Comfort food in a time of Covid-19 - I
I started revising this 2014 post as we entered month two of lockdown in South Africa. Although we moved from level 5 to level 4 on the first of May, for many, there was no material change to our lives. Speaking for myself: the novelty has worn off. Reserves - of all types - are wearing thin. We now approach the end of month two and the promise of level 3 in eight days' time. There's a lot about it we don't know. Some we do: social and physical distancing will continue.
Not knowing when we'll be able to break bread with friends, let alone give up virtual hugs, is beginning to tell. Not to mention not being able to trot down the road to extend physical birthday wishes with real hugs and kisses. I'm feeling it. For the birthday girl whose birthday it is, as I write, and who lives alone. I cannot imagine.
A bunch of brightness and that went with a brief over-the-gate conversation
Autumn is glorious. I always say it's my favourite season. It is. This year,
it's passing us by we must ignore it. It's the colours.
It's the odd rain shower that washes everything clean and leaves the last of the summer brightness covered in sparkles.
I am sure that in the Northern Hemisphere, there are folk feeling the same way about spring. The kitchen, unlike in other households, is getting less. Although I cook every day, as usual, I've not been cooking as much or spending quite so much time in the kitchen. Also, given the funk, there's been a lot of comfort food. I've already shared one of my favourites. Cottage pie is another.
Tatties and neeps
I grew up with tatties and mince. It was not my favourite meal because it was always accompanied by heaps of grey, watery, mashed neeps. Occasionally, they included the odd carrot. And mashed potatoes. I'm not fond of them either - on their own. Actually, I'm not that fond of mash. Period. In combination with mince (ground beef for my American readers), tatties and neeps made for a meal of slop. Only good for invalids. In my then childish, and now, adult, opinion.
Tatties and neeps - is probably one of the few combinations in my Scottish heritage, that I don't get. Neeps (turnips, for the uninitiated....) Turnips are one of the very few vegetables I dislike. Also, if you're wondering, I have eaten, and do, like haggis. I keep on threatening to make it. We shall see.
Turnips, under the influence of my accidental vegan blogpal, Katie (@plantstoplanks), I'm planning to give another try. In a guise other than mashed or in copious quantities in soup. Watch this space.
So, now I've had a mini melt-down, let me get back to cottage pie. (No, I"m not going to entertain the discussion about the difference between this and Shepherd's pie....)
Tatties and neeps - for grown-ups
I prepare my mince with braised onions and herbs - either rosemary or thyme - not both, and the choice depends on the mood. If neither is available, a half to a teaspoon of McGregor Herbes de Provence does just as well. Some would say, better.
Don't forget to add the essential crushed clove of garlic. I always include grated carrot and courgette if I have a lot of them - a great way to con those with a vegetable aversion...), and let this mixture simmer for quite a long time. Depending on how quickly the liquid reduces, add a bit of water and towards the end of the cook, a good glug of red wine. This last gives your meat a lovely rich flavour.
Topping it off
The topping is not just mashed potato: I often use cauliflower - with mashed with a generous quantity of salty butter and pepper.
Oh, and that cauliflower is from our garden...before the drought. This year's crop is planted....
Occasionally, I'll do a combination of cauliflower and butternut. This depends on the size of the cauliflower. Rarely is it just potato which I also usually combine with butternut and ooccasionally add a good dollop of yoghurt.
For mashing, depending on your preference and how creamy, rustic or chunky you like your topping, the toppings can be hand mashed, puréed or creamed. My choices vary and are often dictated by the day's mood.
Finally, layer the mince in the bottom of an oven proof dish and then pile the mashed vegetables on top. Spread this over the meat to the edges of the dish. Dot with knobs of butter. Bake in a moderate oven until the top is brown.
Dot this with knobs of butter and cook in the oven until it's golden brown and beginning to crisp on top.
Covid-19 comfort food served with homemade chutney.
Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
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