If I had to choose one meal that could sum up my childhood, this one would be it! It isn't trending, it may or may not be the healthiest, depending on who you ask, but it certainly ticks the comfort box. It is no secret that I love beef. In fact, I could eat it every day, a million ways, for the rest of my life. I would give up chicken, pork and fish, without batting an eyelash. I LOVE BEEF. I know, I know...not cool, this day and age. When food trends are predominantly vegetarian or vegan, and being a carnivore is frowned upon...I am guilty. Of course, I understand all the ethical and moral remorse associated with my gluttony. When I started the blog, my only purpose was to bring the same childhood joy food brought me as a child, to my own children. Being a child of immigrants, the constant need to identify with our roots and culture is very strong. I can proudly say that their first taste of identity is Portuguese. Being born in America or living in the UK changed nothing, culturally or gastronomically. Portuguese reigned. Thanks to my parents, we learned the language, the passion and of course, the food. My mother cooked with blinders on. I say that lovingly. She followed recipes religiously and without measurements. She cooked from memory and "by eye". I learned this way. Today, I must say it was a blessing. Cooking is as much "instinct" as it is measurement.
Many of my recipes reflect a bit of fusion. I have added a dash of this or that to make "my mother's classics" EVEN BETTER! Many purists will frown upon this, but I must remind them that evolution is what makes us great. Sometimes an accidental spill turns into tomorrow's classic dish. Cooking should never be criticized, if it tastes good, it is GOLD.
I am constantly learning. I am not the same cook I was 20 years ago. The first dish I ever cooked was an American style chilli with pieces of hot dogs cut up. It was amazing! Why? Because I took all my mother taught me about balance and applied it to the chilli. That elevated the chilli to cult status...even at 14 years old. My mother knew nothing about American chilli, yet her cooking techniques were applied, even though they seemed irrelevant. I am not a classically trained chef...but talented I am. A lifetime of trial and error, the best teacher, and a bit of instinct, has turned me into the cook I am today. This dish has turned into my own children's favourite. It is requested the minute the weather turns nippy, and sometimes even on the hottest summer day. It never ceases to amaze me just how powerful food is. I hope you enjoy this recipe. Exactly like my mother would make, but with a few extras.
Empadão de Carne ❦ Portuguese Cottage Pie
3-4 Quart Casserole dish *Mashed potato recipe follows
For the filling:
700 g. Beef mince, at least 15% fat
125 g. Chouriço, cut into small cubes
80 ml. Extra virgin olive oil
75 ml. Ruby Port wine
50 ml. Red wine vinegar
150 ml. Red wine, you can use white wine or beer, but my mom always used red...it is superior in flavour here
200 ml. Beef or chicken stock
1 Large onion, finely chopped
3 Medium carrots, cut into small cubes
1 Can, (tinned) red kidney beans, drained
4 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 Bay leaves
4 Sprigs of thyme
3 Egg yolks, beaten
2 tbsp. Tomato paste
2 tsp. Ground ginger
1 tbsp. Dry oregano
1 tbsp. Sweet paprika, pimentón dulce
1 tsp. Crushed red chilli flakes, *optional (I like the heat)
1 Bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley to taste, chopped and to finish the dish
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1. In a large stockpot on medium heat, add olive oil and chouriço. Sauté until chouriço renders its beautiful fat and edges are crisp. Add onion and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low. Sauté until onion is golden. Stir frequently.
2. Add Beef and sauté until browned. Add garlic, paprika, oregano, tomato paste and vinegar. Sauté 2 minutes. Add Port wine. Stir and let evaporate for 30 seconds.
3. Add carrots, red wine, thyme sprigs and stock. Cover and let cook on low for 45 minutes.
4. Meanwhile make the mashed potatoes. Reserve until ready to assemble.
5. After 45 minutes, take beef off heat, discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add chopped parsley and stir through. Reserve until ready to assemble.
For the mash*:
1,200 kg Maris piper or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut in half.
50 g Salted butter
200 ml. Cold full-fat milk
1 tsp. Ground nutmeg
1 Free-range egg yolk
* Feel free to make/ use instant or frozen mashed potatoes...my mother used to and it is just as tasty.
If using frozen, use milk and butter additions above, I find them too dry. I use frozen often. :)
1. Place a large stockpot of water on high heat and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until a knife inserted goes in smoothly. About 15 minutes. Drain potatoes, return to pot and mash using a fork or potato masher. Add butter and nutmeg, stir. Gradually add milk, a little at a time, until desired consistency is achieved. Remember you can always add milk. Once potatoes are too thin...you can't fix 'em! So less is more here. A wooden spoon should stand up in a pot for that great consistency. Not dry and not wet. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add egg yolk and stir through. reserve.
If too thick, add a bit more cold milk.
Pre-heat oven to 200°c (180°c, if fan assisted or convection)
In a casserole dish, fill with 1/3 of mashed potatoes. Using a slotted spoon, add meat atop mashed. Drain as much liquid as possible from the meat mixture. Fill a good 1/3 of beef and finally, finish with a 1/3 of mashed potatoes. Using the back of a soup spoon, smooth out mash, working from the centre to edges.
Brush or spoon on beaten egg yolks to cover the entire surface of potatoes. Use a clean dish towel or paper towel to clean up the edges of the casserole dish.
Using the tines of a fork, make designs of your liking on the surface.
*(You can make this ahead up until this point, cover and freeze casserole. When ready to cook, remove from freezer, let thaw in fridge 24 hours and continue to steps below.)
Place casserole on a baking tray to catch drips. Place in the centre of the pre-heated oven.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Serve immediately with a nice salad or on its own.