I love London. I lived there for 14 years and although every day life was quite stressful, I fell in love with this beautiful city and its vibrant energy. I have some of the most wonderful experiences and memories from there.
As I watched the Olympic Marathon on TV and saw the athletes running through the city, I almost froze in front of the TV as all those great memories of London were brought back to me right there and then.
So in order to honor the city I love so much, this week we are cooking two very classic English dishes. I remember as a student in London, my landlady often cooked these two dishes for me. One of them, Cottage pie, is comfort food to me, and a popular Sunday lunch in England. It originally was a dish made out of left over meat with mashed potato on top. But nowadays, it is usually made with fresh minced meat. There is also another version, which is made with minced lamb, called shepherd’s pie. Normally, a cottage pie recipe is not tomato based; it only calls for a hint of tomato puree. But in my version, I add extra tomato to make it tastier for the children. And for the dessert, I chose crumbled meringues on top of the English classic: strawberries and cream – a little bit of a crunch goes a long way, delicious!
For the mince:
- 500g minced beef
- 1 medium onion, peel and finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peel and diced
- 1 stick celery, diced
- 250g tomato, diced
- 1 tbsp. tomato puree
- 1 tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. fresh or dry thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 organic beef (or chicken or vegetable) stock cube
- 1 small wine glass of white wine
- 1 large wine glass of water
- A drizzle of Worcestershire Sauce
- A splash of olive oil
For the mashed potato topping:
- 800g floury potatoes, peel and chop into large chunks
- 1 knob of butter
- 2 tbsp. of milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A few sprigs of rosemary
- Olive oil
First we cook the mince. Heat a large non-stick saucepan with a splash of olive oil. Sautee the onion until soft but not brown. Add the carrots, celery and fry for a few minutes. Now tip in the mince, and keep breaking it up with a spatula and stir until the meat is nicely brown. Pour the wine in and fry for another minute. Stir in the tomato, tomato puree, a drizzle of Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaves. Add the flour and stir continuously to prevent it from burning. Now add water and the stock cube, season with salt and pepper. Stir well and turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
While the meat simmers, preheat the oven at 190 degrees C. Cook the potatoes in a medium saucepan of salted water for about 20 minutes or until soft. Drain and let it steam dry in the colander for 5 minutes. Return the potatoes to the saucepan and add the knob of butter and milk, mash well and set aside.
Now transfer the meat to an ovenproof dish then spoon the potato mash on top of the mince. Use the back of the spoon to spread the mash evenly. Poke the sprigs of rosemary on the mash and drizzle a little bit of olive oil over it. Bake on the top shelf in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are slightly brown and the filling bubbles. Serve with green peas or a green salad.
For the strawberries and cream:
- 300g Fresh strawberries, sliced or diced
- 2 tsp. caster sugar or Agave syrup
- 5 tbsp. single cream
- 1 mini meringue per serving, crumbled
To make the dessert: (do this while the potatoes are cooking) in a medium bowl, mix the strawberries and the sugar and set aside for 5 minutes. Divide the strawberries in 5 mini glasses, spoon the cream over and crumble the mini meringues on top.