Cottage Pie

We’re in the midst of extensive kitchen renovations and I knew that for six weeks I wouldn’t be able to cook, so I made a whole lot of home-cooked meals which I froze. This is my idea of microwave meals and cottage pie is at the top of the list! It’s delicious and it’s the type of dish you can cook and serve the next day or freeze until it calls your name. It’s screaming my name right now! This is the perfect winter meal or, if you’re like me, the perfect meal to freeze and reheat on a blisteringly hot summer’s day in the Southern Hemisphere!

Servings: 6   Prep time: 5 minutes   Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients:

500g lean mince
2 onions, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons oil
30g tomato paste
250g mushrooms, sliced
8 carrots, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
Sprinkle of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour
1 sachet or cube beef stock (my preference is Ina Paarman’s real beef liquid stock in a sachet but you can use any beef stock)

Method:

Cot pie stove (2)On medium-high heat in a large pan, fry the onion and garlic for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the mince and fry for another 2 minutes, stirring to prevent from sticking, until lightly browned. Add the tomato paste, mushrooms, carrots, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, thyme and pepper. Do not add the salt yet, do this after you’ve added the stock  to prevent the dish being too salty. Fry, stirring, for another 5 minutes.

 

Add the stock in water and flour, stirring to mix well. Cover, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes until thickened.

Meanwhile, make the mashed potatoes:

6 potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
200 ml milk
1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1 teaspoon mustard (optional)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
200g cheddar

 

 

Peel and quarter the potatoes, place them in a dish, cover with water and cook on high power in the microwave for 20 minutes or until soft. Drain them, add the butter and stir until melted. Pour the milk in and mash until smooth and creamy. Stir in the mustard and nutmeg and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Cot pie cheese 2 (2)Preheat your oven to 200°C or 400°F. Take the mince mixture off the heat and pour into a large casserole dish. Spread the mash evenly over the mince and sprinkle with cheddar.

 

 

 

 

 

Cot pie done 2 (2)Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown on top. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve, or refrigerate and serve the next day. I cooked and froze this a month ago and it still tastes as if I made it today!

 

 

 

 

Words Crush Wednesday – Ratatouille Edition

This week’s Words Crush Wednesday quote is from Ratatouille. Life is short. Or long. Hopefully it’s long. Either way, eat what your definition of “good food” is. For some it’s salad, steamed veg and seared fish. For others it’s steak and chips, lasagna and cheesecake. I fall into the latter category although I think it’s all about balance. Life well, eat well and be well.

“If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.” – Remy

Words Crush Wednesday – Gael Greene Edition

We’ve all done it. Bribery. I certainly have, many times. However, since I started cooking five years ago, I’ve been bribing my husband with food. “My love, if you do …. for me, I’ll make a roast” and so on. It happens. Batting my eyelids does not work as well as waving my potato masher. I’m not sure what this says about me nor do I really mind. It works. I’m happy, he’s happy and she’s right:

“Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want.” – Gael Greene

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-awardI. Am. Stunned. Last week I had the honour of being nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award by two lovely ladies, Jillypopmusic and Random Bits of Trial and Error. No words. Well, that’s not entirely true since I’m clearly typing this post but you know what I mean. Thank you so much, Jill and Dawn. You made my week! It’s taken me several days to answer since there’s quite a lot going on (namely kitchen renovations; hammers, angle grinders, drills etc) but here it is. Again, thank you so much.

The rules:
Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
Put the award logo on your blog.
Answer the ten questions sent to you.
Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
Nominate seven blogs.

My answers:

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?

I really like my name and I like that my Mom named me after a queen (an adulterous queen, but a queen nonetheless). If I were to change it, it would be Willow or Summer. Something laid back.

What is your favourite painting?

Vincent van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ but not just because of its resplendence. That he created such beauty in the midst of such pain is deeply profound. (He painted it whilst in an asylum after the famous ear incident.)

What is the first record you purchased with your own money?

