Comfort Cooking for a Pandemic Winter: Part 4 – Main Dishes, cont’d.

Today’s post includes what is probably my signature dish, and by that I mean the one all three of us love — Shepherd’s/Cottage Pie. It’s a great dish to make ahead because it can be frozen. It also reheats well, although there usually isn’t much left to reheat.

Kofta Kebabs
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 lb ground lamb
3 tbsp grated onion
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1-2 eggs
Mash garlic with salt into a paste. Mix into the lamb with onion, parsley, and spices until blended. Add bread crumbs and egg(s). Form into balls and flatten. Bake on lightly oiled baking sheet at 350 for 20 min, or until done. They can be also formed around a skewer.
These are a Middle Eastern twist to the kebab. Very tasty!  

Mom’s Tomato Macaroni Skillet
1-1/2 lb ground meat
1-2 med onions, diced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
3 cups cooked tomatoes (canning jar full or large can)
1-1/2 cups uncooked macaroni
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown meat with onion and pepper. Add tomatoes, macaroni, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer until noodles are tender, 20-30 min. Stir to keep from sticking.
Works well in cast iron skillet with a lid. Easy meal after work. Even my Dad would make this one. 

Pork Schnitzel
2 boneless pork chops, trimmed
dash salt
small amount of flour
bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
Place chops between two pieces of waxed paper and pound with meat mallet or rolling pin until 1/8 thick. Sprinkle salt on both sides of chops.
Place flour on one piece of waxed paper and bread crumbs on another. You will need enough of each to coat both chops. Whisk egg and milk in shallow bowl large enough to dip chops in. Coat chops with flour, dip in egg, then in bread crumbs, pressing crumbs in meat to coat. Heat oil in large pan over med-high heat. Add chops to skillet and cook, turning once, about 3 min per side. Remove to warm platter and serve. 
We ate pork schnitzel on a trip to visit Darling Daughter in Berlin when she was an exchange student. When I discovered how easy it was to make, I swore I’d never make plain pork chops again.  

Pork Stir Fry 
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1-1/2 lb leftover pork
1 cup stir fry vegetables (snow peas, carrots, broccoli, etc)
6 tbsp honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ginger
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (I’m too lazy to toast them.)
Cut pork into thin strips. heat 1 tbsp sesame oil over med. heat, add onion and garlic, and sauté until tender. Mix ingredients for sauce (remaining oil, honey, pepper flakes, ginger) while onion and garlic are cooking. Add pork to garlic and onion and cook until warm. Add veggies and cook until tender-crisp. Pour sauce over at last minute (may add cornstarch if you want to thicken it), and cook until hot. Serve over rice or rice noodles with sesame seed sprinkled on top. 
My notes say: “Yummy!”

Quick and Easy Empanadas 
Makes six
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pkg refrigerated pizza dough (or make your own)
can of refried beans
2 cups shredded cheddar
Sour cream, guacamole (optional)
Heat oven to 400 F. Grease baking sheet with oil. Divide dough into 6 portions, and roll each into an 8” diameter circle on a floured surface. Spread beans over 1/2 of each circle. Top with 1-1/2 tbsp salsa and 2 tbsp cheese. Fold other half over filling, and press edges to seal. Lightly brush each empanada with oil and bake on prepared baking sheet 12-15 min until golden. Top with guacamole and sour cream or more salsa if desired. These freeze well. I haven’t made them in a while, but will now I’ve rediscovered the recipe. I can’t vouch for the
authenticity of their flavor, having never had empanadas in a Latin country.

