Once, back in the days when I used to share a flat, I watched one flatmate work on a particular recipe, hoping to develop that perfect dish which she could always serve reliably to dinner guests.
I thought it was a great idea to have one dish that you know will turn out perfectly just about every time, a dish that will please your dinner guests rather than embarrass them. But in those days - in fact, right up until the boy moved in and became the default cook in this household - it was always safer for my friends if I limited my food-related social gatherings to chips 'n' dip at home, or eating out.
But finally I think I have My Dish. It's perfect because it's simple to make, doesn't have a million ingredients and is tasty, filling and suitable to for Baby to eat. The recipe is from one of those Ministry of Health booklets which provide iron-rich recipes aimed at babies and toddlers; this one provides a variation for the adults in the family. This is my version -
Violet's Slightly Edgy Cottage Pie
400g of steak mince
1 medium-sized, sweet apple, grated
1 cup of grated kumara (New Zealand sweet potato)
1 cup of water
3 tablespoons of vindaloo paste or medium strength curry paste
And any non-watery vegetables you want to add, e.g. peas 'n' carrots, sliced mushrooms, julienned green beans.
Put the first 4 ingredients into a pan and simmer for 45 minutes. At this point you can remove a portion for your baby. Lightly steam or boil the additional vegetables and add to the mince mixture, along with the vindaloo paste.
Transfer the whole mixture into a casserole or pie dish.
Top this with a whole lot of mashed potato (which I mash with lots of milk and butter) and mashed kumara (because you'll have some left over after making the mince).
Top that with lots of grated cheese.
Put it into the oven until the cheese is nice and brown.
p.s. Obviously the quality of the vindaloo paste is going to affect the yumminess outcome of this dish. I use Pataks, but I reckon any brand which you find in the ethnic section of the supermarket should be fine.