I feel like I've been majoring on the traditional recently. The un-fussy comfort food. That's because it's COLD. I feel less inclined to push the boundaries, or to expect the children to push their boundaries, when it's 'snuggle up in front of the fire' weather.
Today is no exception. Having spent the first few days of half term up north, being fed by my mum and generally not having to do a thing, we're back home, doing jobs and generally trying to get straight before the kids are back at school on Monday and we race through the next few weeks at an increasingly more frantic pace till we hit the Christmas break with a bang (or a whimper, depending on how it's gone).
We have some old friends coming for lunch on Sunday, about which more of - perhaps - another time. For reasons that I may or may not divulge, what we will eat when they come has occupied most of the food-thinking part of my brain for the last few days. As a result, I haven't really planned what we are going to eat otherwise, relying on the freezer to provide until I can get myself sorted out. Yesterday, on our return, you'll be thrilled to hear that we had fish fingers and oven chips (although there were carrots, and cabbage out of the garden, to go with). Not wanting a re-run, and in slight desperation for this evening, I went freezer diving once the kids were in bed last night, and retrieved a portion of braised mince with a view to that most homely of meals, cottage pie.
I can see a lot more of this type of food arriving on our table over the next few weeks: undemanding, comforting and uncomplicated. Yes, I know that this recipe relies on you braising your mince first, but if you've done that in bulk and frozen in portions, it's a very straightforward dish to put together, relying little more than a bit of chopping and peeling.
I feel a bit of a fraud putting in a weight for potatoes here because I almost always forget and usually just do enough potatoes as if we were just going to have mash. This strategy doesn't always work - sometimes I have too much sometimes, it looks a little thin, but when I went back to the original recipe in Good Food for this, 800g is what they say for a cottage pie to serve 4 people.
Braised Mince Cottage Pie
Vegetable oil; 2 onions & 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped; 1 portion of braised mince (see my post here ), 2 large carrots, diced; 2 beef stock cubes, made up to 250ml with boiling water (or use the water the potatoes were cooked in if you do them first/at the same time); 250g frozen peas; Worcestershire sauce; 800g potatoes, milk & butter
Peel the potatoes, halve them, put in a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and cook till tender. Drain the potatoes (use 250ml of the water to make up the stock of the mince mixture if you like) and mash with a splash of milk and a knob of butter. Set aside.
Heat 1tbsp vegetable oil in a large pan and add in the onions and celery. Cook for a few minutes over a high heat, then add in the mince, carrots and stock. Stir, then leave to simmer for 40-45 minutes when the mixture will be rich and thick. About 5-10 minutes before the mince is cooked, chuck in the peas and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce depending on your taste. Grind in some salt and pepper too if you think it needs it.
Spread the mince mixture out in a shallow dish and leave to cool as much as you can before adding the potato and spreading over the top. The benefit of leaving the mince to cool down is that it sets a little and the potato doesn't sink in to the mince when you spread it on top, but if you haven't got time, don't worry about it. Life, after all, is too short.
You need to bake your finished pie in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 200C/180C fan.
Serve with your favourite condiment.