Friday 31st December, 2020 – Recipes (Keema-Spiced Cottage Pie; Moroccan-Spiced Beetroot and Squash Wellington; Beef, Stilton and Onion Pie)
December’s book for the Great British Chefs Cookbook Club could not have been more perfect for the time of year and the general state of things. Sometimes you want comfort food, and what is more comforting than a well-made pie, stuffed with a rich filling of meat or fish or even vegetables? The book of the month, because people had apparently been requesting something more technical, was “The Pie Room” by Calum Franklin. The restaurant of the same name is on my route from the office to Euston Station, and I’d long been curious about the place but unable to justify stopping of there, so now was my chance to find out what I’d been missing.
With the work to our extension project still ongoing, I started into the book in a week of workmen everywhere every hour of the day getting underfoot. Thus, I needed something simple and easy to put together, and that would reward us with a “comfort-food” dinner at the end of it. Keema-Spiced Cottage Pie (page 171) it was, then.
I had pretty much all the ingredients already to hand apart from the mince between that week’s veg box (potatoes, chillis), and our previous weekend’s restaurant “at home” box which resulted in a very large leftover shallot that I substituted for the onion on the grounds that it needed using and shallots are actually easier to cut up finely. I also substituted sweetcorn for the peas on the grounds that Lynne hates peas. I reckoned the effect would be similar, with some crunch to the vegetable element, so I pressed ahead. Other than that, no changes needed at all. The timings seemed to be spot on, and the only thing I would say is that you may want to add seasoning to the mash once you get to that stage, because it was a tad bland without any salt and pepper beyond that which was in the cooking water. Especially if you also use unsalted butter, it may need a little tweaking.
I also got to use up one of the foil trays that came with one of the first restaurant at home boxes we ordered. They turned out to be just the right size for a pie for 4 people – though for us this one would feed 6 comfortably!
I also decided to use up the weekend’s carrots by making the Slow-Roasted Carrots and Cumin (page 242). These were fantastic, and were promptly earmarked to reappear on Christmas Day. Basically, clean your carrots, cut them in half lengthwise and fry them flat side down in oil until they are nicely browned (around 10 minutes). They then spend 30-40 minutes in the oven with butter, garlic and cumin seeds. They are very good indeed.
Later the same day I prepared the Beef, Stilton and Onion Pie from the same book, freezing it for another day, and also got stuck into making the Beef Cheek and Kidney Suet Pudding. The hardest part of that particular recipes was trimming the fat from the kidneys; they were most uncooperative. After that it was a pretty easy process, with a bit of stirring.
For the beer, I used an Erdinger Dunkelbier and ended up using the whole bottle, which was 500mls, rather than the specified 220mls because during the cooking the mix kept drying out. Also, I didn’t have any beef stock left because it had all gone in the beef, onion and Stilton pie mix, so I used a mushroom stockpot “cube” instead. Aside from that the only other substitution was an accidental one, as I realised once I’d put it on to steam that I’d absent-mindedly used plain flour in the suet instead of self-raising! Cursing myself as an idiot, all I could do was wait to see if what came out would be edible. We could always just eat the filling, if we had to.
The pastry was very easy and quick to make, though luckily, given my flour-related mistake, I only made the quantity needed for one pie. It was incredibly easy to roll out, and the only difficulty was trying to fit it to the bowl. I ended up squashing the excess fold or two down by hand and cutting the extra that wouldn’t go away by that method off and adding it to the lid. As it turned out, the proper thing to do would have been to cut out a quarter of the circle before adding it to the basin. I only found that out later.
You also need an extra hand to tie the lid on, in my experience, or rather just a finger to place on the knot while you tie it when you try and make the foil and greaseproof lid. Next time I’ll be using a proper lidded pudding basin where you only need to clip the cover on!
That said, it cooked beautifully in the time stated, and as I’d used a baking spray to ensure it didn’t stick, I was delighted by the way it just eased out of the bowl and onto the plate. Cutting into it, it released the most amazing aroma, and although the pastry was less fluffy than it would have been with the right flour, it was delicious, unctuous, sticky, satisfyingly “stick-to-your-ribs” food, and it went nicely with the remaining Slow-Roasted Carrots and Cumin.
