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.


Kid-friendly meals: Tortilla nachos

I know, I know, nachos are pretty junky. But they’re such a nice Saturday evening tea – perfect before a movie night, and you can eat them with your fingers.

So I  made this version with whole tortillas, instead of shop-bought corn crisps, and a homemade sauce. There was much less sugar than there might have been, only what’s in the tortillas. And I got a surprising amount of veg in: tomatoes, kidney beans, sweet corn and avocado. Which is pretty good going for a Saturday night.

G Major did nearly all of this herself as well, under supervision, so this is a  nice one to do with the kids.

What you’ll need (Feeds 2 hungry children and one hovering adult)

  • 3 mini tortillas or 2 regular sized ones
  • 250g beef mince (I froze the other half of the pack for some distant bolognese)
  • Small tin of kidney beans
  • Half a brown onion, finely chopped
  • Sprinkle of paprika and ground cumin
  • Small tin chopped tomatoes
  • An avocado
  • Grated cheese and sour cream, to serve

What you do

  1. Cut the tortillas into small triangles. Put them onto a baking tray and drizzle over a tiny bit of oil, then bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes, giving them the occasional shake, until crisped up
  2. Chop the kidney beans to roughly the same consistency as the beef. I did a short burst in the food processor but go easy – you don’t want mush, just unidentifiable bean-y bits
  3. Heat a little oil in a fry pan and brown the onion and then the mince. Sprinkle in the paprika and cumin
  4. Add the chopped kidney beans, the tomatoes and sweet corn and cook for another few minutes
  5. Meanwhile, mash the avocado. You could add a splash of lemon juice if you like. This isn’t proper guacamole, FYI, just a cooling accompaniment; if you want to make authentic guac, go for it
  6. Plate up. Traditionally you layer up the corn chips, put the mince mixture on top then cover in cheese before grilling. I couldn’t deal with  the drama of hot plates, though, so I served the meat in the middle and tortilla chips around the edge to scoop
  7. Let the kids help themselves to cheese, avocado and sour cream

Make it veggie: Use Quorn mince or just stick with the beans

Kid-friendly meals: Creamy chicken and sweet potato pie

My family loves fish pie and cottage pie, but the Gs eat both most weeks at nursery. I wanted something a bit different that didn’t need pastry.

Frankly, there’s not much that can’t be improved by the addition of mashed potato. So this takes all the best elements of a fish or cottage pie – meat cooked in a creamy sauce and clouds of mash on top – and adds more veg and tasty chicken thighs.

What you’ll need

  • 6 chicken thighs, cut into small chunks
  • Half a cup of frozen peas
  • Half a cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 3 or 4 shallots, finely sliced
  • About 50g butter
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • A decent glug of cream
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, plus  butter to mash

What you do

  1. Peel, chop and boil the sweet potatoes until soft. Mash with plenty of butter and seasoning to taste and put to one side
  2. Using half the butter, brown the chicken pieces then set aside
  3. In the same pan, heat the rest of the butter then cook the shallots until soft. Stir in the flour and cook for another 2 minutes
  4. Off the heat, slowly whisk in the chicken stock. Return to the stove and bring to the boil
  5. Add in the cream and mustard, the chicken pieces and the vegetables and cook until the sauce thickens
  6. Pour the mix into a pie dish and cover with the sweet potato mash. Bake at 180C for 25 minutes.

I served this with green beans on the sides for me and Big G but the Gs just ate it as it came.

You can prep all of this in advance to make life easier – I made mine before we went to swimming in the morning then put in the oven for supper.

You can also freeze all the elements if you wanted to make double – just take the filling and mash out in the morning, let it defrost in the fridge all day then assemble half an hour before dinner.

Hidden veg pasta sauce 

I freely admit that this is nothing new. There are hundred of recipes for hidden vegetable pasta sauce.

And that is because it works. You can hide a load of vegetables in a pasta sauce and feed it to your fussy eater and they will wolf it down and bang the plate on the table for more. Because every toddler likes pasta. And no toddler cares about the vegetables they can’t see.

So here you go: my completely unoriginal and completely successful hidden vegetable pasta sauce.

What you need

A mix of veg
Tin of chopped tomatoes

What you do

  • Finely dice your veg. I used onion, celery, peppers, mushrooms, courgette and fresh tomatoes.
  • Heat some olive oil. If your kids will eat garlic, add some of that and cook off, then add all the chopped veg and cook gently over a low heat until soft
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and just enough stock to cover
  • Simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce thickens then season
  • Meanwhile, cook your pasta
  • Take a hand blender and smoosh the sauce up. How liquid you go depends on your child – you may skip this step all together. I left some lumps but blended it enough so the veg weren’t easily identifiable.
  • Serve the sauce over fresh pasta, with grated cheese if you like.

This sauce freezes well. You can also add mince to this, or ham or chicken.



