A tasty weekend on a houseboat!

Raystown Lake in Pennsylvania is where water meets woodlands and meadows meet mountain paths.  When our friends invited us to their houseboat for a weekend, we gladly accepted.  The drive through Amish country, the quaint Americana towns that passed us by with pretty porches, hilly wooded country and clear blue skies sure made the three and a half hour drive from home a very pleasant one.  Here’s the entrance to the houseboat that they very aptly named “All You Need is Love”.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, the relaxing weekend was spent with good friends, great food, drinks, boat rides, fishing, and dancing till the boat rocked.

I was in charge of dinner one night, so I decided to make Nigel Slater’s Shepherd’s Pie with Spiced Parsnip Mash.  I tweaked it a bit, like I always do with recipes, and as you can see, it did go down very well.  However, I did want the top a tad crispier and browner, but was not too familiar with the oven on the boat.  For dessert I whipped up an upside down fresh nectarine cake which will be covered in another post.  It was definitely a tasty houseboat weekend, with the hosts cooking breakfast, tasty morsels for snacks, and yummy cold cuts for lunch.   Here is my contribution for Fiesta Friday #21.

Shepherd’s Pie with spiced parsnip mash – serves 4

Ingredients for the topping

2 lbs large parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 onions sliced

2 oz butter

large pinch ground cumin

1 tbsp freshly ground coriander seeds

1 tbsp garam masala

2 oz butter (again)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the filling

2 leeks chopped

1 carrot diced

3/4 cup shelled/frozen peas

3 tbsp dripping or butter

4 Italian brown mushrooms, sliced

1 lb cooked roast lamb, minced or raw ground lamb (or ground beef)

1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp tomato puree

9 oz. hot lamb or chicken stock

1 bay leaf

1 sprig thyme

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

chopped turkey bacon for flavor/a handful of shredded cheese

Preparation method

1. Simmer the parsnips in salted water until tender – about 15-20 minutes

2. While they are cooking, fry the onions and turkey bacon in the butter over a moderate heat until soft and translucent.

3. Stir in the spices and continue cooking for a further two minutes, until fragrant.

4. Drain the parsnips.  Mash them with a potato masher, stirring in the butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper, then the sliced onions.  Set aside.

5. In a large pan, cook the chopped leeks (or onions) and the diced carrot with the dripping or butter until they are soft and golden.

6. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for a further five minutes, then stir in the ground meat.  The meat must brown a little here and there, so do not stir it too often.  Leave to cook for 5 minutes or so, breaking it up as necessary.

7. Add the flour and the tomato puree.  Continue to cook, stirring regularly for three or four minutes, tomato puree is bitter if not thoroughly cooked.

8. Pour on the hot stock, add a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme and bring to the boil.

9. Turn down the heat and leave to simmer very gently for 25-30 minutes.  Add frozen peas.

10. Preheat the oven to 190C/375/Gas5

11. Season the filling with salt, Worcestershire sauce and a few grinds of black pepper – be generous

12. Scoop the mixture into a large baking dish and spoon dollops of mashed parsnip over the top.  Add a sprinkling of shredded cheese.  Bake for 25 minutes until the topping is golden brown.


33 thoughts on “A tasty weekend on a houseboat!

  1. Who wouldn’t want a weekend on a houseboat?? 😀 Everything here looks perfect, Loretta! The shepherd’s pie looks absolutely gorgeous! 🙂


    1. Thank you Jhuls, I’m glad you like it. Have you noticed my links? It seems like I’m getting the hang of it eh? :))Now to figure out how to bookmark some of the recipes that come in every Friday. There’s got to be a better and quicker way on Word Press?


      1. Yes! Congratulations, Loretta. 😀 Um, what happened to the other link (Angie’s link)?

        And the bookmarking stuff… if you are using WordPress application while checking out posts, you can open the post in Safari (if you are using iPad). And then from there, you can save bookmark the link and the links will be saved in your ‘Favorites”. Let me know if it works. You can also email me. 😉

        Have a lovely weekend. ❤


  2. Loretta, that sounds like such a fabulous weekend! You are certainly making the most of your free time! I once spent the weekend on a sailing boat/small yacht and offered to make a meal so brought all sorts with me – how was I to know that the gas would run out when all I wanted to do was re-heat a quiche I had made?? Thank goodness that it was a hot summer’s weekend so eating cold food was not a hardship! Your shepherds pie sounds delicious with the gram masala- I must remember that! Happy Fiesta Friday 21 !


    1. Aww thanks Selma. Oh dearie me, it looks like you survived your yacht adventure though….but actually quiches taste good both hot and cold don’t they? This is Nigel Slater’s recipe, I know you enjoy his recipes too. Yes, I do like the Indian twist to this shepherd’s pie. Happy Fiesta Friday, and enjoy the weekend. We are getting a brief respite from the awful heat and humidity we’ve experienced all week, so I’m looking forward to spending hours in the garden with a nice g & t outside once I’m done :))


  3. Looks like you had a great time, Loretta! The houseboat looks so roomy, it surprised me! Love a good shepherd’s pie any time. Have a happy weekend!


    1. Yes, thanks Ngan, it was great weekend. The houseboat has 3 bedrooms, a porch, and a great top deck, with a hot tub. It was amazing in the hot tub under the stars late at night. Definitely a different and fun weekend.


  4. Hi Loretta, great to meet you! Wow! What amazing photos, it looks like you have a great weekend and that your friends got to enjoy a great meal 🙂 thank you so much for sharing this with us all at this weeks Fiesta Friday 🙂


  5. Awww, I’m SO JEALOUS, these pictures are incredible, the weather is FINALLY getting nice here in NH (not TOO far from PA!)… and I just want to be outsideee (I’ll stop whining now)- the food you made looks incredible, you sure did a great job. Thanks for sharing!! I’ll go back to staring at those boat pics now… 😦


    1. Thanks Stephanie, yes it was a great weekend, a little different from spending time on a beach eh? I do hope your weather improves. We’ve had some real hot and humid days this past week, but we’ve got a bit of a break these next few days, so I’m looking forward to being outdoors. Happy Fiesta Friday 🙂


  6. Loretta, I love this post. I would like for Mike and I to come and see this lake. Looks like a wonderful adventure. I am becoming jealous.


    1. Thanks Bernadette. It’s a beautiful part of PA, near the Allegheny Mountains, about a three and a half hour drive from DE. Remember Amy & Sallie (2 sisters that went to Spain with me)? Well Sallie and her husband own this houseboat, it’s beautiful, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a porch and a beautiful top deck with hot tub. They spend most weekends there. Imagine sitting under the stars and enjoying a nightcap :). I believe there are cabins you can rent in Raystown Lake, houseboats you can also rent, and also camping. I have a catalog I can give you on things to do in the area when I next see you.


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