Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cottage Pie - Meal of the week

I love to cook, I am by no means a master in the kitchen nor do I pretend to be but I do really enjoy cooking up good honest tasty food for my family...even in my itsy bitsy tiny kitchen with no dishwasher! It just forces me to be more organised and tidy while cooking.

I'm going to starting posting about a different meal each week which I have cooked for my family and will include the recipe for you. I would love to hear your feedback and comments on these ideas. We work on a tight budget so the majority of my meals will be budget friendly like my first meal of the week which is an oldie but a goodie - my version of a cottage pie. YUM :)

Cottage Pie


2 Sheets of Shortcrust pastry
Pie weights or 2 cups of rice
500g of beef mince (I just buy the regular mince as its usually well priced)
1 Large Onion - Chopped
2 Garlic cloves - Crushed
2 Tbsp of Beef Stock
1 Pkt of Hearty Beef Soup (or a tbsp of beef Gravox or gravy powder for extra flavour)
1 Cup of water
1 Tbsp of Tomato Paste
2 Tbsp of Brown Vinegar strained from pickled chilli's (if you don't have this don't worry, I always have a jar of chilli's pickling in brown vinegar in the fridge and I love adding a bit of the vinegar to a lot of my meals for awesome flavour boot)
Salt and Pepper to season
3 Carrots pealed and cut into circle pieces
2 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
5 med to large brushed potatoes, peeled and cut up for boiling
About 70 to 100g of butter - don't use margarine if you can as it just wont add the flavour you want. You can use one of those light Devondale butter varieties if you like as they taste OK and are a bit healthier than pure butter
About 1/3 cup of milk 
Handful of grated cheese - whatever you have

Heat your oven to about 180 Degrees Celsius, Spray your pie tray with some Canola oil or something similar then line it with your Shortcrust pastry. You will most likely need to do some cutting and pasting so to speak and join two sheets together to cover the whole tray well. Then line your pastry with some baking paper and put in either some pie weights or about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of rice to weight down the pastry for blind baking. Pop the pastry into the oven for about 10 -12 Min's - you want it to be lightly browned but not fully cooked, take the baking paper out and pop back in for another 3 Min's to dry out the bottom. Set aside to cool.

Saute your onions and garlic until they are lovely and caramelized, then add in your mince and brown making sure you try to break the mince up well into tiny pieces so there are no chunky bits. Once the mince is cooked through and you have nice brown colouring, add all your seasonings; beef stock, hearty beef soup powder, salt & pepper, worcestershire sauce, brown vinegar, cup of water and tomato paste. Then add in your carrots and bring to the boil for 5 Min's, then take down to a simmer, cover and leave for about 20mins to let the flavours set into the mince (remembering to stir every so often so that it doesn't stick to the pan).

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil then add your potatoes, cook until nice and soft. Then strain out the water leaving the potatoes in the pot and add in your butter, salt & pepper to taste then mash until nice and smooth. Add just enough milk to make a nice consistency, no too much as you don't want it runny.

Now bring it all together, pour your meat sauce into the pie base then add the lovely mash potato on top spooning carefully until you have covered the whole top. Then gently smooth it altogether so there are no holes or gaps. Sprinkle a handful of cheese on top and pop in the oven for about 20 -25mins until the cheese is nice and golden. Let it rest for about 5mins before serving.


Brenda :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rental Property Managers....I really question the decency of these people?

I've been offline for a few weeks due to some horrible things going on, its not quite over yet either which is very annoying but I need to get on with my life now that we are near the rear end of it all. I have really been pushed to the brink but I've tried very very hard to take the high road and not let it tear me apart or allow me to totally loose control and tear apart those who have caused our grief.

Most of our troubles have been inflicted, through no fault of our own by a previous rental property management office. This is not the first time I have experienced major problems through a real estate agency and from talking with many friends and family who cannot believe what we have been put through, I seem to get the same response - 'That's real estate agents for you!'

I really don't mean to generalise here but it just seems to me, after all the very negative experiences I have had along with the many stories from others, that there is a certain breed of people that take on the real estate agency roles - especially rental property managers. The culture in these offices seems to breed and promote many disgusting traits such as; greed, back stabbing, lying, intimidation, bullying and just general evilness. How is this accepted as good practice I ask?

I also ask why is it that rental property managers seem to think its OK to treat good renters like dirt? Or as if they are in a lower class in society because they rent? This might come as a shock but guess what! Renters are not always renters! and when the time comes for the renter to find a real estate agent to purchase a house from or even an investment property, lets just say we wont be forgetting the terrible customer service experienced before as a renter.

It may also come as another shock that landlords are not always right! and they do not always know best! Just because someone own's a property it does not make them a better person than the person who rents from them. Nor does it make it OK to pressure a real estate agency to do un-honorable things such as threatening, intimidating, lying and bullying the tenant.

Just a little bit angry....well maybe a lot but I'm just saying the Real Estate Industry has in my opinion disgustingly poor morals and deserves a major shake up. If you are fortunate enough in your life to own an investment property, I hope that your real estate treats your tenants well and with respect, after all they are paying off your investment mortgage and taking care of your property. They dont deserve to be treated like dirt from you or real estate agency, so maybe its worth checking up on your agency's reputation amoungst renters and see how they stack up.

Brenda :)