Diana Lampe's midwinter heartwarmers

Personal touch: You can add your own flavour to the chocolate sauce pudding, such as coffee or orange zest.
Personal touch: You can add your own flavour to the chocolate sauce pudding, such as coffee or orange zest. Photo: Jamila Toderas

We often had shepherd’s pie and chocolate sauce pudding when I was growing up in the country. The shepherd’s pie was made from the leftover roast hogget or mutton. This was a typical meal for my family and was served at midday as the main meal of the day.

For the shepherd’s pie the cold meat was put through the mincer with the vegetables and any leftover gravy added. My mother’s shepherd’s pie was made just as in the recipe today, but using leftover roast meat meant it didn’t need to cook for as long. The meat was flavoured with tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce, then topped with creamy mashed potato and baked in the wood-stove. I have happy memories of our shepherd’s pie and have made it often for my family with fresh lamb. You can also use minced beef and then it would be a cottage pie.

Chocolate sauce pudding is an old favourite for a family meal in the winter. It is easy enough for a child to make. You may know it by one of its other names, chocolate fudge pudding, chocolate delicious pudding or chocolate self-saucing pudding. I enjoy the hot chocolate pudding with fresh strawberries and cream.

Warming: Bacon and red lentil soup.
Warming: Bacon and red lentil soup. 

Diana Lampe is a Canberra writer, dlampe@bigpond.net.au

Shepherd’s pie

Serves 5-6

500g minced lamb

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 big onion, chopped

1-2 carrots, diced

2 thyme sprigs

sea salt and ground black pepper

5 cloves

½ tsp grated nutmeg

½ tsp allspice

pinch of cayenne

1 cup stock, water and 1 stock cube or 1 tsp vegemite

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp tomato sauce or tomato paste

2 tsp corn flour and 2 tbsp cold water to thicken sauce

¼ cup chopped parsley

Mash

1kg potatoes

4-5 spring onions, finely sliced

1-2 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil

2-3 tbsp milk, preferably hot

¼ tsp mustard powder mixed to a paste with water (optional)

sea salt to taste

2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Heat the oil until quite hot in a sauté pan and brown the meat in two batches and set aside. Add a dash more oil to the pan if needed and fry the onion, carrots and thyme for a few minutes. Return the meat to the pan and season with salt and pepper and add the cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cayenne. Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce or paste and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer partly covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more liquid if needed.

To thicken the sauce, mix the corn flour and water, stir into the meat and cook for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning and flavouring. Mix in the chopped parsley and tip into the baking dish. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Meanwhile cook the potatoes in plenty of water until tender. Drain potatoes and return to the pan and the heat to dry out briefly. Mash with the hot milk, optional mustard and olive oil or butter and then add the spring onions and salt to taste. Pile the mash on top of the lamb stew, rough up the surface with a fork and sprinkle with parmesan. Place the shepherd’s pie on an oven tray and bake until brown and bubbling. Serve with peas and pass the tomato sauce for people to add if they like.

Variations Include celery and garlic with the other vegetables to cook with the meat. You could add cooked lentils, peas or sautéed sliced mushrooms to the meat stew. Add a parsnip, 250g of celeriac or pumpkin to cook with the potato for the mash if you like. For a cottage pie use minced beef instead of lamb and omit the spices. Add a bay leaf and dash of red wine for extra flavour.

Chocolate sauce pudding

You can make the pudding with or without the egg. The egg results in a lighter sponge.

Serves 6

1 cup self-raising flour

1 tbsp Dutch cocoa

¼ tsp sea salt

¾ cup sugar

½ cup milk

1 free-range egg (optional)

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup roughly chopped walnuts (optional)

Sauce

½ packed cup brown sugar

2 tbsp Dutch cocoa

1 ¾ cups boiling water

Pre-heat the oven to 180C regular or 160C fan-forced. Grease a deep casserole or soufflé dish with a seven cup capacity.

Sift the flour, cocoa and salt into a bowl and add the sugar. Tip in the milk, egg, butter and vanilla and stir until smooth. If including the walnuts, stir them in now. Pour the pudding mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly.

For the sauce, mix the brown sugar and cocoa together and sprinkle over the top of the pudding batter. Carefully pour the hot water onto the back of a spoon all over the batter. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 minutes until risen and the top is firm. Allow to stand for five or 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with pouring cream or custard. I like to have it with berries. It reheats well.

Variation: Flavour the pudding with coffee or orange zest if you like and, instead of walnuts, add a handful of frozen raspberries or chopped chocolate.

Bacon and red lentil soup

This warming soup is similar in taste to pea and ham soup, but is quicker to make and more digestible. I have given this recipe to a few of my friends over the years and they, like me, make it regularly.

Serves 6-8

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and extra to fry croutons

4 rashers bacon (180g), shredded

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 carrot, roughly chopped

1 celery stick, sliced

1 cup red lentils, rinsed thoroughly

2 potatoes (about 400g), peeled and cut into chunks

2 bay leaves and 1 thyme sprig

6 cups of water and stock cubes

sea salt and ground black pepper

3 slices bread for croutons

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry the bacon for a few minutes. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, partially cover and cook for about 10 minutes until softened.

Tip in the picked-over and well-rinsed lentils, the potatoes, water and stock cubes, bay leaves, thyme and a generous grinding of pepper. Bring to the boil and skim if needed. Simmer partially covered until the lentils and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and thyme twigs and puree the soup with a stick blender or in the blender. Check the seasoning and adjust; it may not need salt with the bacon. Serve with chopped parsley and croutons.

To make the croutons, cut the bread into cubes and fry in olive oil until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.