Tomato Garlic Beef Curry

There is a new Indian restaurant here in town.  We did make the mistake going on opening night.  We were getting cranky waiting for the food!  But once the food did arrive it was really good.  So I hope that they get things sorted because we would love to have a proper Indian restaurant in town.

I had ordered a spicy lamb curry with tomato, garlic and onion.  A slow cooked flavourful curry with a great balance of heat.  I had to recreate it.  I planned on doing that for my dad’s birthday but since plans got changed (for a good reason!) I decided to make it for the kids when they got back from FL as they both requested curry for dinner.  And they gave a thumbs up for adding spice.

Tomato beef curry 1 2015

This is a dish you want to slow cook, no short cuts on this on!  But other than the time it takes it is really simple.  Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season about a pound of stewing beef or lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Brown the meat on all sides.

Tomato beef curry 2 2015

Coarsely chop an onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Add to the skillet.  We have been growing Ring O Fire peppers in our garden so I harvested a couple for this.  Start off with one pepper.  It’s a lot easier to add more heat than remove it.  Again, seeds increase the heat so use your judgement.

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Saute for a few minutes to soften the onion then add a 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Freshly grate about 1 – 2 inch/2.5-5cm piece of ginger, add to the skillet.  Chop a small handful of fresh cilantro.  Then season with sea salt and pepper, 1-2 teaspoons of garam masala, and a couple of tablespoons of red curry paste.

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Cover and keep it on a low simmer for a few hours.  Stir occasionally so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.  Half way through cooking test the heat and if you want more add more hot pepper.  Adjust for the curry seasoning with the paste if needed as well.  Meanwhile, my husband made up some incredible naan for us to enjoy.  We thought the naan would be enough so I didn’t do up any rice.

Tomato beef curry 5 2015

I was really pleased with this, it tasted close to what I had at the restaurant.  It was hearty without being heavy.

Today is the first day of school for the kids.  Our daughter started high school and our son is starting middle school.  Wondering where time is going.  But to make it a fun day I’m making pavlova and and chicken cordon bleu.  Can’t wait to hear all the stories!

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BBQ Burgers and Family Time

Every summer there is nearly a month when the kids are gone.  A bit hard on the parents but it means the kids are off on adventures.  They do a two week overnight camp and then we usually get them for a couple of days then they are off to Florida to see grandparents with their mother and stepfather.

While we get a break from the usual back and forth of getting the kids round we miss them like crazy.  We picked them up from camp Friday evening and they had so many stories to tell.  It was non stop and it was fabulous.  But they were looking forward to home cooked food.

Our daughter must have missed the kitchen as she made breakfast each morning this weekend and baked cookies.  Yesterday morning she kicked us out and set the table with flowers and candles.  She really loves going all out.

When we picked them up they mentioned they were sick of cheeseburgers.  Shoot, as that was what I was making for last night!  Our daughter said oh we love your burgers so that’s ok.  Phew!

It was time for something different so I thought I would make BBQ burgers.  Our poblanos are coming in and I wanted to use them.  Our garden has been a struggle this year but our peppers are doing us proud.  I see a lot of hot pepper jelly in our future.  Unfortunately we’ve used up all our Peach BBQ sauce I had made so I had to use, gasp, store bought.  Peaches are showing up in the shops now so it is on my list to make another batch.

BBQ Burgers 1 2015

I had a pound of ground beef which is more than enough for the four of us.  The only issue is it’s impossible to find decent buns that aren’t enormous.  So the buns tend to dwarf the burger.  I think a quarter pound of meat is more than enough but I think I’m in the minority in this country.  My husband and I went without the bun.  In a bowl add the meat.  Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic and add that with a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  I didn’t have enough cheddar to do slices on top but I did have enough to grate for the actual burger.  The amount I added was about a quarter of the meat in volume.  Then add a few tablespoons of BBQ.  Mix well and form into patties.  Set aside.  Cook up several rashers of streaky bacon and set that aside as well.

BBQ Burgers 3 2015

My husband brought home some fresh corn yesterday.  So exciting!  I love having them grilled.  Very easy to do, just soak for about 20 minutes in water.  Then grill for 5 minutes on each side until cooked through.  When these were halfway cooked I added the burgers.

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Once you flip them add sliced onion that have been prepped with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and pepper.  Add the poblanos after deseeding them.  You want the peppers to blister a little but don’t go crazy.  You want to grill the onions so they have the grill marks but aren’t burnt. When the burgers are almost done add slices of cheddar or jarlsberg to the burgers to melt.

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Layer with BBQ sauce, bacon, onion, and pepper.  Butter up that corn and enjoy!  My husband did up some sweet potato and regular potato chips (fries) to round out the meal.  I was stuffed.  I think a bun would have sent me over the edge.  I didn’t even have room for ice cream!

False Advertising with Spicy and Making a Curry

Back in the beginning of November we went to Sway in Austin and had the most amazing Jungle Curry.  It was spicy!  Spicy with loads of flavour and I wanted to try to recreate it.  In “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon there is a recipe for Kaeng Masaman or Muslim Curry and was classified as a very spicy curry.  Ooh, I thought, maybe this could be close to the curry from Sway.  Hmmm not so much.  The flavour was really good but I had to spike it quite a bit at the end of cooking to get some spiciness.

First up was to make the curry paste.  Given what I had in my pantry I used already ground spices, except the cardamom pods.  The only two ingredients I didn’t have was mace and shrimp paste.  And because it is hard to find galangal I substituted ginger.

In a small bowl mix 2 tsp of chilli powder (I do wonder if the book had an error and should be 2 tablespoons), 2 Tablespoons of ground coriander, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon.  Set aside.

Muslim Curry 1 2015

In a small skillet heat up 5 cardamom pods without any oil.  Shake the pan so the pods don’t burn.  You want them to be golden brown.  Grind them finely in a spice grinder.

Muslim Curry 2 2015

In a skillet saute 1 1/2 cup of chopped onion in olive oil.  Once softened add 5-6 finely chopped garlic cloves.

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Place in a food processor.  Add about an inch or so of ginger, coarsely chopped, and about an inch of sliced lemongrass.

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Pulse until it becomes a paste.

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Add the spices and pulse to blend.

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Cover and chill for a few hours to let the flavours blend.

When it’s time to make the curry gather the ingredients together.  The one thing I don’t have access to is tamarind pulp.  So I left that out.  The rest is pretty easy.  In a large skillet bring cubed beef, 14 oz of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of fish or oyster sauce, 15 cardamom pods, and a few dashes of ground cinnamon to a boil.  Then lower to a simmer.  Cook until the meat is cooked and tender.  The book did mention that you shouldn’t cover the skillet because it will cause the coconut milk to curdle.

Muslim Curry 7 2015

Remove the cardamom pods when the beef is cooked.  That way it won’t get confused with the peanuts!  Stir in a large handful of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped.  Add all the curry paste you made earlier with 2 tablespoons of lime juice.

At this point, I tasted for spiciness.  I was already to be blown away but it was very mild!  So I added more chilli powder but not wanting that to be a dominating flavour I also added red pepper flakes until I got some heat.  The flakes are great because they don’t overwhelm the rest of the dish but brings the heat.

Muslim Curry 8 2015

Garnish with some peanuts and cilantro.  While this wasn’t close enough to the jungle curry it was a really nice curry.  And it showed me that making homemade curry paste isn’t overly difficult.  So I’ll be playing around with the flavours for my own paste.  🙂

 

Roasted Beets with Burgers

I know a lot of us who blog have figured out the balance of healthy delicious food with budget.  And I don’t think it is that difficult to do.  But very often in cooking competitions there is invariably a challenge that involves cooking on a budget. Time and again the reaction is it’s impossible to get flavour on a budget.

For example, I am watching season 4 of Top Chef which I believe aired about 6 years ago.  They were given a challenge of cooking a healthy delicious meal with a budget of $10 for a family of four.  You might as well have told them to climb Mount Everest!  I don’t understand the disconnect for a lot of people when it comes to this balance.

Given that our food budget is about $150 a week which includes things like kitchen roll, soap, etc, I need to be creative with the dishes.  We actually do pretty well during the summer because of our veg garden but it gets a little tricky in the winter.  I sometimes skate over the line.  The big budget buster is meat, especially if it is important to buy local, humanely raised meat.  It just goes back to portion control.  I’ll take a breast of chicken and use it for the four of us.  And it’s plenty.

I also try to use an ingredient a few different ways during the week.  This week it’s beets.  I had some bacon fat left over from the chicken avocado dish I made so I thought I would roast them.  I had half a pound of ground beef leftover so it was perfect for two burgers for my husband and I.  To round it of I bought 2 large portabello mushroom caps.  When I was doing research into the Paleo diet I was so overwhelmed by all the books on this subject, it was insane. I saw in one book a suggestion to use the mushroom as the base to a burger. I cannot remember which book it was though. I looked at about 30 of them!

This is an inexpensive easy dish to make even with the grass fed beef.  I kept the burgers simple and used garlic chives and thyme from the garden.

Roasted beet burgers 1 2014

I chopped up the thyme and chives with a couple of cloves of garlic. I mixed them with the beef and a dollop of stone ground mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Set this aside.  Peel and slice the beets about 1/4″ thick.  Beets are so messy!  Getting the stain out of my fingers is such a pain.

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Set the oven to 400F/200C and place the baking dish with a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat.  Allow it to melt then add the beets with salt and pepper to taste.  Roast until they are tender.  In the meantime, form the beef into patties.

Roasted beet burgers 4 2014

Drizzle the mushrooms with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill the burgers and mushrooms.  Be careful not to grill the mushrooms so much that they aren’t firm anymore.  Place the mushrooms on the plate and top with the burger.  Spread goat cheese on the burger then place the beets on the cheese.

Roasted beet burgers 5 2014

I’m not a fan of beets but the bacon fat helps.  🙂  Of course after I did the photos and cut into the dish I thought I should have added some greens on top for presentation.  Too late at that point!

Giving Cornish Pasties a Try…

When we had our family get together a few weeks ago my dad was telling me about someone he knows being confused about how to pronounce Cornish Pasty.  This person would insist on pronouncing it pasty as in paste.  We had a good laugh about that, I asked if dad had explained that pronunciation required dollar bills!

As I did research on recipes for Cornish Pasties I realised that in 2011 it was given a PGI similar to Chianti or Parmesan cheese.  So I went to the official site for a Cornish Pasty to find out how to make these.

I’m not sure how stringent they are in protecting the Cornish Pasty because I have had several in the UK, many variations which include peas or carrots, different ways of doing the beef, etc.  I followed their way as closely as I could.  I’ll show what the actual recipe says and what I did based on the ingredients I had.

For the pastry:

500g strong bread flour (I used our all purpose flour)

120g white shortening

25g cake margarine (I used butter)

5g salt

175g cold water

Cornish pasty 1 2014

Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix until the water is incorporated.  Tip out onto the counter.  This will be very crumbly.

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Knead the dough together to incorporate the shortening and butter.  This will be a stiff dough.

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Cover and place in the fridge for 3 hours.  I only was able to have it in there for 2 but it came out well.

For the filling:

450g skirt steak (I had about 390g)

450g potato (they said to use waxy potatoes but I used what we had on hand and used our freshly harvested red potatoes.  Also, to keep the ratio of the filling intact I used about 390g of potato)

250g swede (rutabaga)

200g of onion

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Chop the steak onion into 1/2″ cubes.  Chop the swede and potato into 1/4″ cubes.  Season well with salt and pepper.  The recipe says to have a 2:1 ratio of salt and pepper.

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Preheat the oven to 410F/210C

Divide the pastry into four portions.  Roll out thinly and spoon the filling into the centre.  I found that 1 1/2 cup of filling was as much as the pastry could hold.  Add two dollops of butter.

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Fold over the pastry and roll crimp from one side round to the other side.  Put a few slits in the top.

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One step I forgot was to brush milk over the pastry before baking.  Bake for an hour until golden brown.

