Economical Eating Part 2 – Our delectable Cottage Pie

fanny and brendas gorgeous cottage pie starts with the meat grinder spong

This is what happens with the leftovers from the roast featured in our previous posting. You need to be aware that for the time and trouble that you go to, the results will be spectacularly worthwhile. In fact you’ll never want to eat shop bought mechanically pelletted mince again.


Leftover roast beef
2-3 sticks celery – finely chopped
2-3 parsnips – finely chopped
couple of cloves of garlic – crushed
fresh rosemary and thyme – roughly chopped
tin of tomatoes
squeeze of tomato puree
splash of red wine
Worcester sauce
2lbs floury potatoes
butter and cream
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
ground nutmeg


1) Hopefullly you’ve got about 3-400g beef left over – anyway simply mince it through your Spong or other meat grinding device and set aside

2) Heat some olive oil in a spacious frying pan and add the finely chopped veg (onions, garlic, parsnips – in my case, but most people would use carrots instead) plus the herbs. Give that chance to get a really good fry, ideally with the veg dice being at this stage quite tender and even starting to brown a bit.

3) Add the mince which, being already cooked, should only take another five mins or so – I got a few crusty brown bits developing which is good – it’s all flavour – although you don’t want it getting too dry.

4) Transfer the meat/veg mix to a very large saucepan or pot and add the tin of tomatoes, tomato puree a good gush of red wine and possibly some water – use your judgement but bear in mind the pot will now gently simmer for the best part of an hour to really meld the flavours. During cooking, test the seasoning and add a few splashes of Worcester sauce. Once done, should have a loose, pulpy consistency, but not be too sloppy.

5) Meanwhile, peel and chop your potatoes and simmer in salted water for 25 mins until very tender. I actually recycled some from the pot roast which meant I was able to slightly cut down on the amount of fresh spud needed. Once cooked, drain and allow to steam off a few minutes then process through a ricer – there really isn’t another such foolproof way of guaranteeing smooth mash! Add butter, cream, salt and pepper plus ground nutmeg to taste (but max half a teaspoonful) and set aside. You do need the mash to be quite firm though otherwise it won’t keep it’s shape as a pie topping, so don’t over do the cream even though I can hardly believe myself for that command to self-control!! Switch on the oven about now, to about 170C if eating the pie immediately.

6) Once the meat sauce has simmered to the state where it looks rich and combined, usually around 45 mins, then transfer to a pie dish, then spoon on dollops of the mashed potato ensuring you leave it nice and rustic – bake, and while it cooks, the “peaks” will go darker and crispier than the rest, providing a very jolly effect!

7) I was lucky enough to have left over gravy from the pot roast, which I topped up with a few tablespoons of the cooking liquor from the meat sauce which seems to separate to the top of the pot in the earlier stages of simmering so is easy to retrieve for that purpose! This, along with a few frozen peas, (they’re done when they’ve JUST boiled) with some butter and seasoning makes for a simply superb winter supper – with the added advantage of hoovering up a lot of leftovers otherwise cluttering your fridge up and generally being wasteful.

fanny and brendas gorgeous cottage pie - there won't be any leftovers! photo by Simon Bennett

Cheap Eats with Fanny and Brenda – Beef Pot Roast

fanny and brendas economical eating part 1- beef pot roast

Economical eating does not mean eating poorer quality food. On the contrary, it can often mean eating better quality food if you have the interest in making your food go further. The results are surprising to many as you can often eat for the same price as those ‘value’ ready meals of stodge and have something far more enjoyable and of much clearer provenance too.

So today we start with Beef Pot Roast. This recipe is a gem and the whole house is filled with this marvellous aroma of beef stewing over a long period. It is one of the reasons why I love winter food as I have a love affair with unctuous stews and casseroles and meat dishes of this type. You will be able to feed a family of four with this dish and then in our next installment we will show you what to do with the gorgeous leftovers.


