Cottage Pie

Wouldn’t it be nice to create fabulous new dishes every day? We would start with fresh ingredients, bright and shiny and ready for action. We would use exciting new herbs and spices. We would dip our spoons and fingers into new cuisines and explore horizons previously only dreamed of while gazing longingly at exotic cookbooks. We would procure only the best food stuff, things wildly romantic sounding and exceptionally rare. Every day starting afresh. We would be the culinary equivalent of those heiresses who only wear couture and never repeat an outfit. To dream...such a lovely past time...and one I am quite expert at ;)

In the here and now of this thing called reality, however, I have to admit – my fridge is full of leftovers. No new creations here today I’m afraid. For now, I must place my dreams of truffles and Scandinavian sweet buns and new gold flats aside, and deal with these wilful odd bits in the chiller. Sigh...and no pouting on my part! I have, after all, vowed to battle food waste to the bitter (sweet) end, so these leftovers will be cunningly made over by me – much like how designers and magazine editors found ways to resuscitate 80’s fashion and made us believe that we never forswore it. Cunning.

Cottage pie – a simple, homely, comforting dish, in whose loving arms many leftovers have found solace. It remains one of my mother’s favourite ways of dealing with leftovers (the other was croquetas***)...and not just leftover mince! Any leftover meat could be chopped up, sautéed with a variety of additional odds and ends, and smooshed into a Cottage Pie. Depending on the original dish the resulting Cottage Pie could have a creamy filling or a tomato-based filling. Leftover veg was tossed in too!

It’s no surprise then, that as she was leaving our flat after a dinner of roast pork, she eyed the leftover meat and whispered to me, “make it into Cottage Pie jo!” And because I am nothing if not a dutiful daughter, that is just what I did.

I can give no exact measurement as who knows how much leftovers you’ve got, or how much leftovers I will have in the future – so if you are looking for a traditional Cottage Pie recipe you can search for one here. These are just basic guidelines on how to take yesterday’s dinner, swathe it in mash potatoes, crown it with cheese, et voilà’s lunch!

First take your leftover meat and assess. If it’s not mince then chop it up into small pieces, but not too small as to hassle yourself. Now, what was the dish like? That determines, for me, what I will add. My roast pork was stuffed with chorizo and garlic, and rubbed with salt, fennel seeds, and pimenton de la vera. To complement it, I sautéed chopped onions and garlic, added the meat, then added some wine and tomato paste and a little more pimenton. Now I had a meat base that was tomato-y and smoky and faintly Spanish....yum! If you have some roast beef you can go creamy with cream and mushrooms and maybe some cheese leftover from your cheese platter. Up to you of course.

Next make you mash potatoes (or do them simultaneously...I certainly won’t stop one from saving time as well as food!). Just make it the way you like best, or using whatever you’ve got on hand.

Now to assemble: Take any oven-proof dish that looks like it’ll fit everything. Lay the meat on the bottom. If you want to please my mother, which I always want to do, place some corn over the meat. Then pat the mash down over that. Last, sprinkle the top with as much cheese as you want – I used parmesan and all that was left from the previous evening cheese plate. Pop in the oven and bake (I put it in at 190C) until the cheese is all toasty and tanned and the filling is bubbling up at the sides of the mash.

A brand new dish for unsuspecting palates! Yay! We’ve made use of our leftovers and avoided food waste yet again! Now...about the outfit repeating...I’ll have to work on that.

***My mom also loved to stuff leftovers into croquetas or croquettes – with a little potato, anything could be turned into these little rolls! Croquetas de tinapang bangus? Don’t laugh unless you’ve tried them!