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Nursery Foods Part 1. Cottage Pie, followed by Toffee, Banana and Thyme Steamed Pudding

When I did my poll earlier this week quite a few of you said you’d like me to do a blog on Nursery foods. I love all of those sorts of comforting foods. My favourite being steamed puddings of any kind. 

This week I’m going to start with a toffee banana sponge pudding and cottage pie but will be running lots more blog posts as the idea has really sparked of my flavour for all things comforting. 

Watch out for steamed steak and ale pudding, rice pud, chicken stew and beef casseroles. When I was younger I loved those baked puds that had a pool of sauce around them so that is another... Baked rhubarb and custard with a twist. 

Well I could go on all day but let's get started.

Cottage Pie
My boys all love this one and it is a particular favourite with Daisy my middle sons girlfriend. Some of you who follow me on Facebook may have seen the birthday afternoon Tea I did for her with mini cottage pies. They worked really well and were fab as I could make the day before and just reheat before serving. I normally make the day before letting the flavours develop overnight.

Serves 4

750g lean minced steak
3 slices of streaky bacon diced
4 carrots 
2 leeks
1 large onion
2 oxo cubes
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
Bouquet garni (I make my own by tying a sprig of thyme, rosemary and 4 bay leaves together)
A splash of olive oil (I use homemade thyme oil, but regular non virgin works fine)
2 tbsp gravy granules
Enough water to cover the meat
1kg potatoes
A knob of butter
A pinch of salt
50g grated cheese
1 egg yolk
50ml double cream
A splash of red or white wine (optional)

Start by either peeling and dicing or peeling and throwing the carrots, leeks and onion into a food processor. Then pulse until you have very small diced pieces. 

In a very large sauce pan add a glug of oil sweat off the vegetables until soft but not coloured. Transfer onto a plate and reheat the pan. Add a little oil and when the oil is hot fry off the bacon pieces. Add half of the meat and fry off. 

Remove to the plate with the veg and fry the other half of the mince. Once browned add back all of the meat and veg. Add the worcestershire sauce, bouquet garni, crumble in the oxo cubes and give a good stir. Then add your gravy granules and enough liquid to cover the meat. Give a good stir, cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for about 3 hours. 

In the meantime peel and chop your potatoes (I use Maris pipers) and cook in a pan drain and mash with the salt, butter, cheese, egg yolk and 40ml of the double cream. Strain the meat and remove the herbs reserving the gravy in a small saucepan. 

Spoon the meat into a baking dish, cover with the mash potato, then drizzle with the double cream (this gives you that great crispy texture). I now like to leave to become completely cold before baking, I find this gives a much nicer texture and more depth of flavour, bake in a really hot oven 210 for about 35-45 minutes or until nice and crispy and golden. 

Toffee, thyme and banana steamed pudding
For this pudding you can leave out the thyme if it really doesn't appeal to you but I promise it really is lovely. It works so well with the banana and toffee.

For the toffee sauce
40g Demerara 
50g unsalted butter
2 firm small bananas
3 tbsp double cream
1 sprig of fresh thyme

In a shallow pan gently melt the butter and sugar together. When they have both melted slice the banana's in nice diagonal slices about half an inch thick and add to the pan. Cover in the sauce. Next add the cream and thyme, reduce down slightly and put to one side.

For the pudding
175g S/R flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g soft light brown sugar
75g caster sugar
175g softened unsalted butter
3 eggs
2 tbsp double cream

In a large bowl mix all the above ingredients together until well combined. Grease a 2 pint pudding bowl with a little butter. Pour the toffee and bananas into the bottom. Cover with the pudding batter and cover with a circle of parchment and the a layer of foil. Steam for 2 hours then turn out, remove the thyme sprig and enjoy.