Oh, and I cooked the filling in my newly-excavated “multi-cooker” that I inherited from my late father-in-law and dug out of the back of the pantry during the first lockdown. It’s been in there for several years so I wanted to test it and see if I would use it or get rid of it. It’s been a bit of a journey of discovery as there are no instructions available anywhere, but it did the job and did it well.
I also decided it was time for an indulgent pudding, and so I decided to embark on the Orange and Golden Syrup Steamed Pudding (Page 213). I have always loved a good golden syrup pudding, but have been put off making them myself by the perceived faff of the steaming process. Having worked through the recipe, I have no idea why I thought it would be difficult.
I made a couple of what I considered to be very minor changes, swapping orange zest for lemon simply because I didn’t have any oranges, but I did have some unwaxed lemons that needed using up. Next time – and there will be a next time – I may add some juice as well, but this time I went exactly with the recipe apart from using brown caster sugar instead of soft brown sugar, again because that was what I had in stock.
I sprayed the bowl with some cake release spray instead of buttering it and the result was a pudding that gently peeled away from the bowl when I inverted it. So I’ll be sticking with that as a method in the future because it’s quicker, and it seems to be foolproof.
I also made the custard featured in the book, and once again it is completely foolproof. I disagree with the instructions only in respect of the bit that says you should take the largest serving for yourself. Not in this house; not if I know what’s good for me anyway! Oh, and I used an extra egg yolk because I had one lying around after making a salt crust baked beetroot dish. I’ve tried several custard recipes before and none of them have worked as smoothly and easily as this one. It’s definitely a keeper!
I should add that making the full amount of pudding saw me with three-quarters of it leftover to go in the freezer! It’s a BIG pudding.
Later in the month, a quick rifle through the veg rack after Christmas revealed both a butternut squash AND a pack of fresh beetroot in need of using. With a block of puff pastry still lurking in the freezer as well, it had to be the Beet Wellington. I was a tad sceptical whether it was going to be a lot of effort for not much reward, but actually it was really, really easy (though not quick). I made the squash filling and cooked the beetroots one day, and then stashed them away in the fridge for when I was ready to use them. I didn’t make any changes to the recipe for once because I had all the ingredients in stock apart from fresh mint, and dukkah. I used dried mint and mixed it up with the yogurt a couple of hours in advance, and I made my own dukkah because I couldn’t find any when out shopping. The result? Fabulous looking and very tasty. Also, as there are only two of us and the pastry was in two 200g blocks, I made two wellingtons and simply threw one in the freezer for another day.
I would like, another time, to make it with candy-stripe beetroot or golden beetroot. It would taste much the same but just imagine how fabulous it would look when you cut into it.
Keema-Spiced Cottage Pie
Serves: 4 generously
Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
</p> <h4>Ingredients:</h4> <ul> <li>1 tbsp of vegetable oil</li> <li>1 medium onion, finely diced</li> <li>1/2 tsp ground turmeric</li> <li>2 tsp garam masala</li> <li>1/2 tsp cumin seeds</li> <li>2 garlic cloves, finely chopped</li> <li>2 tsp fresh ginger, grated</li> <li>2 red chillies, finely chopped</li> <li>500g of beef mince</li> <li>350g of tinned chopped tomatoes</li> <li>300g of frozen peas, defrosted</li> <li>25g of coriander, leaves picked</li> </ul> <h5>Potato topping:</h5> <ul> <li>1kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks</li> <li>150ml of whole milk</li> <li>80g of unsalted butter</li> <li>1 tsp ground turmeric</li> <li>1 egg yolk</li> </ul> <p>
</p> <h4>Equipment:</h4> <p>24cm pie dish</p> <h3>Method:</h3> <ol> <li>Preheat an oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas mark 6.</li> <li>Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes until it starts to brown. Add the turmeric, garam masala and cumin seeds and toast for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli, then sauté for a further 5 minutes until soft and lightly browned. Add the beef mince and sauté until any liquid has evaporated and then add the tomatoes and cook for a further 15 minutes. Add the peas and coriander leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, then spoon into a 24cm round ovenproof pie dish, level the surface and allow to cool.</li> <li>For the potato topping, boil the potatoes in a pan of salted water for 15–20 minutes or until soft in the centre and then drain. Add the milk, butter and turmeric, then mash together well. Finally, fold in the egg yolk and mix well to combine.</li> <li>Spread the potato topping over the minced beef mixture in the pie dish. Ruffle the surface of the potato topping with a fork for added texture.</li> <li>Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake the pie for 30 minutes or until the beef mixture is bubbling up the sides of the dish and the potato topping has a crispy golden crust. Serve immediately.</li> </ol> <p>
