Great Nosh For Little Dosh – The improvised Cottage Pie
Deadlines are looming along with the dark and cold nights. A cheap, filling and warming meal, which reminds you of home, is needed to power through the work. Why not try this adapted version of cottage pie?
30-40 minutes maximum preparation time – the more you get used to making it, the quicker it will be
1. Peel and chop the potatoes (about two medium sized), then place in a pan of boiling water (from the kettle) and cook for about 20 minutes.
* Note: you can buy cheap potatoes in bulk from the market. Nothing beats the locally grown, and they are often bigger.
2. On a low heat, cook the beef mince (one third of an 800g pack) in a pan until brown –normally about five minutes. No oil is needed.
* In Tesco you can buy 'Three for £10', including lamb, pork chops, turkey or chicken breasts. This means you can stock the freezer for up to three weeks. Simply separate – the mince splits easily three ways – and wrap all individually in foil and place in the freezer. When defrosting, it is safer to place the frozen meat on a plate at the beginning of the day, if you wish to cook that night.
3. While the mince is browning, in another pan, place a little oil (or butter if you want to save money) and some chopped garlic (1-2 cloves) for a bit before adding chopped onion (1 large); this adds more flavour.
*You can also buy garlic and onions in bulk and they are great for adding flavour and substance to the simplest of meals. They also last a long time.
If you are feeling slightly richer today, then you can add more vegetables, such as mushrooms, courgettes or peppers. It is really up to you!
4. Once the meat has browned there may be some fat, so drain this out. Cooking in an open pan, or using the expensive option of lean mince, will reduce the amount of fat you get.
5. Now, because this is a cheap version, we do not use the expensive sauce. Chopped tomatoes are favoured instead. You can purchase these from most supermarkets averaging a cost of 30p. Mix the tomatoes in with the mince and vegetables and simmer on a low heat. Add salt and pepper to season, and a vegetable stock cube.
*Again, stock cubes are worthy investments because they are cheap and liven up any meal.
If you have some dry herbs lying around then throw them in. Anything from basil to oregano or even cumin or paprika adds a bit of liveliness.
6. Check the potatoes are soft by prodding with a knife. When ready, drain and mash. Add a bit of butter, and if you want something a little creamier, add a dash of milk. If you haven't got a potato masher, a fork will do, but it takes longer.
7. Spoon the tomato mixture into an oven proof dish and top with the mash. Add cheese if you fancy (but this being expensive is often a luxury!).
8. Place in the oven and cook until the peaks in the mash have gone crispy. This portion feeds two people generously, or you can eat half, leave to cool and place in the fridge to have as dinner the following night- great for those busy evenings.
-Emma Spencer, Features Editor