November comfort food

This week is brought to you by some of my followers who came to my aid when I tossed out a cry for help. Feeling uninspired, a couple of days ago I asked if anyone had a food they would like to see on tango-mango. Bingo! So far I have received six great suggestions. They may not all make it this week, but certainly a few of them will, with the others not too far behind.

Lost-My-Hearts-in-Republic-City asked if I could make a fall/wintertime comfort food and suggested shepherd’s pie. Motivated by the idea of creating something warm and delicious for cool and rainy days, I spent a fair amount of time looking through a dozen-or-so recipes. The origin of this meat pie dates back centuries, so as you can imagine, there are about as many versions of this dish as there cooks who make it.

According to history, the humble “cottage pie” dates back to around 1791, when the potato was introduced as an edible crop affordable to the poor. Along with the potatoes, any kind of leftover meat was used. Cookbooks from the early 19th century started calling it “shepherd’s pie” and those recipes usually listed lamb as the meat ingredient. Since then, (supposedly) lots of people have felt that shepherds primarily tended to sheep, therefore, a true shepherd’s pie must contain lamb. Cottage pie, shepherd’s pie – overall the names are fairly synonymous.

Last night’s casserole was gorgeous, and those spoonfuls of the savory meat-and-vegetable filling, blanketed with mashed potatoes hit the spot. It was so good, leftovers were packed in containers and taken away to work, to reheat later in the day.

This recipe is my own version, influenced by many. You could use any leftover vegetables you have on hand, including squash, beans and corn. A vegetarian version could easily be made substituting lentils for the meat.

Cottage pie (you can call it “Shepherd’s pie” if you wish)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 - 3 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 glass red wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 6 - 7 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1 egg, beaten


Preheat oven 375°F.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or sauté pan. Add the onions and sauté them until they begin to turn golden, about 7 minutes. Add ground beef and continue to cook, breaking it up in pieces. Add carrots, salt, pepper and thyme and continue to cook until beef is done. Drain fat from pan and discard.  

Sprinkle beef with flour and stir through. Add tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce. Let this cook for a minute or two and then add beef stock. Allow to reduce down until you have a thick gravy and carrots are beginning to soften. (They will continue to cook in the oven.) Taste and add more salt if needed. Stir in peas.

Remove from heat. Spray an oven proof 11 x 7 or 13 x 9-inch dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon meat mixture into dish. (I actually prepared two smaller dishes to created two casseroles.)

Stir egg into hot mashed potatoes. Spread or pipe the mashed potatoes over top, covering completely. Bake casserole until bubbly around edges and potatoes are beginning to turn golden, about 25 minutes. If potatoes haven’t browned but casserole looks done, put dish under the broiler for several minutes. Watch carefully!

Tent casserole loosely with aluminum foil and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Tonight I made hands down the easiest and most delicious meal I’ve made to date (considers butternut squash from yesterday… Hmmm close call.) There isn’t even a crumb left after dinner tonight. My little slip of a sister-in-law ate three pieces alone and only then did I reveal the topping was cauliflower and not potatoes. You’re welcome for the impending intestinal discomfort, Kristen!

Beef mixture:

  • cook diced onions (1), carrots (2), & garlic (2 cloves) in 2 tbs of fat (your choice - butter, olive oil, coconut oil…) over medium-high heat for 5 minutes
  • add 1 lb ground beef
  • shake in worcester sauce into the mix until your heart’s content (really, I have no idea. I just added several shakes of the bottle)


  • Roast cauliflower florets & head of garlic at 400* for 30-35 minutes
  • Blend all with 2 tbs butter, salt, pepper, & garlic powder
  • Place beef filling into a greased casserole dish and spread mashed cauliflower on top. (I added more worcester sauce on top…) Bake for 30 minutes at 400* and devour.

I’m already planning to make this again later this week. Clearly, I need to make a bigger batch next time…

Admittedly, while my day was pretty perfect in terms of nutrition, I’m rocking a pretty heinous headache and some confusion or fogginess if you will. I can’t even guarantee that recipe is 100% accurate as I made most of it up as I went and can’t seem to concentrate for more than 5 minutes. I have a feeling I will have nightmares of being chased by potato chips, Chinese food and waffles…

Gordon Ramsay’s Cottage Pie With Guinness Recipe

To serve 6 you will need:

a large pie dish
2 tbsp olive oil
900g good quality (low fat) minced beef
sea salt and black pepper
3 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
a few thyme sprigs, leaves only
2 nice fat plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
330ml bottle of Guinness
5 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
300ml chicken stock (I used fresh home made chicken stock) but you can use a Knorr stock cube
1 kg floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or King Edward, peeled and roughly cubed
50g butter a handful of grated cheddar, plus extra for the top of the pie
1 large egg yolk
plus a good handful of cooked peas and carrots if you fancy

How to do it:

Put a large frying pan over a high heat and add a thin layer of olive oil. Season the mince with salt and pepper and fry, stirring, in two or three batches, until nicely browned.

