THE FIRST CULINARY PROJECT – FIRST EPISODE – SHEPHERD’S PIE with JULIA

A recipe that is so versatile and easy it could be served at any dinner, at a cozy house party, or just as supper. I’ve put a twist on my recipe of shepherd’s pie but the basics are still there…

 

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Coming up on ACornerKitchen: Shepherd's Pie

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Hello everyone, it’s been very very long since I updated my beloved blog. This year has been an eventful year with me. I decided with join my best friend in a new internet venture. It is definitely an experience of a life time. We did achieve some possitive results as well as go through some tough times. Check it out here !!!

I haven’t been cooking or eating out at new places much so I ran out of ideas for new recipes to write up. However, I did reach out and connect to some of the coolest foodies in the GTA area. They are very nice and have been to so many places. Their reviews kinda help me shorten my time searching for good places to eat without burning my pocket. One of them is Ken. He has been to so many great place and has a good taste in food. He also cooks and presents many great dishes on his Instagram. You can visit his page here @YYZFoodie. We actually met up and had a good time trying a new sandwich shop on Queen and Spadina called Fresh Off The Boat, and gelato at the famous gelato place Kekou with Asian flavours. Hopefully we get to collaborate someday to creat or re-create a good recipe 🙂

SOOO, as I figured it was too late to continue my recipe-a-month project, I decided to change it up, and have a monthly get-together with some of my friends. We would pick out a recipe we want to try, then I would help them read the recipe and go through the process with them. As I learned through my years of learning how to cook by my self, with so much help from Mom and the TV shows, recipes are scripts, which are limited in words and often so general they ignore some of the tips of how to actually replicate the dish. As for someone who hasn’t been around the kitchen that much, how to dice a carrot could be a hassle. Or maybe something harder as how to melt the butter without browning it is something readers are supposed to research on their own, which takes a lot of time and effort in a rushing lifestyle. I thought to myself why not help other people around me figure out those tips instead? It could be a good chance for me to test and improve my knowledge and train myself as an instructor in the future if I happen to keep my dream going in the future, where I’d go back home in Vietnam and start something similar to “Jamie’s 15” in the UK.

The first project started right before Thanksgiving 2014. My co-worker Julia and I started to hang out around that time, and most of the time we discussed food and cooking. She is so lucky to live with her aunt and uncle, who cook super delicious food. I could tell that immediately during the times we had lunch together. She would organize the food so neatly in a glass container and more often that not, there woud be 2 or more items in the container 🙂 We were talking one day and decide to meet up on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to make Shepherd’s pie. We had a discussion of what kind of pie to make, but then I hadn’t made any pie up until then so I was reluctant to make sweet pies thinking it might fail, so I asked if she would like to try savory pie instead, and she kindly accepted!!! For me savory is more comfortable to make than sweet

Selfie with the pies before baking!!!

We had a good brunch at a small restaurant in my neighborhood and spent a bit of time grocery shopping. Then the fun started. It was so fun showing Julia how to hold the knife and how to peel, cut, dice, chop with it. She did it surprisingly well for someone who hadn’t been in the kitchen much, although practice will be much needed (lol). We went through the whole process with her doing most of the work, from preping to cooking to seasoning. The pie came out very tasty and extremely good looking. It seemed like a lot of work and complicated, but it was very easy when you started to get into it. The most time consuming part was actually the prepping part. Check out the recipe below and hope you will enjoy a fun day with your friends and loved ones preparing it for dinner!!!

Preparation time: 1.5 hours
Servings: 4 – 6

Ingredients:
– 3 lbs potatoes
– 1 red onion
– 2 carrots
– 2 zucchinis
– 2 tomatoes
– 1 lb ground beef
– 1/2 stick butter (1/8 cup)
– 1/2 cup milk
– Rosemary, chives, and thyme

Process:
– Start off by peeling the potatoes and boil in plain water until nice and soft. This could take about 30 – 45 minutes depending on the type of potatoes
– Dice red onion, tomatoes, carots and zucchinis into small cubes
– Cut the chives into nice small pieces. Take the leaves off 2 stalks of rosemary and 2 stalks of thyme and finely chop them up

 

Yep!!! Hard at work peeling the veggies! For someone who doesn’t cook much, she did a good job 🙂

– Once the potatoes are cooked, add 1 tbsp of butter and mash until soft and smooth. Stir in some salt and almost all the chives that have been chopped. Stir in the milk slowly until you get a smooth and silky, but not runny mash. Set aside
– In a pot over medium high heat, add the remaining butter with 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Add in the chopped rosemary and thyme. Once the butter melts half way, add in diced red onion with a pinch of salt. Stir until soft and fragrant
– Add in carrots and stir for 1 minute. Add the ground beef and stir to cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes with lid almost closed
– Add in the zucchini once the tomato juice has been reduced to half. Let cook for another 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Let simmer until the juice is reduced by half.

my little selfie B-)

– Heat up the oven at 350F / 180C
– Prepare ramekins or porcelain baking trays. Scoop in the beef and tomato sauce, fill up about 3/4 the trays. Spread the mashed potatoes on top to fill 1/4 of the trays. Add some chopped chives and whole rosemary/thyme stalks of top
– Bake in over for 20 minues, or until the top of the mashed potato turns golden brown, and the sauce is bubbling through

– Served fresh off the oven

END RESULT !!!!!

Notes:
– First off, for the ground beef, I’d prefer fatty ground beef, not the lean type, as for braising recipe, the fat from the meat will help tenderizet he vegetables and gives the whole dish a deeper flavor. The lean ground beef might just be too dry and “meaty”. Ultimately you can substitute beef with ground lamb as well, which will gives a much stronger flavor. Add more rosemary to balance the scent while cooking if you think lamb smells too strong.
– For the diced veggies, you can be creative about it. We decided to add in zucchinis just because Julia likes zucchinis. It turns out quite well. However, make sure you add zucchini at the very end, as they cook very fast and might break down in the sauce
– When heating up butter, a bit of oil will prevent it from browning to fast. A good high heat oil is recommended, not extra virgin olive oil. I’d pick avocado oil. It has a very dark green color and a weird smell, but it can stand up to 300C heat and is a great source of omega 3 (for those who are oh so concerned with oil and fat!!!)
– Finally, you can also sprinkle a good layer of cheese on top before baking the pie, which will turn the top layer into a very crispy crust. That is going to be a good one!

BON APPETIT!!!


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