We are waiting for customers to pay us. August was a month of expenditure with no income so Ploy and I sat down and decided that we would try and make September a thrift month. It is so easy to get into expensive habits.
It is also so easy in Thailand to eat out all the time. Ploy is out most of the day (and some nights) selling her cosmetics stuff, I work all day, usually from 4 or 5a.m., so come dinner time we are both tired and we usually go for the easy option. But, although convenient, the food around here is not really the best. By around here, I mean within walking distance. Better restaurants are a short drive away. Locally the cuts of meat are a little fatty, the oil has seen better days, vegetables are not so fresh and some use monosodium glutamate to enhance the flavour. Salads are available but usually just one or two types that do not involve some deep fried ingredient, (such as yum badook foo, which is a mango salad topped with deep fried, finely chopped, catfish). And yes it is delicious. More than it sounds.
But apart from the health side, it costs quite a bit to eat out, especially if you do it every night. A couple of beers to help wash it down and you can easily spend 200 baht, or twice that in some restaurants: (one of those latter restaurants serves larb moo, a famous Isaan dish here, but rolled into little sausages and fried until crispy on the outside. I have never seen that anywhere else but there is that deep fried thing again).
Anyway, Ploy and I decided to try and eat in a little more for this month until we get paid and work our way around the contents of the fridge and freezer. So tonight, as Ploy is in Bangkok, and the afternoon had been rather dreary with a thunderstorm or two I thought some comfort food was in order and as it was a rather sultry but chilly 30degC I thought of shepherd's pie. Except lamb is impossible to get in these here parts and a quick inspection of the freezer showed no beef either (other than some ribs) but I did find some pork mince. So undaunted I decided to make what traditionalists might call cottage pie, but I prefer to call swine pie as the former is really beef, so my mother told me.
I am quite picky with my cottage pie. I read recipes but agree with none of them so I will give my version of swine pie.
First peel some appropriate mashable potatoes and boil in salted water. Chop one large onion, 5-6 garlic cloves and 5-6 chillies (seeds and all and not nancy-boy chillies either, you want some spice to this dish and the creamy potato offsets the bite they give). Fry the onions in a little olive oil until soft and add the garlic and chilli, (I don't add the garlic at the beginning else it can burn). Add the pork mince and fry until it has just cooked through and lost its pink colour. Add oregano, a little salt, Worcestershire sauce, a little water, a generous sprinkling of black pepper and a dollop of tomato puree. I am not to argue these ingredients as being non-British or non-traditional, I am only interested in a nice tasting dinner.
When the potatoes are soft (but not falling apart else they will be watery and tasteless), drain the water off and return to the heat to just remove a little more water from them. Mash them and then add a little milk and a lot of butter. Mash until a puree consistency but such that it can still form peaks. When the pork mixture has simmered for a while transfer it to an oven proof bowl (with lid). If the consistency is right there will be some liquid but it should be below the level of the firmer ingredients. Dollop on the masked potato and then spread with a fork. Add a few knobs of butter and a sprinkle of black pepper and put in an oven, covered, for 20-30 minutes at about 200degC. (I don't like my potato crispy hence the lid and don't add cheese, this is not a pizza).
And no, there are no carrots, carrots do not belong in this pie.
Just before the twenty minutes is up boil or steam some peas. No leeks or cabbage or, god forbid, french fries. Just peas. I might make an exception for runner beans but I can't buy them here so peas it is.
The only finishing touch is tomato ketchup (Heinz of course) although their Chilli ketchup is an admirable replacement. And of course a bottle of nice red, except we are saving money and Ploy has the car, so tonight it was just the pie. One less thing in the freezer and 200 baht saved and it is only the second day of the month.
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