The current situation in Ukraine — not “the” Ukraine as HRH refers to it — has wreaked havoc in our household for almost an entire calendar year.
I realize that it’s not all about me, but seriously? It’s getting really old. My mother-in-law (who is fairly sure it is all about her) holds me personally responsible for the current Nazi-Fascist junta in Kyiv, which is fine, because I blame her for the fact that I can’t get brie or Mortadella in Moscow anymore. Meanwhile, I suspect HRH of having a bit more sympathy with the terror — sorry, the separatists — than I think any intelligent, well-educated person with access to broad band ought to. Frankly, I’m fed up with the whole thing. Aren’t you? My general disgust and ennui with the situation kept me on the edge of my seat last week as Angela the Great and that French guy tried to broker a peace settlement. It was real diplomatic drama, such as you just don’t get at a regularly scheduled meeting of the G-19.
Sadly, it looks as if this iteration of the ceasefire won’t last for long, so we will have to make the most of it while it does.
Entente, however short-lived means comfort food. Well, it does to me. Nothing says, “It doesn’t matter which preposition you use in front of ‘Ukraine,” I still love you!” like a lovingly prepared, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs casserole type dish like Cottage Pie. This is the kind of stuff Mrs. Patmore and Daisy serve to the downstairs peeps on Downton, making it ideal Sunday night nosh. It’s a versatile, sweep-the-contents-of-the-fridge dish, which lends itself perfectly to Moscow’s current limited list of ingredients. The great thing about Cottage Pie is that you don’t have to have great quality meat (although it certainly doesn’t hurt) to build up some fantastic flavor and texture. I use the tails from tenderloins, which I freeze, and when I have enough, out comes the meat grinder!
My friend and fellow Moscow blogger Potty Mommy (her nom de guerre, obviously) taught me a handy trick she’d gleaned from Saint Delia: form the potato mash into golf-ball sized spheres, then place them on top of the pie’s filling. The smooth, round surface underneath creates something of a seal, so you don’t end up with that kind of stodgy mess you get when the mash mixes with the filling — don’t you just hate that?
As for the rest — be creative! In the recipe below, I tell you how I make the mince zing with flavor, but feel free to experiment and play around with what you have in the pantry or what you could find in the store. Seriously, folks, anything goes. I found a bag of little green peas lurking in the back of the freezer, which I plunged into hot water for 30 seconds, then tossed with a little lemon juice and mint and scattered them over the pie. Better, I think, then putting them in the pie, where they lose their color and flavor, but that’s up to you. In developing this recipe, I read about fifty different recipes for Cottage Pie, and guess what? There are no hard and fast rules.
Not like…you know, a ceasefire.
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