Monday, 16 July 2018

#ewew cooks Cottage Pie

Cottage pie or shepherd's pie is basically a meat pie with a crust of mashed potato.  The meat used is usually ground beef or ground lamb which is cooked in a tomato gravy of onions and vegetables and topped with mashed potato.

It seems it should be called cottage pie (if ground beef is used) and named shepherd's pie (if it's ground lamb).  Well, now I know.  So, I guess I'm making Cottage Pie then (though nowadays both names are used interchangeably).  I suppose you can also substitute it with ground chicken or pork if you like (but I won't know what fancy names to call those pies other than chicken or pork shepherd's pie...kekeke!).

This recipe is inspired by Patricia Heaton and Jamie's Table which I've tweaked and simplified further.  I don't mind sacrificing a bit of the taste if I can save on buying more spices and seasonings which I'm not able to use up.


1 packet minced beef (the one I got was about 260g)
4 medium potatoes
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 a red capsicum, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks of Chinese coriander, chopped
2 knobs of butter (I use those 9-in-1 mini packs)
4 tbsp tomato puree (you can add more if you like it wetter)
1 tsp (dry) mixed herbs
Salt & (freshly cracked) black pepper to taste


Make sure the diced vegetables (of onion, carrot, bell pepper and celery) are cut uniformly as this will ensure that they all cook at the same time.  The quantity of each of the diced vegetables is about 3/4 of a cup.


Pour in a tbsp of olive oil into a hot pan and put in the ground beef.  My recipe has a reduced amount of meat used as I wanted more vegetables than meat in my pies.  You can 'beef up' the beef (double the portion if you like).  Once the ground meat is in, season with 1 tsp mixed herbs, 1/4 tsp salt 1/8 tsp black pepper.  You can use 1 tsp of chopped fresh thyme if you have.  I didn't, so I substituted it with 1 tsp of mixed dry herbs of rosemary, thyme, marjoram and basil (I 'invested' in this seasoning recently since it's so versatile with a mixture of four herbs which I can use on a lot of stuff).

Saute the meat on relatively high heat to get it nicely seared (I learned that from Tobie Puttock's video on Jamie's Table).  Cook it for about 3 minutes until it's nicely browned.  Remove the cooked meat onto a dish.

Next, put in all the vegetables (of onions, carrots, capsicum and celery) together with the minced garlic too in 1 tbsp of olive oil and saute for 5 minutes.

Again, season with 1/4 tsp salt 1/8 tsp black pepper.  The vegetables are so pretty and colourful, don't you think?

Once the vegetables start to soften, add back the cooked beef mince to the pan.  To that, add 4 tbsp of tomato puree (add more if you want a more tomato-ey taste) and 1/2 cup water (use fresh stock if you have) and simmer on medium low heat for 5 minutes.

I bought this bottle of fresh tomato puree from Mercato (coz I liked the jar!) and found that it only cost RM6.99 for 720 ml (quite a bargain for a product of Italy since Italian tomato puree is known to be the most acclaimed variety, no?).  Anyway, I like the taste of this tomato puree as I find it not as acidic as some of the ones I've bought before.  I think I should have added more tomato puree into my mixture.

I improvised and substituted fresh flat-leaf parsley with coriander (since there weren't any at the supermarket when I wanted to make this).  Add chopped coriander (I like a lot) towards the end and simmer for a further minute until the sauce is almost dry.  If you want to include green peas into the mix, you can. Just add frozen peas in the last minute and stir them in (the baking process will cook and soften the peas).

And the Cottage Pie filling is done.  Let it cool.

In the meantime, make the mash.  In a heavy saucepan, season the water generously with salt and bring to a boil.  Put the potatoes in and parboil until soft.  Once a fork easily pierces through the potatoes, you know it's ready (which is about 15 minutes).  Drain the potatoes thoroughly.

Add 2 knobs of butter to the potatoes while they're are still warm, season with salt and black pepper.  Mash. You can also add milk or cream to the mash but I didn't, so I loosened it up with a little water (stock would be more flavourful if you have).

By now, the filling would have cooled a little for you to spoon into ramekins.  Fill it slightly more than halfway up and the rest of the ramekin can be filled with the mashed potato.

Top the balance of the ramekin with the potato mash and press down to seal the edges.

I don't have those fancy tips to pipe in the mash, so I just use a fork to press down or poke at the mash to create ridges as this will give rise to crusty edges.

Finally, sprinkle a pinch of salt and black pepper and drizzle a little olive oil over the top of each ramekin. You can sprinkle some cheese on top too if you want.

Put the ramekins on a lined sheet pan (that's in case the filling bubbles over).  Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes.

The Cottage Pie is done once the mash turns a nice golden brown.

The filling was more than enough to fill 4 ramekins (I was left with extras to fill another 1 - 2 ramekins) but I had run out of mash (so you'll need to adjust the amount of potatoes needed...rule of thumb is one potato for each portion/ramekin...and when you increase the potatoes, you have to increase the butter too, of course).

