I don’t mean to make anyone jealous, but I’m typing this just back from a fantastic, incredibly relaxing near-fortnight staycation here in the UK, most of which was spent in Norfolk and one of my main aims was to get some ideas together to reboot this here Waffle. When I chill out, the first place my thoughts go is always going to be food related.
A family member and I decided to bring some treats back home and one was a brisket roasting joint to cook on the first day back. Which of course got me thinking about a recipe for leftovers, with making food go further being a big thing on my (and pretty much everyone’s) mind this year.
So slow roasted brisket was my reward for driving back from Norfolk in the rain with a horrible head cold (I know I said it was a great holiday and it was, but you know what happens when you have time to relax….you get sick right?). And the next day, feeling slightly better with the sun back out and beaming through the kitchen door, I decided to put a few of the ideas I’d thought up in the couple of days previous to good use and make the cottage pie I had set my mind to with the leftovers.
A bit of back story – I absolutely adore my job but there’s no denying that in summer the hours run late – and I’m trying this year more than ever to be particularly organised, avoid anything pre-packed on the high street to eat when I’m in the office, focus on healthy eating and not eating at stupid hours whilst also avoiding food waste as much as I possibly can. In other words, batch-cooked freezer meals are going to be my friends for a few months.
So I had ideas about a slight twist on a cottage pie, but bulked out with plant based ingredients that would make this one investment piece of brisket go as far as possible. Enter stage left the beans and lentils, as well as the humble old sweet potato.
Not that’s there’s anything wrong with a good old fashioned cottage pie….but there are a lot of benefits to this recipe – a good cut of meat goes further whilst still tasting just as good, and might still even leave a few leftovers for a sneaky brisket sandwich. Beans and lentils are great for plant-based protein as well as many other things, and switching out your standard spud for a sweet potato brings fibre and vitamins to the mix. And unless you’re feeding a small herd, you could well have a portion or two to put in ice for a future date with the office microwave.
It is also flexible – if you don’t have haricot beans or prefer something like black beans, that would work too. If you’ve got leftover gravy (that’s not too overpowering with one flavour from the original cook) then you can add that to the mix when you’re cooking all the ingredients in together, and if you wanted you could always add in other things that need a use, like leftover cauliflower or broccoli, to the sweet potato mash or peas to the casserole beneath – and use whatever leftover cheese you have to top the mix (blue cheese would work well).
300g chopped or shredded leftover brisket (approx.)
200g haricot beans (or similar – this is a leftovers dish after all, tailor it to what you have)
600g sweet potato, peeled & diced
100g brown lentils (uncooked – see below note for tinned)
10g dried mixed mushrooms (or two or three fresh mushrooms – both optional)
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
Leaves from ¾ sprigs of thyme
Small glass of dry red wine
1 medium white onion, diced
2 tbsp tomato puree
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
500ml beef stock
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
Cheddar or Red Leicester (or a mix) cheese and freshly ground black pepper, to top
Olive oil and butter, to fry base vegetables
Ground or fresh nutmeg (optional)
- Peel, wash and dice the sweet potato, place in a pan of boiling water and simmer until soft. Allow to steam dry then mash with a chunk of butter, a light seasoning of sea salt and black pepper and a grating of (optional) nutmeg – you don’t have to use this but it does add a lovely flavour.
- Rehydrate the dried mushrooms (alternatively very finely dice fresh mushrooms – or if you’re like me and remove the stalks and have those leftover, use them – and put them in later as they are). Once rehydrated, chop, retaining the water.
- Peel and dice the carrots, dice the onion and finely chop or grate the garlic cloves. Use scissors to quickly snip the thyme leaves from the sprigs. Add all and the mushrooms to a frying pan with some olive oil and a chunk of butter, along with a grating of black pepper. Fry lightly until the onions soften, then add the tomato puree and cook out for a few minutes, adding a little of the mushroom water if the pan gets dry.
- Meanwhile, wash the lentils and pick through for any husks. If using a tin of pre-cooked lentils, add them when you finish the pie in the oven.
- When the onions have softened, add in the red wine and cook out the alcohol.
- Add the beef to the pan, along with the haricot beans and the stock plus the leftover mushroom infused water and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for about twenty minutes on the hob or until the sauce has thickened a little, but make sure it hasn’t become overly thick as it will be in the oven for a while. Don’t be afraid of overcooking the lentils – they’re not here to be the star but to add to the sauce but they will want a bit more moisture to cook through at this point, so you’re not looking for a thick gravy yet. Keep checking the seasoning – depending on how the brisket was cooked, you may want more salt and pepper or it may already bring a lot of seasoning.
- Pour the mixture into a casserole dish and top with the mashed sweet potato. Grate over a generous amount of cheese to top and add an extra grating of black pepper.
- Cook at 200 degrees Celsius (fan) for 45-50 minutes until the cheese starts to brown and the mixture starts to bubble around the edges of the dish. Serve piping hot, particularly nice with some sprouting broccoli or in-season asparagus.