The weather’s suddenly turning a little colder here, you can see the snow on the Pyrenees and we’re lighting fires most days – no central heating @ Chez Foti:-(. So it’s time to bring on the cold weather food. Yipppppeeee. It’s a close call but I’m reckoning I love all those winter warming slow cooked stews, casseroles, roasts and pies more than summer food. They reach out and give you a big foodie hug just when you need one. And rich comforting cottage pie, done right with a bit of care and attention, is my winter food heaven. Love it, the kids love it, everyone loves it don’t they?
Normally when I’m making meaty sauces or bases I bulk out the meat with lots of veggies, but there’s something about keeping a cottage pie intensely beefy and simple, refraining to mess too much. My one veggie addition though is the humble parsnip. Added to the potato topping with a little horseradish, you get a little sweet kick, that’s oh so lovely against the beef. And horseradish and beef are obviously a match made in foodie heaven!
Enough for 4 adults, (or like us, enough for a family of 4, with portions left over for the kids to eat the next day):
1 large onion, finely diced
2 small carrots, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
600g good quality lean beef mince (preferably from a butcher who can mince the meat in front of you)
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1 large glass of red wine
1 heaped tbsp of tomato puree
500ml beef stock
1 tsp of worcester sauce
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
salt & pepper
For the topping:
620g potatoes, peeled and chopped
350g parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 tsp cream horseradish
salt & pepper
In a large saucepan heat a good glug of olive oil and add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft, stirring regularly.
Turn up the heat and add the beef. Cook for about 5 minutes until browned.
Add the red wine, turn down the heat a little and cook until the wine has nearly all evaporated. Add the flour, stir briskly then immediately add the tomato puree, beef stock, bay leaves, thyme, worcester sauce and seasoning. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, and make your potato topping.
In a large pan of boiling water boil the potatoes and parsnips until soft. Drain and allow them to steam and dry out for a few minutes. Mash with the butter, milk and horseradish. Season to taste.
Place the beef in an openproof dish (remembering to remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs). Spoon on the mash. I like to shape my mash with the back of a fork, as that’s what my mum’s always done.
Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden on the top (and if it’s not you can always pop it under the grill for a few minutes).
Serve piping hot with a nice green veg on the side. We had ours with steamed home grown broccoli. Enjoy your winter warming food hug! Here’s Jacques getting down to a bit of serious eating with his Oogaa bowl and train spoon: