Paté Chinois (shepherd’s pie) daring cooks challenge

vegetarian pies

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 Hostess is Andy of Today’s the Day and Today’s the Day I Cook!  Andy is sharing with us a traditional French Canadian classic the Paté Chinois, also known as Shepherd’s pie for many of us, and if one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!

When this month’s challenge was announced I was really excited about all the possibilities. I have made the regular shepherd’s pie or pate chinois numerous times but my kids are more fond of a chicken variable where the meat layer is replaces with a herb/mushroom/chicken combo and the top potato layers is exchanged for potato balls. I was planning on making that and also on trying a vegetarian version . My head was buzzing with ingredients  and flavor combinations to try. I made Andy’s basic pate chinois (shepherd’s pie) recipe because I really liked the addition of the creamed corn, I played around with the seasoning adding herbs and tomatoes and grated carrots to the meat leayer (inspired by the flavors in my lasagna recipe). I also made a vegetarian shepherd’s pie which was a huge hit with the kids. I sadly did not have the time to make the chicken one but I promise to post that as soon as I have a chance to make it.

Thank you Andy for a great challenge, I loved all the different choices and the possibilities and I am happy to report that the vegetarian shepherd’s pie will be in our regular recipe rotation for sure.

shepherd's pie

Shepherd’s pie recipe

1 lbs (500 g) lean ground (minced) beef

1 onions diced

1 clove garlic minced

½ teaspoon (2  gm) dry mustard powder (I used half a tablespoon of the yellow mustard)

1 tomato chopped and peeled

1 carrot chopped and grated

1 tablespoon tomato paste

salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 can of cream corn

For the potato topping

2 ½ lbs (1 kg) potatoes

½ cup (120 ml) milk

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon oregano


To prepare the potato topping

Wash potatoes and cut into quarters

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain.

Mash potatoes with butter, paprika, oregano and milk. Set aside.

To make the meat layer

Heat the oil in a pot,add onions and garlic, stir for 5 minutes until the onions become tender

Add the minced meat and stir until the meat starts changing color

Add chopped tomatoes and stir until they soften then add the tomato paste

If you feel the mix is dry (if the tomatoes you used are not juicy) add a little boiling water

Add salt, herbs and black pepper and stir

Add the grated carrots and stir for two minutes

Allow to cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes to make sure all the flavors come together.

To assemble the shepherd’s pie

Pre-heat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.

Evenly spread ground beef on the bottom of an oven proof casserole dish.

Top with cream corn.


Spread mashed potatoes on top.  Use a fork to make drag marks through the potatoes for decoration.

shepherd's pie with creamed corn

Bake in oven for 15 minutes until heated through.

Place under broiler (grill) for 2-3 minutes to brown up potatoes.

Serve and enjoy

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

Store in airtight container in fridge up to 3 days.

Does not freeze well once it’s all put together, but if you make extra ground beef mixture you can freeze that on its own so that you can put together a meal quickly.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

vegetarian shepherd



1 kg potatoes, unpeeled

2 tablespoons butter

1/4- 1/2 cup milk

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Salt to taste

1 cup  dried green lentils

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon (6 gm) salt

4 cups (1 litre) of water

Vegetable layer

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion chopped

1 cup frozen peas and carrots mix

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon paprika


2 cups crushed tomatoes


To prepare the potato topping

Wash potatoes and cut into quarters

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain.

Mash potatoes with butter, cheese and milk and adjust the salt

This can be made up to 1 day ahead. Keep mashed potatoes covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

To make the base

Add lentils, salt  and garlic to heavy saucepan.

Cover with 4 cups (1 litre) of water.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for approx 15-20 minutes

Stir occasionally

When tender but not mushy, drain.

Discard garlic
Can be made up to 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.

To prepare the vegetable layer

Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until tender (5 -7 minutes)

Add the frozen peas and carrots and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, set to one side of pot

Add the tomato paste to the empty space and stir it till it is some what caramelized (it turns into a deeper color) about 5 minutes

Add the oregano, paprika salt and pepper

Add the crushed tomatoes and cook over medium heat for 10- 15 minutes

Can be made up to 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.


Pre-heat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.

Arrange lentils in a single layer in a large baking dish or individual ramekins

Layer mixed vegetables on top of lentils.

Top with potatoes, spread evenly over entire surface.

Place on foil lined cookie sheet as mixture may bubble over.

Bake until browned and bubbly, approximately 30 minutes.

