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!

 

 

 

 

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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

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.

 

 

Who I Am and Why I’m Here – The Cooking Edition

“Food” has become my favourite four letter f-word, but it wasn’t always like that. Up until five years ago, I was utterly useless. I was the Cher Horowitz of cooking. Clueless.

When I met my boyfriend more than a decade ago, I decided to “wow” him and make a roast leg of lamb. I had never done this before, I’d never even cooked rice but I thought “how hard can it be?” Well… Back then he had a convection microwave oven in his apartment so off we went, got a juicy leg of lamb and I set about creating this meal. What I didn’t realize is that I’d set the microwave on convection mode as well as microwave mode, on high too! When we took the meat out, it was literally like a piece of coal! It was breaking apart but not in the so-tender-it’s-falling-off-the-bone kind of way. No. I definitely “wowed” him, but not in the way I’d anticipated! Ever since then, I decided that cooking was difficult and a mission and not for me. I closed myself off to the idea and that was that. Never again. Much later I ended up eating my words. And they were delicious.

Five years ago I needed a challenge. I needed to be able to do something that would hold my interest and be rewarding. The Husband is a very good cook, seldom uses recipes and yet comes up with the most mouth-watering meals. He always made it look so easy. I wanted to be like that too but I had a mental block against cooking. Nevertheless, I thought “what is the most challenging thing I can do?”. Cooking. Everyone laughed, and rightfully so. The roast leg of lamb was mentioned numerous times, and still is!

I started off with things like roast veggies, then I graduated to cottage pie, curries and stews and roasts. I quickly realized that as long as I followed the recipe instructions, I was fine. I followed every single recipe to the T until I gradually started getting a feel for it and coming up with my own ideas. I Googled everything. Everything! I taught myself to cook over the internet. I didn’t realize how rewarding it would be and I quickly turned into a feeder, much to The Husband’s delight. I started having dinner parties and people actually complemented me on my food. Every time this happened I nearly fell over. I couldn’t believe it! Cooking has become my joy over the past five years. My kitchen is my happy place. I love cooking complicated meals and I’m always pushing my boundaries but I wanted to share some of my recipes, easy yet very tasty recipes, because I know most people don’t have hours upon hours to spend in the kitchen every day. It doesn’t have to take half a day to be delicious. Some of my favourite recipes take less than an hour, some even half an hour (chilli con carne, anyone?).

I come from a family who lives for the written word. My Dad is a muso and lyricist. My sister writes poetry. I don’t have their talent but I do love writing, and I love cooking, so I decided to combine the two, hence this blog.

I want to share my recipes with you and my hope is to learn new things and continue pushing my boundaries. I’m no longer the Cher Horowitz of cooking, nor do I literally get egg on my face anymore, and I consider myself a pretty good cook but I’m always striving to improve and expand my knowledge. I want to share delicious recipes and learn new ones. Exchange ideas and different techniques. However, I don’t have great expectations. All I want to do is share recipes and tips, and hopefully people will enjoy the food. That’s my greatest hope.

I started this blog a few years ago and now I’m ressurecting it. Cooking is my passion, so please, eat my words.