This was a case of “what the hell am I going to make for dinner?”.
Hubby had just arrived home from work, Poppy had been fed her dinner and I would usually have something bubbling on the stove – but that evening I had nothing. I hadn’t even prepped any veggies. There was simply nothing on the horizon.
“What’s for dinner?” said hubby.
“I don’t know!” I said. Hubby raised his eyebrows. It was weird. He knows I usually think about what’s for dinner all afternoon and even if I haven’t started it I have a pretty good idea about what it’s going to be.
I dug around in the freezer and found a half kilo bag of lamb mince.
“Something with lamb mince?” I shouted from the kitchen, still poking around to see if there was anything else more inspirational. Nope. Lamb mince it was going to be.
We had eaten pasta the previous night, so that was out. We’d eaten couscous the night before, so that was also out. Then I spotted some potatoes in the pantry that were in dire need of cooking (the white eyes were starting to look more like eyelashes, if you know what I mean!).
I contemplated boiling and slicing the potatoes to place on top of the mince stew but then realised I had some nice firm mozzarella in the fridge that would go beautifully bubbly and crisp over a mashed topping.
The dinner conundrum was solved and shortly thereafter these gorgeous little blue pots of deliciousness were ready for their close up. As I photographed them, wanting so much to dive into their saucy centres, I found it hard to believe they were dreamed up a mere hour earlier!
Do you poke around in the freezer for dinner inspiration?
Spicy lamb and potato bake recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
1/2 red capsicum (bell pepper), diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
200g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
500g lamb mince
pinch (or two) dried chilli flakes
pinch dried mint
pinch ground white pepper
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste (concentrated puree)
For the topping
1 kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon salted butter
splash of milk
100g firm mozzarella cheese, grated
1. Heat a large deep frying pan (skillet) over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onion and saute until starting to brown. Add the capsicum and cook for a few minutes until it softens and starts to brown. Throw in the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes.
2. Push all the veggies to one side in the pan, turn the heat up high and add the lamb mince. Using a wooden spoon break it up as much as you can and mix the veggies into it. Allow to brown well for a few minutes before stirring. Cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until really browned all over and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan with tasty caramelised bits.
3. Add the spices, pepper and salt and stir well. Add the tinned tomatoes and tomato paste and stir well. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 15 minutes until thickened slightly.
4. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes then drain and mash with the butter and milk. Leave it a little chunky, it doesn’t have to be super smooth.
5. Ladel the lamb sauce into a 1L oven-proof dish or evenly into 4 x 1 cup ramekins. Spoon over the mashed potato and press down slightly with the back of the spoon. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and browns. Serve with buttered veggies and crusty bread.