1kg beef topside or silverside
2 large onions – fairly roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic – fairly roughly chopped
3 carrots – cut into about 3-4 pieces
3 parsnips – cut into about 3-4 pieces
6 medium sized floury potatoes, each cut in halves or thirds
250ml red wine
600ml beef stock
olive oil and butter
sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper


1) Begin by adding a good lug of olive oil to your casserole dish and getting it nice and hot on the stove. Also heat the oven to 160°C. Having patted dry and seasoned your piece of meat, slap it down in the oil and just leave it for 3 minutes or so to get a really good crust. Turn, and do another side the same way until all sides of the joint are browned, which will take about 12 mins. People talk about “sealing the meat” which it hardly does at all – moisture can be lost or gained by the meat similarly whether raw or fried off first! What you are really getting by treating the meat this way, is FLAVOUR – the dark areas of caramelization both on the joint and stuck to the pan are the essential origins of a lot of your dish’s rich meaty savoury taste at the end.

2) Remove the browned meat to a plate and then stir in the chopped onions and garlic into the same vessel as you cooked the meat (obviously without washing it up first!), stirring quite a bit to make sure all those lovely crusty bits I mentioned above get incorporated into the liquid the onions release and they’re transluscent and quite probably also starting to brown a bit too – again, all super flavour!

3) Add the meat and any accumulated juices back into the casserole with the onions/garlic and now you can add your wine and stock. Once these have gone in, scatter some sprigs of fresh thyme and your bay leaves, plus any extra salt and pepper you feel the sauce might need. Place in the oven with the lid on and cook for an hour and a half to two hours.

4) When you take it out of the oven at this stage, you can tumble in your potato, carrot and parsnip (I don’t think parsnips are especially traditional for pot roasts, but there seems to be a great variety of suggestions as to what root veg accompanies the beef and frankly I used parsnips because a) we like them and b) we had some which needed using up).  I recommend about another hour back in the oven at this stage. Although the lid should have prevented most of the evaporation of the sauce, clearly it will be a little more concentrated than it was initially but this is good as again, it means richer flavour – in any case the veg do release some water during the last hour of cooking  – your meat may need longer, it all depends on the exact cut/quality – but what you’re looking for is a state of tenderness where you can just shred it apart with 2 spoons – which indeed  is a great way of serving it, perhaps in the middle of a platter, with the veg arranged round the edges along with some of the sauce spooned over the shredded beef – don’t forget also to take out the remaining twigs from the thyme sprigs and the bay leaves. As a final touch, I also added a knob of butter to the gravy once the meat and veg had been taken out the pot.

This is amazing one pot cooking – though we did add some buttered green beans to ours!

Brenda’s dirty little secret- revealed!

I found out something very disconcerting this week. That dirty smutty little harlot Brenda has a very very nasty habit. She goes to McDonalds and buys their deep fried apple pies when I’m not looking!

delicious deep fried apple rolls

I promised not to blackmail her over it if we used her weakness for something fabulous. And we have:

You will need

Some filo pastry sheets
1 egg
4 dessert spoons of gram flour (or plain). The gram flour is better.
Cold water to make a paste with the flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Cut up a couple of eating apples into small cubes
1 cinnamon stick
Zest and juice of a third of a lemon
1/4 tsp allspice
2 tsp of glace ginger

delicious deep fried apple rolls


Take the cubes of apple and place in a saucepan with the lemon and the zest and a cup full of water. Add the ginger, allspice, cinnamon stick and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer slowly, with the lid off until the apple has softened a bit – but isn’t a mush. Put the apples to one side to cool.

delicious deep fried apple rolls

Put a pan of vegetable oil on the stove and turn on. You will want a pan of oil bubbling.

Meanwhile, mix the flour with the water to make a paste.

delicious deep fried apple rolls

Now take a sheet of filo and lay it flat. Scoop some apple into the middle of the sheet being careful to leave overlaps either side.

Fold over the sheet and wrap it up. Seal with some egg.

Now dip it in the batter all over.

Put on a plate.

delicious deep fried apple rolls

Now dip the apple roll in the oil and let it fry for about two minutes or until brown. It will cook very quickly so stand over it ready to extract it.

delicious deep fried apple rolls
Take out and rain and place on a plate ready to serve.

delicious deep fried apple rolls

Leave to cool
delicious deep fried apple rolls