Shepherd’s Pie Traditional Style

Shepherd’s Pie Traditional Style

I’ve always been a fan of Delia when it comes to the classics and her Shepherd’s Pie recipe has never let me down, but I’ve always had a hankering to make it the traditional way from leftover roast. Unfortunately, there never is any leftover roast when my family gets together, and making roast lamb just to turn into Shepherd’s Pie seemed a little extravagent.  This Easter though, neither my brother nor I could make it home but my mum still made my dad his festive lamb roast and surprise surprise (not!), without the presence of two greedy children and their spouses, there were leftovers!  Which were very kindly dropped off as the parentals passed by on their way out for lunch the next day, so that they wouldn’t go to waste.  And waste them we did not…

Hubby is the King of the world slow cooking, his pulled pork is legendary 😉 so I left it to him to figure out how to render down the lovely piece of leftover roast lamb into the perfect filling for a Shepherd’s Pie.  He did not disappoint 🙂 The lamb just fell apart in the pot, and after all that time slow cooking in gravy and stock had soaked up their lovely flavours while maintaining that slightly sweet note that lamb has.  As lovely as Delia’s version using lamb mince is it wasn’t a patch on using leftover roast, and I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to go back to Delia after this, the trad style was just that good.  What a fab last Shepherd’s Pie to end this winter on 🙂

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a distinct lack of carrots in amongst the lamb… It was the only thing we didn’t have to hand 🙁 Since they wouldn’t survive the slow cooking process I’d probably dice them up and then cook them off vichy style, and then stir them into the pot of lamb  just before you make the pie up.

Shepherd's Pie Traditional Style
Leftover roast lamb, slow cooked in gravy and baked under a thick layer of fluffy mashed potato.
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Stuff you’ll need…
  1. 500-600g leftover lamb roast (ours was leg but shoulder would be just as good)
  2. 2 red onions
  3. 2-3 cloves garlic, mashed but whole
  4. Enough lamb gravy and/or lamb stock to cover
  5. Any leftover drippings from roasting (optional)
  6. Splash of red wine (optional)
  7. 2-3 tsp Balsalmic vinegar
  8. 1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  9. 2-3 tbsp tomato puree
  10. 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  11. 1 tsp dried thyme
  12. 1 tsp sugar
  13. small can of petit pois
And for the mash…
  1. 2lb (900 g) potatoes (Desirée or King Edward, or anything that is good for mashing)
  2. 2oz (50 g) butter
  3. salt and freshly milled black pepper
  1. (Slow) Cook!
  2. Cut the lamb into bite size pieces and put in a large saucepan or stew pot.
  3. Roughly cut the ends off the onions, quarter and add to the pot with the lamb. Peel and mash the garlic and pop those in too.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, making sure that the lamb is covered by about 1 inch / 2.5 cm of liquid. Cover and simmer for two hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.
  5. After two hours remove the lid, and continue to reduce the liquid on a low simmer, stirring occassionally, until it’s a rich sauce. This may take another few hours.
  6. Make the mashed potato topping when you’re in that last phase of reduction – Cut the potatoes into even sized pieces before placing in a pan of boiling salted water. Cook until they’re tender and then drain. Return the cooked potatoes to the hot pan, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to steam for about five minutes. Add the butter and mash, season to taste. Don’t be tempted to add milk like you would a normal mash because you want this mash to be firm on top of the pie. Set aside until you’re ready to put the pie together.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F, gas mark 6.
  8. When the lamb is ready, drain the can of petit pois before tipping into the pan. Give it all a good stir before spooning the lamb and petit pois into your baking dish. Level the mixture out with the back of the spoon without packing it down.
  9. Lastly, spread the mashed potato on top of the lamb. The best way I’ve found to do this is to use a spatula and spread large blobs of mash around the inside of the dish until you’ve got a ring of mash, leaving a gap in the middle for you to dollop the last bit on to cover – this method gives you an even spread of mash without dragging mash and lamb all over the place. I like to roughly fork the mash topping, it encourages the forked up bits to go all lovely golden and crispy.
  10. Pop in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the mash is crusty and golden. Share and scoff!
Hubby’s Loaded Banana Bread

Hubby’s Loaded Banana Bread

Oven-warm homemade banana bread, slathered with butter that melts on your slice, and a pot of leaf tea… weekends don’t start much better than this!  Unless you’re waking up to the smell of one of these already baking because somebody lovely decided to surprise you with it. 🙂

Hubby assures me it’s very easy to make which means I never say no when he suggests it!   And if I ‘forget’ to eat the bananas in the kitchen then he suggests it more often than not…  I suspect that he’s also after any excuse to use the HydroBake setting on our new oven, which keeps the humidity from whatever’s baking in the oven as steam and just makes his baked noms that much better (which I didn’t think was even possible!).

And it’s ‘loaded’ because of all the fruit and/or nuts Hubby throws into the mix which, given his inability to leave well enough alone, changes every time – today’s one was full of stewed apples and cinammon!  But the flavour of the banana always wins through, and the older the banana the stronger their flavour – we’ve even frozen bananas that looked beyond saving because we knew how awesome they would be in this, that and we are trying to be better about food waste (if you are using frozen bananas, defrost thoroughly first otherwise you won’t be able to mash them).

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to banana bread and prefer it loaf shaped, hands down, over muffins.  They’re more portable muffin sized but I think a little drier, and you really just can’t beat the perfection of all that melty butter on a warm slice of loaf.  Look at my picture again and tell me I’m wrong 😉

Hubby's Loaded Banana Bread
Oven-warm homemade banana bread, slathered with melting butter, it doesn't get much better than this.
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Cook Time
1 hr 10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 10 min
Stuff you’ll need…
  1. 3 ripe bananas (brown mottling on skin is best)
  2. 2 large eggs
  3. 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  4. 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  5. (or for a healthier option, use 3/4 cup of apple sauce instead plus 1 tbsp vegetable oil)
  6. 1/2 cup sour cream
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  8. 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  9. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  10. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  11. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  12. 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  13. Butter or Vegetable Oil to grease tin.
  14. Stuff you can take or leave…
  15. - 3/4 cup chopped pecan or walnut pieces, don’t process these as it becomes too grainy (Hubby says he prefers pecans for taste)
  16. - a few handfuls of sultanas or raisins. Asda has a dried fruit mix that has raisins and golden sultanas plus lemon peel.
  17. - Fresh blueberries also go in really well. If you’re using these, add them gently by hand just before baking to keep them whole.
Other stuff you’ll need…
  1. 6 by 9-inch loaf pan of muffin tray
  2. Large mixing bowl
  1. Preheat the oven to 175C for bread or 200C for muffins and put the oven rack in the centre position. Lightly grease your loaf pan with vegetable oil or butter (if you’re using muffin cups or silicon trays, skip this).
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and sour cream, and whisk until smooth.
  2. Peel the bananas and place in a small bowl. Mash with the back of a fork until there are no big lumps remaining. Add these to the wet mixture together with the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the nuts and dried fruits / berries at this point. Do this before you add the flour so as not to overmix.
  4. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Be careful, again, to not overmix.
  5. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and give it a good shoogle and bang it a few times on your counter to get rid of any air bubbles in the mix. Sprinkle a little brown sugar over the top, and then pop into the overn and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes for bread (or 25 minutes for muffins) until golden brown and risen. Check if the bread is done by pushing a toothpick into the middle, if it comes out clean the bread is ready.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before turning the bread out of its pan. More fruit-heavy loaves will need longer to cool to avoid falling apart. Muffins not in cases should be allowed to cool in their trays.
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m properly fussy when it comes to fish.  I like the expensive stuff (like lobsters, and big prawns, and scallops) or the meaty stuff (monkfish, I’m looking at you!) but can’t do anything that actually smells or tastes fishy, or hasn’t actually been cooked (smoked salmon is my nemesis…).  But I’ve got a couple of months of dental work lined up so I’m on a quest to find “easy” things to eat, and fish is one of the most obvious candidates.  Only I don’t eat it often, and have probably only ever cooked it from scratch once. Ever. So yeah. This was going to be tough!  But I saw this recipe in Olive magazine and remembered various people raving about fish tacos so figured it was worth a shot.  OM(G!) NOM NOM!!!!

Seriously, what is not to love about this recipe!  Lovely fresh homemade salsa that is a total doddle, and despite frying the fish it was properly light and flakey with just that wee bit of spicey crunch from the seasoned flour coating.  And eating it all felt all kinds of  virtuously healthy!

This is yet another crazily imbalanced taste to effort ratio recipe – the salsa takes longest (ha!) and if you can do that in the afternoon then all you’re left to do in the evening is the fish, and that really does take next to no time.  Honest. Given how terrified I was at the thought of cooking fish this was a good recipe to start with.  And when the weather gets warmer this will be the perfect light supper to rustle up quickly, more so if you cheat and buy ready made salsa 😉

Fish Tacos
Serves 2
Lightly battered bites of spicey fish, topped with fresh zingy salsa, all wrapped up in a warm tortilla.
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Stuff you’ll need for the fish…
  1. 4 tbsp plain flour
  2. 4 tbsp cornflour
  3. 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  4. 1/2 tsp cayenne
  5. big pinch turmeric
  6. 1 egg
  7. 300g sustainable firm white fish, cut into bite-sized pieces
  8. Corn oil
Stuff you’ll need for the salsa…
  1. 3 ripe tomatoes
  2. 1/2 small red onion, very finely chopped
  3. 1 small avocado, diced
  4. 1/2 lime, zest and juice
  5. handful coriander, chopped
  6. 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  7. 1/2 tbsp pickled jalapenos, chopped (optional)
Stuff you’ll need to finish it…
  1. Tortilla wraps (4-6 depending on how stuffed you like your wraps)
  2. 1 lime, quartered
Salsa first!
  1. If you can, make this a couple of hours ahead of time as it will give the salsa time to develop.
  2. The best salsa, according to Hubby, is made by skinning and gutting your tomatoes first, so… fill a deep bowl with boiling water, and the sink with enough cold water to cover your tomatoes. Cut a wee cross at the top and bottom of each tomato and then one by one plunge into the boiling water first for about 30 seconds, fish out with a slotted spoon and drop into the cold water in the sink. The skins should now peel off really easily. Once you’ve peeled them, quarter, and then pull/scoop out the seeds and liquid and discard. Dice up what’s left and pop into a bowl, and then mix in all the rest of the ingredients and give it a good stir about. Place in the fridge until you’re ready to eat – the lime juice will keep the avocado from turning colour so make this as ahead of time as you like.
  1. Mix the flour and cornflour with the spices and season really well (seriously, do not be shy with the salt here!) and put on a flat plate.
  2. Crack your egg into a shallow bowl and beat.
  3. Heat a large saucepan with 2cm of oil. When you can brown a cube of bread in 30 seconds then its ready.
  4. Toss all the fish in the beaten egg until it’s well coated, and then toss it in the seasoned flour until, again, it’s well coated (I slapped on the CSI vinyl gloves and got stuck right in!). Fry for 2-3 minutes until the pieces have turned crisp and golden – depending on the size of your saucepan you may need to do this in two batches - and then “fish” out (sorry!!) and drain on kitchen paper.
  5. Try a bit when it’s cooled down enough and salt if required.
  6. Warm some tortillas up, pop three or four bits of fish down the middle, spoon over the salsa, squeeze a bit of lime all over, wrap it up and eat it up!
Adapted from Olive Magazine
Adapted from Olive Magazine
Salted Caramel Sauce

Salted Caramel Sauce

I am a savoury head.  It’s not that I don’t like sweet things, I just prefer savoury.  Hands down.  Every time 🙂 Hubby, on the other hand, has a serious sweet tooth, which means that we rarely steal each other’s snacks (one of the many secrets to a happy marriage if you ask me!) Unless they’re sweet AND savoury, then all bets are off!  Fortunately (or should that be unfortunately??) sweet and salty combos are quite popular at the moment so there’s been quite a bit of happy sharing going on – sea salted fudge should be outlawed it’s so insanely delicious, and there are still two batches of Hubby’s salted gooey caramel pecan bars in the freezer from the Christmas bakefest!  And then at the weekend Hubby made this… zomg…

I’m sure there are a million things you could pour this over but sometimes simplest is best, and over vanilla ice cream (Mackie’s in this case) and sliced bananas that epic salty sweet combo was impossible not to appreciate.

Hubby says – Having tried, and failed, to make a good caramel sauce before – the others of which are bitter, burnt memories – I can attest to the fact that this is the easiest, loveliest caramel sauce you can make at home.  Thank you Kelsey’s Essentials for the recipe!

As the grateful recipient slash guinea pig of this caramel sauce I can attest at least to the loveliness of it if not the ease, but judging by the lack of potty mouthage going on in the kitchen during the cooking process then it’s probably safe to assume that he’s not lying about the easy either 😉

Salted Caramel Sauce
Salty and sweet liquid gold for pouring over ice cream or just eating straight out of the jar with a spoon.
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Stuff you’ll need…
  1. 1 cup white granulated sugar
  2. 1/4 cup water
  3. 3/4 cup double cream (heavy cream)
  4. 3 1/2 tbsp/70g unsalted butter
  5. Sea salt – to taste, up to 1 tsp
  1. 1. Combine the sugar and water in your saucepan and set over a low heat. Gently whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved. Do not be tempted to turn up the heat because you absolutely do not want this to boil! And it’s important to make sure the sugar is dissolved first otherwise there’s a high chance that it will crystalise when you add the cream later. Also, if you do this right then the cream and the butter don’t need to be at room temperature and you can use them straight out of the fridge.
  2. 2. When the sugar has completely dissolved, then turn the heat up to high until the liquid is gently boiling – without stirring. Keep a close eye on it as you need to watch for the liquid changing colour, usually about 5-6 minutes from when it starts to boil. You’re watching for it to turn a deep amber, like a good ale. Once it starts to change colour it becomes really time sensitive and it’s literally a matter of seconds between perfect and burnt. So as soon soon as it turn that amber colour, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat.
  3. 3. Carefully whisk the cream in first, pouring slowly as you whisk as the mixture will bubble up. Once the cream has been whisked in, add the butter and whisk until smooth.
  4. 4. Finally add salt, stir, and set aside to cool – you might want to transfer it out of the pan for this bit.
  5. Hubby says it will keeps for up to 2 weeks in the fridge… HAH! Good luck with that! Ours didn’t last 2 days 😉
Adapted from Kelsey's Essentials
Adapted from Kelsey's Essentials
“Boozy” Mac & Cheese

