. We sat down and plowed through two helpings. And then we fell asleep watching X Men: First Class. Wine may or may not have been involved.
You will need:
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 250g baby button mushrooms, finely chopped
- 300g vegetarian mince (e.g. Quorn. Mmmm Quorn...)
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 1 can chopped tomato
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1/2 - 1 tbsp marmite (just do what feels right, I don't want to be responsible for marmite-based sadness)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1.5kg waxy potatoes, cut into halves or quarters depending on their size
- mashing accoutrements, e.g. milk, butter
- 1tsp thyme, for the potatoes
- a bit (or a lot, you're the cheese boss) of mature cheddar cheese, grated
How you do:
Heat some olive oil in a large pot, then toss in the onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent, then add the carrots and celery. Cover and let them cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, add some butter and a bit of olive oil to a medium sized pan. This is the mushroom browning pan. Fry the mushrooms, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are nicely browned. Take them off the heat.
Next, add the veggie mince to the big pot. Add some more oil if needed. Also, veggie mince tends to stick the the bottom of the pot/pan, so constant stirring is important. Incorporate it into the carrot-celery-onion mixture, and stir until it is no longer frozen and a bit browned. Add the mushrooms. At this point you may wish to season it with a bit of pepper and/or salt.
Now add the can of chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, and the vegetable stock. Stir it all together. Okay, it's time for that marmite. Do it. Now cover and let it simmer for a good 15-20 minutes.
It's time to get to work on the potatoes. Put them in a pot of suitable size, and cover them completely in cold water. Bring the water to boil, turn down the heat a bit, and cook them until they're soft all the way through. When the time has come, drain them and get to work mashing. Add a bit of milk, a bit of butter, until the mash is creamy. Add the thyme.
Now the time has come to assemble! Spread the mince filling (which at this point should be thick, never watery, and if it still is, leave it to bubble for a bit longer) evenly into a casserole dish. Now top it evenly with the mash. Stick it in the oven, and cook it at 200C for 10 minutes or so. THEN, take the whole thing out and sprinkle it with the cheddar, and put it under the grill until the top is slightly browned and the cheese is all melty.
Tuck in. (Maybe winter isn't so bad after all.)