CT recently returned from a trip to York. Whilst there he popped into Bettys Tea Rooms for a cuppa and a curd tart. Fat rascals are a classic Yorkshire bake and one that I very much associate with Bettys. I’ve never actually tried one, so in order not to feel left out, I decided to have a go at making some.
If ever anyone asks me what my favourite dish is, I am most likely to say Granny’s shepherd’s pie. This, a true British dish, has become a legend in our family and often comes up in conversation at family get togethers. It’s been many years now since I’ve eaten it; my grandmother is no longer alive and I’ve been a vegetarian for the last twenty years or so. I don’t even know how she made it, except for one thing, Granny always added baked beans to her pies. This is the legacy she has left, so although I make my shepherd’s pie with lentils rather than lamb and tend to use whatever vegetables I have to hand, I always add baked beans.
I’ve not made a shepherd’s pie for quite a while as it is not a spring or summer dish; now autumn is upon us, it feels like the right sort of time for something warm, comforting and bathed in nostalgia. As it is now British Food Fortnight which celebrates the glory of good British food and runs from 21 September to 6 October this year, I give you my take on Granny’s Shepherd’s Pie. My magic ingredient is … chocolate.
As always, it’s good to get tooled up for the job. Our tin opener has been faltering of late and I have never had a decent sized serving spoon. Luckily, OXO have come to the rescue – just in time to make this dish. The OXO Good Grips range of utensils are specifically designed for comfort and ease of use. I needed the tin opener for the baked beans. What a joy to open the tin without a hitch. It was easy to use and to quote OXO has “an oversized knob” which does indeed turn with little effort. The handles have a particularly comfortable grip too. The large spoon was perfect for scooping out a whole portion intact and it dished up the pie beautifully. The stainless steel makes it particularly durable and again the handle is very comfortable. Both implements are sturdy and stylish and are welcome additions to my kitchen utensils.
As well as a large plate of cake, I came away from our Clandestine Cake Club meeting last week, with a bottle of Mrs Middleton’s Oil. Our CCC organiser, Ellie Michell, has many strings to her bow and this cold pressed rapeseed oil, grown on the family farm in Bedfordshire, is one of them. It is nutty in flavour and has a beautiful golden colour. It’s fabulous used as a salad dressing or as a simple dip for bread. I was certainly happy to use it in my shepherd’s pie.
Oh, this was so good, I can’t tell you. It gave the two of us three substantial dinners and if we weren’t so greedy would have done four. Last night, I arrived home from work, soaking wet, tired and hungry. CT had the mini version in the oven and the smell when I opened the front door was not only mouth-watering but so comforting too. My mood quickly changed from despondency to delight. The chocolate is not detectable as such, but it adds richness, thickness and colour which turns a good dish into an exceptional one. A mouthful of this takes me right back to Granny’s house and I can’t help feeling that my shepherd’s pie is nearly as good as hers.
Of course being British, you’d hope that most of the ingredients involved would be not only British, but as local as possible. Whilst I can’t claim that the lentils are British, most everything else was either grown in Cornwall or bought from small local shops. I buy the lovely organic milk I use from our local market and it comes from Ayreshire cows from Helsett Farm on the north coast of Cornwall. The potatoes, garlic and courgettes were grown by my own fair hands, so you can’t get much more local than that. I am thus submitting this to Shop Local over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen.
As I used sprigs of fresh thyme from the garden as well as bay leaves, I am entering this into Cooking with Herbs hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage.
National Vegetarian Week runs from 19th to 25th May 2014. Betta Living are running a recipe competition to win £750, so as this is such a classic I am entering it in the hope of winning. #BettaRecipe
- 8 oz Whole brown lentils
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 large Carrots – chopped
- 1 large stick Celery – chopped
- 3 tbsp Rapeseed oil
- 1 Onion – chopped
- 1 Courgette – chopped
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 8 Chestnut mushrooms
- several sprigs Fresh thyme
- 2 tsp Shoyu (soy) sauce
- 1 tin Baked beans
- 20g Dark chocolate (I used 100%)
- 5 large Floury Potatoes – scrubbed and chunked
- 4 tbsp Milk
- 120g Cheddar Cheese
- to taste Salt & Pepper
Yield: 8 servings
Best of British comes back to the South West this month from London and has now reached the county of Dorset. The first and if truth be told, only thing that came to mind when thinking about Dorset speciality food was Dorset Apple Cake. Strangely, with all of my cookery books I didn’t have a single recipe for this. So, I resorted to the net and came up with this winner – voted the Dorset National Dish in 2006 by Greg Coomer.
Like many other people this year, I haven’t had nearly as many apples from my mother’s trees as normal, but I still have a few. I’d been mulling over an apple cake for a while and wanted to include a bar of Lindt Luscious Caramel in it. Easy peasy, I would adapt Greg’s cake of course. I made a larger quantity as I don’t have an 8″ cake mould, omitted the lemon peel, substituted chocolate for raisins and used cardamom sugar. I also substituted buckwheat for the specified cornflour and did my usual mix of flours. I also used, err, Cornish apples – shhhhh!
This is how I did it:
- Weighed out 10oz flour (4oz spelt, 4oz plain white, 2oz buckwheat) and sifted into a bowl with 2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda.
