FRUGAL FOODIE: A frugal fish pie that is perfect all-year round

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My children, like most children, can be pretty fussy at times. One minute they love something and the next they’re turning their noses up at it.

It does drive me crazy when I’ve spent ages making them lovely meals.

I am strict and they don’t get other options – I’m not running a restaurant, and as you know I hate waste. But I do try and give them things that I know they’ll definitely eat too, to reduce meal-time stress.

Although I’m not a believer in hiding all the good stuff in food, sometimes, for ease, I do just that (like most parents, I’m sure!).

Any tomato-based meals are really good for this. I regularly do a fridge sort where I remove all the little dribs and drabs of vegetables.

I use pretty much any veg from leaf veg to shards of peppers.

I cook them up with some garlic, onion, tinned tomatoes, homemade chicken stock and some dried herbs, chilli powder and seasoning. I blend it all down to a sauce that I then use in bolognese, lasagne, chilli con carne, pasta bakes, etc.

I just add whichever meat and other herbs and spices required for each individual recipe.

It’s handy to have in the freezer for a speedy, nutritional meal that I know the kids (and my other half and I) will wolf down!

When they were very young I used to regularly make this and add lentils to it while it was cooking.

I’d then add cheese sauce and mashed sweet potato. Low cost and high in nutrients and no trip to the shops required.

The freezer is your friend and using it well will keep you eating frugally and healthily.

Freeze any leftovers, make extras and freeze them for fast midweek meals, split loaves of bread/ packs of flour tortillas ,etc, so that you don’t waste any and if you buy bulk offers get them in the freezer straight away so that they do actually save you money.

Frozen vegetables are cheap and packed full of vitamins. They are good for avoiding waste as you can just take out what you need and they are very quick to prepare.

I often have bags of frozen fish in the freezer so that I can make cheap and cheerful fish pies that we all love.

Again, there’s no waste as you take what you need, as and when you need it.

I’ve made no secret of my love of budget supermarkets like Lidl and they sell fantastically prices bags of pollock, smoked haddock and the like.

I poach a couple of pieces of pollock and a piece of smoked haddock, over a low heat, in either milk or fish stock.

You can cook them straight from frozen so it’s quick and easy and, again, you don’t have to hit the shops for fresh ingredients.

When the fish is almost cooked through, add frozen peas and sweet corn into the cooking liquid. After a minute, when the fish is ready, remove from the heat and drain, reserving the cooking liquid.

In another pan, I gently fry onions and carrots. When they’re ready, put them in an oven dish along with the fish, peas and sweet corn.

Boil some eggs, starting with cold water, for 6-7 minutes so that they are still soft in the middle. Remove the shells and cut them into quarters and nestle them in among the fish and vegetables.

I sometimes have some tinned plum tomatoes leftover, so I’d add a few of these too. They’re a nice addition. Or if there are any fresh tomatoes left in the fridge, I’ll make a small cross at the top, soak them in boiling water for a few minutes, remove them and put them in cold water and remove the skins. Quarter them and add to the dish.

Now, make the sauce to bring it all together. Melt butter in a saucepan, stir in plain flour and make a roux. Add the cooking liquid, gradually, whisking all the time.

Pour the sauce into the oven dish. Adding chopped, fresh dill and parsley takes this to a whole new level. It makes it much fresher and, at this time of year, it grows brilliantly in pots. Freeze it for use out of season too.

If you don’t have any fresh dill or parsley or you want it to be more of a winter warmer, add some mild curry powder to the flour when you’re making your roux.

At this time of year I like to use new potatoes from the garden and crush them down for the topping. In the winter, I use buttery mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes.

I always sprinkle grated cheese over the top or I mix it into the mash. Dried breadcrumbs can add a lovely crunch to this too.

Add a knob of butter to the top and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Serve with salad to keep it fresh and summery.

There you go – wholesome, frugal fish pie that the kids will love and that can be adapted to the seasons.

Follow Christine McAllister on her blog or on Twitter @thefrugaldiary.