“I keep my recipes simple but well-executed," says Saffron Hodgson. A seasoned outdoor competition cook and native Australian (she placed in the top ten in the 2012 Jack Daniels BBQ Competition), Hodgson discovered her love of live fire and camp cooking while a member of the Girl Scouts as child. Now she's a mom to two boys, Ash (age 12) and Dan (age 9), and has a live fire right in her backyard in Kirkland, just outside Seattle. The end of summer may mean thinking about back to school schedules, but there's still time to cook and eat outdoors together, and to teach them the art of the cooking over a fire.
She’s enlisted the help of her two sous-chefs to make traditional cottage pies using all natural, antibiotic-free Laura’s 92% Lean Ground Beef, with no added hormones. We chat with Saffron about getting kids in the kitchen on school nights, plus pro tips for cooking with lean meat.
On her inspiration behind the meal.
I like to keep ground beef at home in the fridge or the freezer because it’s such a versatile meat to work with. This is a family recipe from my childhood in Whyalla, Australia—my mom often made this dish in the middle of the week when she was especially busy. I still use the same traditional ingredients (carrots, peas, and a potato on top) and you can make it year-round. In the warmer months, serve it with seasonal veggies or a salad, and in the winter, with freshly baked bread warm. It's perfect for Seattle, where you never know what the weather might be.
On the appeal for both parents and kids.
This meal is nostalgic for me, but it's also great for when my schedule starts to fill up. The kids and I can prep early, run around doing other things, then come back to a nearly ready dish. The boys can personalize their meal by picking the cheese they put on top, Dan likes a mild cheddar while Ash prefers parmesan. It makes for great weekday leftovers for busy moms, too (the kids can have sandwiches!).
On cooking with Laura’s Lean Ground Beef.
I actually prefer cooking with a lean meat like Laura’s—if the ground beef you’re working with is too fatty, it seems to make it fall apart more, and it’s also a more health-conscious option. When cooking outdoors, it’s tempting to want to work with more fatty meats, but it’s a good idea to add leaner meats to regular menu planning.
When cooking with lean meat in a Dutch oven there's no oil to strain off so you can add in flavors earlier, but it's really important to brown the meat first (rather than put all ingredients in at once) to really get that beefy stew flavor and rich, deep color.
Don't have a Dutch oven? A slow cooker or casserole dish will do the job!
On kids lending a hand in the kitchen.
My boys always help out—I’m a strong believer that it’s good to let kids into the kitchen and help as soon as possible, before they build up a fear of making a mess. Getting to cook outside in late summer when it's still warm enough is especially nice, as there’s less concern about dropping things on the ground. As a bonus, helping out means reading recipes and measuring out ingredients, putting skills from school into practice without it feeling like they’re doing a lesson.
A few tips:
- Talk through the steps of the meal while you prep, during the cooking, and after you’ve finished, so they learn for next time.
- First, have them help with prep to learn safe knife skills, cutting easier things like cucumbers and bananas to start and working their way up to harder items.
- If they are able and comfortable helping with the cooking itself, make sure they’re aware of what’s hot (a Dutch oven holds its temperature for some time after use) and appropriate safety precautions.
Watch Saffron Hodgson, National and International BBQ Champion, prepare her custom, family friendly Laura's Lean Beef recipe on the demo stage at Cowabunga's Sunday Country Brunch (11am-2pm, October 7, 2018). For more information about Laura's Lean Beef head to laurasleanbeef.com, and check out Saffron's Bush Cooking site at bushcooking.com.
Ready in: 1 hour, 20 minutes
2 pounds Laura's 92% Lean Ground Beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
Beef stock, 4 cups or as required
3 carrots, sliced
2 cups frozen peas
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons corn starch (cornflour)
2 tablespoons butter
Milk as needed
1 cup shredded/grated cheddar cheese
Italian herbs, to taste
1. Heat the Dutch oven to a medium-hot temperature then fry the ground beef and onion until the beef is dark brown and the onion is soft and starting to caramelize.
2. Add the garlic and stir through. Slowly add the beef stock, stirring to make sure anything stuck to the Dutch oven is removed. Add the carrots and peas, cook until softened.
3. Combine in a cup, the water and corn starch (cornflour) until smooth. Stir mix into the boiling stew and and stir until returned to the boil and thickened. Take off the heat.
1. Peel the potatoes then boil and mash. Stir in the butter and milk. Tip: This could also be done using leftover mashed potatoes, or instant mashed potato mix when camping.
2. Spoon the mashed potato gently over the stew, then sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and Italian herbs.
3. Place the lid on and bake the cottage pie for 15 minutes at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Tip: This is achieved by placing coals under and on top of the Dutch oven.