Wishing you all a happy Saint George’s Day with these humble cottage pies. I’ve been mostly working on my book, stuck with my nose in research and absolutely loving it but in the evening I long for great simple food with pure flavours. This pie is just that, with the best spuds you can find for your mash, decent flavoursome beef and a layer of moist spinach, this is a treat for me. I just wrap it in a towel and relax with a beer and a movie.
No doubt you will all have been waiting for the dragon slaying moment in this story but unfortunately I will have to disappoint you as there are no dragons in this tale.
Then the tale of George and the dragon appears in the Legenda sanctorum or Golden legend, a collection of hagiographies (stories of the Saints) by Jacobus de Voragine. This book of which there were over a thousand of manuscripts in the 13th century was very popular and was one of the first books that were printed in the English language when printing was invented around 1450.
So what are you up to today?
- 400 g beef mince, from chuck steak
- 1 large chestnut mushroom or a white one
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 small carrot
- 1 clove of garlic
- a knob of butter to fry the meat and veg
- 1 small tin of tomato puree 50-70 gr (concentrate of tomato)
- 1 glass of red wine or stout beer like guinness – 250 ml
- 2 teaspoons of Worcester sauce
- 300 ml of beef or vegetable stock (I use an organic vegetable stock cube)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A few handfuls of fresh spinach (you can use from your freezer too)
- Potato mash, you need 4 large spuds or use leftover if you have some
- Add 4 teaspoons of grated cheddar cheese
- 2 individual trays, or one larger one. Small pie pans work well. (14×19)
Cook your spuds and make your mash with milk, butter, nutmeg and salt. If you like to make it richer, add an egg yolk too. You need a silky smooth mash which is slightly wetter than you’d eat it normally as it dries a bit in the oven.
Chop all the vegetables and add to a heavy based casserole, glaze a little over a medium flame and then add the meat. Brown the meat and add the tomato puree, stir well to combine evenly
When the tomato starts to caramelise – which means stick to the bottom of the pan, pour in the wine or beer. Stir to loosen up the meat and veg.
Let the booze evaporate, it takes about a minute, and it will be reduced a lot. If you don’t want to use alcohol, use water or stock
Now pour in the garlic, stock, and the Worcester sauce and put on the lid, leave for 30 minutes but check on it frequently so it doesn’t burn to the base. You may leave it longer too, it is merely for the flavours to develop.
Use boiling water from the kettle and blanch your spinach, drain and add a cube of butter, you may omit this but butter does taste so very well.
Preheat your oven to 180°C
Place your spinach in your chosen baking tray or trays, season with pepper.
When the meat is ready, transfer it to you tray or trays.
Now make the mash layer by scooping blobs of potato on the meat, then spread out.
You can pipe this mash, but who has the time to pipe mash on a weekday??
Place into the oven under the gril for about 10-15 minutes or until your mash has some color. It depends really on what you like, lightly coloured or not.
Serve with a beer, or wine if you like.
Put the rest in the freezer, we usually have some leftovers. These pies freeze very well, just defrost in your fridge overnight when planning to use.
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