Thursday, October 27, 2022

Individual and Budget Friendly Cottage Pies with Cheesy Parmesan Mash

 Economical beef mince, vegetables and Worcestershire Sauce are the basis of these Cottage Pies. This is also the perfect recipe for Batch Cooking aimed to stretch a budget and make life easier for us all during the week. By that I mean, doubling the recipe, and cooking up a whole batch of mince on the weekend, and just eating what you need for that night, or serving half to dinner guests as cottage pies, and freezing the rest for later. It's very flexible. Dinner size portions of cooked beef can be frozen in small freezer bags and thawed out quickly. Cooked savoury mince can be used later in a pie maker if you have one to make individual pies, so quick, easy and delicious. A can of tomatoes, and some fresh or dried Italian herbs such as basil and oregano, and a splash of red wine can transform the mince into a delicious Pasta sauce, or you might just like to have it heated up on toast for an easy Sunday night's dinner. The possibilities are endless, and with a little imagination, nobody in your family need realise that they have eaten the same batch of mince a few times over but with a different name. 

I heard an ABC morning breakfast presenter say the other day during their program that preparing the evening meal is the most stressful time of the day for her, and I thought what a shame that was, given what fronting the cameras in the morning in front of Australia must be like. That's what I would call stressful. Batch cooking and a little organisation can help to take the stress out of the daily evening meal preparation. It's also a much more economical way to purchase and cook up ingredients. Your freezer can be your best friend.

A Note about the Ingredients:

Halve the list of ingredients I have given, for 6 servings. The mixture made 13 serves for me. I cooked these Cottage pies in 13 dishes with a 1 1/2 cups capacity to test out the quantities even though I only needed 8 of them. The original recipe said to use six 1 3/4 cup (430 ml) ovenproof dishes. There's not a lot of difference and even a slightly larger ramekin than 1/3/4 cups would be ok, but we find that the 1 1/2 cup capacity is perfect, when the pies are served with additional vegetables such as fresh asparagus and broccoli. I love serving meals in individual serving dishes or ramekins, and it seems to make the meal that bit more special for everyone at the table. However, this cottage pie is also perfect cooked in 1 large ovenproof dish. They make great leftovers the next day.

Ingredients: Minced beef, carrot, celery, onion, sauces to be added


Makes 13 individual serves

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions (600 g), chopped finely

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 stalks (600 g) celery trimmed, chopped finely

2 medium sized carrots, very finely chopped

1.5 kilos minced beef (2 x 750 g)

1/2 cup plain flour

2 cups beef stock, or 2 beef stock cubes and 2 cups hot water

5 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

2 tablespoons tomato sauce

3 cups frozen peas

8 large potatoes, boiled and mashed

2 cups finely grated parmesan or cheddar cheese (this can be optional)

Fresh thyme leaves for garnishing the potato mash (optional)

Homemade spicy tomato relish to serve (find my recipe at this link)

Dinner plates with my homemade Spicy Tomato Relish in small dishes ready for the Cottage pies from the oven


In a large pot, heat up the oil over a high heat, and fry the onion, garlic, celery, carrot and beef altogether. Stir to break up the mince and mix the ingredients together, which will take about 10 minutes. Make sure all the clumps are removed and the mince is nicely browned.

Stir the flour through the mince mixture, and gradually add the stock, the Worcestershire Sauce, and the tomato sauce. Keep stirring until the mixture starts to boil and thicken. This happens quickly.

Remove from the heat, stir in the frozen peas. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

I cooked my mince in the morning so that it would be cold by the time I needed to add the potato to the dishes, and then I knew it was ready to go. However, it can be prepared before assembly.

Preheat your oven to 220 deg. C (200 deg. C fan forced.) Spoon the beef mixture into 12-13 x 1 1/2  cup ovenproof dishes, or just 6-8 dishes and freeze the rest.

