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Monday, January 14, 2013

Cookbooks Waste Of Money Or A Logical Investment

As I have said before I'm a rather naive cook. I have had very little experience in the kitchen, and now that I am liberated, I'm always on the look out for new recipe books and new things to try. I'm not too fussed if it's intended as a starter or a main. I'm just trying out new things, practicing in the kitchen all the time. I'm allowed to now and I can. Although I add to my collection of books by one or two a month, occasionally more, I still have my favourites which I go back to time and time again. Glen and I were talking, someone said to me that I was wasting my money continuously buying new books. (I have easily spent hundreds of pounds over the last three and half years) As an example they said "If you pick up 10 of your cookbooks, you'll have at least 9 shepherds pie recipes, what's the point?" This person isprobably right and don't dispute that fact - I could probably find just as many chicken pie, lasagne, roast beef and taco recipes and as my collection expands so will my amount of shepherds pie recipes. However I have conducted a little experiment, research if you will, this is the part about blogging that I like the most, doing the research to ensure my blogs are as acurate as I can possibly make them, although I am bound to make mistakes at times. First I looked in all my cookbooks, little magazine types too, I've included cottage pie recipes also because whilst some will say they are not the same, in the course of my experiment I have discovered what I thought seperated the two - one being mince (ground) beef and the other with lamb. It turns out that this is not the case, so with that in mind I included both. So in total I own 73 and counting recipe books, (now actually over 100). So according to this persons logic I should have 67 give or take a few, shepherds pie recipes, when infact I have 7 - no two are alike either - some use beef, lamb, venison, veal. Some have mushrooms some don't, some use Worcestershire sauce, some don't, some use swede, some have cheese in the potato.... All but one were called shepherds pie. So the conclusion to my research? My books aren't a waste of money and infact continue to serve a very important role in my expansion as a cook. They teach me different techniques, about food and possible combinations of flavours. They inspire me to try new things.. So poo poo to the person who clearly has no idea - while we are at it, here is the Shepherds Pie, recipe I did use.

Shepherds Pie

1/2 tsp Olive Oil
750g Minced (Ground) Lamb
2 Diced Carrots
125g Sliced Mushrooms
1 Crushed Garlic Clove
1 Roughly Chopped Large Onion
1 Heaped tbsp Flour (mixed with a little water)
300ml Vegetable Stock
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Black Pepper (for seasoning to taste)
3 Large Peeled and cut Potatoes
60ml Hot milk
2 tbsp Butter
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Heat a large skillet on a medium heat, add the oil. Gently cook the lamb until the fat from the meat starts to run. Increase the heat and cook, using your spatula or spoon breaking it up as it cooks, once it has browned, remove the lamb from the skillet and place to one side.Pour away anyway excess fat, leaving a little in the pan.

2. To your skillet, add the mushrooms, carrots, onions and garlic. Cook gently, occasionally stirring until the vegetables have softened slightly.

3. Add the lamb to the vegetables and warm through again.

4. Pour in your stock, worcestershire sauce, season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil and add your flour mixture continuously stirring, until thickened. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. (basically while you prepare the potatoes).

5. Cook your potatoes until soft (not so water logged they are mushy) drain in a colander/seive, leave for about 5 minutes, just until they stop steaming, return the potatoes to the saucepan and over a low heat gently stir, you're heating the potatoes through but also "drying" them out a little, you don't want them to brown so keeping stirring and upturning them.

6. Add a little of the hot milk, butter and the egg. Mashing until soft and smooth. If need be you can add more milk. Season with salt, pepper and the nutmeg.

7. Taste your lamb mixture for seasoning, add salt and pepper according. Spoon the mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with the mashed potato. Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the mashed potato is nice and golden.

Top tip: It's really tasty if you sprinkle a little grated cheddar over the top of the mash!


  1. I have a lot of cook books too Beckey... I guess if you like them then it's not a waste of money; I actually like looking at the pictures quite a bit! :) Every so often my Mom gives me a new cook book she finds at a garage sale or some place so I'm almost at my limit now since I'm running out of space to keep them. I often use the internet to browse recipes too. I have to say my favorite all-time cookbook is the one I made of our familys' recipes. I made hard cover cookbooks with a nice dedication to my Mom and gave them to some of our family members. It was well received and for some of the recipes I didn't have a picture for I used old family photos, like pics of my grandparents on the farm... ~ BTW I love Shepherds pie (made the real way with lamb) and I'm looking forward to trying your recipe!

    1. I love your idea on your own recipe books, I sort of do the same thing, as I try new recipes, I write the ones we enjoyed down in a notebook (also hardback) I'm on my second one now! I wish that I had put photo's in them though, because they are just the recipes, with my alterations.. Maybe when I start my new notebook I will add photo's I REALLY love that Idea..!

      This Shepherds Pie recipe is good, I'm not a fan of Shepherds Pie at all, but Glen enjoys it, which is why I cooked it, and I did enjoy this one.

  2. I have an entire kitchen cabinet devoted to cookbooks. With the advent of the internet, however, I'm more inclined to google!

  3. I use several cooking websites as well but I find my thoughts are too disorganised to be able to just browse, the internet is only any good for me if I know exactly what I want! Otherwise I'll start by searching for cookie recipes for example, something will catch my eye and I end up on a random recipe search tangent, and end up with nothing!