“Boozy” Mac & Cheese

I used to dislike mac and cheese with an unholy passion.  It was at the top of my “things you couldn’t pay me to eat” list, together with fish pie and recognisable offal *boke!*  To be fair, I’m not a cheese fan at the best of times (and yet the stinky cheese board always ends up next to me at dinner parties >.<) but I blame my almost obsessive contempt for the cheesy pasta on school dinners whose mac and cheese was utter utter utter foulness!  It must have been made from a powder mix because it was always oddly gritty and a little watery.  I don’t think I ever touched it again after leaving school, not even in a poshed up Italian restaurant “four cheese pasta” style.  But you can’t be married to an American and avoid the stuff forever… So it was with huge trepidation that I agreed to let Hubby reintroduce me to this dish last year, and thank God I did because it is, quite honestly, one of my favourite things that he cooks for me now, much to his disbelief and amusement.

He also can’t leave well enough alone so it’s gone through several iterations, from a roux based sauce to a now wine based one (Hubby says – Thanks Heston!).  Not that it tastes remotely boozy, the alcohol is well cooked off to leave just the delicious flavour of the wine behind which sets the mixture of cheeses up perfectly.  Try it this way and I promise you’ll never do this with a roux again 🙂

"Boozy" Mac & Cheese
Serves 4
A classic American dish, updated with a wine based cheese sauce.
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  1. Stuff you’ll need…
  2. 160g block of strong/sharp cheddar (Isle of Mull extra mature is our current fave)
  3. 60-100g block of Taleggio (or any full fat semi hard non-cheddar cheese, emmental or brie would also work)
  4. 100g Philadelphia cream cheese, full fat
  5. 250-350g fusilli or penne
  6. 500ml white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio work well)
  7. 500ml hot chicken stock
  8. 1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
  9. 1 tbsp corn flour (1.5 tbsp at a push)
  1. Cook!
  2. 1. Pour the white wine into the medium saucepan and place over a medium to high heat for about 10-15 minutes, until the wine has reduced right down to approx 50ml/quarter cup.
  3. 2. While the wine is reducing, roughly grate your blocks of cheese into a mixing bowl – if the non-cheddar is a softish cheese it might be easier to just tear it into small pieces. (Hubby says – This really can’t be too cheesey so don’t be stingy with the cheese, and if you have leftover bits of different cheddars taking up space in the fridge then mix them all in too). Sprinkle the corn flour over the grated cheeses and mix with your fingers until it’s thoroughly coated the cheese
  4. 3. Fill the large saucepan with water and place over a high heat until its boiling. Salt liberally before adding the pasta – you want to time this with When the wine looks to have reduced right down. Cook the pasta for 10 mins, or according to the packet instructions.
  5. 4. While the pasta is cooking, add the chicken stock to the wine reduction. Whisk gently and return to the boil. Once it’s bubbling away, add the grated cheese and cornflour to the wine/stock mix and stir slowly with the whisk until the cheese has melted right in. Add the Cayenne pepper too. Leave on a low heat while the pasta cooks.
  6. 5. Just before the pasta is ready, add the cream cheese to the wine/stock/cheese mixture and gently mix with the whisk until it’s all incorporated and looking like a happy cheese sauce. If the sauce doesn’t look thick enough at this point, mix a bit of cornflour with water and add to the cheese mix. A minute or two cooking should thicken the sauce nicely. Remove from heat.
  7. 6. When the pasta is ready (you’re aiming for al dente), drain, and then return the pasta to the saucepan it was cooked in. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta and mix well (if a film has appeared on the cheese mix while it was off the heat just whisk it back into the sauce first). Season with black pepper and mix again, and then transfer it all to your baking dish.
  8. 7. Cover the pasta with a bit more shredded cheese and put in the oven under the grill until the cheese is melted and nicely gratinated.
  1. Also nice with a bit of shredded ham hock stirred through it if you don’t want something meatless.