Ready for the oven

Spread the mash onto the pies. The potato needs to be hot so that it spreads well onto the cold mince. I use a fork to draw squiggles onto the surface of the potato, which ensures all of those little peaks will crisp up and brown up. My friends, this is an essential step, and is a tradition going right back with Cottage Pies that I remember as a child. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and some fresh thyme leaves. This is optional but I love how it looks and it gives the potato a beautiful flavour.

 Place the dishes onto an oven tray to catch any overflow. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the potato is golden brown and the pies are heated through. As the ingredients are precooked this only takes half an hour at the most.

Ready to serve

Cook's Notes:
  • Mashed potato doesn't freeze well. I wouldn't freeze whole cottage pies with the cooked mashed potato. It doesn't take long to boil some potatoes, and the potato can be added to the cooked mince and browned off in the oven quite quickly.
  • Carrots weren't in the original Australian Women's Weekly recipe, so if you don't have them, that will be fine. In my mind though, onion, carrots and celery are the perfect vegetable base for savoury mince. 
  • Freshest celery, carrot and onion bring a beautiful flavour to the mince.
  • Culinary Magic seems to happen when mashed potato is added to top up minced beef and is then baked to a beautiful golden topping to create a cottage pie. So delicious.
  • Serving cottage pies with homemade tomato relish, or good quality bought tomato relish is the perfect accompaniment
  • Fresh Asparagus is in season at the moment. Lightly blanched fresh asparagus and fresh blanched broccoli are the perfect vegetables to serve. 
A delicious leftover pie, reheated the next day.

Savoury Mince isn't difficult to cook, so I figure why not double the batch which is economical on your time and on your pocket. Batch cooking is a very economical way to cook and eat. The first Australian budget for the Labour Party came down today, it was the budget that had to happen. I don't want to be political, but a lot of people and families are doing it tough and according to the financial experts the two areas which are hurting people's wallets the most are food and fuel. Families need to eat good quality food to keep healthy, not cheap take away, and I think a meal like this isn't overly expensive and will go a long way to feed you or a family a few times.

Warm wishes

Friday, October 21, 2022

Cherry Clafoutis

Cherry and stone fruit season is just around the corner for us here in Australia, so not to be deterred due to a lack of fresh cherries, I have chosen to make this delicious dessert using pitted Morello Cherries. They work beautifully in this French flan which is also a kind of baked custard. Baking this Cherry Clafoutis is the beginning of my plan to start cooking easy dishes with a French theme, as I am travelling to France next year in Spring to visit M & M and our three grandchildren, who are currently living in Montpellier. I finalised all of the air fares this morning, so it seems real now. I am so excited but also a little nervous as I am travelling on my own. Mr. HRK has decided not to go as it is a heck of a long way on a plane from Australia and last time we flew to the Falkland Islands and South America he experienced a lot of pain with his sinuses. His back doesn't cope well with all that sitting either so I'm being very brave and hoping that my smattering of French, the Aussie accent and a smile, will encourage people to help me navigate Charles de Gaulle Airport if needed. I've flown into there before, but it's been a long time. I just can't wait to see my grandchildren again.

A Clafoutis is a French dessert likened to a French flan, and with interesting rural origins. It is most commonly thought to have originated in the countryside around Limousin, which is slap bang in the middle of France mostly atop the Massif Central, and sometimes referred to as France's rural heartland. This is an area I would love to visit.  Did you know the name of the Limousine vehicle is thought to have originated from Limousin, because of the resemblance between the covered portion of the vehicle and a popular style of black cloak worn in Limousin for warmth? Makes sense eh?

I take travel seriously these days, so I'm attempting to improve my schoolgirl French, read some of the French cookbooks sitting on my bookshelf, watch some French cooking programs, and make some recipes like this one to whet my appetite for French food. That's the food and language boxes ticked.  I saw a Cherry Clafoutis made by a French chef on TV recently, however never having made a Clafoutis before I thought I would make a simpler version which I could easily replicate in my son's kitchen and which would be suitable to cook for my grandchildren. French desserts can be anything from elaborate and decadent to simple, rustic and delicious. I'm starting with the latter. This one is very low on sugar, and therefore suitable for serving to the whole family, and very quick and easy to make. A great place to start. It is also very versatile as lots of different fruits can be used, stone fruits such as apricots, peaches and plums are also perfect. I'm really looking forward to stone fruit season in a month or so. 

