Hey again, folks! Today’s post I’m bringing up this blog’s roots with a recipe old enough to have graduated kindergarten. By roots, I’m not just talking about sweet potatoes — though you will need them to cook this dish. This Anna and the King-inspired dish was what finally prompted me to start The Gluttonous Geek.
Click here to skip to the recipe for Leonowens Cottage Pie.
Dinner and a Movie
It’s storytime, friends!
Back in 2015, my roommate at the time (The Lady Nerd) decided she wanted to do a dinner and a movie segment for her blog. I’ve made nerdy food before — cookie contests for Battle & Brew and the very first Thronesgiving. But this segment specifically involved me teaching my roommate how to cook. Our first collab involved Roman Holiday and a couple of Pinterest recipes.
The movie on her list was Anna and the King, and it was my turn to be inspired. This film based on Anna Leonowens’s experience teaching the King of Siam’s children is not likely at all accurate. Heck, Leonowens’s accounts are probably even less so. But if you treat it as a work of fiction, it is a lovely story about the concept of what makes a society civilized and what a home is.
So with that, I developed Thai versions of English recipes — cucumber canapes, cottage pie, and custard. Cottage Pie is the ground beef version of a traditional mashed potato-crusted shepherd’s pie. However, my idea involved Anna making a dish to warm her new river-side house using local ingredients. It turned out delicious, but admittedly it’s tough to make a single-color bowl of mush look interesting in a photo.
It was enough, though, to convince me that I could do this. I could start my own nerdy food blog. And six years later, I’m revamping and bringing this recipe to you.
Peanuts and Coconut Milk
The standard Cottage Pie involves ground beef simmered in gravy with carrots, peas, and onions transferred to a casserole dish, topped with mashed potatoes, then baked. Here’s the thing, though. Beef is expensive, and Anna Leonowens is a schoolteacher. Peas, onions, and russets also did not find their way often in Thai markets at the time.
So instead, I subbed in edamame for peas, shallots for onions, and sweet potato for russets. Carrots and garlic are common in both cuisines, so they stayed. As for the meat? I used ground chicken. Ground pork goes better with the flavors–but supply chain issues with my own supermarket demanded I be resourceful.
I then simmered the whole lot in a blend of peanut sauce, chopped cilantro, lime juice, and fish sauce. When we first made this recipe, we blended our own peanut sauce. But frankly? Your grocery list is long enough. Don’t forget the fish sauce, though! This stand-in for Worcestershire sauce adds umami typical to Thai cuisine.
Finally, I blended mashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon as my cottage pie’s starchy crust for an extra taste of Siam. The original recipe I made 6 years ago had melted white cheddar on top. I leave it up to you, though, whether or not you choose that addition.
Sing for your Supper!
If you plan to cook the recipes off the site, keep scrolling. However, while access to recipes on the blog will always be free, I also have printable PDF recipe cards and thematic cook-along Spotify playlists as rewards for those who choose to support the blog.
The printable recipe card and playlist for Leonowens Cottage Pie will be available as a $2 donor reward on my Ko-Fi page until the next post goes up.
You can instead join my Patreon community at the “Sing for your Supper” level ($1/month) for access to the playlists or the “It’s All in the Cards” level ($5/month) or higher for access to ALL of my blog recipe cards and playlists. To get you started, patrons of all reward tiers receive a welcome gift of my Lord of the Rings recipe cards and playlists from January 2019.
Cooking up some Cottage Pie!
Leonowens Cottage Pie
Equipment: Stovetop, large saucepan with a lid, skillet, strainer, oven, 2.5-quart baking dish, potato masher, citrus zester, and a spatula.
- 1 lb ground pork or chicken
- 1/2 cup edamame
- 2-3 shallots, small-diced
- 3 carrots, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- zest and juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 cup peanut sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 Tb fish sauce
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Rinse the diced sweet potatoes in a strainer under cold water before transferring them to the saucepan. Cover the potatoes with more cold water, then bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and let simmer for 10 minutes while making the filling.
- Preheat the skillet for 3 minutes over medium heat, then add the ground meat to brown until mostly cooked through.
- Add the shallots and carrots, then saute until softened. Stir the garlic in for 30 seconds, then blend in the edamame and half of the lime zest and cilantro.
- Deglaze the skillet with water and lime juice, then stir in the peanut sauce. When thickened, transfer the mixture to the baking dish to cool.
- Drain the potatoes with the strainer and set them aside. Return the saucepan to the stovetop over low heat and blend in the nutmeg, fish sauce, ginger, and cinnamon.
- Transfer the potatoes to the pot and mash with the potato masher. Stir the potatoes in the coconut milk, then spread it over the meat in the baking dish, Bake for 20 minutes.
- Turn the broiler on low and broil for 2-3 minutes. Then remove the dish from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.
- Garnish the top with leftover zest and cilantro before serving.