Last week we were rather unexpectedly invited to address the Kure Film Circle. Their film this month is "Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont" which is set in London, and they wanted a British person to come and talk to them about Britain, and also answer any questions they might have. "Oh, and by the way, please could you cook something typically British and bring it along to the small party we are having after your talk?"!
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not much of a cook, unless it is Christmas and Jamie Oliver is helping, or if I can be bothered to make a lasagne - my absolute favourite. The problem was compounded by the Film Circle saying that they didn't have an oven, something that is not that unusual in Japan.
So... something in one dish, which has a chance of staying hot for three hours (I cannot abide cold food if it is meant to be hot) and will be deemed passably edible.
And here is the solution - a cottage pie.
The weather is moving towards sweltering in Japan, so this is not really the ideal food. I would prefer to eat this on a cold winter's day, but my culinary skills meant my options were limited!
Dead easy to make if you want to try. This is how I make mine.
First brown some minced beef, then add some chopped garlic, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Add some coarsely chopped onions, carrots and mushrooms, and pour in some beef stock (consomme if you don't have any), and leave to bubble away for around about an hour.
While you are waiting, peel and chop up some potatoes, put them in some lightly-salted water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. When they are ready, drain off the water, then add some milk, butter and more of that black pepper, and mash them until smooth.
Put the meat and vegetables into an ovenproof dish, and then put the mashed potatoes on top. Smooth out the potato with a fork to get those lines, put some dabs of butter on the top and then put in the oven at about 190 degrees for 25 minutes. The potato will turn crispy and golden.
That's it - easy!
You'll notice I haven't given the amounts of any of the ingredients. That is because I think this is very much a "personal taste" dish, so you need to find the taste you like. My mother, for example, doesn't like mushrooms so she doesn't use them. I saw one recipe that included a tin of tomatoes - good heavens! What a terrible idea! But each to his own, I suppose.
Back to the Film Circle, and how to keep it hot for three hours... Again, easy as it turned out - a couple of sheets of tin foil, a towel, and an old biscuit tin, and it was still piping hot when we finally got around to eating it. I THINK it was well received!