Let stand before serving

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

  • Store in airtight container in fridge up to 3 days.
  • Does not freeze well once it’s all put together.  You can make extra sauce and freeze that for future use.
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Brave the braise “Daring Cooks challenge”



The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

Braising, from the French “braiser”, offers a combination cooking method – dry heat followed by moist heat. Typically, meat is seared in hot fat which helps to add flavor and aromas, improves color (browning), and texture (crust) making it more visually appealing. It is then submerged in liquid and cooked slowly and gently at low heat. The heat, time, and moisture break down the tough connective tissue collagen in meat, making it an ideal way to cook tougher cuts.What’s more, braising causes the muscle fibers to absorb moisture from the cooking liquid and steam. That gives you a juicy piece of meat. Finally, as the connective tissues break down, they dissolve and form gelatin, which thickens the cooking liquid and gives it body and shine. Meanwhile, the flavors imparted from the stock and vegetables, as well as any herbs and seasonings, are incorporated into the final product.

Braising can be done on the stove top or in the oven. When done in the oven,the heat fully surrounds the pot and causes the food to cook more evenly as opposed to being only heated from below when it is done on the stove top

Carol offered us a variety of recipes to get our braise on. I chose braised fennel because I really like fennel and it is in season this time of year.I usually use fennel in salads or to stuff fish. I was really curious about the effect braising would have on it.The recipe Carol provided called for thyme but I didn’t have any on hand so I used oregano instead. The end result was melting tender fennel and a heavenly buttery sauce. I personally enjoyed the sauce more than the fennel, I missed the crunch that raw fennel has. The sauce on the other hand was amazing. Rich with hints of oregano and fennel.

Thank you Carol for an amazing challenge and for all the info and effort you put into it.

Braised Fennel with Oregano:

Plain/all –purpose flour, for dredging
2 fennel bulbs, each cut in half  lengthwise (if the bulbs are large cut them into quarters)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) canola oil (or any mild to non-flavored oil)
4 or 5 sprigs oregano
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) butter
Kosher salt


1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. In a shallow dish or plate, add enough flour to dredge the cut sides of the fennel quarters.
3. In a small pot or sauté pan with a cover, heat the oil over medium to high heat. Note: you want the oil hot but not enough to scorch the flour.
4. Add the fennel, flour side down, and cook until nicely browned.
5. Add enough water to come up about a ½ inch (1¼ cm) around the fennel.
6. Add oregano and butter and salt to taste – bring to a simmer.
7. Cover, and place in oven.
8. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until fennel is tender.
9. Serve immediately.

Four cheese lasagna

Lasagna to me is the very definition of comfort food. I am not just talking about eating it, preparing it is the part I enjoy the most. The aroma that fills the house, the different herbs and components are simply irresistible.

A dear friend of mine who is truly the queen of lasagna taught me this recipe. My only additions to the recipe are the layer or ricotta and adding oregano and nutmeg to the bechamel sauce, the result: the best lasagna you’ll ever taste. A big claim ,I  know, but I  urge you to give  this a try and judge for your self

Four cheese lasagna

400-500 Grams minced beef

 1 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil

 1 large onion chopped 

 2 cloves garlic minced

 1 large red tomatoes, peeled and cut in small cubes

1 large red or green Pepper chopped

 1 large carrot, peeled and grated

2 tablespoons tomato paste


 Black Pepper

 1 teaspoon oregano

 1 teaspoon  Basil 

( or use Italian seasoning  instead of the oregano and basil if available)

for the bechamel sauce

 4 tablespoons flour

 4 tablespoons  butter

 4 cups of liquid milk 

 white or black pepper

1 tablespoon of grated cheddar cheese or cream cheese

1-2 tablespoon grated parmesan

1 teaspoon oregano (optional)

  nutmeg (optional)


1 cup ricotta cheese (optional but you can find the recipe for home made ricotta here)


Soak your pasta in boiling water for 2-5 minutes instead of boiling it

 Heat the oil in a pot,add onions and garlic, stir for 5 minutes until the onions become tender 

Add the minced meat and stir until the meat starts changing color

 Add chopped tomatoes and stir until they soften then add the tomato paste

If you feel the mix is dry (if the tomatoes you used are not juicy) add a little boiling water

 Add salt, herbs and black pepper and stir

 Add the grated carrots and stir for two minutes

Add pepper and stir for a couple of minutes then allow to cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes to make sure all the flavors come together.

Prepare the béchamel

Heat oil or butter in a pot

 Add the flour and stir until the color begins to change(you don’t want it to go dark or else it will affect the final color of the bechamel sauce)

Lower the heat

 Add the milk gradually  while whisking .(you need to whisk until you have added all the milk to prevent lumps from forming)

Keep stirring until the béchamel thickens

Add the cheese mixture and stir for two minutes

Assemble the lasagna

In a baking dish add a thin layer of Bechamel

Then add one layer of pasta followed by the meat mixture

and grated mozzarella cheese then top with a layer of pasta then spread the ricotta cheese.

 then repeat your layers (pasta, meat, mozzarella)

when you have added your last layer of pasta top it with  bechamel and cheese

Center your oven rack

Bake in a  pre-heated oven (200 C or 450 F)  for about 45 minutes

The top usually get golden brown during baking but if it doesn’t you can turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes

Allow the lasagna to cool for 20-30 minutes to allow it to set

Honey oragano beef onion skewers

We went to a seafood restaurant yesterday. One of the walls was actually a huge fish tank  with a wide variety of fish swimming and playing around. We sat next to the fish “wall” and the kids were glued  watching the fish’s every move.