It wasn’t a record, it was a tape cassette of ‘Kylie’ by Kylie Minogue. I now have ‘Loco-Motion’ on repeat in my head.

What language do you wish you spoke fluently?

I would love to speak French but for practical purposes I wish I spoke Xhosa fluently. I know enough to get by (barely) but I would love to be able to speak to Xhosa people in their mother tongue.

If you could transform into any animal, what would you be?

Gwyneth Paltrow is my spirit animal.

What was your favorite candy as a child?

I lived for Cadbury’s Sweetie Pie chocolate. Once a week Gran would treat my sister and I to a chocolate of our choice and that was it for me. I also loved Chomps. Still do, always will.

How does your star sign reflect your personality?

I don’t believe in star signs but one correlation is that I love water and I’m Pisces.

What character in a book is most like you?

I can relate to most of the characters who captivate me. They all seem to have at least one trait or habit that resonates within me.

If you could only have one of the five senses, which would you choose?

Sight.

What film is your guilty pleasure?

Silver Linings Playbook. “You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.”

My questions:

1) Are you a morning person or a night owl?

2) Savoury or sweet?

3) Favourite holiday destination and

4) Why?

5) The person who’s had the greatest influence on you

6) Favourite meal

7) Has 2015 started off well for you?

8) Favourite movie genre

9) Three words that best describe you in general

10) Three words that best describe your mood right now

I nominate:

And Just a Touch of Crazy, Undiscovered and Exposed, Juliacastorp’s Blog, Rebirth of Lisa, Suddenly Sonder, Itchy Quill, Faraday’s Candle

Daily Prompt – Inside the Actors’ Studio

Today’s Blogging 101 assignment is to pick a daily prompt and answer it. I’ve read through so many of them, there are so many that I’d like to give great thought to but I’ve chosen Inside the Actors’ Studio so I can share a few random facts about myself. Also, we’ve just started kitchen renovations and time is precious right now.

1) What is your favourite word? 

“Scotch” and “balls”. I don’t drink scotch and the only balls that are my own are meatballs. I do enjoy a good meatball.

2) What is your least favourite word?

“Irregardless”. Now, technically speaking it’s not a word but it is still my least favourite combination of letters written or uttered and passed off as something vaguely English. It’s a combination of “irrespective” and “regardless”. In this case, two rights undoubtedly make a wrong yet there are many who insist on using it. People please, “irregardless” is not a word, no matter how many times you say it. The prefix and suffix create a double negative thus cancelling each other out. There you go. It’s not a word. It makes no sense. Stop using it.

3) What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Books. They transport me into another world where nothing else exists. It’s just me and the characters and real life is put on hold temporarily. Cookbooks and shows inspire me to be more creative in the kitchen.

4) What turns you off?

Perpetual negativity and pessimism. Look, we all have crappy days from time-to-time. Some of us more than others. Sometimes we have days where everything goes wrong. I appreciate this and no one is immune. I am not suggesting that everyone be happy and cheerful all day, every day, but I truly believe that one’s mindset and outlook heavily affects one’s ability to cope with any given obstacle and challenge. Don’t be mistaken, I’m not talking about people who have the occasional and unavoidable bad day or week, sometimes even month. I’m specifically referring to people who seem endlessly negative and pessimistic regarding every single issue bar none. We all know one. I never thought I would quote a Rihanna tattoo (and yet it’s happening) but I do believe she has a point – “never a failure, always a lesson”. Sometimes one has to find it. Sometimes it’s not immediately clear at all and one has to look really hard but it’s always there, whether it’s great or small, obvious or obscure, it’s there.

5) What is your favourite curse word?