Cornish pasty 8 2014

I did find a disconnect between the amount of pastry they say to make and the filling.  I had about a third of the filling leftover and it was reduced based on what I had.  When I make this again I will reduce the filling even more.

We all enjoyed it and I loved the simplicity of the recipe.  And I have to get to Cornwall and see what the real thing is because it looks like I haven’t bought real ones yet!

 

The Lovely Zing of Fresh Horseradish…

The fun thing about our local co-op is we can find unusual ingredients not normally found in our box store groceries.  This time I found fresh horseradish root. As we are fans of this ingredient when we have roast beef I figured I would branch out a bit and play around with it.  If you ever have stuffed sinuses have a bite of fresh horseradish.  It will make you stand up and blink!

I planned an easy dinner to make because our plan was to whack some tennis balls back and forth.  But it rained.  Boo.  Now that is is finely warm enough we were looking forward to running around and having some fun.  That will have to wait.

I decided to do grilled portobello caps with steak and horseradish sauce.

Horseradish sauce 1 2014

Oregano is growing like crazy in our garden so I choice to use some to pretend I was making some kind of dent in the abundance of the herb.  I made up a marinade of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, chopped garlic and oregano.  The ratio of oil and vinegar is 2 to 1. Season with salt and pepper.  Mix well and add the mushrooms.

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Set aside.  On to the horseradish!

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I had some plain Greek yoghurt so I used it as the base for my sauce.  In a small bowl add 8 oz of yoghurt, about 2 tsp of fresh thyme, salt and pepper, a few squirts of lemon juice, and grated horseradish.  The amount is up to you depending on how much zing you want.  I do suggest adding a bit at a time until you hit the level of heat you want.

Horseradish sauce 4 2014

When I bought the steak, the way it was packaged it looked like two equal pieces which is what you want when serving two people.  Does this look equal to you?

Horseradish sauce 5 2014

Like the moon to the earth!  Season with salt and pepper and a dry rub of your choice.  We like using the Salt Lick Spicy Dry Rub.  Grill the steak and mushroom until cooked.  We like ours on the rare side.

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After letting the steak rest slice it and spoon the sauce over the meat to serve.  Grate an aged Italian cheese of your choice over the mushrooms.

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A perfect meal for after an activity like tennis.  I hope we get to that soon!  Maybe this weekend.  🙂

Steak Marsala – Would Julia Child Approve?

My husband got me some fabulous books for Christmas. Volume 1 & 2 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and a photography reference book to help me with my pictures.  The photography book is a great refresher for me and gives me a better idea of what I need to explore more thoroughly.  And the cookbooks are wonderful.  There are several recipes I want to try.

A few nights ago my son had a friend over who enjoys good food so I thought I’d make the garlic soup from the books.  Needless to say despite following the recipe I didn’t like it.  More on another post about that adventure but I had to quickly come up with plan B!  Fortunately we had bought the ingredients for another meal so I went with that instead.

The inspiration came from Julia Child and her recipe for Filet Steaks with Mushroom and Madeira Sauce.   I couldn’t find Madeira wine and I made a few other changes.  This meal has lovely deep flavours but is easy to put together.  We don’t eat large portions, in fact one person commented on a dish I made saying it was a delicious starter!  So I only bought about a pound of steak filet for 5 of us.  I also did up roast potatoes, parsnips, and carrots.

Mince half of a large shallot or a whole small one and slice several mushrooms.  As I was prepping the meal I played around with settings on my camera.  This shot was using the P setting.  Came out very different from what I was expecting!

Steak marsala 1 2013

Then I switched back to regular settings:

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In a saute pan melt 2T of butter with 1T of olive oil.  Saute the mushrooms for a few minutes until they start to brown then add the shallots to soften.  At this point I started deviating from the recipe and added some fresh thyme to the dish.

Steak marsala 3 2013

Once the mushrooms are browned and the shallots are softened remove from the heat and set aside.  In a skillet melt a few more T of butter and a T of olive oil.  You want this to get hot without burning the butter so pay attention to the colour of the butter.  Season the steak with salt and pepper then pan sear for a few minutes on each side until you have the doneness you are looking for.  We prefer ours medium rare.