Things my kids ate happily this month 10

Only two things this month. G Major cracked her head open at nursery one week and we were in and out of hospital getting stitches, so comfort food featured high on the menu. We’re also renovating, and it’s like living in a quarry. Big G’s parents have taken pity on us most weekends and rescued us from the dust, so I’ve not had to cook for the kids as much.

But these two ideas tick the usual boxes: simple to make, bonus veg and protein and kid-friendly.

Baked chicken, pea and butternut squash risotto 

Less soothing than making a risotto on the stove top but much more compatible with child wrangling – throw it in and forget about it for a few hours.

In a large casserole dish, fry a diced onion off, then add a cup of arborio rice. Pour in a litre of chicken stock and add diced chicken breast and diced butternut squash.

Cover and put in a moderate over for about an hour and a half. 15 minutes before you serve, throw in some frozen peas. It’s all done when the stock has evaporated and the rice is tender.

Grate over some Parmesan to serve.

Bonus veg turkey nuggets 

Nuggets are gross. But kids love them and the minced meat makes it easy to hide things. 

Blend or purée together half a small tin  sweet corn, a handful of mushrooms and half a small tin of butter beans with an egg. Add this to about 250g turkey mince
and some finely grated courgette.

Mix it altogether and chill for half an hour. Form into nuggets, then roll in a beaten egg and then breadcrumbs.

I fried these lightly before baking, but you could skip that step. Lay out on a greased baking tray and cook for 20-25 mins at 180.

I served these with frozen peas, baked beans and these great butternut squash crinkle cut chips Tesco now sell. And tomato sauce, of course!

Things my kids happily ate this (last) month 9

Two days late this month. We’ve been in Mallorca on holiday, where the kids happily ate all kinds of things, including those Spanish classics, spaghetti bolognese, icecream and chips. Le sigh. G Minor did show a preference for prawns, at least.

Sneaky green veg pesto 

Tastes like jarred pesto but is full of extra veg. 

Microwave a stack of green veg till soft – I used broccoli, spinach, courgette and frozen peas.

Add slug of olive oil, some grated Parmesan and a blob of commercial pesto, then blitz with a stick blender.

Serve over pasta; add cooked chicken or ham as well if you’d like.

Cheesy pea and broccoli croquettes 

These are easy for little fingers to manage. The cheese and potato make a handy cover for the green veg. They make a great lunch on their own or a side with chicken, lamb chops or sausages. 

Boil and mash two small potatoes. I used a potato ricer – normally I think the ricer is a mess and a pain but it does make better potatoes for these croquettes.

Meanwhile, cook a handful of frozen peas and smush them up a bit. Cook just the fluffy tips of the broccoli and finely chop.

Mix the peas and broccoli into the mash with some butter and grated cheese and leave to cool.

Roll the mix into fat little sausages, dip in beaten egg and breadcrumbs and fry until golden brown.

Mild mustard chicken

This has a lovely  mild flavour and is deliciously creamy. Serve with steamed veg on the side, and rice if you’d like.

Dice a chicken breast and brown off. Add some finely sliced onions to the pan and cook
until soft and translucent. Add some sliced mushrooms and cook gently.

Pour over some cream of chicken soup, a splash of chicken stock, a splash of cream and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Simmer for five minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.

Orange mash

Pretty much what it says on the tin. Serve alongside anything you like for a triple whammy of carotene.165769770

Peel, chop and boil or roast carrots, butternut squash and sweet potato. Mash with plenty of butter and a sprinkle of sweet paprika.

White choc chip banana bread 

I had some leftover ripe bananas this morning, and I thought I also had a courgette in the fridge, so I had intended to make a banana, courgette and lemon cake. Except I had actually already used the courgette up in this pesto.

But it was fine, as I had chocolate chips in the pantry from decorating Big G’s birthday cake last week, so I decided to use those instead.

This recipe uses honey and coconut oil instead of sugar and butter. I think ‘clean eating’ is nonsense and as far as I’m concerned, usually cakes = butter and sugar and so much the better for it. But I quite like the coconut flavour with the banana – they’re both on the ‘tropical’ spectrum, as is the honey. Plus, there’s chocolate in the cake, which makes it a moot point.

What you need

⅓ cup coconut oil
½ cup honey
2 beaten eggs
¼ cup milk
2 mashed bananas
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, plus extra to ice
1 tsp bicarb
1 tsp vanilla extract
sprinkle of salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ cups plain flour

What you do

  • Preheat the oven to 160C and line a loaf tin
  • Whisk together the oil, honey, eggs, bananas and milk.
  • Whisk in the bicarb, vanilla, salt and cinnamon, then add the chocolate chips.
  • Gently fold in the flour
  • Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for an hour, checking at 50 mins
  • Once cool, drizzle with melted chocolate chips