The fact that I’m sitting here thinking “hmmm… which one do I choose?” is moderately alarming. I swear too much. I know this. Then I think “by whose standards is too much?”. I don’t swear at strangers (unless they cut me off when I’m trying to park and even then I use my inner voice); I would never swear in front of my in-laws as I know it would offend and disappoint them and I absolutely do not swear in front of my little nieces. I would say my favourite swear word is “shit”. It covers a wide range of expressions. “I’m having a shit (bad) day”, “Oh shit (no)!”, “those meatballs are the shit (amazing), “shiiiiiiiit (ooooops)”. I like its diversity. This is a peculiar paragraph.

6) What sound or noise do you love?

Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice.

7) What sound or noise do you hate?

Lately, my neighbour across the road has been playing his music ridiculously loudly. The shame is that for the most part I really enjoy his taste. I don’t mind his parties. By all means, go right ahead. Except at 2:35am when your shitty bass is thumping so hard that I can actually still hear its “doof doof doof” though my bedroom is at the very back of my house, all doors and windows are closed and I’m wearing earplugs. I shit you not. That’s how loud it is. It’s become my least favourite noise. I actually fancy lawnmowers, dogs barking incessantly and sonic booms over this.

8) What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Anything to do with helping people. And feeding people.

9) What profession would you not like to do?

They Came In Like a Wrecking Ball

They Came In Like a Wrecking Ball

We are currently redoing our kitchen. We are gutting it entirely, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling. These construction guys are doing back-breaking work. I would not like to be them. Respect.

 

 

 

 

10) If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Mom and I

Mom and I

That’s really easy. “Your mother is waiting for you.”

 

 

 

Be Inspired By Your Neighbours

Today’s Blogging 101 task is to expand on a topic that I commented on yesterday. This is the issue: I am inspired by pretty much everyone I follow. One of the things I love most about blogging is its sheer diversity. This is primarily a cooking blog, so naturally I follow other food blogs, but it doesn’t end there. Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been following a variety of blogs that offer so many different, truly interesting topics. They have all inspired me. All of them. I’m now motivated to be a better cook, travel more, write in a better manner, be more fashion savvy, never give up and much, much more. So how do I choose just one? Oh man, it’s like choosing your favourite dessert. Do I prefer vanilla cheesecake or chocolate fondants? They are both completely different in every way, from ingredients to cooking method to which temperature to serve them at. Decisions, decisions.

I’ve chosen two for very different reasons. This is the type of thing that excites me and makes blogging pretty addictive. I can learn makeup tips and in the very next post, see the struggles and amazing honesty of people who are brave enough to share it. It galvanizes me and it’s refreshing.

This mom-of-two is funny, witty and brave. I admire all of these qualities and her post about bipolar speaks to me on a very personal level. My experience with it is that there is still so much shame attached to it. I met a lovely person at a kids’ party a couple of years ago and we got into what was initially a really cool and fun conversation. She then started telling me about her “crazy” ex who was subsequently diagnosed with bipolar and she said something along the lines of “it makes so much sense. He’s completely cray. Now I know why…” and my heart sank. I physically slumped at these words. I have bipolar.

There is still a gargantuan misconception about mental illness. I’m generalizing of course. Sadly, however, so many people don’t get it and also, one’s experience with one person probably won’t be true for the next. For example, I had a boyfriend many years ago who was a lying, four-letter-word, two-timing donkey. My next boyfriend was faithful, honest, dedicated and kind. Apples and oranges.

I don’t hide my bipolar status but I also don’t mention it to strangers or people who I don’t know very well, and this is partly because of the negative, judgmental people I’ve come across (some, definitely not all) and also because I’m worried that people will think I’m a happy, bubbly and chilled because I’m a) bipolar and b) medicated. I need to get over myself. I applaud people who have the capacity to be so raw and honest about their plight. Thank you, Heather. What I learned from you yesterday is to be more authentic and less concerned about what strangers think. After all, as the saying goes, “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Umiami. Dude, I really need to accessorize more. It’s a problem. I love makeup. I really do. I suck at it but I still love it. I am in awe of people who get it right all the time and make it look so effortless. That elusive cat’s eye. I just can’t seem to get my eyes to match. I am also in awe of Jessica Chastain, who nailed it at the Golden Globes. I would never normally go for that type of dress but she was perfection. It wouldn’t match my skin tone or hair colour though. Also, Jessica Chastain has Jessica Chastain’s body. I do not.