This is really a French baked custard, and can be your Summer go to dessert. It just might be ours. Almond flour can be substituted for plain flour to convert it to gluten free, however the eggs can't be replaced, they are the essential custard ingredient.

I adapted this recipe from one by Jamie Oliver.

Bon appetit. 

Straight out of the oven

Let's cook:

Serves 4-6

Cooks in 50 minutes plus resting


300 g pitted Morello Cherries or use fresh, preferably stones removed, if you have them

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature for greasing

1 tablespoon caster sugar 

icing sugar. for dusting


60 g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 large free-range eggs

60 g sugar


Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C./gas 4.

Grease a 25 cm round ovenproof baking dish with the butter. Sprinkle the sugar over the base.

Add all the batter ingredients with a pinch of sea salt to a food processor bowl and mix until there are no lumps and totally smooth.

Set aside the mixture in a largish jug for 20 to 30 minutes. I balanced my food processor jug over the bowl so that every last drop of batter drips into the bowl, or just use a spatula. It's much easier to pour the batter into the baking dish from a jug with a pouring lip than from my food processor bowl.

Dot the cherries around the base of the baking dish. If you are using fresh cherries, you can soften them up a bit by placing the dish in the oven for 5 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and carefully pour the batter over the top of the cherries, without moving the cherries, and the cherries are just covered.

Return the dish to the oven and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until it is beautifully golden and puffy. Like a souffle, the clafoutis will lose it's puffiness quickly however that doesn't really affect the taste or texture. Such a shame though isn't it? Allow the dessert to cool slightly to lukewarm.

When lukewarm, sprinkle the clafoutis with a dusting of icing sugar and serve with Vanilla Bean ice cream or whipped cream.

A few cook's notes: (I've learned a lot about making clafoutis)

  • Sprinkle with icing sugar when the clafoutis is lukewarm and ready to eat, not when it's hot straight out of the oven, or the icing sugar will just absorb into the cooked custard.
  • Clafoutis is also lovely served in individually buttered 12 cm diameter dishes. Ladle the batter over the cherries, filling to near the top of the dishes. Bake your dishes in the oven for 10 minutes or until the batter is no longer sticky when tested with a skewer or knife. 
  • If using individual dishes, it may also be easier for you to place the dishes in your oven with the oven shelf pulled out, and pour the batter into each individual dish, rather than trying to place the dishes in the oven without trying to spill any.
  • I've read that clafoutis is delicious served up for breakfast in France and on the following day, if that is what you like, however I wouldn't recommend serving it up for dessert again the following day. Served fresh out of the oven on the day of baking gives the best result.
  • Be warned, in my bottle of cherries, 8 cherries still had the pips in place.

Warm wishes and Bon appetit,


Thursday, October 13, 2022

In My Kitchen, October 2022


When I start writing In My Kitchen each month, I have to really think about what I've been cooking, baking, and where I've been that's noteworthy. The weeks fly by. I've looked back at my photos for the past month, and they tell most of the story. However, we've been travelling quite a bit during this last month and haven't been home very much, so here's a rundown of life in my kitchen in between and during our travels. I've also purchased a few nice things along the way that I found quite serendipitously. 

I made a batch of these Portuguese Custard Tarts in Cairns, after being inspired by the tarts we ate at the Gallery Cafe in Chillagoe, where we travelled for the weekend just recently. My recipe is based on Jamie Oliver's Portuguese Orange Custard Tarts recipe and these were delicious. 

