So, at heart, I’m a lazy so-and-so. If I can avoid having to do work in the kitchen I will. I’m also a fan of good hearty (and typically) British food. This “vegetarian mince & veg” provides all that, plus with a few extra ingredients can be made into either an Italian or an Mexican inspired dish. Takes just 10minutes to prepare and costs less than 50p a portion. Oh, and suitable for vegetarians (albeit maybe with a minor change).
So i use this mix as the base for cottage/shepherd’s pie, a Bolognese inspired dish or a chilli.
Cottage or Shepherd’s Pie?
These days the terms seem to be relatively interchangeable. I’m as guilty as anyone else probably is of referring to cottage pie as shepherd’s pie. What’s the difference? In my eyes a traditional shepherd’s pie should be made with lamb mince. Anything else is a cottage pie. However that a) adds to the cost and b) to be syn free on Slimming World would need to be less that 5% fat. I don’t believe anywhere sells a 5% fat lamb mince any more – but if I’m wrong – please add to the comments. You could mince your own lean lamb if you have the means but that’s still going to be costly.
I use a lot of vegetarian products in my day-to-day cooking. However I am at heart a carnivore – I love meat. But meat costs and lean meats cost more. And with the low-and-slow methods of cooking – it’s probably hard to tell that it’s not real mince. Veggie mince can often be found for £1.50 for a single packet, but is often on a multibuy offer. However (as always) please check Syns Online as not all veggie mince is created equally. A pack of 5% beef mince however will cost a minimum of about £2.99.
Ingredients and cost.
As I say – I like things easy. The picture at the top of this post shows the main ingredients. I did later add a tin of beans and some “fresh” mushrooms I’d had that needed using.
- Vegetarian Mince – Tesco own brand – syn free and £1.75 a pack or two packs for £2.50. This recipe only calls for one pack however – so averages at £1.25.
- Frozen Mushroom and Onions – I absolutely love Herons for cheap frozen veg. These bags (and others) cost 60p each or two for £1
- Stock – I’ve used some beef stock pots (again from Heron – a box of 6 cost £1 and I used two). This is where the minor change to the recipe comes in if you are strictly vegetarian or vegan – then you’ll need to change to a vegetable based stock. So about 33p
- Tin of baked beans – 30p or there about.
Herbs and other spices from the cupboard – I typically buy mine from Aldi – about 50p a jar and last for ages. Sometimes however I will have to buy from elsewhere as Aldi doesn’t keep that large a range of herbs and spices. My favourite place to start looking for herbs/spices that Aldi don’t carry is our local independent Health Food store. OK, depending what I’m buying it may work out a little more (on a price per 10g/100g basis) than a jar from Tesco and whilst they carry a larger range than Aldi, it doesn’t have the range of either Tesco or Waitrose. But I get a small feel-good factor for supporting a local independent business (even if it’s only by spending £2/£3 a month in there).
And all this makes at least 6 servings – if you’re a little bit more stingy with it – you may get 7 or even 8 servings. It also freezes well.
Method? what method? If I’m awake and moving in the morning – I throw it all in the slow cooker, add a bit of hot water, put the lid on and that is it. Don’t forget however to turn the slow cooker on (been there and done that). This last batch was in the slow cooker for about 11 hours but on “high” would be ready in about 6 or 7 hours. I just made this batch on a Monday morning and I don’t typically eat till late so it had that little longer.
I’ve also used the wok (such a versatile tool – don’t limit it to just stir-fries folks) to cook this dish. Mushrooms and onions first (still frozen), let them cook off a bit, before adding the mince. Once all that’s thawed and cooking – the rest goes in. Turn the heat right down and stir once in a while and leave as long as possible.
Variety is the Spice of Life
The best things about this rather basic mix – is it is versatile and can be used as the base for lots of other dishes.
As it is (with not too much liquid) – and it’s suitable for the
shepherd’s cottage pie. Topped with mashed veg (I cheat – I use Smash (check for updated Syn Values – September 2018) but you could mash (still syn free) your own or find a low syn prepared vegetable mash (Aunt Bessie’s Carrot & Swede Mash for instance). I typically add a beaten egg to the mash, along with whole grain mustard (synned of course). My other “thing” is that once I put the mince mix in the dish, I layer some thinly sliced mushrooms on top before adding the mash. Place on the dish on a baking tray and stick in a preheated oven @ 200c for about 30minutes. If the “gravy” isn’t bubbling out the sides and the top isn’t brown – it’s not ready. 🙂
Stick a portion in a pan, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, and heat. You could maybe add some more fresh mushrooms, tinned baby carrots, or other veg as well. In another pan cook enough pasta. Combine and Serve.
As the base mix has mushrooms in it and tends to be a little watery as is, it’s not going to be a traditional chilli preparation which tends to be a bit dryer and would rarely (if ever) have mushrooms in it. But drain off a little of the liquid, add some chopped tomatoes and a tin of kidney beans and then spice it up to your heart’s content whilst heating it through. And the spices doesn’t have to contain chilli if you don’t want the heat – start with a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander, and go from there – just keep tasting till it’s at your liking. If you want that bit of heat – then chilli flakes, fresh chilli’s, chilli powder, cayenne pepper or paprika can be used – again start with a small amount and add a bit more till it tastes how you want it to taste.