This is not a recipe, really. It’s just poorly photographed discussion around something delicious. There are some really beautiful food blogs out there, and this is not one of them. My cooking is more about fueling the masses on a daily basis. So last night I made cottage pie for 9 and while I was adding a few peculiar ingredients I wondered whether others have used these odd additions too. Perhaps you have, and more besides? What are the secret ingredients in your cottage pie?

The picture on the right? Here is one very dear little 9 year old friend who makes me laugh everytime she comes over to play with my girls. What would make more sense than wearing ski goggles while you eat your dinner? Anyway, she can’t eat much beef so I augmented the topping of the pie with a secret vegetable and cheese.

Because yesterday was a cold St Patrick’s Day, and we had been out watching the parade in this little corner of Ireland called Wexford, I wanted something easy to make and comfortingly warming for supper. When it comes to ticking those boxes, Cottage Pie is one of my favourites. So being lazy, I was planning on just adding a bit of instant gravy powder to the sauted beef and onions to add flavour, only to discover I had none, nor even any beef stock. I solved the flavour problem with Worcestershire sauce (essential ingredient anyway), a vegetable stock cube and a generous sprinkling of barbecue salt (garlic flavoured – of course). But for a richer colour? So here’s my little piece of shocking news – but maybe not to you ? – I used:

Cocoa powder!

Of course, chocolate goes with anything 🙂 I know it is perfect in both sweet and savoury dishes and cocoa works a treat in Cottage Pie as it lends a lovely but subtle richness.

Now about turnips. Yuck! Around the ages of four to seven I endured the torment that is the dreaded school dinner in the UK. My only memories are bad, they include mushy peas, mashed turnip and my own sick. The canteen had a very distinctive smell that I can recall after almost forty years, the only way I can describe it is a type of deep fried custard and jelly.

So it’s only taken me that long (thirty-odd years) to finally buy a turnip. I did, last month, to make soup. They are very good at hiding behind other yummier veggies and so I boiled some chunks up with the potatoes and mashed them all together to put over the minced beef layer. That was topped by a generous sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese and left to bake in the oven until bubbling and melty.

Just a note, I don’t add peas or carrots to the mince but serve veggies on the side, my kids, don’t enjoy that mushy veggieness. Last night we had snappy green beans which was a perfect compliment to the smoothness of the pie.

I have to say, it was a triumph of a pie, number one because the kids loved it, number two because I have found another good use for a cheap vegetable and number three because it comes with cocoa. 🙂


9 thoughts on “Of Kids, Cottage Pie, Chocolate and Turnips (on St Patrick's Day)”

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