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Remove and cover to rest.  Pour out about half the fat.  Again deviating from the recipe I added a cup of veg bouillon to deglaze and set that to simmer.  Add a spoonful of tomato paste and begin to reduce a bit.  Because I wanted enough to go on the steak plus the roast veg I didn’t reduce down to the couple of tablespoons that it called for.  I reduced it about a third.

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Add the mushroom mixture and a third of a cup of marsala wine.  Simmer and reduce again.  Slice the steak and spoon the sauce with mushrooms over the steak.

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The sauce was rich and layered in flavour.  My son, who’s not a fan of mushrooms, enjoyed it as well.

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Thank goodness for plan B and here’s hoping Julia Child wouldn’t mind.  🙂

 

Arugula Pesto with Balsamic Grilled Steak

One thing I like about living in this area is that we have a great community with people coming together.  One person who does a ton in this town is Luca who owns a fabulous restaurant a short walk from our home.  His children also go to the same school as my son and Luca has been wonderful in supporting our PTA activities.  We got to chatting recently and I mentioned how much our daughter loves to cook and he thought it would be great for her to be on his local cooking show.  How cool is that?  She is very excited about that prospect!  Of course I checked out the show and found a fabulous recipe and asked if I could feature it on my blog and here we are.  🙂

Here is a link to his show A Culinary Journey and the recipe I’m featuring is the salmon dish near the bottom of the screen.  Now you’ve probably noticed that I am not making a salmon dish.  Try as my husband might he just can’t develop a taste for fish.  And he has tried.  So I thought this would be perfect with a nice grilled steak.  I kept the steak simple with a garlic balsamic marinade.  Just the balsamic, chopped garlic, and olive oil.  Salt and pepper the steak and add to the marinade about an hour ahead of time.

I had a tough time finding arugula as the season has been weird so I had to get some at the co-op.  And the only hazelnuts I could find had the skins on them.  I’ve never cooked with hazelnuts but I knew I didn’t want the skins.  After a bit of research on the internet I found a few tips pointing to the same technique.

Arugula pesto 1 2013

Boil a couple of cups of water.  Then add 3 T of baking soda.  It will foam up quite a bit.  Boil the hazelnuts for about 3 minutes then plunge in cold water.

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It’s messy but the skins come off easily.

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Next the hazelnuts need to be roasted.  Everyone says when roasting nuts to roast until you get a nice nutty smell.  I don’t have a sense of smell.  So I had to keep a close eye on them because you don’t want to burn them, just get them golden.

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While they are roasting, and that doesn’t take too long, prep the rest of the pesto.  In a food processor throw in a couple of handfuls of arugula.

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Add about 1/2 cup of parmesan, a good pinch of sea salt, and then pulse it to blend.  Add the hazelnuts.

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Pulse to blend then as you are processing drizzle the olive oil in to bring it all together.  Add a bit at a time until you get the right consistency.  You don’t want it dry but you don’t want it goopy either.

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To add a bit of brightness I added a bit of lemon juice as well.

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I grilled up the steak and while it was resting I added a few drops of real balsamic vinegar to give the flavours more depth.

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To serve I sliced the steak then grated parmesan over the meat.  Then I added the pesto to the steak.  I served this with roasted potatoes and corn.

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This can be a bit strong for people so be careful how much you put on their dish.  I loved the strong flavour but my husband, while he really liked it, wanted a bit less on the steak.  Overall we’ll be having it again though.  🙂

Cheddar Cheeseburger and Grilled Onions

We have a small farmer’s market here in town.  It’s basically fruit and veg with a bit of meat thrown in here and there.  We are getting to the time of year where there is more variety though this growing year has been tough.  Too much extremes with heat and rain so the farmer’s have been struggling to grow enough to sell.  The thing I like about some of the farmers is that if you have any questions on how to grow your own food they don’t hesitate to tell you their methods. It’s wonderful.  And as they mostly follow organic practices it fits right in with our garden.  Turns out we’ve been doing garlic all wrong!  So this fall we’ll be doing it right.  🙂  Apparently we weren’t nearly patient enough!