Drain off any fat, although you shouldn’t really have worth worrying about if you used good quality mince.

Put the cooked mince into a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan you just used, put it over a medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. When it’s nice and hot, fry the onions, with the garlic for a few minutes until until soft and golden.

Now add the thyme and cook for another minute or so.

Add the browned mince, tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir constantly for 4-5 minutes.

Add the Guinness and Worcestershire sauce and boil until the liquid has reduced by half. Pour in the stock and return to the boil.

Turn the heat down and simmer for 20-25 minutes, by which time the mixture should be lovely and thick and glossy.

Continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes if it doesn’t seem quite thick enough. Once done remove it from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F or Gas 4

Meanwhile, add the potatoes to a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and cook until tender. Drain and return to the hot pan for 15 seconds or so, to dry out, then take off the heat.

Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer back into the pan or mash smoothly. Mix through the butter, cheese and egg yolk.

Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Put the cooked peas and carrots into the bottom of the dish if you are using them and then spoon the mince mixture on top.

Spoon the mashed potato on top and rough up the surface with a fork.

Grate over some extra cheese and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.

Cottage pie with butternut squash on the side? Happy (starchy, buttery, delicious) New Year, indeed!

I’ve made this Anthony Sedlak recipe once before - it is unbelievably good but, man, is it time consuming. Nonetheless, two hours later, you’ve got a dinner that everyone will go nuts over. I promise.

Side note: if you made even just normal mashed potatoes, this recipe has a great trick. Throw a few crushed garlic cloves in while the potatoes boil, and add some grated parm-reg when you add the butter and milk. To die for.

Cottage Pie

I spent years calling this dish Shepherd’s Pie, only to learn that Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb. Turns out this is called Cottage Pie.  It’s made with ground beef and is a wonderful, warming, comfort food.  I made last-minute plans yesterday afternoon to have two friends over for dinner, and I chose to make Cottage Pie because it’s quick and easy to make, tastes great, and everyone seems to like it.

I used a Martha Stewart recipe and made a few changes to it: 

Here is the recipe, followed by my notes:

This recipe for traditional lamb potpie makes eight individual servings (or two large pies instead).  If you like, you can replace the lamb with ground beef.  Cool pies completely before covering with plastic and freezing for up to three months.  Reheat frozen pies (small or large) in a 375-degree oven for about an hour.


  • 2 pounds freshly ground lamb
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 10 ounces frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat a large skillet over high heat. In two batches, cook lamb until no longer pink, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to a colander set in a bowl; let fat drain off and discard.
  2. Add ¼ cup water to the skillet, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add flour; cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
  3. Add Worcestershire sauce, 2 cups water, and lamb. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in peas; cook 1 minute. Divide among eight 8-ounce ramekins or two 9-inch glass pie dishes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover potatoes with salted water by 1 inch; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.
  5. In pan, bring milk and butter to a simmer; remove from heat. Return potatoes; mash. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Spread over pies; use a fork to make peaks. Bake on a baking sheet until tops are browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly; serve.


I cut the recipe in half and made only one rather than two 9 inch pies.

I used 1 lb. of ground beef rather than the 2 lbs. of ground lamb

Because I kept forgetting that I was halving the recipe, I didn’t halve everything; for ex. I used a whole onion and two Tbs. tomato paste.

Instead of 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, I used 1 tablespoon of quinoa flour.

I used a cup of frozen peas, and thawed them.

I used a little over 1 lb. of potatoes.  They were a mix of Yukon golds, baby red potatoes, and fingerlings.  I didn’t peel them; the peel adds to the interest and texture of the mashed potatoes.

Classic Cottage Pie

If you are a British citizen and you DO NOT know how to cook Cottage Pie, Shame on you! That is terrible! Thankfully, I am here to help…

What will you need?

  • Minced Beef (Cottage Pie= Minced Beef, Shepherds Pie= Minced Lamb)
  • A beef stock cube
  • Beef Gravy
  • Onions
  • Some veggies, just to make it seem healthier
  • Potatoes
  • Butter

What tools, you ask?

  • A Pyrex dish
  • A potato masher!
  • A frying pan

The Method behind the Meal:

  • Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes so that they boil faster
  • Boil in slightly salted water until completely soft
  • Drain the water and mash until your arms are weak and your brow is sweaty
  • Add some lovely butter and leave to one side
  • Brown the mince with some onions in a large pan
  • Add the stock cube and stir, the mixture will turn browner
  • Add some gravy granules and a little water bit by bit
  • Add more granules and water until a gravy forms amongst the beef
  • Throw in yer veggies if that tickles your fancy
  • Pour the beefy concoction into the dish and slap on the mash
  • Spread the mashy goodness evenly onto the beef and make pretty shapes in it
  • Stick it in a hot oven until the mince is bubbling and the mash is brown and delicious!

So, Now you know. You have no excuse. To the kitchen! Now!