Look mum there’s Doori from Nemo!


Mum they are eating, swimming, blinking..You get the picture.

As we were waiting for our meal a little girl about my daughter’s age came and sat next to her by the fish tank

There is a HUGE fish in there did you see it?

Oh you mean this one? it is called a shark.

What’s your name?

I’m Rana

I’m Jana

They spent the next hour chatting and laughing like they have known each other for a life time. As we left the restaurant after saying good bye Jana asks

Mum, can we go visit Rana tomorrow?

Her dad tells her: We don’t go visit every person we meet for five minutes, we don’t know her

Jana: But daaaaad she is my friend.I know her!I know her name! and she told me where she lives, next to the mall you go left then straight till you get to the big building. Can we go tomorrow?

Do you remember the day when making a friend took 2 minutes? all you had to say was hi, what’s your name? want to play?I miss those days.

 I miss how simple things were. You didn’t need a background check, a list of shared interests and a perfect star alignment to make a friend.

There was a time when I used to think that childhood friendships were simple, naive. I mean as a kid you don’t even know who you are let alone be able to judge people. I used to think you needed to mature and grow before you were able to judge people, choose good ones and make friendships that last for a life time.

 As the years go by it seems the older I get, the harder it is to make friendships that last and the worse I get in judging people and relationships. Is it just me? or is life getting more complicated by the minute?

Honey oregano marinated beef onion skewers may sound strange at first glance (it is certainly a mouthful to say!) but if you try them, I promise you all your doubts will vanish with the first bite. The marinade not only adds a beautiful colour to the meat, it adds tons of flavor. A woody earthy tone from the oregano, spicy tone from the ginger and worcestershire sauce, and a hint of sweetness from the honey (you don’t taste the honey as such it just gives a slight note f sweetness)

I served these skewers with humus and some flat bread and a salad, you can serve them with some rice,arugula salad or potato salad


Honey oregano beef onion skewers

500 grams beef cut into cubes

3 onions cut into wedges (don’t cut the base of the onion, it is the part that holds the wedges together)

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 tablespoon dried oregano 


Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl

Add the meat and onion wedges and marinate for 3 hours (you can do it over night)

Soak the skewers in water (if using wooden skewers to prevent them from burning)

alternate meat and onion wedges on the skewer

Cook on the grill(or in an oil sprayed pan in the oven) pasting with the reserved marinade every 10 minutes until the meat is cooked to the level you like (rare, medium or well done)

Herbed lemon chicken with roasted vegetables

The inspiration for this recipe comes from Greg’s(part of the talented due behind Rufus’s food and spirit guide) Stuffed Chicken with Roast Squash and Tomatoes

 The day he posted the recipe I was tight on time and realised at the last-minute that I didn’t have any goat cheese on hand. So I decided to go with the option of rubbing the chicken with olive oil, lemon juice, basil and oregano and I added carrots and used zucchini because I had them on hand. The end result was juicy moist chicken that is packed with flavor. The veggies added color, crunch and definitely a rainbow of flavors


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Olive oil

Juice of one lemon

1 table-spoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil



Roasted vegetables

2 carrots sliced

3 tomatoes cut into  wedges

1 red onion cut into strips

3 cloves garlic

3 small zucchini sliced

Drizzle of olive oil

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

Juice of half a lemon


1/2 teaspoon all spice

In a bowl mix together the lemon juice, basil, oregano , salt and pepper.

Pour it over the chicken and rubbed into the meat slightly.

Let it sit for 30 minutes.

In another bowl mix the vegetables with the oil and seasoning.

Arrange in baking dish.

Nestle the chicken between the vegetables, cover with tin foil.

Place in the lowest rack of your oven at 220 C (428 F) for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes until the chicken is done and the vegetables are cooked through

Mel of cooking with Mel has been really gracious to pass me the  blog on fire award

If you have never visited Mel’s blog, you’ll love it.She lately posted a cheese burger mac and cheese that is high on my try soon list. Thank you Mel for your kindness.

I ‘m passing on this award to a  few of my favorite bloggers.

Rufus’s food and spirit guide

Chica Andaluza

 Eat, Play, Love

My BlogJect

Savoring Every Bite

The Very Hungry Bookworm

Good cooks

Sweet Caroline cooks


 Manu’s Menu

Orgasmic chef

Tanja’s cooking corner

in good taste

Mia’s domian

Simply gourmate photography

A dash of domestic

Dinners dishes and desserts



Enough blogs to explore for a week :) Enjoy

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