Kid-friendly meals: Savoury mince and vegetable pie

Big G has very strict rules on what constitutes a pie. It should have both a pastry top and bottom, none of this “casserole with a pastry lid” nonsense. He’s not alone – there was even a petition about this a few years ago.

But time is of the essence, so this pie only has pastry on the top. Sorry, Big G.

This pie is the food of childhood. Your mother probably made one; your grandmother definitely would have done. It’s very plain, using basic mince, but so tasty.

Feeds a family of four with plenty of leftovers.

What you need

  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup of diced vegetables
  • 250ml beef stock
  • Tablespoon of flour
  • Tsp tomato puree
  • Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Block of ready-made pastry
  • 1 egg

What you do

  1. In a little oil, soften the onion.
  2. Add the diced veg and cook until soft but still firm. I used sweet potato, carrot and frozen peas. Mushrooms would have been good but Big G doesn’t eat them. I see a lot of recipes suggesting tomatoes and celery; I say, it’s not a bolognese. Once cooked, set the vegetables to one side.
  3. In the same frypan, brown the mince until all moisture has evaporated. Stir in the flour, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Add the veg back to the pan and pour over the stock. Simmer for 20 mins, until thickened.
  5. Pour the mixture into a pie dish and allow to cool.
  6. Cover with a pastry top. Decorate with pastry shapes, if you like, and make a small slit to allow steam to escape. Brush with beaten egg then bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is brown and crispy and the filling is hot.

There is enough in the pie that you could serve it alone, but I served it with mash and creamed spinach.

Make it veggie: Quorn would be the obvious substitute here, but with enough ‘meaty’ veg you could omit it. Try lots of mushrooms, kidney beans and finely diced sweet potato and swede.


10 little acts of self care you can do right now

Sunday blues. I still get them, even with a new job to look forward to and a lovely weekend with the family behind me.

It’s a feeling of unnamed dread, the sense that something terrible is looming, it’s all moving too fast, and I won’t be able to cope. Perhaps you’re going back to a job that makes you anxious, perhaps it’s the thought of five days without your partner to help with the kids, perhaps you’ve seen your friends this weekend but the week ahead is long and lonely. But while our brains are going flat out, there are things we can do to calm them, and still our bodies, and ground us.

Whatever makes you anxious and stressed, here are a few quick things you can do to manage you situation and how you feel.


Tidy up It could be as simple as making your bed (which you can then lie in) or folding the washing (which can be done sitting in front of the TV). Or you could sort your spice rack, or pair the tupperware with their respective lids, or arrange a bookshelf, or throw out some grotty old pants. You don’t have to go all Marie Kondo, just bring a tiny bit of oder into your environment, which a feverish brain will appreciate.

Have a bath I know, this a terrible cliche, like people suggesting you ‘book a spa day’ as revenge for your partner going out on the lash, but there’s science behind the suggestion. Specifically, if you have trouble falling asleep, have a hot bath before bedtime. Your body temperature naturally drops before you fall asleep, so forcing the change will help you drop off.

Ring your mum There’s something comforting about ringing your mum. You don’t have to talk about what’s troubling you if you don’t want. She’ll tell you all about the neighbour’s new conservatory and what the dog did and a bargain she got at the supermarket, and you can pretend you’re at school again and that you’re going to wash your hair and watch Top of the Pops.

Eat a salad As tempting as it is to mainline cheese, try to put something nourishing into your body. A good salad is fresh and interesting and has the right ratio of time to prepare vs time to eat. I made three suggestions of salads to eat when you are sad last week. Conversely,

Eat a cake You could make one, or better still you could go to a coffee shop and order something stupendous. Have a decent cup of tea, and use a fork. Make it an occasion. Cake is delicious.

Read a comfort book It’s nice to regress. And a book from your teens with which you are familiar will keep your mind occupied but not require too much brain power to keep up with the narrative. My go-to is the Dark is Rising series, but consider Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte’s Web, Pippi Longstocking, Adrian Mole, some Austen or some cheeky Chalet School.

Get creative It might making be an elaborate meal, knitting a pair of socks, doing some colouring, or building with lego. Give yourself a shit hot manicure. Fold some origami. Or even a paper plane. Write some rude limericks. It doesn’t matter what you do, or how complex it is or isn’t – the act of creating will be satisfying.

Do some exercise Yeah, this is one you’ll have heard a lot. The trick is to find the right exercise. I can’t take long walks or do yoga, because my brain recognises the silence and starts making lists and harrassing me.  I prefer a class at the gym, something very fast and complex, so I have no time to think about anything. But walk the kids to the park, do some gardening, cycle to the pub in the next village – just move a little bit. On the other hand, if circumstances allow,

Have a duvet day Do it properly: clean sheets, clean jammies, a good box set. Eat cereal and scrambled egg on toast and drinks many cups of tea. Snooze and read in between.

Give back Acts of altruism have a positive impact on our own mental health. Donate to a charity, knit something for an organisation  that needs knitters, clean out your wardrobe and take stuff to a charity shop, see if your elderly neighbour needs anything from the shop.

Above all, be kind to yourself. We all have good days, and bad days, and on the days when we are feeling fragile it’s ok to retreat from the world. But take care of yourself, too, and please talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Self care will help day to day, but you should seek help if you need it longer term.

What do you do to look after yourself?