Photo by Abby Kihano on

Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie
1 lb ground beef, turkey or lamb 
1 lg chopped onion
1 cup or so frozen, fresh or canned peas (I usually use frozen.)
1 cup chopped fresh carrots (I suppose you could use frozen or canned, but why?)
4-5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
Worcestershire sauce
Rosemary (if using lamb)
Milk to mash potatoes
Butter for potatoes
Grated cheddar, a cup or so
Instant mashed potatoes
Preheat oven to 375. Sauté onion until soft, then add meat and brown. Meanwhile boil potatoes until soft enough to mash. Once meat is browned, drain fat. Add vegetables, and Worcestershire sauce (maybe 2-3 tbsp according to taste). If using lamb, add some rosemary here too. Add enough water to keep vegetables and meat from burning, and simmer until carrots are soft. While this cooks, mash the potatoes with butter and milk. Cheese can be mixed in now or sprinkled on top when baking. (I like it mixed in. Darling Daughter seems to prefer on top.) Once carrots are tender, sprinkle in enough instant potatoes to thicken mixture to desired consistency. If you prefer thickening it another way (potato starch, flour, cornstarch), go right on and do so, but the potatoes are quick and easy. Place meat and veg mixture in bottom of prepared casserole dish. Completely cover with mashed potatoes taking care to seal the edges, then rough the potatoes to form peaks that will brown a little, adding some nice color to the finished product. Bake about 30 minutes, until the potatoes start to brown. 
If you use lamb, it’s Shepherd’s Pie. If you use beef, it’s Cottage Pie. I suppose if you use ground turkey, it should be Poulterer’s Pie. To freeze for a future meal, don’t bake it. Just cover tightly and thaw completely before baking. I frequently double the recipe, and make several smaller casseroles suitable for a meal for two, baking one and freezing the rest.

Comfort Cooking for a Pandemic Winter: Part 3 — Main Dishes

Many of these recipes are mashups, incorporating the spices and flavors I know we like or using ingredients we have on hand.

Betty’s Lancashire Hotpot (Variation)
1-1/2 lbs lean lamb cubes (I use stew meat and cut off excess fat.)
Flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 sliced onions
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 cup dry sherry (I have brandy, which we don’t drink, so I use that)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 bay leaves
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
15 oz (1-3/4 cup) beef stock
Coat lamb cubes with seasoned flour. Sauté onion and garlic until soft and golden. Remove from pan. Deglaze with some extra sherry/brandy. Brown meat in same pan. Layer meat, vegetables, potatoes, and spices in crock pot. Pour stock and sherry/brandy over all. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. 
A comforting winter meal. 

Burrito Pie 
This recipe, from, is like a wonderful Tex-Mex lasagna, simple to make and delicious. I halve the recipe and use ground turkey rather than beef.

Chicken Chapli Kebabs
1 lb minced (ground) chicken or turkey
1 med onion, finely chopped
1 ripe, but firm tomato, seeded and chopped
2 green onions (Sometimes I don’t have green onions, so I just use more regular onions.)
Chopped sweet peppers in a variety of colors for added color
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1-2 green chilis, finely chopped (use more or less according to preferred heat level)
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 large egg
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 tbsp ground cumin seeds
Salt to taste
1 tsp black pepper, fine
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp red chili pepper (This means Indian Chili Powder, which is very similar to cayenne pepper. I usually just use cayenne for both these ingredients, i.e, 1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp ground cayenne.)
1/2 tsp Garam Masala spice (A true Indian cook would grind their own version, but I buy it, especially since it’s more widely available than it used to be.)
1 tbsp lemon juice
Dried bread crumbs
Oil for frying
Mix all vegetables, spices and minced chicken, then add egg and lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Add enough bread crumbs that the mixture doesn’t fall apart. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pan (preferably non-stick or cast iron). Place kebab mix directly into the pan with a spoon in the form of a patty. Cook in batches for 2-3 min on each side until done, taking care not to overcrowd. Remove kebabs from pan and lay on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. 
I took some Indian cookery courses with an amazing cook named Farzana. Everything we made was delicious, but this is the recipe I continue to cook on a regular basis. I’ve added bread crumbs to the recipe because the original recipe tended to fall apart in the pan (although it was still scrumptious). I enlist The Engineer as my sous-chef in the summer, when tomatoes and peppers are in season to make a triple batch. We then freeze what we don’t eat in batches for future meals. I can’t remember what you serve with them because we just scarf them down until we’re too full to eat anything else!

