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Day #6 – Shepherd’s Pie. With Marmite. Stop it.

This evening, as I was preparing this meal amidst the usual chaos that is our house at 5pm, I was thinking about this blog and my “30 Days Without Takeaways” challenge. I came to the realisation that, as with many things, it often takes merely not being allowed to do something to stop oneself from doing it. In other words, I have challenged myself and am writing this blog as motivation to see the challenge through, and therefore I simply am not allowed to buy takeaways. And so, we are not. Today would have probably been an ideal fish and chip night – I spent a large part of the day working, Princess spent the day at a birthday party and Mr T is still under the weather. And, there is a cyclone looming, apparently. But, takeaways wasn’t even floated as an option. Because, quite simply, we are not allowed.

And thus I made Shepherd’s Pie.

This is another of the meals that Mr T mentioned when I asked him earlier in the week about meals from his childhood. Shepherd’s Pie (according to me, anyway) is just savoury mince topped with mashed potato. In some form.

Mince meat is one of those grocery items you buy every week, regardless of meal plans. Because it is so versatile, so cheap and so easy to cook – we always have at least one or two lots of mince in the freezer. I didn’t use a recipe as such for this dish because, as with many mince dishes, it really is a case of throwing things at the frying pan and hoping they taste good. I mean, any mince is tastier than what my flatmate used to cook when I was flatting as an 18 year old – he aptly named it Salty Mince because it contained mince and salt. Only mince and salt.

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Which brings me to Marmite. Marmite? Shut. The. Front. Door. Are you crazy? Well, yes. But we already know that! For those of you blog followers who don’t know what Marmite is, it is a black spread similar to the famed Australian Vegemite, only slightly sweeter. Very slightly. You either love it or you hate it. Oh, it is also very different to British Marmite, as we discovered when the NZ Marmite factory was closed for two very long years after the 2011 earthquake.

Shepherd’s Pie

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Mince

Onion

Garlic

Mixed Vegetables

Worcester Sauce

Beef Stock

Herbs and Spices

Potatoes (plus ingredients needed for mashing. We are dairy free due to BabyGirl’s allergy so we use margarine and olive oil to mash potatoes).

*You might like to top your pie with grated cheese as well. As above, we are dairy free so don’t but it is a nice addition

Marmite

Potato Pompoms (Now, these weren’t part of my plan but while I was waiting for the potatoes to boil, I found half a bag in the freezer. I love them, I absolutely adore these, so I decided to put them on top of the pie. This meant I didn’t need as many potatoes as well)

So, the method is pretty simple – as I said earlier, I just throw things at the frying pan. Not literally. Most of the time. Chop the onion and cook with the garlic, add the mince and cook until it is brown. Add the Worcester sauce, mixed veges and stock. Cook some more. With the Marmite, I put about half a teaspoon of it into about 1/4 cup of boiling water and stirred until it had mostly dissolved, then added it to the mince mixture. Trust me, it’s delicious.

While this is going on, peel and chop the potatoes then boil them until ready to mash. Mash potatoes.

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Once the mince mixture is cooked to your liking, put it into an oven-proof dish and top with pompoms or potatoes or whatever combination you have chosen. Top with cheese if ya’ll like. Put into the oven just until the potatoes are nice and crispy (about 10-15mins).

Verdict

Win. On a windy, stormy evening nothing is better than hot comfort food. Appearance wise, it looked like prison food but it tasted amazing. Smothered, of course, in tomato sauce. We didn’t need any side dishes because the pie itself is so jam packed with meat, potato and veges. There was enough left over that I can use it to create something for dinner tomorrow night.

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Here’s a question Mr T had for me today – are we allowed Takeaways if they are bought for us by someone else? Hmmm, I’m not sure. Food for thought!

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Day #5 – Roast Beef

Roast beef tonight. Not because I particularly feel like roast beef mind, but simply because I thawed it so must use it. It is actually quite a muggy day today and the oven blasting at ridiculous temperatures just adds to the heat. But, here we are anyway.

Because I am cooking a rump roast (don’t ask me about different cuts of meat vs their merits, I know about as much about beef as I do about fish. Which is, very little. But, I’m learning!), I decided to do it by searing and then cooking at a low temp. I would love to say that I’m cooking it with all the trimmings (kumara, parsnip (gross), carrots, onions, peas, yorkshire pudding) but I’m not. I don’t have most of those things in my house, so we are having Roast Beef with potatoes and peas.  And maybe carrots. Since typing ‘yorkshire pudding’, I’m reconsidering cooking it, because I LURVE it. But, no, not tonight. Definitely putting that on the list for another night though!

