Archive for the ‘Childhood’ Category

Like many families, in my house, we used to refer to Cottage Pie as Shepherd’s Pie.  Beef mince was always available from the butchers and was far more economical for a family of seven than lamb would be.  Topped with golden mashed potato that had caught under the grill; everyone coveting the crispy bits and a generous scoop of baked beans on the side.

And as far as I was concerned, everyone called it the same and served it the same way.

It wasn’t until recently that I was served Shepherd’s Pie without baked beans and felt cheated.  “My Granny would never have served it like that!” I snorted in disgust.  Only to find I was not the only one at the table who thought the same – lo and behold, the others also agreed that baked beans were a very acceptable addition to a serving of Shepherd’s Pie.  Emboldened by this camaraderie I decided to come clean and tell all; as a child, my favourite way of eating this was with a squeeze of ketchup over the mash and then mixing everything together into a plateful of dark, pink-brown gloop studded with baked beans.

As revolting as this sounds to me now – as a child, it was a plate of sheer delight.

Click on the link to see my youtube clip on how to make my easy Cottage Pie:

I don’t tend to make shepherd’s pie (cottage pie) from scratch anymore, as in I try not to have to go food shopping too often, so make this using leftover beef from the Sunday Roast instead.  In the past I’ve used leftover roast potatoes but to be honest it’s so easy to make good mashed potato to top the pie that it’s really no hardship.  Whereas baked beans would have been my staple side dish, nowadays I try and have something green either in the pie or on the side.  Leftover broccoli, peas and beans are very welcome as is a buttery tangle of spring greens or shredded Savoy cabbage.

The good thing about a Shepherd’s Pie (Cottage Pie) is that you can make the components in advance.  I made the beef pie filling on Monday evening as this can sit in its dish in the fridge until you need to top it and heat it – I’m pretty sure you can freeze it at this stage too.  Take the pie out of the fridge whilst you’re making the mashed potato and top the dish.  Place in a moderate oven for 35mins until the filling is bubbling up the sides and the top is golden in colour.





I often reminisce as to the joys of my Granny’s pea soup with fried bread.

I used to love walking into the house on a cold, bleak day to the smell of gammon bubbling in its cauldron of yellow split peas.  If truth be told, when done well, pea soup is probably one of my favourite dishes of all time.

I remember we’d dry our rain-wet hair and crowd around the dining table.  Snuggled round a small, circular table, elbows touching, necks down plunging spoons into the golden, lava-hot, gloopy, yellow split pea soup we’d share our morning’s routines.

 The delicious chunks of gammon having imparted their flavour and savouriness to the mixture, which falling apart added great flavour and substance to the dish.  Scooping ham and soup on slices of fried bread is what made this soup a meal.

My Granny would shallow fry a slice of white bread per person – crusts and all – and then slice it on the diagonal.   This, dipped into the thick pea soup was utter heaven to me.

I love yellow split pea and ham soup so much, that my shock at once being given green pea and ham soup by my great aunt was an unfortunate disappointment; flavoursome though it was!  But my all time favourite pea soup tale was when I was a vegetarian (now that I’ve told you I may have to kill you!) and I’d returned from university and my Granny had made my favourite dish and assured me that she hadn’t added the ham but you could see the pink gammon flecks throughout the entire bowl!  I think she then tried to offer me a cheese sandwich with a very thin slice of ham…

Admittedly, my Granny was right; there is no point in having pea soup without the gammon.  It’s the gammon that imparts a full on rounded flavour and seasons the soup with great depth.  Sometimes, pieces of the gammon flake off in the cooking and get blitzed into the soup adding to the savoury baconness!

A different kind of meal to be had at this time of year where everything is either a turkey dinner or Christmas table leftovers.


At this time of year I always like to make a glazed ham (as many of you do too).  As always, I buy a large piece to ensure there are leftovers but there’s only so many cold-cuts with chutneys to be had.   With the rain pouring down outside, I want something warm and comforting instead of cold-cuts, so why not add your already cooked ham to a pot of bubbling yellow split peas to make glorious pea soup with its volcanic ferocity warming you through these cold and dark nights.

Pea Soup with Fried Bread4323177072-IMG-4597

Yellow split pea soup is so easy to recreate you can cook the gammon in the soup itself or add cooked ham pieces to the final soup.  Either way – this is a delicious thick soup that like a hot water bottle warms and comforts you.  Fried bread takes this to another level but pan fried croutons or the healthier oven variety convert this into a satisfying main course.

I keep this really simple:


1 cup of split peas, 1 medium onion, slice of pumpkin to add colour and sweetness and a stock cube.  Uncooked gammon or leftover boiled ham to taste.


1st: Cut the onion and pumpkin into pieces and fry in some oil until the onion becomes soft.
2nd: Add the split peas and crumble in the stock cube. Stir well and add the gammon/boiled ham.
3rd: Top up with enough water to cover the gammon – at least 3 times more water to split peas.  Boil for 35mins or until the gammon is cooked.  Season to taste.
4th: Remove any large chunks of gammon and blitz the soup.  Flake any gammon pieces and add them to individual bowls.
5th: Fry slices of plastic white bread in hot oil.  Slice on the diagonal and serve up.


Posted: February 7, 2012 in Childhood, Family
Tags: , , , , ,

My parents are in the process of redecorating their kitchen and getting rid of kitchenware they no longer want; subsequently passing it onto me! In between random cutlery sets and unwanted easter-egg mugs they have given me a stainless steel pot which according to both Mum and Dad, they bought in Portugal some 20 years ago.

20 years ago I was only 13 years old! At this age we still lived at my Grandparents’ house and it got me thinking about the meals that this pot would have catered for us over the years.

My Granny was fantastic in the kitchen. She fed 7 of us a cooked lunch everyday. Mum helped Gran with dinner when she got back from work . On Saturdays another 4 of us would be present for lunch! This was no easy achievement on a limited budget, supplies and a small kitchen area.

But like all women of her generation she made the most of every penny that was in the food budget and made sure never to waste anything.

The family never went hungry. Yet how was this all possible?

Organisation. Granny had a repertoire of set favourites that we all loved. For lunch between Mondays and Thursdays we ate combinations of the following: Shepherd’s Pie (really cottage pie) with baked beans or pastel de corned beef (corned beef pie); chicken/corned beef/tuna in rice; gallina al horno (chicken pieces in a white wine gravy); sausage, egg and chips. Fridays was always a steak and kidney pie and chips (as Gran went to the hairdressers), Saturdays would be Rosto (macaroni in tomato sauce with chopped sausages and topped with bacon) which she could bulk out with pasta and Sundays, the quintessential roast.

On some occasions and when the weather called for it Granny would make potaje (pronounced po-tah-hay). This could be in the form of a chickpea or butter bean stew with chorizo and blackpudding, as well as another one made with spinach or lentil stew with pumpkin and chorizo. Served with fried chickpea flour based tortillas perfect for cleaning the plate. Another of Granny’s winter warmers was sopa de calavacines (white marrow soup with dairylea and small vermicelli pasta).

The sopa de calavacines is super easy to make and one that I make often; see Recipes.

I have never made nor wanted to make potaje before. My brother loathed it and it loathed him! But my mantra, ‘if it doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ meant I was willing to try anything once. Feeling the cold and holding this 20 year old pot in my hands made me feel very nostalgic about the food of my childhood and I tried to evoke it from tast memory. Here goes:

Potaje de Alubias, lomo, morcilla y chorizo (White pea bean stew with pork, black pudding and chorizo)

Using pulses in stews is typical peasant food. They are cheap, highly nutritious and ideal for large numbers of people. Even though they are ‘meaty’ in texture they can be quite bland tasting therefore they need a flavour injection.

1st: Either soak your beans over night and then boil for 2 hours OR buy a jar of precooked beans that you are confident using.

2nd: Chop a medium onion and fry in some olive oil. Add crushed garlic. I also added a chopped red chilli.

3rd: Slice chorizo and morcilla and fry in the olive oil. This will release a lot of sweet, smoked paprika flavoured oil into the pot. Add the pieces of pork and cook in these juices.

4th: Chop a large tomato and add to the pot.

5th: Once the tomato has broken down add the cooked beans. Simmer for a few mins. Serve hot with fresh parsely spinkled over.

Not exactly like Granny used to make but I am sure she would be very proud! ENJOY!