The blood bath (and Italian-ish Cottage Pie)

When I started this blog I said that I was going to record the disasters as well as the successes. This was the biggest disaster to date in that it resulted in me losing a chunk of me. (And hence no pictures of this recipe as it was never finished.)

I began the afternoon in good spirits. You’ll see from the recipe section below that it was a chilly day and I was happy to be in the warmth of a bit of slow cooking. That bit went fine. No problem. The recipe for the meat part was great. I’d finished it and set it aside to wait until dinner time.

7pm came – time to put it in the oven. All that was left to do was add the potato topping with a few dots of butter and bake for half an hour. What could be easier?

This recipe was particularly exciting because it would mean using a mandolin for the first time. So many people have cocked their head and stared at me in puzzlement in the telling of this story over the past three weeks when I mention a mandolin. No, I don’t mean a small stringed instrument. I didn’t injure myself while bashing out Friend of the Devil on a lute. I’m talking about a vegetable slicing aparatus. With a very, very sharp blade. That kind of mandolin.

The potatoes were peeled, I was ready to go. The mandolin comes with a small plastic dome with four sharp spikes underneath. You grip the dome, stab whichever vegetable you want to slice with the spikes, and off you go. I put the first potato onto the spikes; they went about half way into the potato. Carefully holding the dome I started to slice. Brilliant. Wow this thing’s good, I thought. It cut through the rock hard potato as if it were soft butter.

But the problem was, the spikes got in the way of the blade. Using this protective dome thing would mean constantly pulling the spud a bit further down again and again. Or at least that’s what I thought it would mean because of course I hadn’t bothered to read the instructions.

Sod that, I thought impatiently. I’ll do this by hand.

Approximately three seconds later as I swept the potato down on the blade, a searing pain shot through the my right hand. It was like a paper cut, only worse. A lot worse.

Shit, I thought. That was stupid. I didn’t think my fingers were anywhere NEAR that blade. Shit. I’d better rinse this small cut under the tap. Ah, make that these two small cuts.

I put my fingers under the faucet and let the cold water rinse away the blood. And rinse. And rinse. And, a bit more rinsing. Hand is getting a bit cold. Oh, there’s more blood than water now, that’s odd. What… exactly have I done? Woah. This is actually quite painful. Shit. Can’t actually see the end of that finger. Just a lot of blood. Its more orange than you’d think. Right. It’s not stopping. Let’s put a little tissue on there… Gosh, the blood’s gone right through that tissue. Kitchen roll. Let’s try kitchen roll. Heart’s pounding a bit now. Calm down. It’s fiiiine. If your heart beats hard it’ll just make it worse. Breeeeathe. Blood’s soaked through the kitchen roll too now. That’s ok. More kitchen roll. Double kitchen roll. Heart’s still pounding. Need to calm down. Breathe… Let me tap into my first aid knowledge and work out the best thing to do in this situation. Tap tap tap. Ah. I have no first aid knowledge. Did I read something about holding your hand above your head in case of mandolin accidents? I think I did. Let’s try that… Pound pound pound. How did I manage to get blood all over this kitchen? Gross. I’ll wipe that up with my left hand while my right hand waves around up there fixing itself. Wipe wipe wipe. Ok let’s check these fingers, should be mended by now… Shit, this blood is never ending… I still can’t see the end of that finger. There will come a point soon when this kitchen will be full of (orangey) red blood and I will be a bloodless shrivelled dead person lying in a pool of it if I don’t stop this bleeding. Will you though? Let’s Google it. Finger wounds are extremely common… blah blah blah… But if it doesn’t stop bleeding within 10 minutes, go to A&E. It’s been 9 minutes. A&E. I’ll go to A&E. How? Can’t drive one-handed. UBER! Uber. Right. But I’m already wearing my pajamas. What? Why? It’s only 7pm?! Yes but it’s winter and it’s Sunday! Well, does it matter that you’re wearing pajamas? Do you want to stop your own life from ebbing away or do you want to look decent for the knackered doctors and nurses at A&E who won’t even notice?! I want to look decent. Ok fine! Let’s super-bandage this up so we don’t drip blood through the entire house (I am actually talking to myself aloud at this stage). Triple kitchen roll and a tea towel. Upstairs we go, one-handedly get undressed, one-handedly get re-dressed. It’s indredibly hard – not just the one-handedness of it but trying not to touch/knock the painful wounds. Five minutes later I’m done and ready to call a taxi to go to… where’s the nearest A&E? No idea… Gah. Google again. Hang on, let me just check how bad it is now… Ah… aaaaaaahhhhhhh… it’s stopped.

Three weeks on, one wound is just about healed though leaving a dent. The other one I still can’t see. It’s still wrapped up and hopefully mending itself slowly.

So the moral of this story is patience… and USE THE PROTECTIVE DOME.

This is the orignal blog and recipe…

The temperature in London is dropping, and the annual comfort food season is well and truly upon us. It is the time for slow cooking, for the warmth and smells of the oven to fill the house on a frosty Sunday afternoon. And it is a time for pies. This is like cottage pie but with more of a tomato and herb sauce, more vegetables, and with a crispy and buttery potato topping. Edited: I never made the potato topping – see above. But if  you slice potatoes thinly, add some little blobs of butter, I anticipate it’d be really nice. The meaty bit was lovely and I’ve made it twice since. Without the potato.

What to use – serves 4

  • 500g minced beef (or pork or a mix of the two, or chicken or turkey)
  • 300ml stock – beef, chicken, veg (or half red wine, half stock, or all red wine)
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes or passata
  • shallots – finely chopped
  • 6 mushrooms, quartered
  • a carrot – diced
  • half a red pepper – diced
  • squeeze of tomato puree
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • dried basil (or thyme or mixed herbs)
  • bunch of flat leaf parsley – chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcester sauce
  • 4 medium waxy potatoes – SLICED CAREFULLY

How to use it

In a heavy casserole fry off the beef – you’ll probably need to do it in batches – scoop out and set to one side, leaving the meat juices in the pan.

Add a little olive oil if needed and saute the shallots, carrots, mushrooms and red pepper with a sprinkle of sea salt on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the three garlic cloves crushed and cook for a couple more minutes.

Add the fried beef to the vegetable pan. If you’re using red wine, add this now and bring to a bubble. Bubble for a few minutes.

Add the stock, tinned tomatoes, Worcester sauce and tomato puree and again bring to a bubble.

Stir in the dried herbs and bay leaves put on the lid and put into a 140C fan oven and slow cook for at least 2 hours. The longer you cook it the softer the mince will be. Check regularly to make sure it’s not drying out. Add a little water if it is. I cooked mine for around 4 hours.

Taste it and add any seasoning you think it needs plus the chopped parsley.

When you are happy with it, let it cool for a bit before making the pie.

When ready to cook, wash (peeling optional) your potatoes and CAREFULLY slice them using a mandolin so they’re an even width around 3mm should be ok.

Put the meat into a casserole dish and layer the potato on top. Season and dot butter across the potato. Cook in a 180C oven for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and meat bubbling.

Eat. Hopefully not one-handedly.

Meat: pre-accident

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