The next photo showcases a beautiful linen table runner which I bought at the Cairns Art Gallery and is based on the Fruits of the Rainforest Art Collection, painted by William T Cooper. This particular one is called Myrsine. I also bought a smaller runner, and a tea towel from the Sauropus range, which will make lovely Christmas gifts. I was fortunate to see William Cooper's beautiful Rainforest Collection paintings at the Cairns Art Gallery at the beginning of the year, but they had sold out of the manchester range in the gallery shop. Luckily it was back in stock a few weeks ago so I took advantage of it. William Cooper is one of  Australia's most proficient and talented botanical and bird artists, and his works are meticulously based on many birds and plants from Far North Queensland, where he lived before he died in 2015. I believe his wife still lives on the Atherton Tableland, and manages all of the exhibitions and merchandising now.

Mr. HRK is a twitcher, a bird watcher, so I bought him this fabulous Black Cockatoo tea towel, also based on an artwork by William T Cooper. He looks how I feel somedays ha, ha., but with a lot to say.

I also found a waterproof Mexican Oilcloth tablecloth at the Chillagoe Gallery shop, perfect for our outdoor courtyard table setting, which is subjected to a lot of heat in the North Queensland Summer.

I wrote a post recently about our beehive, and how just before we left on our road trip for Sydney, we harvested some of our own honey. We were thrilled with how delicious and clear this batch of honey is. If you missed the story, you can find it at this link.

Removing the honeycomb from the beehive frames.

I hosted my book club meeting and I took the easy option with a tried and true recipe and made my Ginger Syrup Cake which is always delicious. I added thin slices of Tropical Stem Ginger in Syrup which we make each year from our homegrown ginger to the batter, and combined with the Ginger syrup which is added when the cake is straight out of the oven, this cake was delicious and full of sweet and spicy ginger flavours.

Stem Ginger slices in syrup added to half the batter, before adding the remainder of the batter carefully

Ginger cake straight out of the oven

I also made my favourite Lemon Crispy slice, because I just happened to have a packet of Corn Flakes in the pantry, which is the basis of this quick and easy but delicious biscuit slice. I only buy Corn Flakes so that I can make these Lemon Crispies. I've given the recipe to so many of my friends, and they all love it.

Unfortunately the nasturtiums are finished in our garden now.

Anybody reading my blog knows that we can never have too many cookbooks. I bought "Jam Drops and Marble Cake" at the fabulous Christmas Village near chilly Stanthorpe, along with a few other Christmas decorations destined for overseas. I love to support the iconic Australian institution, the CWA. The Christmas shop in the Village specialises in selling their homegrown Christmas trees but it was too early to buy one of those, and it wouldn't have been easy to bring one home in the car on our road trip anyway, except perhaps on the roof, much easier to bring home a new cookery book.

We had a fantastic road trip to Sydney, and we haven't even been back a week yet, so I'll write another post at a later date and share some of our memorable experiences with you, mostly related to food of course. However, the highlight in Sydney for me was attending the Phantom of the Opera stage musical at the Sydney Opera House. An iconic show in an iconic venue, it doesn't get much better than that. On a cold, windy day, with showers clearing, we caught the Light Rail train from Surrey Hills to Circular Quay for the afternoon performance. We were very fortunate to acquire those tickets as they have been sellout performances, and we could also enjoy a glass of champagne overlooking the beautiful panoramic views of Sydney Harbour.

Paul Tabone played one of the leads as Ubaldo Piangi. He was a Music Theatre student at the Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music in Mackay when one of the hats I wore was the Music Librarian for the Con. He has had quite the illustrious career overseas, and it was such a thrill to see him perform in the Phantom in Sydney. He's put the North Queensland town of Ingham on the map, being from there.

Taking a selfie on our way to the Opera House

Very tall and stately Giraffes at Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney, they have the best view of all of Sydney Harbour.

This is my October submission to the #IMK series hosted by Sherry from Sherry's Pickings. Each month bloggers from around the world gather to share what is new in their kitchens. Today is the deadline so I must post this tonight. Then I will enjoy reading what all of the other bloggers have posted to this series about what they have been doing this month in their kitchens.

Thanks for dropping by,

Warm wishes