You can keep the extras and make a pasta dish out of it by adding more tomato puree (and that makes a wonderful meal in itself).

You can also choose to make a layered casserole by spooning all the vegetables (and mash) into one large casserole or you can do it like I did here, into small ramekins, one for each person (maybe two if you're feeling peckish).

This was my second time making Cottage Pie...but my first attempt at making it from scratch.  Hmmm, I think I pretty much nailed it! ;)

The previous time I made a Beef Shepherd's Pie was through a dinner box provided by (the now defunct) Urban Stove that looked something like wasn't great looking nor great tasting (that's why it's defunct...wuahahahaha)! :D

Mine (made from scratch) definitely looks better presented...and it was better tasting too.

It's a wonderfully comforting dish.  Just imagine curling up in the cold air-conditioned comfort of your home and out comes this hot mash and still bubbling beef and vegetable stew to warm your heart.  Simply yummy. ^.^

Because it's a dish of meat and potatoes, it can be a little heavy, so it'd be best to serve it with some green leafy vegetables (like a fresh arugula salad with cherry tomatoes or sauteed broccolini or, in this case, stir-fried pea shoots) to offer a fresh bite.

The potato mash was really nice, buttery, soft and fluffy on the inside with nice crispy edges on the outside. Eaten with the bubbling hot beef and vegetable stew, it was hearty and delicious. ^o^

If you want a vegetarian version, you can too....just omit the ground beef.  It should still taste good...and you can call it a 'shepherdless' pie....hihihi! ;D  And if you add a sprinkling of breadcrumbs (and cheese) to the mashed potato topping, it turns into a cumberland pie!  So, whether it's a cottage, shepherd's, 'shepherdless' or cumberland pie...try making one today and you'll realise that the name just sounds fancy but it's actually quite simple to make.

I wasn't expecting it to be so successful actually.  If you're having a party and want to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen or away from your guests, then this Cottage Pie is certainly a contender as a main since it can be prepared ahead of time and put to bake when your guests arrive.

Give it a go at making this savoury, comfort-food classic.....who doesn't like meat and potatoes, right? ^_~

Serves 3 - 4 (mashed potato was enough for 4 ramekins but filling was enough for 6)

Thursday, 12 July 2018

BBQ Ma Eul Cup Bab @ Damasara Uptown

I've heard positive comments about this Korean BBQ place, BBQ Ma Eul Cup Bab @ Damansara Uptown, that has been around for more than two years now.  We arrived at prime dinner time and managed to snap up the last table in the air-conditioned dining space inside.

There are a lot more alfresco seats outside (both in front and at the side of the restaurant) but you may have to deal with the heat and humidity.  On hindsight, it wasn't that much cooler inside either.

Seriously, I can't understand why many Korean BBQ joints don't make the place colder with air-conditioners at full blast coz the heat from the charcoal BBQ makes the dining experience really uncomfortable.  That's probably why I don't eat Korean BBQs all that often as I end up sweating throughout my meal, a scenario I'm definitely not fond of.

Inside the restaurant, there's this cute mural of Bart Simpson (of all people) giving you a guide on how best to enjoy Korean BBQ.  Seriously? ;)  Strange to me...unless he has Korean lineage I'm not aware of...kakaka!

Anyway, once our orders were placed, the banchan (Korean side dishes) arrived, all refillable.  There was a selection of 8 types which included kimchi, pickled radish, spinach, fish cake, potato, japchae, soybean sprouts and anchovies.

Even with our family-of-four (my mother-in-law included), we couldn't finish the banchan given (so I'm quite amazed at how some people can go through many refills of banchan!).

The only refill we did go for were the spinach and radish...and that's when I spotted this fried eggplant at the self-service banchan refill station.  If you happen to be there when they bring them out, freshly fried, then the batter should be somewhat crispy, otherwise it'd be soft.

Besides the banchan, we were also given a Korean Salad with lettuce, mung bean sprouts and scallions tossed in a spiced paste.  I enjoyed this salad very much.

On top of that, a big bowl of fresh lettuce is given to wrap the grilled meats in if you choose to do so but I don' I like to eat my meat unwrapped.

I'm sorry I have no photos of the plates of raw meat we ordered as the server piled them one on top of the other because of the limited table space (+ she was also very quick to throw them on the grill).  That's my other grouse, the limited table space, besides the hot environment when it comes to eating Korean BBQ.  The tables are always so cramped without enough space to accommodate the grill top, all the side dishes and our other orders.  A table meant for four is only suitable for two (to eat comfortably), IMHO! >_<

Condiments include a bean paste dip, fresh garlic and green chillies.  This bean paste dip was alright as long as it's not the red chilli paste (gochujang) which I don't really like.