My point is this: variety. Fun things, serious topics, beautiful photos, interesting recipes, makeup tutorials, really cool music and profound poetry. This is what makes blogging so exciting for me. It’s a mixed bag. So thank you, neighbours (yes, I know how to spell. I’m South African and we spell it with a ‘u’) for all of these interesting topics. Everyone I follow has become a sometimes fun, other times thought-provoking but always thoroughly enjoyable experience.

 

 

Word Crush Wednesday – Cesar Chavez Edition

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…The people who give you their food give you their heart.” – Cesar Chavez

This. It resonated. When people come to my house for dinner I want them to not feel like they’re just guests, I want them to feel like they’re a part of my home. I put my heart into my cooking and I hope they can feel and taste the difference.

Thank you, Lisa, for this challenge.

Crustless Mini Quiches with Caramelized Onions and Brie

There are few things I love more than cheese. Not many, but a few. The Husband, the cat, shows about people who are ardently readying themselves for doomsday, dreaming I can fly (it only happened once but it was awesome) and, on that note, sleeping late. Actually, take the apocolypse show off the list. I definitely prefer cheese to watching people build underground bunkers in preparation for the inevitable alien invasion. If I were to do that, I know what I would take. Cheese. A lot of cheese. Probably not the best idea in the event of said aliens cutting all power, but you get the gist.

Brie is also known as “the King of Cheeses” and was believed to have been a tribute paid to French kings. I mean, if it’s good enough for royalty.

There are many ways to eat this cheese but this is by far my favourite. The sweetness of the caramelized onions perfectly compliments the gooey creaminess of the Brie. I use a medium (180ml/cup) muffin tray which gives me six mini quiches but you can use small pie dishes too.

Crustless Mini Quiches with Caramelized Onions and Brie

Servings: 6   Prep time: 5 minutes   Cooking time:  Caramelized onions 40 minutes + 25 – 30 minutes for quiches

Ingredients for mini caramelized and onon quiches

Ingredients for mini caramelized onion and Brie quiches

Ingredients:

  • 125g Brie cheese
  • 2 onions, peeled, halved and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 250 ml cream
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Non-stick spray

Method:

Peel, halve and slice the onions. Don’t slice them too thinly, you don’t want them to burn. Usually for caramelizing you would slice the onion whole, however, the quiches are too small for this.

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium high. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and butter, stirring to spread the butter.

Onions in olive oil and butter

Onions in olive oil and butter

Spread the onions evenly across the pan. Fry for 5 minutes on medium high, stirring to prevent onions from sticking, then turn the heat down to medium low and saute for another 10 minutes.

Add the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and salt and saute for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and spray non-stick spray in the muffin tray cups, making sure you cover the sides too.

Brie is too soft to grate so cut it into small pieces, keeping a quarter aside for the topping.

Cut the Brie into small pieces, keeping a quarter aside

Cut the Brie into small pieces, keeping a quarter aside

Whisk the eggs and yolks and add the cream, stirring until thoroughly combined. Add the onions and Brie to the egg and cream mixture, stir and pour into the muffin tray, filling each cup ⅔’s full.

Pour the mixture into a muffin tray, filling each cup by two-thirds

Pour the mixture into a muffin tray, filling each cup by two-thirds

Bake for 25 – 3o minutes until golden brown on top. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before gently lifting the quiches out of the muffin cups.

Caramelized onion and Brie quiches

Caramelized onion and Brie quiches

Brie onion 8 (2)

Individual ramekins also work very well

 

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

These brownies have saved my hide a few times when, say, the ‘rents decide to pop in and end up staying for dinner or friends come over for a quick chat and cuppa which turns into an all-day and all-night event. Lovely though it is to spend time with these special people, I’ve often found myself in an “oh no, what do I make for pudding?” predicament. Enter this recipe.

