Got too many carrots? Make a pie!

About a month ago, I moved out of home to live with my boyfriend of 5 years. Finally, most people said. Most people, except my mum.

I heard a radio DJ talk recently about the two types of mums: those who can’t wait for their children to leave the nest and those who are happy to keep looking after their kids and don’t ever want them to leave. My mum is irrefutably the latter and even though I have left, she still finds ways to make sure she’s still looking after me.

One of the ways she does this is by giving me groceries – bags of carrots, stalks of celery, onions, potatoes, bread, broccoli. The more I say “no”, the more forcefully I get these things shoved into my arms. There is no rejecting an Asian mum when she makes an offer like this (Good tip for if/when you ever have dinner at a Chinese friend’s house: when the mum offers food, just accept it graciously. You’ll be wasting your breath otherwise.)

Because of this, our pantry is full of onions, probably more than I would ever use in a year, and I’ve had to chop off parts of the celery because it’s withering away faster than we can eat it.

To help deplete these resources a bit before taking on more the following week, I decided to make my very first cottage pie, using chopped onion, carrots and celery. The following recipe is adapted from www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/775643/cottage-pie

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Serves 4. Or 2 really hungry adults.

For the pie:

  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 medium to large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 500g beef mince
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • Large glass of red wine
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 300ml beef stock
  • 1 tsp sage
  • A couple sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper

For the topping:

  • About 1 kg of potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 75g butter, softened
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C (non-fan bake).
  2. Heat some olive oil in a saucepan or large frying pan over medium heat and add the garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Fry off gently until soft (doesn’t have to mushy but do give it some time in the pan). I prefer to do this over a medium-low heat to stop the garlic from burning.
  3. Push everything to the outside of the pan and brown the mince in the middle.
  4. Stir in puree and add the wine. Then add stock, herbs, sauce. Taste and then season accordingly with salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until stock is reduced. If it’s a bit watery and you want it like a gravy, try adding plain flour, starting with about 1 tbsp.
  6. Boil potatoes until soft, then drain. Let cool for a bit before mashing it together with the butter, milk and mustard
  7. Once the mince is ready, transfer to an oven-proof dish and cover evenly with mashed potato. Bake until golden.

My potato didn’t colour as nicely as I wanted it to, with some parts of it starting to get a little burnt, so I may try lowering the oven temperature next time I make this.

While the pie was baking I made some crispy green beans as well – cook in boiling salted water for about 2 mins, drain and immerse immediately into a ice bath or if you’re like me and you don’t have ice cubes or even a freezer, do some forward-thinking and get a bowl of cold water into the fridge before you start the pie. Chucking them into the icy water will stop them from cooking and going soft.

Then I popped them onto the frying pan with some heated olive oil and tossed them around with a minced garlic clove and some salt. Delicious 🙂

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Very dry mini meat mince pie

As a regular school tuck shop and bakery staple, the meat mince pie has filled my belly countless times. Sometimes the pastry is too hard, sometimes there’s a lot of gravy and not very much else, sometimes I feel as if I’ve just eaten a giant ball of fat.

Crispy golden pastry that gives way to a flowing, molten gravy of well-seasoned mince – that’s what a mince pie should be like. Once eaten, it should sit comfortably in the stomach, leaving only crumbs of pastry and a warm, satisfied smile on your face.

That’s what I was aiming for when I made my mini mince pies but unfortunately I missed the mark slightly.

I found a recipe on Taste.com.au and made some adjustments to it:

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 brown onion, halved, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 1 carrot, peeled, coarsely grated
  • 25g (1/4 cup) powdered gravy (Gravox Traditional brand) – I used equal amounts of beef stock instead of powdered gravy and water
  • 250ml (1 cup) boiling water
  • 2 sheets (25 x 25cm) ready-rolled shortcrust pastry, just thawed
  • 2 sheets (25 x 25cm) ready-rolled puff pastry, just thawed
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • Tomato ketchup, to serve

Method

  1. Heat oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until onion softens. Add the mince and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until mince changes colour. Add the carrot and stir until well combined.
  2. Meanwhile, place gravy powder in a heatproof jug. Add boiling water and whisk with a fork until combined. Add to mince mixture and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes to cool.
  3. Preheat oven to 180°C. Cut the shortcrust pastry sheets into 24 even squares. Line twenty-four 40ml (2-tablespoons) capacity mini muffin pans with the shortcrust pastry squares. Spoon mince mixture among pastry cases.
  4. Cut puff pastry sheets into 24 even squares. Top each pie with a pastry square. Use a small sharp knife to trim excess pastry. Brush tops with egg.
  5. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside in the pans for 5 minutes to cool. Serve pies with tomato ketchup.

The filling of my little pies turned out a bit under-seasoned and very dry (no flowing molten gravy of mince here), which was probably caused by my adjustment of the recipe. It also lacked the wonderful depth of flavour I found when I made a Guinness and steak pie last Christmas.

I love pie so I’m going to keep working on this recipe, especially with winter settling in. Nothing better than a hearty meat pie to fill an empty belly on a cold day 😉

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