We had a busy day Saturday: a cheese tasting and talk in the afternoon (more about that later) and an evening at the symphony. Even though we were pressed for time, EPC was reluctant to eat out. He had been away on business last week and eaten out for every meal (and will have more of the same this week).
To treat him to a home-cooked meal, I flipped through my cookbooks and decided to tackle the Shepherd’s Pie from The Planet Organic Market Cookbook. The recipe looked easy enough and it had the perfect mix of protein and vegetables. An important consideration, because I am convinced that he does not eat enough vegetables when he is out-of-town.
The yams mashed up nicely and were quite moist as I slathered them on top of the filling. They retained some of their moisture after baking, providing a firm and colourful topping to the veggie ground round and vegetables below. Although the seasoning is minimal – a dash of salt and some pepper, the dish is quite satisfying. We both ate two helpings and if I can keep the leftovers out of sight for the day I may get to take them to work for lunch!
By the way, I figure that replacing the traditional mashed potatoes with mashed yams makes this a shepherdess’ pie, in case you were wondering.
Now on to the cheese tasting.
EPC loves cheese. Lucky for him the local cheese shop is a few blocks from our house and makes for a lovely walk on a Saturday afternoon. So, when we heard that our favourite kitchen/ restaurant supply store was hosting a cheese tasting and information session with our neighborhood cheese shop owner in attendance, we immediately marked it down on our calendar.
Prior to the talk and taste, EPC and I made a pact to try every cheese that was offered, even if that included a mould-ridden blue. I will confess I got a bit queasy learning about how the rind is cultured on brie cheese, but in the end, pact or no pact, I was brave enough to try the Penicillium-filled blue cheese. In fact, the woman giving the session remarked on how impressed she was that we all tried the blue selection. She confessed that she was not a fan of blue cheese – even though she owns a cheese shop. It made me feel better for not always enjoying the more “seasoned” varieties of cheese.
I am not going to go into all that was discussed in the 1.5 hour session, but I thought that I would mention a couple of the more interesting (and delicious) cheeses that we tried.
Number one on my list was the French Morbier, an uncooked pressed cheese made from the curds leftover from Compté cheese production. The cheese comes in two layers with a layer of vegetable ash between the two. Traditionaly, the curds from the evening’s cheese production are pressed down and topped with ash to prevent drying until the next day’s remains are placed on top to finish off the wheel. Nowadays, the production is much more streamlined and the ash is added for appearances. This is a tasty soft, yet firm cheese.
Another one that I loved was the Maréchal. This raw unpasteurized cow milk cheese hails from Switzerland. One of the interesting things about this particular cheese is that the rind is composed of a mixture of herbs rubbed into the cheese as it ages. This cheese is seasonally available after the spring and summer alpine grazing season. As a rule, you can only get this cheese in November, December and January. If you miss it, you have to wait until next year. Maréchal is a hard stronger tasting cheese.
I imagine next weekend we will head down to our neighbourhood cheese shop and try to purloin the last hunk of Maréchal before it is gone.
Vegetarian Shepherdess’s Pie
1.5 kg of yams
1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup of skim milk
1/4 cup of plain yogourt
a dash or two of salt
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 cups of fresh or frozen vegetables – I used a mix of green beans, corn and peas
2 packages of original Veggie Ground Round
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2-3/4 cups of water
- Preheat the oven to 350°C
- Lightly oil a 9 x 13 pan
- Boil sweet potatoes for 15 – 20 minutes, until fork tender
- Drain and mash with butter, milk, yogurt, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat oil in large skillet and add onions and garlic. Cook over medium heat for abut 5 minutes until the onions are tender.
- Add Veggie Ground Round and stir.
- Add flour and stir to mix. Increase the heat to medium high and add water. Cook for about 3 minutes until the sauce boils and thickens.
- Pour mixture into pan and top with vegetables.
- Spread the mashed yams on top and bake for 20 minutes until bubbling and hot.