Beef, Stilton and Onion Pie
- 300g of puff pastry, shop-bought or homemade
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water, for brushing
- 600g of beef chuck, cut into 4cm cubes
- 100g of plain flour
- 40ml of vegetable oil
- 4 onions, peeled and halved but with the roots left on
- 400g of chestnut mushrooms, halved
- 1 tsp table salt
- 300ml of red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 2l beef stock
- 100g of Stilton, broken into 2cm nuggets
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
</p> <h4>Equipment:</h4> <ul> <li>25cm pie dish (5cm deep)</li> </ul> <p>
- Preheat an oven to 220°C fan/240°C/gas mark 9.
- To prepare the filling, put the beef in a roasting tray, dust with the flour and toss the beef until all the flour has been absorbed by the meat. Add 20ml of the vegetable oil to the tray and toss well to make sure the meat is evenly coated. Put the tray in to the preheated oven and roast the beef for 20 minutes until browned and any juices released during cooking have evaporated.
- While the beef is roasting, cut each onion half into six wedges through the root to leave petals. Put a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the remaining 20ml of vegetable oil and warm for 1 minute. Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the onions have started to brown. Add the mushrooms to the pan with half the salt and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes until the mushrooms have just softened. Next, add the red wine, bay leaves and thyme and bring to a simmer.
- After 20 minutes, remove the beef from the oven and check it is nicely browned. If not, return it to the oven for a further 5 minutes. When the beef is ready, tip the onions, mushrooms, herbs and red wine into the roasting tray over the top of the meat. Put the frying pan back on the heat and pour in the beef stock – half at a time, if necessary – and bring to a simmer. Add to the tray with all the other pie filling ingredients.
- At this stage, take the time to make sure the beef is not stuck to the bottom of the roasting tray: using a wooden spoon, dislodge any caramelised chunks of meat. Working carefully as the tray is hot, tightly cover the top of the tray with aluminium foil. Return the tray to the oven and continue to cook at 220°C fan/240°C/gas mark 9 for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160°C fan/180°C/gas mark 4 and set a timer for 1¾ hours.
- While the filling is braising, prepare the pastry. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 5mm thick circle large enough to cover the pie dish. Slide the rolled-out pastry onto the lined tray and chill in the refrigerator for at least 25 minutes. Set aside any pastry trimmings for decoration.
- After the beef has been braising for 1¾ hours, remove the tray from the oven and, using a dish towel to protect your hands, carefully peel back a corner of the foil. Spoon out one chunk of beef and check to make sure it is tender. It is okay if the beef has a little bite left in it, but it should not be chewy. If necessary, pop the tray back in the oven for a further 15 minutes and check again.
- When the beef is ready, carefully remove all the foil from the roasting tray. Place a colander over a large bowl and tip in the filling. Let the mixture strain for a couple of minutes, then place the contents of the colander back into the tray and spread around to cool down. Transfer the strained liquid from the bowl to a large saucepan, bring to a simmer over a medium heat and cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with the pepper and the remaining salt, adding a little at a time, stirring and tasting until it has the correct level of seasoning. Pour the reduced liquid over the mixture in the tray and set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to speed up the process. Once the mixture is cool, transfer the filling to the pie dish and level the surface. Nudge the nuggets of Stilton into the filling, distributing them evenly across the surface but avoiding the sides.
- Increase the oven temperature to 200°C fan/220°C/gas mark 7.
