The Friday Feast | 28 June, 2024

The home cooks edition: pumpkin soup, shepherd’s pie, tuna patties.

Everyone has their favourite meals that transport them to another place and time. All home cooks have their go-to, which they know will land and be devoured by friends and family they love or random dinner party guests they may not even like. A whip around the office revealed these favourites worthy of the Friday Feast.

Pumpkin Soup

Friends, there’s nothing like a bowl of velvety pumpkin soup to warm the cockles of your heart. Perfect for winter evenings, leftovers for lunch, or any time you need the culinary equivalent of a safe space. The golden rule here is KISS. Keep it simple, stupid.

Pumpkin selection is key. Kent, Grey, QLD Blue, an out-there heirloom of some kind, we’re not so fussed on varietals as we are on scent. Smell your pumpkin. if it doesn’t smell sweet and earthy, move on.

Preheat your oven to 160. Peel and chop the pumpkin into big chunks. You want about 1.2kg of chopped pumpkin. Toss this in olive oil, sprinkle over some chopped rosemary and garlic, season with salt, and roast until you can squish it with a spoon.

Sautée a diced onion in liberal amounts of unsalted butter. When they’re translucent, add about 1.5L of stock and bring it to a boil. Add the roast pumpkin chunks to the pot. Reduce the heat and let it simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, just to bring everything together and reduce the stock slightly. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it’s smooth and creamy. If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully transfer the soup to a blender.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, specifically paying attention to the salt balance. When you’re sure that’s right, a hit of ground white pepper, ground nutmeg and a few drops of lemon juice will make that flavour pop.

Around the office, we concluded that sour cream and chopped chives are undeniably the correct garnishes for such a soup. The CWA, your local RSL, home cooks, and every cafe everywhere from 1990 to 2005 agree.

Shepherd’s Pie

Alright, folks, let’s talk Shepherd’s Pie—a meal that is pure comfort in every bite. Layers of savoury minced lamb or beef, simmered with veggies, topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked until golden and bubbling. If the soup is the safe space, this is the velvet chaise therein.

Start by peeling and chopping about 4-5 medium potatoes into chunks. Actually, make it 6. Leftover mash never goes astray. Place them in a pot of cold, salted water and bring it to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 15-20 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add about 500 grams of ground lamb or beef, breaking it up as it browns. Don’t overload your pan, or else your mince will stew instead of fry and caramelise. Next, Add a diced onion and carrot, and a couple of cloves of chopped garlic. Sautée until they soften and become fragrant. Add a teaspoon of dried thyme or rosemary.

Pour in about 300 ml of beef stock, allowing it to simmer and thicken into a lush gravy that coats the back of a spoon. Add a handful of frozen peas.

Your potatoes should be ready by now. Drain them well and return them to the pot. Mash them with enough butter to make even a Frenchman wince, plus a splash of milk or cream until they’re smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This is the luxurious topping that makes Shepherd’s Pie so irresistible.

Transfer the meat and veggie mixture into a baking dish, spreading it out into an even layer. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top. Then, using a fork, create little peaks that will turn golden and crisp in the oven. Sprinkle some grated cheddar cheese over the potatoes. This is non-negotiable.

Into a preheated oven at two-hundy for 15 to 20, or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling. Fun fact: the internal temp can reach that of the surface of the sun, so let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Tuna Patties

We told you leftover mash never goes astray. Why, though, we hear you ask, is the farmers’ market blog writing up a recipe that calls for canned tuna? Because we’re realists. We know that most folks can’t shop for every ingredient of every meal at a farmers’ market. We can’t. Are we using hand-pressed, local EV olive oil in every recipe every time? Definitely not. Are we buying prime-cuts for Sunday roast week in and week out? Hell no. Do home cooks sometimes simply want to knock something up that is easy, filling, cheap, and nostalgic? Absolutely, they do. Then, tuna patties it is.

Use market potatoes and butter, put a salad of market greens, wilted spinach or sauteed cabbage on the side and you can still feel great about your commitment to local produce. Win-win.

Take that leftover mash and, in a large bowl, mix it thoroughly with your tuna, some chopped parsley, peas, corn kernels, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a little suggestion of smoked paprika. Work this mixture well, toughening the starch in the potato to act as a binder. Add a couple of tablespoons of flour and work that in too.

Use your hands to gently form the mixture into patties, about the size of your palm and around 2 cm thick. If the mixture feels a bit too wet, add a tablespoon or two more breadcrumbs to help firm it up. Don’t be tempted by flour to do this. Flour hydrates over time, and you could, counterintuitively, end up making it wetter! Dip the patties firmly in breadcrumbs to finish for that crusty coating.

Heat vegetable oil in a pan, enough so it is about 5mm deep. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the tuna patties in. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until they are golden brown and crispy. If you don’t think they’re quite hot through, you can finish them in an oven for 5 to 6 minutes.

Once both sides are nicely browned and the patties are heated through, transfer them onto a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

Serve garnished with a lemon wedge or, if you really want to feel six years old again, dirty tomato sauce.

Thanks for reading, and happy home cooking to all.

Home cooks are, and will always remain, the best cooks

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