Category Archives: beef

Cottage Hotpot


You’ve probably heard of Frankenstein foods in relation to GM. This is my own Frankenstein’s monster – a hybrid of cottage pie (beef mince with mash on top, as I know it) and Lancashire hotpot (lamb chunks with carrot and a crispy potato topping). This proved to be the silkiest, richest, most flavoursome hotpot I’ve ever made and a total triumph for ekeing out leftovers.

When I made my pumpkin dish for Halloween I used a leg of lamb and was left with the bone and some meat I couldn’t quite [be bothered to] get off. Inspiration struck and I simmered the bone with a sprig of rosemary and thyme and made a stock for an hour. I skimmed the fat off the top and reduced the stock by about half. I then carved and pulled off the remaining meat and cut into small pieces.

I fried a VERY large onion with about 150g of beef mince, then added my lamby chunks and shreds, some salt, a little brown sugar and the remaining stock. This was all simmered down again for half an hour or so. After this, I tipped some cubed carrot in and put the lot into a dish, topped the with ultra-thin sliced potatoes and baked in a hot oven for an hour.

Now, this was just delicious. I’m beginning to think I might have to take up the method when I want to make this as a special meal as it was just so darned scrummy. True, it took a lot of cooking (but I did leave the oven door open with the washing stood in front of it to use the residual heat) but it was just SO worth it.

Must experiment more …

Beef Gyozas and a bit of a breakthrough

We do love a gyoza now and then, strictly as a treat as we enjoy them in their unhealthily cooked forms. I’ve recently found a local shop that stocks gyoza skins, so they’re back on the menu.

Now, our favourite place to eat gyozas is Wagamama, and I’ve long-marvelled at how they get the pastry so dry and crispy, yet the inside moist and delicious. It’s not just deep-frying as I’ve tried that before (and I actually find them far too fatty when deep-fried) and didn’t get quite the same effect – see gyozas here. Tonight, however an experiment and a brainwave combined to solve the problem. So I now present my (current) favourite way of cooking gyozas.

How to cook a gyoza/ dumpling/ pot sticker

  1. Put the filling in the centre of the pot sticker (about a teaspoon, or just under)
  2. Wet the edges of the gyoza all round (keep a small bowl next to you)
  3. On a flat surface, gather the edges of the gyoza up, and crimp together all along (this way the gyoza will sit upright with the crimp along the top rather than fall sideways)
  4. Place gyozas into a steamer and steam for 5 minutes (I used a microwave steamer and it was fine)
  5. [[At this point, I think you may be able to freeze them for a later date so long as you used fresh gyoza pastry – I will try this in the future]]
  6. Finally, remove the steamed gyozas, then shallow fry for a minute or two on each side

And this method is my new way of cooking them. They sit upright, the pastry is crisp and the inside is moist still.

(Wondering why this comes under ‘frugal food’? Well, the filling was comprised mainly of roast dinner leftovers. You know that nub of beef that can’t be carved and is use to neither man nor beast? I simply shoved it in the whizzer, then added two cloves of garlic and two shallots. I finely chopped some mangetout and added it to the whizzed mixture, before sprinkling in a little white pepper, sesame oil, hoisin sauce and Chinese rice wine.)

Scrummy Scone Stuffed Tomatoes

Life, it seems, has a way of working out. Everything has come together over the past month and two trips to A&E aside, everything is going well. Hooray. On that theme…

Last week, I finished early and was able to pop to the bakery just before they shut. I got my bread and the lady behind the counter threw in a scone for free so it wouldn’t get thrown away. Cue TLM arriving home from owrk some hours later with two beef tomatoes and the proclamation “I want to stuff these with something but I don’t know what”. We scooped out the tomatoes, cooked them down with some herbs and onions, and stuffed it back in the hollowed tomato. Crumbled the scone over the top, grated some cheese and baked for 20 minutes.

I’ve had many disappointing stuffed veggies before but this was absolutely delicious. I might have to get some savoury scones in for this particular purpose… (also, might slice the tomatoes in half to get more cheesy scone topping in – hehe)

Popeye Lasagna (with Olive Oil!)

Above: the mini version I made for TLM’s lunch tomorrow
Below: the full lasagna we had for dinner this evening
Lasagna is a favourite for most people, and though I never saw Popeye eat a lasagna (correct me if I’m wrong) I think the inclusion of spinach in this would be to his liking. Why spinach? Well, I just had some left over so as I was layering up the lasagna, I went for: tomato layer, spinach layer, white sauce layer. It seemed to work well, but I think I’ll need to use a deeper dish than my usual lasagna dish if I opt for spinach layers again as it was a little on the over-flowing side.

I tried to make the lasagna a little bit leaner (ha!) by only including two layers of pasta. I also left out the cheese from the white sauce – which made no difference to the flavour so I won’t bother in future – and used a small square of hard cheese rather than cheddar for the crispy topping. Again, no discernible taste difference but a substantial saving in terms of fat and probably cost too.

The basic bechamel sauce doesn’t really vary, but everyone has their preferable way of making the tomato sauce.

My sauce was quickly cooked up while TLM played football, and what a furtive little tomato sauce it turned out to be. I wanted to include a few ‘mutant’ peppers (i.e. the squat, piebald ones in those big bags) rather than chucking them as TLM would have preferred. I cooked down an onion and a small amount of lean steak mince in olive oil and a pinch of salt, then added the peppers and passata. I added some black pepper and, feeling like an accomplished TV chef made use of a bunch of fresh basil and oregano I had rather than dried herbs. It was all I could do to stop myself doing a faux piece-to-camera. But I then did the dirty. I reached into the cupboard and sloshed in Worcestershire sauce. I was obviously having to do penance for the fresh herbs. Then something possessed me and I stirred in some beef gravy granules. I don’t know why. But I won’t apologise for it because it made the sauce awesome. It beefed and thickened up the sauce in a magical instant. This is what has been missing from my tomato sauce until this point. I haven’t told TLM yet.

The lasagna was delicious, very fresh tasting on account of the herbs with the oregano in particular shining through. The spinach of course just contributed to the vegetable count and is yet another way of sneaking it in to people’s lives… mwaha ha ha ha ha.

p.s. I’ve always wondered about lasagna/lasagne – apparently the former is singular, the latter plural. That’s my newly learnt thing of the day then!

Stifado with Orzo

I’ve been searching for orzo for months – none in M&S, Sainsbury’s, Asda or Morrison’s – but today I stumbled across a shelf of orzo in the world foods section of an out-of-the-way Tesco. I was so happy. So what’s an orzo when it’s at home? As far as I can tell, it’s a Mediterranean rice-like pasta, often used in soups but equally in salads (this is how I found out about orzo on a flight to Honiara from Fiji strangely enough!) and served as any other warm pasta. As someone who dislikes rice and doesn’t particularly succeed in the cooking of it, orzo is my perfect solution. And at 45p for a 500g bag, it’s pretty good value too!


I’ve had stifado on my mind for a while. Again, from what I gather it’s a Greek beef and onion stew – but any meat seems to go and any variety of veg chucked in too. Its hallmark is the combination of wine, wine vinegar, cinnamon, rosemary and sometimes honey to make an aromatic almost sweet and sour stew. My recipe called for the addition of potatoes, but I wasn’t in a potato mood so I was going to go for a doorstop of bread to soak up the gravy until I spotted the orzo and I knew I had to have it with the stifado. Is it unorthodox? Who knows, but it was a pretty good taste combination.