But my favourite is the sesame oil + salt dip.  I prefer to eat my meats with this (especially with non-marinated meats) but they tend to give you so little of it.  You can refill the bean paste dip on your own (and take how ever much you want) but if you want seconds of the sesame oil-salt dip, you have to ask for it.  I asked and was given another two small plates with minute amounts of how many times do you think I can dip my meat in it before it finishes again.  Haiz, I don't know why this dip is so precious.

There is a combination of set menus as well as a la carte orders.  We ordered Set 3 @ RM59 (for 2 - 3 persons) with sliced pork belly, pork shoulder and grilled baby octopus.

This set gets you 2 1/2 (yes, two and a half, not three!) strips of sliced pork belly and two pieces of pork shoulder.

The grilled baby octopus, marinated in a spiced paste, was brought to us already cooked.  Slightly chewy, slightly crunchy, slightly spicy.

The pork belly and pork shoulder caramelising on the grill top over hot charcoal.  I find Korean BBQ to be one of the hardest things to photograph simply because the hanging exhaust hood always casts a shadow on the food...haiz.

The pork belly was dumped on top of the plate of grilled baby octopus.  They couldn't even afford to serve it on a separate plate because of the lack of space on the table.  The pork belly, with a good marbling, was sufficiently tender and juicy.

The pork shoulder being cut into slices by their staff who did all the grilling for us.  So, you just need to sit back and enjoy your meal.

The pork shoulder was a much leaner cut, understandably it was meatier and wasn't as tender.  And, of course, it got dumped onto the same plate that contained our pork belly and baby octopus.

From the a la carte menu, we placed an additional order for Pork Neck (hangjeongsal) @ RM25 as I've always enjoyed eating pork neck.  Unfortunately, the ones we got that evening were a bit too fatty for me (I've seen not so fatty ones on other blogs).

Well, guess landed on the same plate again...our one and only plate for all the cooked meats at the table! :P

We also ordered the Spicy Grilled Pork Belly (gochujang samgyeopsal) @ RM26 served with a cheese dip. This was not grilled table-side but cooked in the kitchen and brought to us which was a blessing in disguise, otherwise it might have gotten dumped onto the same plate again.  For those who like their meat with a more robust flavour, they will prefer this one as they've been marinated in gochujang.

A little deviation from all the meat was an order of Grilled Mackerel @ RM25 served with soy and wasabi. When the fish arrived, we thought we got lucky with two whole fish but soon realised the fish was sliced in half lengthwise...haha! >.<

Well grilled and fragrant, it was good eaten with a squeeze of lemon and a dip into the soy (I removed the wasabi, of course).  My mother-in-law relished this the most probably because she's not that much of a meat person.  We also did not order any beef since she doesn't like to eat beef.

Finally, what's a meal without some carbs?  We just had to get the Spicy Rice Balls @ RM18 that came topped with copious amounts of absolutely fragrant, crispy seaweed in a big ass steel bowl.  A pair of plastic gloves are provided to keep your hands clean while you mix the contents thoroughly to form rice balls out of the warm and sticky Japanese rice with spiced sauce.

Well, apparently, that's what everybody is supposed to do with it (as I've seen on blogs and their Facebook). You can then put it on the grill to get it crusty and charred.  So, I followed suit and formed rice balls out of them but, in my haste to do it (so that I could get rid of the big ass bowl that was sitting on limited table space), the rice wasn't very compact.  I was practically holding onto the rice balls until the server brought me a small plate to put them on.

On hindsight, if I knew that the rice balls would stick to the grill and fall apart when I tried to remove them coz the rice was sticky (in the first place) and not well compacted, I wouldn't have bothered to make them into rice balls (+ it also didn't result in a charred and crusty exterior which would have made them taste better) :P

Actually, as I was mixing the rice, I realised that the rice was really warm.  I should have just scooped the rice onto our plates and eat it while it's still warm for best results (I think I would have enjoyed it even more).  Lesson learnt.  That said, this was what I ended up liking the most here...a must-order! ^o^

There's no complimentary tea or anything, just plain water.....and they give you a whole jug.  We needed a second jug as the dining environment was just too hot and humid.

My Personal Opinion

If meat or Korean BBQ is your thing and you have no qualms about eating and sweating at the same time, then you should definitely consider this place for the price factor (first) and taste (second).

There are very few places where you can get a meal of 7 items that's able to feed 4 people sufficiently for around RM150! O_o  In fact, three small-eaters (or those on a tight budget) could possibly have a meal for RM20 with just the RM59 set and lots of banchan! ;)

As far as I'm concerned, there's very little to distinguish between the taste of these Korean BBQs and unlimited banchan.  Perhaps, the slight noticeable difference would be in the marination of the meats (and if you're ordering non-marinated meats, it makes no difference) and maybe the dipping sauce.

So, wear as little as possible.....and indulge in a sizzling hot 'affair'! ^_~

BBQ Ma Eul Cup Bab
No 4 Ground Floor
Jalan SS21/39 Damansara Utama
47400 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03-7732 9955

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