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Friday, January 29, 2016

Comfort pie

Growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, we did not have much money, so mum was always to be found busy in the kitchen, creating filling and delicious dishes for us out of whatever she had in the cupboard or fridge.

One such dish was what I came to call ‘comfort pie’, so-called because to me, it is the best word in tasty cooking on a tight budget – warm, comforting and delicious. And it was always something that whenever I was blue or sick, she would cook for me especially, as a treat. For example, when I once had an awful week at work and went round to her house to see her before I headed off to Bible study, she presented me with a bubbling casserole dish full of comfort pie, its potato ridges in stiff, browned peaks.

It has just three ingredients:
1 tin Corned Beef 250g
1 tin Baked beans
Mashed potato

The corned beef is to be diced up and put into the bottom of a casserole dish. Baked beans are then poured on top of the corned beef, followed by a mound of freshly-mashed potato. For an added taste punch, grate cheese and layer this between the beans and the potato for a dairy surprise.

Put it for 20 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees, and then it’s all ready.

It’s perfect for a budget meal – and can serve four people, together with some peas and carrots. It’s also adaptable enough to be cooked by people who do not have an oven – a recipe that I have shared with some of the people who come to our church’s food bank. Many of them have just a kettle and a microwave in their hostel rooms and do not have recourse to an oven or even a hob top, so this can be perfect for them, too, particularly as it only uses three ingredients, is filling, cheap and easy to make in a microwave.

Instead of having to boil and mash potatoes, they can use Smash – a perfect budget cupboard staple – to top the pie. In a microwave, the pie would take 15 minutes to heat up. Of course, it won’t get that crispy oven-baked texture on top of the mashed potato, but it still works. The best thing of all is that for four people, it can cost as little as 90p per person.

And for those Smash snobs – don’t be too proud to use Smash, or at least keep a tub in your cupboard in case of emergencies. I’ve used this sometimes when I’ve been too lazy to peel potatoes after I come home from work, and it bakes well in the oven. Add some salt, pepper and butter, and dust with paprika, and it creates a gloriously seasoned potato topping, or a base for home-made croquette potatoes, covered with egg and crispy breadcrumbs.

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