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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Cooking your own…local produce…Shepherds pie

The mince theme continues on the blog, appropriate I think given that much of the meat involved in the horsemeat scandal has been in products containing minced meat. For me there’s a clear message for us all ….cook your own food with produce you can trust from local producers or your local butcher.

Most of the meat I buy comes from Farmers Markets where I can talk to the producers and it’s really interesting to hear their news and also pick up tips for cooking. It’s the same at my local butcher, he’s happy to chat about his suppliers and usually asks what I’m cooking and will very often offer cheaper cuts of meat. The lamb I used for this shepherds pie came from Lochbyre Rare Breed Meat and their flock of Sheltland Soay sheep. It has a good strong flavour and is quite lean compared with other lamb mince I have used.

Shepherds Pie was traditionally made with the leftover meat from Sundays roast and would be served up for dinner on Monday. The meat would be minced and my mother talks of also using leftover vegetables by mincing them with the meat to make the base for the pie. If I’m lucky enough to have leftover meat it’s how I like to make shepherds pie but in the absence cooked meat I use minced lamb.

This is real tasty comfort food and I’ve been making this recipe for 30 years and to be honest it’s never really changed much. When the boys were small they loved it with baked beans but as they’ve got older I serve it with whatever seasonal vegetables are available.

Real tasty comfort food

Real tasty comfort food



500g Minced Lamb

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

6 medium size mushrooms

100 ml Tomato ketchup

1 tsp Mustard

1 beef stock cubes. (The recipe also works well with Kallo French onion stock cubes)

Salt and black pepper to season


450g potatoes

4 Tbsp Fresh breadcrumbs.

2 – 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary leaves removed.

Heat a large deep sauté pan, add the minced lamb, break up any lumps with a spatula and continue cooking until the mince is browned. If necessary  drain the mince to remove excess fat, returning and meat juices to the mince.

Return the mince to the pan, add the onion and carrot continue cooking for approx 5 minutes.add the tomato ketchup and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the mustard, crumble in the stock cubes and add approximately 200ml  water.

Cover and cook for 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue cooking for about 20 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken.

Meanwhile prepare the potato topping, cook the potatoes until tender,drain and mash with the creme fraiche or natural yoghurt.

Finally chop the rosemary leaves and mix with the breadcrumbs.

Spoon the filling into a …casserole, top with the potatoes and use the back of a fork to smooth over. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top, place in the oven and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until piping hot and the top is golden.

Ready for serving....a good family meal

For further information on Lochbyre rare breed meat see …. and

An old favourite…Chilli Con Carne

There’s been a lot of discussion about convenience foods during the recent horsemeat scandal and much concern about the quality and content of supermarket convenience meals. For me cooking your own with fresh ingredients is definitely the best and healthiest way to eat, it’s also more economical, particularly when you’re feeding a family.

Cooking your own food is not only enjoyable but I do see it as an essential part of the way we live. Food is such an integral part of our lives so why not buy the best fresh produce you can afford and get cooking. Apparently not that easy according to several, people who sent me comments recently. If you’ve never learned to cook or find it a chore, yes it might not be as easy, but believe me it is not rocket science and once you have a few basic recipes under your belt it is easy to plan for the week ahead.

Yes, I know the world is a busy place, people are working full time, coming home at 5 or 6 to cook a meal doesn’t appeal and why bother when supermarkets have made it so easy!
I’ve been there, I’ll hold my hands up and say yes there was a time in the early 80s when calling into the food section of a well known shop’s food section to pick up something for the dinner had the potential to make my evening easier after a hard day at work. It never became a habit as once I started reading labels and looking at the cost of feeding a family I soon realised that planning ahead and cooking quick and easy healthy meals was not that difficult.

I’ve also worked with groups where the preparation of food was difficult due to health and mobility conditions but we got there using different methods to prepare and cook the ingredients. Mince is such an easy, versatile and economical dish to cook and my advice is go along to your local butcher or local Farmers market as you’ll find better quality produce and you may find it cheaper than the local supermarket as very often they have also special offers on their produce.

Chilli con carne albeit an 70s 80s dish is one of those old favourites that has never lost its appeal for me and usually makes an appearance once or twice a month in our house.  I first started cooking this around 1978 and over the years I’ve made some small changes to the spices but on the whole it’s largely the same recipe. It also works well with other types of mice and I quite regularly use venison mince as an alternative.

Chilli Con Carne makes a healthy & filling meal with a few additional accompaniments

Chilli Con carne makes a healthy & filling meal with a few additional accompaniments

This recipe uses 2lb of mince so easily halved and frozen for another day.   Please don’t send me a comment to say you don’t have
a freezer….. Someone else beat you to it !!
Chilli con carne
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 large onion finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves crushed or chopped
5 tsp chilli powder
2tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
2lb Beef mince
4tbsp tomato purée
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes
1 beef stock cube
Approx half can of water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 peppers cut into bite size chunks.
1x 400g Kidney Beans
Heat the oil over a medium heat and sauté the onion for 8 – 10 min

Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 – 3 minutes, then add the chilli, cumin and
continue cooking for a minute.
Add the mince to the pan, break up any lumps with a spatula and continue cooking until
the meat is browned.
Add the tomato purée, mix well and allow to cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, crumble in the stock cube and approximately half a can of water
Season with salt with salt and pepper.
Cook for about 45 minutes before adding the peppers and kidneys beans. Cook for
another 10 minutes.
To serve.
Chilli con Carne is one of those dishes that can served alone with rice or baked potato and is good wholesome meal in itself. I like to serve accompaniments such as grated cheddar, guacamole, sour cream and pitta bread. These are optional and will make the main dish go further, particularly of you’re serving a crowd.

Wild ice,guacamole,grated cheddar and sour cream, all great to serve with Chilli

Wild ice,guacamole,grated cheddar and sour cream, all great to serve with Chilli