Free-form spelt pie with spicy beef, butternut squash and feta

It’s British Pie Week and Brits up and down the land are apparently celebrating by indulging in their favourite pies, whether homemade or shop-bought, sweet or savoury.

And as a fan of just about anything that comes wrapped in pastry, I felt compelled to offer you one of my own latest pie experiments.

freeform spiced beef and butternut squash pie 2

As I’m sure you know by know, baking isn’t really my forte, so a free-form pie crust is right up my street as it’s meant to look ‘rustic’ or, in other words, a bit of a state.

This pie is so quick and easy to pull together, and the spelt wholemeal pastry is surprisingly light and crisp and very tasty. Filled with savoury mince, roast butternut squash and tangy feta cheese, lightly spiced with sumac and cumin, it’s an ideal light lunch or supper dish.

The children loved it and the husband too – although he reckons it would be better served with gravy. I was happy with a yoghurty dressing, but I’ll leave you to make up your own mind on that.

freeform spiced beef and butternut squash pie 3

Free-form spelt pie with spicy beef, butternut squash and feta

Serves 6

Half a medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
4 tbsp Pomora rosemary oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
500g beef mince
large pinch of sumac
100g feta cheese, cubed

For the pastry

200g wholemeal spelt flour
large pinch of salt
100g butter, diced
4 tbsp cold water

For the dressing

6 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp wholegrain mustard

1 egg, beaten

steamed green beans to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Place the butternut squash in a roasting tin and toss in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Roast in the oven for around 20 minutes until tender.

To make the pastry, place the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture forms a consistency like breadcrumbs. Gradually mix in the water until you a dough forms. Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion until soft and translucent.  Add the cumin seeds, garlic sumac and fry for a minute or so before adding the minced beef. Cook for around five minutes until the mince is browned. Stir in the roasted butternut squash and cubes of feta.

Cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Flour your surface, and carefully roll out the pastry into a large circle. Pile the beef filling into the middle of the pastry and gently fold up the sides towards the middle, leaving a small opening.

Brush the pastry with egg was and sprinkle with a little more sumac. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

To make the dressing, simply place the yoghurt, pomegranate molasses and mustard in a bowl and whisk together. Pour over green beans to serve.

Guest post from Budget Pantry: Vietnamese ‘Bo Kho’ Minced Meat Noodles

Vietnamese Bo Kho Noodles

I’m thrilled to be handing over the reins of my blog today to the lovely Singapore-based Chris from Budget Pantry. We’ve been partnered up by WORLDFOODS to take part in their International Fusion Recipe Swap Challenge. Today I bring you Chris’ very tempting recipe for Vietnamese ‘Bo Kho’ Minced Meat Noodles, while over on her blog you’ll find my Spicy Beef Cobbler.

So without further ado, I hand you over to Chris… Continue reading “Guest post from Budget Pantry: Vietnamese ‘Bo Kho’ Minced Meat Noodles”

Spicy chana dal cottage pie

chana dal cottage pie

There are certain dishes I don’t play around with too much. When they’re easy winners with the family, what’s the point of trying to fix something that ain’t broke? Like spaghetti carbonara or bangers and mash. Sometimes simple is best.

Cottage pie had always been one of those kinds of meals for me. Cooked minced beef with onions, maybe a vegetable or two, in gravy and topped with creamy mashed potato. Why would you want to mess with that?

But the problem is I just do have this tendency to play with my food. I was thinking about ways to make cottage pie go further, you see. Since taking part in the Living Below the Line initiative, where we only had £1 a day for food and drink for five days, the cost of food has been on my mind and I keep looking for ways to make things stretch a bit. I always bulk cottage pie out with a few vegetables, so the idea of adding lentils (or in this case chana dal, split and polished chickpeas) seemed the natural next step. Of course, I could have gone completely vegetarian and left out the beef mince but we do rather like meat in our house, and I think it’s useful to have ways to get more meals out of good meat than have to omit it all together.

chana dal

Once I’d decided to add chana dal, it was a natural leap to add some spice, since chana dal is such a popular ingredient in Indian cookery. I added some cumin and mustard seeds to the mince and dal, and then a little turmeric to melted butter before mashing it into the potato. It could so easily have been one of those disastrous experiments but it worked an absolute treat and the whole family seemed to approve. Well, they asked for seconds. Always a good sign.

This is another of those incredibly adaptable dishes. Instead of chana dal, you can use pretty much any kind of lentils or pulses, and throw in whatever vegetables you happen to have in.

chana dal cottage pie

Spicy chana dal cottage pie

This recipe makes two large cottage pies, each yielding 4 to 6 portions. One for supper tonight and another for the freezer – perfect!

200g chana dal
1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
500g minced beef
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 courgettes, halved lengthways and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
200ml beef stock
salt and pepper
1kg potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered depending on size
50g butter
½ tsp turmeric
200ml milk

Soak the chana dal in cold water for at least an hour, and then drain.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion until soft and golden. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and fry until the release their aroma.

Add the minced beef to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until browned, stirring frequently. Next add in the carrots, courgettes and garlic and give it all a good mix before stirring in the chana dal, tinned tomatoes and stock.

Leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes or so until the liquid has thickened a little and the vegetables are tender. Taste and season.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes until just tender, drain, and return to the pan.

Gently melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the turmeric. Pour the yellow butter onto the cooked potatoes, pour in the milk, season with salt and pepper and mash well.

Spoon the meat and chana dal filling into two ovenproof dishes, and then cover with the mashed potato. Cook one in the oven for around 25 minutes until the top is golden. Cool the other one before covering with foil and placing in the freezer for a quick easy dinner another night.

chana dal cottage pie

As this is a great way to make a cottage pie go further, I’m entering it into this month’s Family Foodies challenge where the theme is Cheap & Cheerful.


I’m also entering it into the Credit Crunch Munch challenge, the brain child of Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours, and this month hosted by Gingey Bites.