Chorizo Butternut Squash Hash 
So, one summer day, I had some butternut squash and chorizo on hand, and thought, “Hey! There must be some recipe that uses these two items.” There was. It’s delectable. The sweetness of the butternut combined with the spicy chorizo makes for one simple, warming meal. Click through to find it. Note: This recipe uses the chorizo commonly found in the U.S. — a soft, ground sausage, sometimes stuffed into links (and if you buy it in casing, take it out of the casing to use in this recipe). This type of chorizo is different from the hard chorizo sausage we’ve had in Europe, more similar to salami or pepperoni. If you can’t get the soft chorizo, perhaps you can substitute another type of spicy sausage. 

Colombian Black Beans and Rice 
1 can frijoles negros (black beans)
1 large onion or 3-4 green onions, chopped
1 med red pepper (green, if no red), chopped
4-5 tbsp oil (preferred Mazola)
1 tsp garlic or 3 cloves, minced 
1-1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 package Goya seasoning with saffron (Sazon Goy con Azafran)
1 pack of fried bacon (optional)
1 small can tomato sauce
1 cup uncooked rice
1 cup water
Sauté’ chopped onions, pepper in oil until cooked. Pour in garlic, cumin, pepper, and Goya package. Stir. Pour in tomato sauce. Stir. Salt to taste. Pour in can of beans and bacon (if using). Stir all together, then pour in uncooked rice and water. Stir and bring to boil. Simmer about 15-20 minutes until water is gone. Open. Stir from bottom to top and continue cooking until rice is soft (approx 20-30 min).
I was a children’s librarian when I got this recipe from the mother of one of my storytime kids. A Colombian native, she kindly shared her method of making beans and rice. It’s been a while since I’ve made it, and I notice the recipe doesn’t mention draining the beans. I think I would do so, though I’m not sure you’re supposed to. If you leave out the bacon, as I always do, it’s a good vegetarian meal.  

Crockpot Lamb Curry
1 lg diced onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 lbs lamb stew meat
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 cups chicken broth
4 oz baby spinach, chopped (fresh or thawed frozen works)
Cook onion over medium heat, stirring often until translucent. Add a little broth if needed. Add garlic and ginger and sauté another minute. Transfer onion to crock pot and stir in lamb. Add all everything else except spinach. Cover and cook for four hours on high or eight on low. Stir in spinach to wilt it and serve. 
My notes say I added frozen butternut squash to the mix, and I think I left out the spinach. Once it was cooked, I took out the lamb, pureed the what was left into a sauce with my immersion blender, and replaced the lamb. My notes also say, “Yum!so I will likely repeat the same process when I next make it.

Easy Camp (or Home) Meal
1 package sausage, any kind (smoked, kielbasa, chorizo, italian, bratwurst, whatever!)
1 sliced onion
3-4 potatoes chopped
Several chopped carrots
Nonstick spray or oil, and butter
Heavy duty foil or Dutch Oven or oven-safe pan.
Camp method #1: Grease large sheet of foil with spray, oil or butter. Place all ingredients on foil, add a few dollops of butter and wrap tightly. Cover with another sheet of foil and wrap tightly. Put in coals of campfire and cook until it smells good.
Camp method #2: Grease a Dutch Oven with oil or spray. Place all ingredients inside. Dollop with butter, and cook according to Dutch Oven directions (coals on top and underneath). When it starts to smell good, check to see if it’s done.
Home method #1: Use camp method #1, but use oven at 375 F, start checking at 30 min. 
Home method #2: Use camp method #2 with any oven-safe pan with a lid and the oven at 375 F as above. 
We make this every time we go camping and often at home too. Easiest meal ever!

Photo by Pixabay on

The next installment will be more main dishes. Please feel free to share your recipes (especially if they’re easy) in the comment section.

Thanks to Kate for sharing her pumpkin soup recipe. It sounds delicious and is probably more like the first time I actually ate it, since she lives in Australia, and that’s where I had it.