- Added 5oz cardamom (caster) sugar.
- Rubbed in 5oz unsalted butter until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
- Peeled, cored and diced 250g of tart apples (Cornish variety – label missing) stirring into the mixture to coat as I went along so the apples didn’t brown.
- Made a well in the centre and added 2 medium eggs and 2 tbsp milk.
- Stirred until all combined.
- Added a chopped 100g bar of Lindt Luscious Caramel and stirred in.
- Spooned into a 21cm cake mould.
- Cored and sliced one tart apple, but left the peel on.
- Drizzled over 1 tbsp lemon juice to stop the slices from browning, then arranged the slices on top of the cake.
- Scattered over 1 tbsp of soft brown sugar.
- Baked in the oven at 180C for 35 minutes.
As some of you might have gathered by now, there is a monthly blog challenge for the Best of British created and supported by The Face of New World Appliances. Each month, a different region or county within the UK is featured and the challenge is to make either a dish from that area or using ingredients that come from it. I’m keen to support this as it is very much about promoting British produce AND I did kick things off with the Best of British Cornwall back in May. There is also an incentive of a possible £50 Amazon voucher for one lucky entrant. Janice of Farmergirl Kitchen hosted a Scottish challenge in June and the current one, for Yorkshire is hosted by the exuberant and energetic Karen from Lavender and Lovage.
Now, since trying my first (and only) Yorkshire curd tart when I was in York last year – from the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms no less – I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making them myself. Needless to say, it took this challenge to get me kick started. A couple of nights ago a group of us went to see No Fit State, an amazing animal free circus that is performing at the Eden Project throughout August. We were all meeting up for a picnic beforehand, which seemed like a perfect opportunity to try out the tarts. Of course, these were my interpretation of this classic recipe – I had to get chocolate in somehow! I based the filling on this Hairy Bikers recipe.
This is what I did:
- The night before, brought 2 pints of milk to a simmer.
- Squeezed in the juice of a lemon and left the milk to cool down, stirring very briefly.
- Poured the mixture into a sieve lined with a cheesecloth and left overnight for the whey to drip out.
- Placed 150g of wholemeal flour in a bowl with 25g cocoa powder and 15g icing sugar.
- Added 100g of cold cubed unsalted butter and rubbed the mixture between my fingers until it resembled breadcrumbs.
- Threw in an egg yolk and a splash of cold water.
- Stirred and brought the mixture together into a ball.
- Placed in a plastic bag and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- Creamed 65g of unsalted butter with 65g cardamom (caster) sugar until very light and fluffy.
- Grated in the zest of an organic lemon and creamed some more.
- Beat in an egg until thoroughly combined.
- Stirred in the curd cheese.
- Added 25g of raisins (would have used current, but didn’t have any).
- Rolled out the chilled pastry and cut into rounds to fill four 9cm tart cases and 7 jam tart sized dimensions – I used my muffin moulds.
- Divided the mixture between the tarts and baked at 180C – 20 minutes for the larger tarts and 13 minutes for the smaller ones.
The tarts were delicious, just as good as I remembered the one from Betty’s Tea Rooms. The chocolate pastry offset the sweetness of the filling and the overall effect was very satisfying – certainly everyone seemed to enjoy them. We picnicked in the evening sunshine, a rare event this summer. We then enjoyed a fabulous performance of flying trapezes, rope climbing, hula hoops, trampolining, contortionism and pole dancing like you’ve never seen before. Oh and the music was good too.
As these are tarts and they were baked especially for a picnic – where they were all consumed I might add, they fit very well into this month’s Tea Time Treats. Hosted on alternate months by Kate of What Kate Baked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage, this month’s theme chosen by Kate is picnic pies. I might almost have planned it 😉
Well this may not bear much resemblance to shepherds pie as most know it – it is vegetarian after all – but it’s what I call shepherds pie. Normally I make this with lentils, but I thought I’d try a version using Quorn mince this time instead as I happened to have some languishing in the freezer. I was also keen to incorporate chocolate, as this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge was to make a savoury vegetarian dish and I thought chocolate would give an added depth of flavour to a much loved (by me at any rate) dish.
This is what I did:
- Scrubbed some of our Sarpo potatoes.
- Placed in a pan with a large clove of garlic and boiled until soft.
- Drained off the water and mashed with some sour cream and 1/8 tsp sea salt.
- Put a glug of olive oil into a large pan.
- Threw in 1 large onion – chopped.
- Diced 3 large carrots and put those in too.
- Added a few sprigs of thyme, a couple of bay leaves and 3 Cornish pepper leaves.
- Fried until the onion was soft.
- Added two large cloves of garlic – chopped & a 1/4 tsp dried thyme.
- Threw in 300g Quorn mince, rather more frozen sweetcorn than I intended as my hand slipped when adding it to the pan and a tin of mixed beans.
- Ground in some black pepper, added some shoyu and a pinch of sea salt.
- Left to simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.
- Took off the heat.
- Added 40g 70% dark chocolate (G&B) and left to melt.
- Buttered a casserole dish and spooned in the mince.
- Spread the mashed potato over the top and dotted with small pieces of butter.
- Baked at 180C for 30 minutes until bubbling and nicely browned on top.
For further inspiration – or not – here are some other chocolate savoury posts I’ve done: