I am really not a fan of Cottage Pie. You see, I like a bit of texture to my food. I like when there’s something I can bite into or something that adds a bit of crunch, and with Cottage Pie, well there just isn’t. It’s all a bit baby food-y to me. So when one of my readers asked me for an easy cottage pie recipe, I was a bit disappointed because I knew I would have to make it to see if it was really easy and really delicious. I started thinking of ways to amp up the flavour but keep the cooking time to a minimum and that’s when it dawned on me that Chicken would probably work a bit better than Beef. In my mind anyway, Chicken has a better way of absorbing and carrying flavours. With the Mashed potato topping I didn’t have a problem because it’s really easy to pump up the flavour by adding a bit of butter, maybe some Parmesan and some nutmeg. But then I started thinking, why buy Chicken Mince when I can buy Chicken Sausage? Not only is it easier to find Chicken sausage but it’s also got so much flavour packed in already. It’s like using Pork bangers instead of using Pork Mince (which is going to feature on my menu pretty soon!).
While developing this recipe, I spoke to my aunt who was telling me that her kids hates eating vegetables. As a mom of kids who love their vegetables, it’s hard for me to imagine having to con, bribe and beg them to eat carrots, pumpkin and peas. But there are so many mothers who have to do that just so their kids don’t turn into the marshmallows they like to eat so much. So I thought, why not add more vegetables to the mash layer which is the layer most kids will love anyway? Obviously things like cauliflower, broccoli and carrots can be added but I think most kids will sniff out the broccoli and turn their noses up before you can even convince them that the mash is supposed to be green. That’s why I thought, why not add sweet potato and butternut? Not only are the sweet potatoes in South Africa white, so you don’t even notice them in the mashed potato, but both the sweet potato and butternut add really yummy sweetness. And that’s 3 vegetables your child didn’t even know they were eating. Add that to the tomatoes, onions and celery in the meat sauce and you have your 5-a-day without even trying.
I know that the thought of peeling 3 different types of vegetables must be a bit daunting. If your peeler is not your friend, then buy the vegetables ready peeled and chopped up. And I have to be honest, squeezing the sausage meat out of the casing is not exactly what I would call fun. And if you are a bit squeamish in the kitchen, maybe make friends with your butcher and ask him to give you a kg of the sausage meat before it gets stuffed. But it really does only take a few minutes and I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re eating meat, you should first of all know where it’s coming from (can you tell Justin Bonello has rubbed off on me?) and also, you can’t be afraid to touch the raw meat. So put your big girl panties (or big boy underpants) on and get on with it… ok?
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 celery sticks, finely sliced
1kg chicken sausage (squeezed out of casings) or Chicken Mince
1 tin cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
1tbsn tomato paste
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste
handful fresh parsley, chopped
200g potatoes, peeled and roughly quartered
300g sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
300g butternut, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 cup warmed milk
1 cup mature cheddar, grated
1/2tsp nutmeg, grated
salt & pepper to taste
- Fill a large pot with water and place on high heat. Add the potatoes, sweet potato and butternut.
- In a large saucepan, fry the onions, garlic and celery until soft and translucent.
- Add the chicken and fry until the meat starts to brown.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves and 1/2 cup water and turn down the heat. Cover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
- When the vegetables are soft, drain and mash with the butter and milk. (I used my handheld mixer which worked incredibly well to get rid of all the lumps and only took a minute)
- Add the cheese and seasoning and mix through.
- Spoon the chicken mixture into an oven-proof dish and top with the mashed vegetables. I like to take a fork and make patterns on the mash but you can just dollop it on if you don’t feel too creative.
- Place in a pre-heated (200°c) oven and cook for 10-15 minutes until the vegetable layer is slightly browned.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.