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What do you call a dish of a thick gravy stew topped with mashed potato? Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie?  Well my mum always called it cottage pie, no matter what the ingredients, and it is the oldest recorded name for the dish having first appeared in 1791, so I’ll stick with it.  Besides it seems to make more sense for a vegetarian dish, as ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ has now come to mean a filling of mutton or lamb.  I have come across the theory that actually a cottage pie should have sliced potatoes on top to resemble the tiles on a cottage roof, whereas fluffy mashed potato resembles a woolly sheep!  But I always think a mashed topping is the real comfort food and it allows you to mash up other veg like swede, parsnip, or, as here, celeriac in with the potato.  This is a simple dish, easy to rustle up and open to changes depending what you have in.  The celeriac gives the mash a nice fresh flavour.  Serve with a green veg or salad.

cottagepie

Cottage Pie

500g/1 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped
225g/8oz celeriac, peeled and chopped
75g/2½oz butter / vegan margarine
2 or 3 tblsp milk/vegan milk (optional)

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 can chick peas, drained
1 can tomatoes
1 tblsp passata, or tomato puree mixed with a little water
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp dried basil or oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes and celeriac until soft.  Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and cook the onion, celery and garlic over a medium heat for around five minutes until soft, but not browned.  Add the chick peas, tomatoes, passata, herbs, salt and pepper.  Stir and cook for around five minutes, then pour into a baking dish.

When the potatoes and celeriac are cooked, add the butter/margarine and the milk if using, then mash until smooth.  Spread the mash over the chick pea mixture in a nice thick layer, then fluff up the top with a fork.  Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until the peaks of the potato have started to brown.

I’m always looking for simple and tasty salads in January, to chase away the post-Christmas sluggishness and help beat the winter blues.  This dish really fits the bill.  It makes a great side dish or even a lunch with lots of crunchy bread or a jacket potato.

FennelSaladFennel Salad

1 fennel bulb
1 medium carrot, grated
1/4 cucumber
1 tblsp Roast walnut or sesame oil
1 tblsp Cider vinegar
1 tsp mustard seeds
salt and black pepper to taste

Prepare the fennel by removing any tough outer layers and the base.  Then slice as finely as possible.  Also finely slice the cucumber (I removed the skin first, but that’s optional).  Add the grated carrot.

Dress the salad by pouring on the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, then sprinkle on the mustard seeds to decorate.

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