Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Cheap and cheerful food doesn’t need to be boring as this stunning Shepherd's pie demonstrates. I made this last week and I really think humble food like this wonderful Shepherd's pie is up there with the best if you get the right ingredients and treat it with love and care. For my Shepherd'd pie I used Welsh lamb mince and I also made a pastry topping using suet, potatoes are great but try this and you might never go back

This incidentally, is a protected geographical product, in the same way Parma ham must be from Parma. Ever wondered what that little blue and yellow symbol on the food produce you buy stands for? A new campaign is underway to help consumers recognise the PGI food label which is a mark of quality found on foods with a guaranteed regional origin.

Protected Geographical Indication – or PGI - is a European status which is only awarded to food produce with a specific regional origin as well as authenticity and traceability. PGI products in the UK include Welsh Lamb, Cornish Pasties, Cumberland Sausages and Whitstable Oysters.

The UK-wide campaign is backed by the European Union and aims to make people think about the origin of the produce they buy.

“The origin of food has a significant part to play in its quality and it is important that consumers ask themselves where the food they are buying comes from,” said Laura Dodds of Meat Promotion Wales which is leading the PGI campaign in the UK after being awarded PGI status for both Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef.

PGI is a mark that food producers hold in considerably high esteem and it protects regional food products with a quality, reputation or defined characteristic specific to that area. PGI also prevents other food producers from giving their produce the same name when they can’t guarantee its origin and may very well be unauthentic.

Laura continued: “PGI is a relatively new quality mark to the UK so this campaign aims to help consumers recognise the status and what it means. Consumers are already becoming more selective about the food they buy and both restaurants and retailers are increasingly labelling their food with distinguishing characteristics that will not only inform their customers but appeal to them. This trend will continue so consumers who care about food origin can be assured of a product’s PGI status by looking out for the blue and yellow PGI label on the packaging of their product or clearly displayed at butchers and local markets.”

For more information on PGI and on Welsh Lamb, including recipes, Welsh Lamb Club restaurants in your area and the heritage of Welsh Lamb farming, visit

What you need

500g Minced lamb
1 Onion, diced
1 Carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
2 tbsp Flour
250ml Lamb stock
125g Plain flour
100g Suet
1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp milk

 How to do it

1)    Fry the onion, carrot and celery with a little oil in a large pan for a few minutes. Add the minced lamb and brown, stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the stock gradually and simmer the whole lot for an hour, adding a little more liquid if it is to dry.

2)    Make the pastry. In a large bowl mix together the flour and suet. Make a well in the centre, add the egg / milk mixture (reserving a little for eggwash) and mix together to form a dough. Pop in the fridge to rest for ½ an hour.

3)    Preheat your oven to gas 5 / 180. Place the filling in a pie dish, roll out your pastry and pop it on top, crimping the edges. Brush with eggwash and bake for 40 minutes until golden brown.

Monday, 21 November 2011

My Dream Kitchen Part 2...

Well the wait for my new kitchen is finally over. We have endured a few ups and downs but I finally have my version of a dream kitchen. All Ali wanted from a kicthen was for it to be warm with seating for one or two (so she can watch me cook with a glass of wine). My requirements for my dream kitchen differed from Ali's as I actually want to do some serious cooking in it.

I managed to win the battle to keep the kitchen's original pantry, a beautiful large larder with space for everything you could possibly need. I have fantasised about hanging hams from the beams and keeping my cheese, salad and vegetables on the terracotta slab and out of the flavour destroying fridge. Well I am waiting for the paint to dry in the pantry so tomorrow I can enjoy it.

I don't need much space to cook in, as most chefs can knock out meals in the tiniest of spaces, and a 3 metre run of worktop is enough for me. My biggest expense though has been my cooker. We had a tiny budget of three grand to do everything - building work, painting, flooring, units and new appliances so spending £800 on an 8 burner range cooker ate up a fair bit of our budget. It has been worth it though - cooking is my only real passion, save the odd game to see the Swans and a cocktail now and again - so why not get the best I could afford. In addition to the many rings, it has 2 ovens and a separate grill, all gas.

All in all it is the perfect cook's kitchen - a proper pantry, ample workspace, somewhere to perch and a fab cooker and as I've waited 4 years for it I think the time has come to do some serious cooking. If you love food do you find that people ask you 'what would be your final meal' ? I have been asked that many many times and have often given different answers each time. In  a sense my first meal in my dream kitchen is similar to that question. What do I love, what do I cook. And do you know what you can keep your fancy meals and molecular gastronomy all I wanted to cook and eat was a proper roast dinner. And so that is what I made - Slow roast shoulder of pork with onion dauphinoise, roast pototoes, roast parsnips, peas and real gravy.

What would you have cooked?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

My Dream Kitchen part 1...

My wait for a real kitchen is almost over. We moved into our current home in April 2007 and renovated where necessary. The house is a 1936 semi that hadn't been touched for years and we had to rewire, put a central heating system in, plaster the living and dining room and sort the bathroom out. You soon realise that £10 k doesn't go terribly far when doing up a house. No dream kitchen for me then.

Our, no my poor kitchen was ripped out but with no money to refit. And so I have blogged, written recipes and created lovely food from a kitchen that was not fit for purpose. I had a hob, a small butchers block and a sink and that's it really.

Ali and I ummed and ahhed for four years as to what to do with it. Ali, who lets say is not the cook in our house, wanted to knock through to create a larger kitchen. But there was a major flaw in her plan - she wanted to knock out the kitchen's original pantry! I can hear audible gasps from fellow foodies. I made the right noises knowing full well that I would lay in front of it if the builders tried to knock it out. So I got my way and while my kitchen is hardly anyone's idea of a dream kitchen, its my dream kitchen and look forward to making use of it...