- Brush the rim of the pie dish with the egg wash, brushing about 2.5cm down the sides of the dish. Lay the pastry circle centrally across the top of the dish, allowing it to rest lightly on top of the filling. (The pastry lid should not be taut as it may droop during cooking and tear.) Press firmly down on the pastry against the egg-brushed rim of the dish to seal all the way round. Lightly brush the pie lid with more egg wash and decorate however you prefer using the reserved pastry trimming and then brush that with egg wash. Return the pie to the refrigerator and chill for a further 20 minutes.
- Place the dish on a rack in the centre of the preheated oven and bake the pie for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the core temperature of the filling has reached at least 70°C on a digital probe thermometer. Alternatively, poke the tip of a knife through the pie into the middle of the filling and leave it there for a few seconds – it should be hot to the touch. Halfway through the cooking time, turn the dish around in the oven to ensure an even bake. Serve the pie simply with some boiled new potatoes and slow-roasted carrots.
Moroccan-Spiced Beetroot and Squash Wellington
- a sprinkle of plain flour, for dusting
- 1 x 500g block puff pastry
- 5 large raw beetroot, trimmed (each about 90g in weight)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced into 2-3cm dice (about 1.3kg prepped total)
- 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and roughly bashed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp harissa paste
- 1 tsp ras el hanout spice mix
- 1 x 28g pack flat leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
- 3 large egg yolks, beaten with 1 tsp water
- 2 tbsp dukkah, plus extra to serve
- Make the squash purée and cook the beetroot up to 2 days ahead, storing separately. You can assemble the Wellington 5-6 hrs ahead and chill. Cook for an extra 10-15 minutes from chilled.
- Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the puff pastry to a 40cm x 30cm rectangle; rest in the fridge on a large baking sheet lined with baking paper.
- Put the beetroot into a large pot of salted water with the cinnamon and cumin seeds. Bring to the boil, cover and gently simmer for about 50-60 minutes until tender.
- While the beetroot is cooking, preheat the oven to 220°C, fan 200°C, gas 7. Toss the diced squash and garlic cloves with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and tip onto a large shallow tray. Roast for about 30 minutes until tender, stirring half way so they colour evenly.
- Remove from the oven and leave the squash to cool for a few minutes on the tray. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin into a food processor then tip in the squash and pulse to a rough consistency with the harissa paste, ras el hanout and parsley. Add seasoning and set aside to cool.
- When the beetroot is cooked, drain and allow to cool, then rub off any skin with your fingers and discard. Trim off a little from the base of each beetroot so they can sit flat and then enough off 2 sides so they can join together in a line like a sausage shape.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge on its tray, dust off any excess flour and brush liberally with egg yolk mixture.
- Working along one of the short sides, spread a third of the squash mix onto the bottom third of the pastry rectangle, leaving a 2cm gap at the edges. Sit the beetroots fitting tightly together in a line down the centre of this mix, with the flat base facing up (this will be the bottom when the wellington is rolled). Spread the remaining squash mix evenly over the beets so they are completely covered, patting it on with your hands.
- Roll up into a cigar shape, away from you, so the seam ends up at the bottom of the wellington with a 3cm overlap of pastry (trim off any excess which can be used for later decoration) and the flat base of the beetroot is now facing down.
- Carefully crimp down each end of the wellington and trim, if needed, so there is just enough pastry to tuck back under itself at the ends. Cut some lines on a slight diagonal over the length of the wellington. Brush all over with egg yolk, adding decorations if you wish, and chill for 30 minutes in fridge. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C, gas 6. Glaze the wellington a final time with egg yolk and sprinkle with the dukkah.
- For the dukkah North African nut and spice mix, combine 2 tbsp roasted chopped hazelnuts, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp sesame seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds and a pinch of flaky sea salt. Store for 1 month in an airtight jar – try sprinkling on scrambled eggs, or adding to salads.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes until golden brown and crisp. The internal temperature should be at least 70°C, using a temperature probe. Slide the cooked wellington onto a board or platter. Slice with a sharp serrated knife and serve with minted yogurt and more dukkah.