Roast Beef with Potatoes and other vegetables

Roast beef (as mentioned, I have Rump Roast)

Garlic

Salt and Pepper

Onion

Cup of water

Potatoes

Olive Oil

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Leave the beef out in room temperature for about half an hour before cooking. Why? Because that’s what they recommend on MasterChef. True story. Make 4-5 slits in the rump (it’s ok, I giggled too) and shove in some garlic and salt and pepper. Put more salt and pepper over the entire piece of meat. Sear in the oven for 20 minutes at 235C. Bring out and add the chopped onion and water to the dish. Put back into the oven and cook at 135C until cooked to your liking. I like my meat medium-well done, Mr T likes his a bit bloodier. Rest your meat when it is done, for about ten minutes before cutting. This one I know why – it is about the juices going back into the meat and making it more tender and moist. Or something (told you I knew).

For the potatoes – I am trying to master the perfect roast potato without smothering them in fat. I’m about 80% there, I think. I peel and boil them until they are just tender, then drain the water and give them a good ruffle-up. A shake up. Roughen up their edges, if you will. And then I roast them with some oil until they are crunchy and delicious. Om nom nom. I could eat roast potatoes and gravy until the cows come home, I tell ya.

Gravy. GRAAAAAAAVVVVYYYYYY. Because the meat was cooked in water and onion, making the Most Amazing Gravy was super easy – just add flour to the tray once the meat is removed and whisk it over a low heat. This gravy was Homer-Simpson-drool-worthy.

Verdict

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Amazing. One of, if not The Best, roasts I have ever cooked. The garlic added a nice mild flavour, it was cooked to perfection and of course, the gravy. Did I mention the gravy?

There were even leftovers. I’m already excited for tomorrow when I get to eat the meat gravy again.

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Kinetic Sand. Oh, my!

Kinetic Sand. If you have children, get some. Heck, if you don’t have children, get some anyway. It’s amazing. Ah-mah-zing. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

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Well, ok. It’s not all I’m going to say.

I was introduced to Kinetic Sand by a friend in Australia who posted a link about it in our online parenting group. I was immediately captivated – Kinetic Sand is “98% pure sand” with “patented technology hidden within the binder”. When I googled and found YouTube clips and other blogs, I became a woman obsessed.

Today at last, my kinetic sand arrived. Note: I call it MY kinetic sand. Not my kids’. Mine. They can use it but I plan on guarding this like Smeagol. Kinetic Sand, my preeeeeesciousssss.

The basic idea is, it is sand with a difference. It binds together and then crumbles almost immediately. You can shape it and then break it again and again and again. Or, just run your fingers through it. Again and again and again. I should mention at this point, it feels pretty nice, it’s like soft sand without being gritty. I should mention at this point that I hate sand. I despise the stuff, especially stuck to me. The appealing factor of this product is that it supposedly only sticks to itself.

I got a 1kg box, which is advertised as being enough for 1-2 kids. I think this is a fair assessment, it did BoyChild and I nicely. It doesn’t come with any instructions or anything which is ok, except I would have liked some indication on how to store the sand once we were done playing. It does mention on the box that Kinetic Sand is sensitive to water and that the best place to play is indoors with less than 60% humidity. If your sand gets wet, let it air dry and it should go back to normal, so says the box.

I opened the bag in which it came and BoyChild was at my side in a flash. Lots of “wow” and “ohhhh” and “look, mum!” went on, as he immediately started molding and destroying it, shaping it, rubbing it through his fingers, spreading it far and wide then bunching it back up again. Of course, he wouldn’t be BoyChild if he didn’t put some in his mouth but the look on his face told me it did not taste nice, I doubt he will do that again.

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I went and got some cookie cutters and we spent a long time cutting shapes – the amazing thing is that the sand will hold the shape that you cut and then breaks when you lift it. I did mold some balls in my hand to see just how well it binds.

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This product kept BoyChild entertained for over an hour which is pretty good for a 3 year old boy. I even let Baby Girl have a play, she was intrigued and loved the feel of it running over her hand. For storage, I opted for ramming it back into the plastic bag it came in, then into an air tight container. Then high up in the cupboard where no one will find it.

Conclusion? Kinetic Sand is fantastic. If making long-lasting structures is what you are after, stick with PlayDoh. But if you just want something to play with, make shapes, cut, run through your fingers, then I highly recommend getting some. You could even share it with your kids if you want.

Where to buy?

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/Kinetic-Sand-1kg/22047202

Don’t believe me? See for yourself 🙂