Ingredients for chocolate brownies. You can substitute the vanilla paste with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Ingredients for chocolate brownies. You can substitute the vanilla paste with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

It’s easy and not very time consuming at all. The reason I’m able to whip it up with short-to-no notice is because these ingredients are always in my cupboard, and probably yours too. I also often make this when I’m cooking a very time-consuming main course. I usually make the brownies first and get it out of the way before tackling the several-hours-long mains.

Some brownies are too sweet and rich (is there such a thing?) but not this. The creamy chocolate-y-ness (that should really be a word; can you imagine the Scrabble points?) is just right. In fact, you can even serve it with ice cream. Some puddings make you feel uncomfortable, some even ill, but you can happily make this without worrying about that.

Here’s a tip. Initially I made the chocolate sauce (so easy; two ingredients, some heat and you’re done) when I was ready to serve dessert. What I’ve been doing lately is making the sauce once the brownies have cooled, then pouring it over them so they soak in it. You don’t have to do it this way. I actually happened upon this method when I had very little notice, got invited to a friend for dinner, quickly made the brownies and sauce and just poured it over them and reheated when ready. It. Was. Amazing.

It’s easier to use a square baking tray. I use a 9 x 9 inch silicone baking tray. The reason for this is because I prefer cutting the brownies into squares as opposed to slicing it like a cake. Having said that, it’s purely for my convenience and I’ve used a round tin many times, but I prefer the square tray for this recipe.

Something important to remember is that the universally-accepted toothpick test does not apply to this recipe. Because you’re making it chewy, you don’t want it to cook like a cake, so after half an hour, if you do the toothpick test, it should not be clear. It should be brown and gooey. Another thing is that my preference is always vanilla paste but you can substitute this for two teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Servings: 9     Prep time: 5 minutes     Baking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup butter, melted (170g)
  • 1 cup white sugar (200g)
  • ½ cup light brown sugar (100g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup flour (85g)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (50g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • non-stick spray

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).

Spray your baking tray with non-stick spray.

Using an electric whisk on high, beat the eggs and sugar until properly mixed, about 10 seconds. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and vanilla paste and beat until well-combined, approximately 30 seconds, scraping down the sides.

Pour the batter into your baking tray and bake for 30 minutes.

My preference for this recipe is a square baking dish but you can use a round cake tin too

My preference for this recipe is a square baking dish but you can use a round cake tin too

 

If you do the toothpick test at this point, it will come out gooey, so there is no need. After 30 minutes, take the baking tray out and let it cool for about 10 minutes before cutting your brownies into squares.

Chocolate brownies

While you’re letting the brownies cool, make the chocolate sauce:

  • 90g chopped dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 150ml cream

On medium-high, heat the cream until warm but not boiling. Don’t let the cream boil, you want to heat it just enough to melt the chocolate. Chop the dark chocolate and add it to the warm cream, removing the pot from the heat. Stir with a whisk until it’s smooth and then pour over your brownies. You can refrigerate this dish until you’re ready to serve it, in which case reheat it and serve as is or with ice cream.

Chocolate brownies in chocolate sauce. Chocolate, anyone?

Chocolate brownies in chocolate sauce. Chocolate, anyone?

 

 

 

 

Words Crush Wednesday – Virginia Woolf Edition

I’ve recently rejoined WordPress and one of the first blogs I followed is Rebirth of Lisa. She has a wonderful weekly feature called “Word Crush Wednesday”. The idea is to post a quote and write a little bit (or a lot) about it. This quote by Virginia Woolf is particularly poignant for me, coming from South Africa and seeing abject poverty on a daily basis. Many people don’t want to “dine well”, they simply want to dine. How fortunate I am to be able to cook pretty much whatever I want, granted they have it at the store. This is never lost on me.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”