Variations on a variation of a theme……

Sweet potato and polenta 'cottage pie'

Busy, busy busy. I’ve been busy.

Blogging about food, fun as it is, but doesn’t pay the bills so work comes first I’m afraid. Getting back late every night means sticking to tried and trusted faithfuls for me and so I had nothing particularly blogable (some may say I don’t anyway 😉 ).

I did however have a hankering for a shepherd’s/cottage pie midweek and some lovely leftover venison from the roast I made on Sunday. A plan was forming. I remembered a very nice dish of braised venison at an Italian restaurant recently and thought about varying the theme a bit. I had some sweet potatoes left over and, brilliantly, I thought to myself, some polenta.

I made a simple, but rich stew from the left over venison. I didn’t make it from a recipe, nor did I make a note of any quantities, but it was a standard affair of red wine, mirepoix and beef stock, with added diced swede and baby carrots. I actually made it the night before I used it, it’s always better that way.

I made two cottage pies (as  I suppose they must be) one topped with mashed sweet potato, the other with a fairly wet polenta.

The sweet potato was simply mashed with butter and some thyme, but to the polenta I added some taleggio cheese. I used a couple of bread tins to split the venison and topped each with the polenta and sweet potato respectively.



To both, I scattered on the grated end of a block of parmesan. It really was a great way to use up the fridge contents. I baked them at 180C, or 350F for about 20 minutes and turned on the oven grill element for the last ten to get a nice crust.

They were both very good, I preferred the polenta which I thought was a bit of a triumph to be honest, but then, I really like polenta….



Cod and Crayfish Filo Parcels


Cod and crayfish - preparing

The first snow of this winter started falling today and I must say it makes a welcome change from the rain. This is the UK though and ‘attractive’ weather will never do, turning quickly to ugly grey slush followed by sleet. Sleet; basically even colder rain. Wonderful.

My first thoughts for dinner then would be of something hearty – a beef stew or sausage casserole maybe? Well no, as pescatarian January rumbles on it’s still off limits. Now, I love fish, and until now have been managing perfectly nicely. I probably order fish in restaurants as often as meat (perhaps more so actually) so this is no chore for me, but I did fancy something a little ‘richer’ tonight. So, a compromise, fish pie?

The idea for this came from Salmon en Croute, but I’m trying to avoid heavy pastries at the moment and so thought about using filo. I swung by a local fish deli on the way home, having left the office a bit early today and wouldn’t you know it – closed on Mondays. So off to the supermarket it was….

I used cod loin here, as I needed a thick fillet of fish for this. I’m not a huge fan of cod and there are sustainability issues around it, but there was not much in the way of alternatives and I couldn’t possibly post another salmon recipe! I also came across some crayfish tails – salty and sweet, to help the rather bland flavour of the cod. I served it up with a simple vegetable mash (sweet potatoes, swede and carrot), flavoured with a little light single cream and mustard.

The results were good but I may try frying the fillets first for more flavour and to compensate, cook the the parcels on a very high heat for a much shorted duration just to crisp up the filo. Experimentation and all that….

Cod and crayfish

So, cod and crayfish filo parcels:


  • 2 x 200g thick white fish fillets (I used cod)
  • 2 x tsp butter
  • 200g crayfish
  • 2 large cabbage leaves – halved – removing the stems in the middle
  • 6 filo pastry sheets
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper

For the mash

  • About a third of a swede, peeled
  • One medium sized carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • about 3 tbsp light single cream
  • 1 tsp coarse mustard.
  • Salt and pepper

Put the oven on to 180ÂșC/Gas 4 and boil the kettle.

Pour the boiler water into the pan and blanch the cabbage leaves for a couple of minutes. Set a side in a bowl of ice water for later and keep the water on a low heat for the mashed vegetables.

The filo parcels will take longest so make them first:

Place three sheets on a board, with the thinnest sides towards you. About a third of the way into the sheets, place the cabbage leaves (pat them dry first). Place the fish fillet on this with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Finally top with half the crayfish tails and 1 tsp of butter. Fold the sides of the pastry in and it roll up from the end nearest you using some beaten egg to seal it.

Repeat with the other fillet and place in the oven on a baking tray for about 30 minutes.

Whilst cooking make the mash:

Bring the reserved water in the pan back to the boil and add the vegetables. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes until just done (stick a knife in to them, they should slowly slide off). Drain and roughly mash. We’re going for rustic here so keep some lumps. Stir in the cream, mustard and the salt and pepper to taste.

Put the lid on to keep warm.

I used a thermometer to check the fish was cooked and it was fine after 30 minutes.

Serve it with a nice pile of the mash.

Cod and crayfish parcels