This is one of those recipes designed to dirty every pan in the cupboard. Sorry about that, but then Halloween only comes around once a year. And isn’t that what dishwashers are for?
The rest of this recipe can be eaten at any time of the year, though autumn and winter are probably best suited to this kind of warm, carb-heavy meal. It’s a take on English comfort food, the food to eat when it’s chilly inside and outside the house. With of course a Halloween twist.
A vegetarian shepherd’s pie, delicious. It uses the same vegetarian ragu recipe we have had before in The Cookery Book, swapping a couple of ingredients for some variety. And this time, rather than melting cheese on top, it’s time to add a good helping of cheesy mashed potatoes as well as cheese on top.
And then there are the spiders. And while real spiders are yet to become available on the shelves of Britain’s supermarkets (thank goodness), that is not going to stop us. Instead you’d be surprised just how easily black olives can look like spiders crawling across your mashed potatoes. Or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised, it isn’t too hard to imagine.
Making the spiders is perhaps the most time-consuming part of the preparation. It would seem that spiders’ legs are actually quite fiddly.
3 cloves of garlic
1 red onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 small aubergine
1 medium courgette
400ml of passata (tomato puree)
100ml of water
1 tbsp of mixed herbs
Handful of fresh basil
2 sprigs of rosemary
300g of potatoes
50g of grated red Leicester cheese
13 black olives
60ml of milk
3tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Begin by boiling the kettle. Dice the potatoes into small pieces and place in a saucepan on the highest heat with the boiling water. Cover with a lid and allow to cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft boiled and a knife can pierce through them easily.
While the potatoes are boiling, thinly slice all the vegetables apart from the aubergine. Dice the aubergine into medium size chunks.
In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the sliced onion and garlic. Allow to cook for two minutes before throwing in the rest of the vegetables. Fry the vegetables for another two minutes until they start to brown slightly on the outside.
Pour in the passata, water, mixed herbs, and chopped basil and rosemary. Mix thoroughly and then turn the heat to medium and let it simmer.
Once the potatoes are boiled, remove from the hob and drain. Add the butter and the milk and using a potato masher, mash until you have a smooth consistency.
Remove the vegetable mix from the heat, pour it into a casserole bowl, making sure it is evenly spread.
Spread the mashed potato over the vegetables, creating a smooth layer. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top. Use a butter knife to carve a spider’s web pattern into the potatoes.
To create the spiders for decorations, halve the olives. Use one half for the spider bodies. Arrange them as you like across the shepherd’s pie, (you won’t need to use all of them for bodies, 13 spiders are too many).
Then cut the remaining halves into half again and slice them to create spiders’ legs – eight - to place around the body. If you want longer-legged spiders simply slice the halves.
Once arranged to your liking, place the whole pie in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Or until the cheese has melted completely and is starting to become crisp.