Monday, January 31, 2011

Shepherds Pie...Take 1

Okay,  I went for it.  After my Bangers and Mash Debut,  I decided to take on Shepherds Pie last week.  Before I started, I needed to get the definition correct.  I thought I could make my shepherds pie with beef but was informed by some of my British peeps (Thanks Ami :) that if it has is a Cottage Pie.  A Shepherd tends to sheep and their babies are it is the same cottage concept made with Lamb....BAM...shepherds pie.

If you think about it,  that is sort of a strange name because it implies that the shepherd takes one of his animals he is protecting and throws it into a dish for dinner...sort of sick....but I digress.  LET'S GET COOKIN!!!!!

I started w/my ground (mince) lamb and let is brown after seasoning with salt, pepper and some thyme.  When it was done,  I set it aside and let the fat drip away so it would be a bit lighter.  In a different dish,  I cooked up some onions, garlic and shreadded carrots along with some rosemary for a few minutes.  Next,  I threw in some red wine, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and chicken stock before letting the mixture hang out for a few minutes.  Let's get the potatoes workin!

I peeled some potatoes and got them boiling in another pot.  Once they were finished,  I mashed and added an egg yolk, salt, pepper and some parmesean cheese...DELISH!  The onion lamb mixture was now ready so I pulled out one of my fabulous Le Creuset dishes and poured it in just before topping with my mashed potatoes.   Once all was assembled,  I added some more parm. cheese and poured over a little bit of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) before popping it into the oven for 20 minutes.  The secret that I originally forgot and had to do about 5 minutes into taking a fork and picking at the mashed potatoes to create peaks.  This makes the top cook better and get more crisp.

POOF...Shepherds Pie.  My tester man dug in and also enjoyed some Roasted Pine Nut Broccoli on the side.  So...what is the verdict?

I have to say that I was disappointed a little bit.  The dish was a little bland which surprised me as I had put thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in the dish.  I got a few tips from some Brits after my first pass and will put them into work next time:

1)  Don't peel the potatoes.  It makes the dish more earthy and gives more dimension to the crust.

2)  Make a gravy to pour over the dish.  I am a fan of Bisto granules (I know it is cheating and basically, according to my friend Jane "The instant coffee of gravy)....I love it.  It is so salty and I'm sure it would have eliminated the bland factor.

I will definitely use these tips next time.  The recipe was Gordan Ramsay's and can be found here.  I would recommend adding more thyme and rosemary to the dish than the recipe calls for:

Now that I have tackled two British classics,  I'm starting a new project.  With my handy epicurious iphone app,  I'm going to start having weekly international themes.  I will go in alphabetical order and will begin with Africa this week.   Tonight, I'm making Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Green Olives.  Stay tuned ;)!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bangers and Mash meet....the American girl and Southern Stump!

It's a new year and so comes a new chapter,  new challenges and new exciting opportunities.  I am hoping to embrace things better and give my overachieving self a bit of a break in 2011.  Now, after I say that...I WILL MASTER BANGERS & MASH and other cuisines this year (enter evil laugh MUUUAAAH HA HA HA HA)!!!

Now, for all my fellow Americans...what is "BANGERS and MASH"?  It is an iconic dish consisting of sausages and mashed potatoes served in many pubs in the UK as it is fairly easy to prepare and you can make it in large quantities.   The term "Bangers", according to numerous sources,  comes from the fact that during the rationing WWII era,  sausages had the unfortunate trend of exploding with a "BANG" if cooked at too high a temperature.  ...the problem was fixed...but the name stuck ;)!

I am not sure why I was so intimidated by this dish as,  while I have quite a dark history with them,  I HAVE made mashed potatoes before and how difficult can it be to buy sausage at the store and cook it?  I think it is the whole "American Girl does British Cuisine" that threw me.

I used Ina Garten,  my dear Barefoot Contessa Ina,....used her recipe from "Barefoot in London" which I watched 2X back to back while staying with my brother and sister-in-law's house in Raleigh.  Oh how I love all of her cooking and awkward meals in London while Jeffrey tours the city in his private double decker bus.  Anyway,  her Bangers and Mash Recipe is super easy (bake the sausage instead of throwing it in a frying pan).  I skipped the mustard potatoes as my partner in not a fan.    I did an onion, chive and Cheddar mash instead ;)!  Here is a link with the recipe from Ina's show.

(and don't think I haven't eyed the English Bacon Sandwich...I will be making it FOR SURE in the near future.  I didn't phase into being a meateater...I RAM JAMMED into it!)

You will see in the picture that I also added some roasted Broccoli....the easiest thing ever.  Throw some Broccoli in a roasting dish...drizzle w/Olive Oil and then add Salt and the oven at around 180C for 20 minutes...DIVINE!  I am finding that I'm becoming a bit of a food snob in that I really can't justify using frozen is SO EASY to prepare fresh and the nutrients don't get lost!!!  Of course steaming is the best way to make veggies from a health standpoint but either way...FRESH is best :)!

So,  there it only tweek/improvement is that I will add Gravy to the meal next time!  Doing my research for the blog,  I realized I should have (with mashed potatoes Eileen...duh!)  my "Jeffrey" was so nice he didn't mention it ;)!

Next stop on my cooking train....Lamb Shepherd's Pie ;)!

Friday, January 14, 2011

I'm here...stay tuned!

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a few months.  Life happened (and smacked me and those I love in the face) while I was maintaining a blog I guess.  Not to fear, however...I will be back in full force with more London restaurant reviews, thoughts, recipes, ideas, etc. very soon!

Stay tuned peeps!  3,000 hits so far!?!?!  Not too shabby ;)!  I want to get that to 10,000 by the end of February so I guess I had better get out and start living so I have something to entertain you ;)!  Doubt it will be interesting...but for now,  the gym...