Cottage pie / Shepherd’s pie

This is a heart and belly warming classic British dish, however I’m sure other nations have their own variation of the same thing. Even in my native Finland we have something similar. I have added ingredients to the basic version, so it actually probably doesn’t even have any particular national background. For a long time, I always had to check with my British husband what the difference with cottage pie and shepherd’s pie is. The difference is very simple: cottage pie is shepherd’s pie, but with a cheese crust on top. This kind of food is proper, honest home cooking. I tend to make a large batch, which will give you couple of dinners, or dinner for the first night and lunch to take to work with you for few days. I like mine with slight heat from the pepper, if you would like yours mild I would suggest reducing the black pepper and white pepper to half (or just use full amount of black pepper and leave white pepper out).

1.5 kg potatoes
2 tsp salt
50g butter
3dl milk
pinch of salt
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1 medium onion
2 small or 1 large carrots, peeled
1 courgette / zucchini
4 chestnut mushrooms
500g mince beef (if you don’t eat red meat, you can easily swap this to mince turkey)
2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground allspice
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3 dl cheese

1. Peel and rinse the potatoes. Cut in half or quarters, depending on size. Place in a pan and cover with cold water. Add the salt, and bring to boil. Depending on the size of the pieces, boil gently for about 20 minutes, or until soft.

2. While the potatoes are boiling, finely chop the onion, carrots, courgette and mushrooms. I normally use standard brown/yellow onions for cooking, but I have a lot of very strong red onions in my cupboard, so I used that instead.

3. Fry the onions in the oil for few minutes, until starting to turn translucent.

4. Add the meat. Keep beating it with a wooden spatula as it’s cooking, to break it into small crumbly texture. During the cooking, add all the spices. This’s whole step will take you around 10 minutes.

5. Once the meat is cooked, add the carrots, courgette and mushrooms, and fry for 5 minutes, stirring.

6. Once the potatoes are soft, discard the cooking water. Mash the potatoes, and add the butter, milk and salt. I prefer my mash to be firmer when using it in a dish like this, otherwise it won’t hold the mince mixture in a separate layer.

7. Layer half of the mash at the bottom of an oven casserole dish. Then add a layer of the meat mixture. I usually pat it into a firm, dense, even layer. They add the remaining mash. To make sure you have an equal amount to cover the whole dish, I usually start by adding a dollop in the corners, then in the middle, and then plead it across evenly.

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8. Finally, add the cheese. I normally tend to use a mixture of extra mature cheddar and red leicester, however this time I replaced the latter with gruyere. Cook in preheated oven 180°C / 355°F for 40-45 minutes until the cheese top has become slightly crunchy.

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Seafood pasta

This is a simple and tasty dish, and I would also encourage everyone to have a go at making their own pasta. You only need two ingredients for basic pasta; flour and eggs. You can then make different variations with tomato purée, spinach or even squid ink if you’re feeling adventurous. For this recipe I used tomato purée. The octopus I use is already cooked (steamed in it’s juices), so it doesn’t require much additional cooking.

Serves 3
250g flour, preferably fine 00 grade pasta flour
2 eggs
1 tbsp tomato purée
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200g cherry tomatoes
juice of one lemon, or 2 tbsp.
1 courgette / zucchini
25g bunch or parsley, chopped
2 octopus tentacles, about 225g
90g small scallops
1-2 squids, about 150g, thinly sliced
150g raw king prawns
2 shallots
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt, to taste
coarsely ground black pepper

 

1. Measure the flour in a bowl. I used fine 00 grade pasta flour, but I have also in the past used normal plain flour. Make a well in the centre, and tip the eggs in. Start mixing the eggs with a fork, slowly incorporating the surrounding flour into the eggs. When it gets quite firm, I find it’s difficult to continue mixing with the fork, so I change to kneading by hand. Even though I use large eggs, I don’t tend to use all of the flour. Keep the dough soft, but not sticky.

2. I wanted to make tomato pasta today. For this, warm the purée in a pan, and once you’re happy with your standard dough, knead it into the dough. To make it easier to mix it into the dough, make sure your workstation has flour on it.

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3. I would recommend investing on a pasta rolling machine. At a low cost you will get a useful helper to your kitchen for pasta making. Cut the pasta dough into four pieces, and repeat the steps with all of the pieces. Flatten the piece into about 1cm / half an inch thickness. Set your machine on the biggest setting (7). Push the end of the piece right onto the rollers, and roll. The piece should now go through. Once the dough has come out, fold in half, and put through the same setting again. After this, reduce the setting to 6, and roll through once, then same with settings 5,4 and 3.

 

4. With floured hands, pat the pasta sheet on both sides. Then, roll the sheet through the tagliatelle roller. Separate the tagliatelle strands, and place on a baking sheet. Once you have prepared all dough pieces this way, leave to dry while you prepare the seafood sauce.

 

5. Finely chop the shallots and garlic, and fry in olive oil for 1-2 minutes.

6. Add the squid and king prawns, and fry for about 3 minutes. Then add the small scallops, and fry for another 3-4 minutes, stirring. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Add the courgettes to the pan, and fry, stirring, for 2 minutes. Pour the lemon juice into the pan.

8. Add the octopus and tomatoes, and heat through.

9. Tip the chopped parsley into the pan, and stir.

10. Boil water in a large pan, with a good splash of salt. Add the pasta into the boiling water. The fresh pasta will only need to cook for 3 minutes. Strain, and add to the seafood sauce.

Salmon soup

I would probably go as far as to say this is my all time favourite Finnish food. My husband and I have been together for nine years, however he still hasn’t bought into the Finnish style soups of thin liquid base with chunky pieces. He does enjoy the flavour of this soup, so I’ve added a step to make this soup (step 1) slightly thicker. It does actually make it richer, so this has now become part of my recipe.

500g salmon
5-6 large potatoes
1.5 liters water
100g fine green beans
3 large onions
bunch of dill
celery stick
2 dl frozen peas
2-3 dl double cream
2 tbsp bouillon powder
sea salt
ground white pepper

1. Peel and cut half of the potatoes into small pieces. Put the pieces in a large pan, with 1 liter of water. Boil for about 30 minutes, until soft, and mash the potatoes.

2. Whilst stage 1 is cooking, peel and cut the remaining potatoes. Finely chop celery. Add both ingeriendts to the mashed potatoes.

3. Cut the green beans, and add to potatoes.

4. Slice all onions, and add to the soup. Pour the remaining 5 dl water into the pan, and add the bouillon powder, pinch of sea salt and pepper.

5. Cut the salmon into bite size pieces. I usually use salmon with skin on, so once I’ve removed the skin I have to wash the pieces, to make sure none of the large scales end up in the soup.

6. Add the salmon to the soup with the peas (as long as the potatoes are cooked through). Pour the cream in. The soup won’t need any more cooking after this, as they are pretty much cooked as soon as they touch the hot liquid. Just heat it up (adding cream and frozen peas may have cooled it). Add couple of more pinches of salt and some pepper, to taste, and add chopped dill. I tend to use scissors to cut the dill straight into the soup.