When I first re-located to Argentina slightly more than three years ago, it was right in the middle of autumn.
Auburn-leafed trees lined the pavements, shedding pretty brown maple leaves in our paths. Everything seemed to be in hues of reddish browns and orange-yellows. The sun set a minute earlier each dusty pink evening, and the days got chillier slowly but surely.
After a couple of months, I’d settled into Buenos Aires like the home I’d always had but was only just discovering, and winter soon sneakily crept up onto us like a blanket of cold.
It was the first winter I would have in Argentina, and having grown up in tropically hot Singapore, I’d experienced quite a bit of difficulty adjusting to the harsh, cold weather. I still prefer the warmer months, and winter, being my least favorite season, often seems too dark and chilly, like the face of an unkind stranger.
During those first few winter months, I remember walking hurriedly on the streets, all wrapped up in my woolen scarf and trench coat, hands shoved deep into my coat pockets, with my head facing downwards to keep the wind from getting to me.
When we spoke standing in the street, little puffs of vapor would form in the chilly air, misting our vision. It reminded me of myself as a kid experiencing winter for the first time overseas in Japan, blowing rings of vapor in astonished wonder and delight.
Mostly, I remember how much I missed living in a tropical country (despite the humidity that inevitably comes with it).
I also recall how much I always looked forward to coming back home, where the front door opened directly to a short passage leading to the kitchen, which was always warm and cozy and smelled so rich with the aroma of whatever dish was currently cooking.
These days, winter is creeping on us again, and thinking back on those first few months in Buenos Aires, I’m reminded of how there are certain foods that I’ll always associate with winter, such as Juan’s mum’s specialty “pastel de papas”, which is the Argentine name for cottage pie.
I’d never eaten cottage pie before coming to Argentina, and what really surprised me about it was how one single dish could incorporate all the necessary ingredients for a hearty and satisfying meal.
Cottage pie is basically a meat pie with a crust made of mashed potatoes. It is sometimes also interchangeably called “shepherd’s pie”, although the latter usually used when mutton is the main ingredient, because shepherds are supposedly more concerned with sheep instead of cattle.
Minced meat, flavored with sauteed onions and spring onions, as well as vinegared olives, would provide the tasty protein necessary, while the mashed potatoes on top was just the right about of carbohydrates one would require.
Because all its ingredients can be prepared before hand, and it is a rather easy dish to assemble, cottage pie is a conveniently wonderful dish for cold, wintry nights when you feel lazy to cook, and just want something warm.
Eat it warm from the oven, with a few slices of bread and freshly-chopped spring onions, and you’re ready to go.