The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Best great budget recipes for 50% or less: Continental style warming winter pie recipe

Photo: Budjet continental winter pie

Photo: Budget continental winter pie

I woke this morning with one eye puffy, bloodshot and streaming. It was agony. What had happened during the night?

Danny was alarmed.
“You can’t decorate with just one eye. Your painting will be asynchronous.”
“What on earth does that mean?”
“It’s an IT term. Meaning intermittent amongst other things.”  He explained.

Past caring I crawled under the duvet as he shot down to Newmarket to ask the pharmacist’s opinion. He returned with a small bottle marked Red Eye Drops.

I applied the potion and snoozed in bed all day, curled up with the radio and the Min Pins. Danny regularly passed in large cups of sweetened tea and buttered toast to the human dog basket. Reading was out of the question. At five the eye looked and felt much better and I had a longing for some comfort food and, feeling chipper, made my way down to the kitchen.

I decided to experiment a bit more with maximum vegetable and minimum meat ingredients. The vegetables, excluding the spuds, weighed 1200g. The meat was an ordinary 500g pack of 20% fat minced beef (Waitrose offer). As we had run out of courgettes I used some of the vegetable bounty stored in the cold barn. Parsnips, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, celery and minced beef combined into a tasty filling for a winter pie. We are addicted to our low fat/low meat cottage pie but we can’t eat it all winter.

All the ingredients for this dish were discounted/soon to be out of date items except for the herbs, passata and flavourings. The filling would easy make a delicious large savoury pie for 8 hungry people. It could also be cooked in the slow cooker (I would allow four hours on auto). If cooked in the slow cooker you could jettison the oil and just toss in all the ingredients raw with no pre frying or par boiling the carrots. Next time I’m going to use this method. I just didn’t have time this evening.

The discounted ingredients for the pie cost £3.50. The 1.25 kilo potato topping (discounted ) cost 75p. Making 8 portions, it worked out at 42.5p a head. This dish could be frozen in batches of smaller servings for those days when you just don’t have time to cook.

The key tips for producing great, tasty food on a very limited budget are the herb and seasoning ingredients. In a couple of days I’m planning to post the list of larder ingredients that I have found can transform almost every recipe into a dish that you could confidently serve with aplomb at a relaxed supper party.

Danny had to wait a while for the ingredients to soften and the flavours to develop. Admittedly, he was ravenous by the time the pie was ready. After the first tentative mouthful he sat back in a wave of relief.
“This is really superb.” He reached for the spoon to pile more onto his plate. Experiments can mean toast for supper. But we always admit to (some!) of those dustbin disasters.

Ideally this would go well with sliced green beans or garden peas. Some crusty French bread on the side would be a good idea for soaking up the juices.

Continental style warming winter pie recipe (for 8 hungry people)


Pie filling:

  • 500g of minced beef (20% fat)
  • 200g of peeled  and chopped onion
  • 220g of peeled and chopped parsnips
  • 300g of peeled and chopped carrots
  • 300g of celery, strings removed and sliced fine
  • 175g of chopped bell peppers (red or orange)
  • 250g of sliced ripe tomatoes
  • 500g of passata
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 4 heaped tbsp of plain flour
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 2 tsp of vegetable stock powder
  • 1.5 tsp of mixed Italian herbs
  • 2 tbsp of mushroom ketchup
  • 1 tsp of anchovy essence
  • 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 300-400 ml of beef stock (we used one beef stock cube)

Potato topping:

  • 1250g of thinly sliced potatoes
  • 25g of small knobs of butter
  • 1 tsp of garlic granules
  • Lashings of ground black pepper


  1. Gently fry the chopped onions and garlic granules in the olive oil until transparent in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.
  2. Meanwhile par boil the chopped carrots for five minutes. Reserve the carrot juice to add to the stock.
  3. Add the carrots, parsnips, peppers, tomatoes and celery to the onions. Sauté for 2-3 minutes turning the vegetables to coat in the oil.
  4. Add the flour stirring constantly and then add the minced beef, breaking it up between your fingers.
  5. Add the passata, carrot juice and 300-400ml of beef stock to just cover the ingredients in the saucepan. Add the herbs, vegetable stock powder,  mushroom ketchup, anchovy essence, balsamic vinegar, cayenne and a good dash of ground black pepper.
  6. Stir very well and leave to simmer on the lowest setting for about two hours. Every 15 minutes or so, stir the ingredients well so the bottom of the pan does not burn.
  7. After two hours adjust the final seasoning to taste (salt and pepper).
  8. Meanwhile wash and peel 1250g of potatoes. Slice them fine and simmer them for 12-15 minutes.
  9. When they are soft , pour them into a colander and ladle the pie filling into a large serving dish.
    Arrange the sliced potatoes over the top. Sprinkle with a tsp of garlic granules and dot with butter.
  10. Grill/broil the pie under medium heat for five minutes to brown the edges of the potatoes.
    Ideally serve with crisp green beans.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi nà

    Love your new photo blog. I feel an affinity with you as we both noticed the little things. But I’m not nearly such a good photographer as you. Really enjoying your new photo blog

    Hi S.O.L.

    When you mentioned your pantry list on your blog , I was inspired. I reckon that with the right additions you can make virtually anything tasty. However I do fall at the last fence every now and then and then we eat toast.

    However, I do have some secrets and why not share them?

    Hi Jo

    Loved your comment.

    I did wonder if The Contessa had got hold of a short pointed stick?! She prefers D, in fact he is the love of her life.

    Eye is fine today, just a bit itchy. Don’t know what happened.

    Hi Veronica

    It was tasty and that was the main thing. 42p a portion was second priority but when we worked out the maths we were amazed and delighted.

    I’m determined to eat better for less money in 2009.

    Hello Amanda

    I believe in Homeopathic remedies and Bach remedies. Both seem to work for me. So thanks very much for this tip. I hadn’t heard of Oculoheel and will search for it tomorrow.

    The eye is better but it was painful and scary.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Hope that you enjoyed our recipe as much as we did!

    Hi Pat

    I really enjoyed reading about your rescue hedgehog Tiggy on your garden blog. Here the link to Pat’s post

    I admire you for writing three blogs – they are so generous with their ideas and inspiration.

  2. Your Pie recipe sounds really yummy. Hope your eye gets better soon.

  3. Did the MinPins watch Simon’s Cat and take notes? Hope the eye is well on the mend now.

  4. kate (uk)

    Hope the eye is better.
    I was just thinking about making a veg pie last night- my bargain mince arrives later today, so I’ll give it a go!

  5. Hope the eye is totally better. If you ever see any Oculoheel (google it) buy some to keep in store. It’s a homeopathic remedy, comes in individual phials, and works brilliantly on anything sore eyes. From red puffy, even slightly weepy eyes to eye strain from sitting at the pc for too long.

  6. Veronica

    Truly brilliant for 42p a person! Hope your eye is on the mend now.

  7. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    I wonder whether one of the Min Pins had been watching Simon’s “Cat Man Do” & had a wicked moment…?!

    Eye eye, Cap’n!

  8. I secon Na, I am going to have to stop reading you blog first thing in the morning. It makes me ravenous!

    Get better soon! cant wait to see your pantry list. I have mine written on paper, I just cant get up the steam to type it up for you all to see. Maybe next week when I am back!

  9. the recipe sounds lush! i do hope your idea is getting better, that doesn’t sound like fun!

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