Thought of the Week: Cottage (Not Shepherd’s) Pie

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Russett-PotatoesCI had the day off today, and spent most of that time writing. I’m quite proud of myself: 6,385 words on chapter 6 of book 3. Despite that, I couldn’t think of a single thing to write for Thought of the Week tonight, so I thought instead I’d share dinner with you instead. Currently cooking away on the stove is the mixture that will end up being cottage pie.

For those uncultured Americans out there, cottage pie is not the same thing as shepherd’s pie, which is invariably made with lamb. Cottage pie, on the other hand, is usually made with beef, sometimes pieces but more often mince. Our recipe modifies this slightly as we tend to eat turkey mince instead of beef mince, but the principle is the same. Don’t let me catch you calling it shepherd’s pie again!

Anyway, this is how I make our slap-dash knock-off cottage pie.

  • sb10068684ad-001.jpg1 lb turkey mince
  • ½ onion
  • 4-5 large carrots
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes
  • tomato paste
  • 1 beef and 1 vegetable stock cube
  • potatoes
  • lots of sharp cheddar cheese (the more the better)

Preheat your oven to something like 400°F. Then start by sweating the onions in olive oil (I feel smart – I know what sweating onions means!). Wait until they are translucent. Then add the turkey mince and cook it, mixing it every once in a while, until it’s starting to brown. While the turkey is cooking chop the carrots into pea-sized pieces (it makes them go well with the peas, funnily enough). Sometimes at this point I add soy sauce, just to darken the turkey. Not necessary with beef. Add the carrots and the diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and the stock cubes dissolved in ½ cup boiling water. Add the peas, bring to a simmer again, and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Ah…the pie is in the oven now!

cooking-ground-turkeyAt this point, the main mixture is done. Pour it into a casserole dish. Now at this point, purists would point out that I should have mashed the potatoes. To hell with them. I’m way too lazy to mash potatoes, so just slide them directly onto the pie mixture in the casserole dish. The thinner the better – that way they take less time to cook. Yes, that’s right – slice the potatoes raw onto the pie!

Cover with aluminum (or aluminium) foil and place in the oven. The foil will help preserve the moisture and cooks the potatoes surprisingly well. Cook for at least 20-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Finally, take the whole thing out of the oven, set the grill (broiler) to high, and cover it all with as much cheese as you have, the sharper the better. Put it back in under the grill until everything is nice and toasty brown.



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Daily Photo: March 13, 2010



What happens to potatoes when you forget about them for three months. Got to give them credit – they don’t die easy!


Camera: Apple iPhone          ISO: Unknown          Aperture: ƒ/2.8          Shutter speed: Unknown

The Devil’s Details: What’s in a Spud?


A good friend of mine became a father for the second time recently, and when he shared the name, I pointed out that the initials spelled SPED. As interesting a word as this is, it couldn’t fail to remind me of the phonetically similar spud.

As a languages student and inventor of a (poorly-constructed) fantasy language, etymologies have recently become fascinating to me. For example, the word butt comes, through Middle English and Old French, from the Old High German word bōzan, which means to beat (bōzan > boter > buter > beten > butt > beat). It’s use as an abbreviation of ‘buttocks’ is of course something else entirely.

So where on earth did the word spud come from? Well, the interesting thing here is what exactly spud meant to me in the first place; growing up, it was always synonymous with potato. If you were a surgeon, however, a spud would be a small spade-shaped utensil for digging material from a body. If you were a gardener…

It turns out, interestingly, that a spud used to be (still is, in fact) the name of the spade-like tool used to dig roots – such as potatoes – from the earth. The word spud itself appears to come from the Middle English word spudde, which apparently was a kind of dagger or short knife. The origin seems lost from there, but I could imagine that, in the dawn of human communication, *SPUD* was the sound a dagger made when you jabbed it into someone’s back.