I have been plundering my one pot book that I bought from Oxfam before Christmas. Its winning quality is that it consists of easy recipes that you bung into a stockpot or wok, but the downside is that it tends to anglicise and tone down the flavours so I just use my judgement and add a bit more. I’ll add even more next time for more depth of flavour, but this is what I did today:

Ingredients serves 3

  • 1 tin tomatoes (450g ish)
  • 150 ml beef stock
  • 400 g shallots, peeled but whole
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 400 g diced beef
  • veg (I used carrots, the recipe specified potatoes – whatever)
  • 1 glass red wine
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • pepper

How to Make it

In a large pan, cook the shallots and garlic over a low heat for about 5 minutes until coloured. Remove from pan and brown the beef in batches. Add the shallots and garlic back. Tip in the tomatoes, stock, wine, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, rosemary, cinnamon, bay leaves and honey. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook for 2 hours on the lowest possible heat until meat is tender.

p.s. the stifado is coeliac friendly, the orzo is TOTALLY not

Onion Gravy

If there’s one thing I can do, a rich brown sludge is it. I’d never made onion gravy before, but TLM decided yorkshire puddings, beef and onion gravy were in order, so I obliged. This turned out to be the single best gravy I’ve ever made (surpassing even the turkey gravy I made over Christmas, which had a recipe and everything). Here’s how I did it:
Ingredients
  • Roasting joint
  • 1 onion, sliced as finely as possible
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • great big grind of black pepper
  • salt
  • 1 can beer (Guinness in this case)

How to make it

I sliced the onions as finely as possible, placed the beef on top, poured the beer around the edges, seasoned and cooked till the beef was done. I let the beef rest, then poured out the oniony, beery, beefy juices into a pan and thickened with a little flour. And that was it. Simply delicious, and definitely to be repeated. It produced enough gravy to freeze a portion for having with sausage and mash at a later date.

Royale with Cheese

You know when you were a child and your mum would say, “if you’re not well enough to go to school, you’re not well enough to got to the party/have chocolate/bounce on the bed”? Well, I figured that it must work the other way round too. I have been going into work despite feeling unwell, so I decided to treat myself with a cheeseburger. So, using the really nice mince from the farm shop, I made these babies for our dinner.
Ingredients (makes 2) 

  • 250g good quality mince
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • great big grind of black pepper
  • breadcrumbs to bring it to a dry-ish consistency

How to make it

Squidge around, make into burgers and put in the fridge on cling film to firm up. These make two quarter pounder-sized burgers.

People go wrong with home made burgers in two ways: 1) they don’t season them enough (which is easy enough to fix) 2) they fall apart because they are either too wet or too dry. The strength of these burgers is a magic ingredient from the local asian supermarket: panko breadcrumbs. They are exceedingly fine (so don’t ruin the consistency of the burger) and very very dry indeed. I’m sure there must be a suitable substitute in the shape of blitzed-up ritz crackers, but I’ll stick with these until I’m forced to experiment. Add as many breadcrumbs as needed to bring the burgers to a dryish consistency (a couple of handfuls usually does it).

I then simply grilled the burgers, added cheese, mushrooms fried with a squirt of 1-cal sunflower oil (frantic damage limitation… hehe) and stuffed them into an oven bottom muffin.

I’m now sat in bed with a cup of hot chocolate. If you’re gonna be bad, do it right.

Beef in Oyster Sauce

On Saturday we went to our local farm shop and picked up some wonderful ingredients, including beef and brocolli. I love beef stir frys, but I’ve never cooked one at home before. So with the coupling of an excellent piece of meat (I trust cooking it quickly if it’s good quality) and a super sharp knife I set to work.

Ingredients (marinade)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mirin (or dry sherry/sake/white wine)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • good grind of black pepper
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloved, sliced
  • 1 cm piece of ginger, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
How to make it 

Slice the beef as finely as you can and then marinate the beef for at least 20 minutes, or overnight if you’ve thought ahead. Then stir-fried the lot: onions first, then take them out, followed by beef, then take it out, then the green veg, then re-add the beef and onions. If I were to do this again I would cut the beef even thinner so I could cook it in 2 minutes rather than 5 (approx).