I found some wonderful fresh garlic and sweet onions that I thought would make for a lovely cheeseburger.  I’m loving our co-op for local organic meats so we had some ground beef on hand.  I know, I should really grind the meat myself.  I’ll get to that at some point!

To start I minced a few cloves of the garlic and mixed it in with the meat with salt and pepper and some Worcestershire sauce.

Cheddar cheeseburger 1 2013

Then I grated some Irish cheddar.  I didn’t really measure anything, just eyeballed it.  I then mixed in the cheese.  Of course, given the nature of the cheese it clumped up so I had to “shred” it a bit with my hands.  It’s important to mix well but not to overwork the meat.

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I formed them into patties and set aside while I prepped the onions.

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These were small onions but I sliced them about 1/4″ thick, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and drizzled with olive oil.

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Then I kept my fingers crossed as the last time I attempted to use the grill it would barely get warm.  Have no idea why though we speculated it may have been to humid.  Whatever the reason, it worked.  Yay!  The way I do our burgers is I put them on the grill for a few minutes to brown then flip again and cook for several minutes.  I do one last flip and melt the cheese on it to finish off.  Never press the burgers as you don’t want the juices disappearing.

Cheddar cheeseburger 5 2013

Halfway through cooking the burgers I start grilling the onions.  Just until they have a bit of charring and they have softened.

Cheddar cheeseburger 6 2013

I was talking with my doctor this week saying how it is harder to lose weight now that I’ve joined the 40’s.  I don’t have a lot to lose but it’s annoying that I’m eating less and exercising more and the scale just likes to stick to a certain number.  Granted I’m gaining muscle but it should be shifting!  She mentioned that there has been research into the method of eating your carbs in the morning and scaling back by evening.  Because you need some carbs for fuel.  Though potatoes are wonderful if you keep the skin on.  Actually helps fight fat.  Anyway, I opted to have my burger sans bun.  We served them with a lovely salad and it was just the right amount to eat.  Though I didn’t have room for our gooseberry apple crumble.  Which is a shame.

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Overall it was a juicy yummy burger and a very good balance with the salad!

Cottage Pie

I’m a firm believer in that people should make what they will of recipes. After all they are the ones that have to eat them.  So not a lot irks me when it comes to food.  Except maybe this bit.  People calling cottage pie shepherd’s pie.  So indulge me a moment as I’d like to get up on my soap box.  Ahem, here we go.  Shepherd’s pie is made with lamb.  Easy to remember as sheep get herded by a shepherd.  Shepherds don’t herd cows.  Therefore a shepherd’s pie doesn’t have beef in it.  Which is why it is generally known as cottage pie.  Thank you, I will climb down now and put the box away.

I made this last night as it was a raw day.  Well miserable in fact.  It was supposed to snow and instead we got a cold pouring rain that wasn’t quite freezing but nearly there.  So it was a good night for comfort food.  This is also a quick dish to make if you aren’t overly particular about presentation.   Now if you want presentation you need to check out Conor’s Cottage Pie.  Epic.  🙂

To start I chopped up carrots, garlic, onion, and mushrooms.

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In a bit of olive oil I saute the carrots, garlic and onions.

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Once the onions are a bit translucent I add the beef to brown.

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I used our veg broth for this.  In hindsight I probably should have used 1/2 cup but I used 3/4 cup of broth.  I added the mushrooms, 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, and a good squirt of stone ground mustard and brought it to a simmer.

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In the meantime boil potatoes for the mash to go on top.  Once they are cooked I added a healthy pat of butter and enough milk to make it smooth.  I wanted it to be easy to put over the beef.  I also added some grated Jarlsberg to mix in along with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.  And yes I do keep the skins on.  Adds colour and keeps the nutrition with the potato!

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As it was just my husband and I the dish was kept pretty rustic.  I divided the beef mixture into two bowls for us.

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I spread the mash over the beef and shredded more Jarlsberg over the mash.

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Stick it under the broiler until the cheese is melted then it is ready to serve.

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My husband, who isn’t normally a huge fan of cottage pie, enjoyed this one.  🙂  And it was lovely with red wine.