I have a bit of a chuckle now and then about the food police and how they try to shame or scare parents into serving this or that. Usually they insist you try "new" food that has been around for donkey's years but is "new" to the person writing the article. I've been through parenthood when I gave my sons what I believed was a good selection of balanced meals. They were the foods my family have eaten for generations. During that time I discovered that like us, children have genuine likes and dislikes and forcing them to eat something they don't like is usually counter-productive. That doesn't mean I let them choose their own food. They ate what we ate as a family. If they didn't like it, they had fruit or they went without. I never made different meals for certain members of my family and I am grateful we didn't have food allergies or illness that made some foods a problem.
Homemade meat pie with eight vegetables.
Now I'm a grandma and have the responsibility of feeding my grandchildren when they're with us. I feel that responsibility because I want to blend in with what I know they're being fed at home, but I also want to give them the foods we eat and a small treat every now and then. I hope I get it right more than I get it wrong.
Jamie is here with us during the school holidays and while he eats what we eat with very few complaints, I like to give him food that I know he enjoys as well. Yesterday I made a meat pie with vegetables - even sweet potato that I know he doesn't like. He loved it. He had a dollop of tomato sauce and he consumed almost twice as many vegetables as the recommended daily amount. I could easily have included 10 vegetables but decided to stop at eight.
The meat pie was made using beef and pork mince, cooked till brown and with the addition of a tablespoon of curry powder, salt and pepper. That amount of curry powder adds a mild spicy taste without adding heat. I added sliced carrot, celery in small pieces, diced onion and capsicum/bell pepper and some parsley (I could easily have added more fresh herbs too). That was cooked until the vegetables started to brown and then I added a litre of chicken stock. I let that simmer for about 20 minutes, the stock reduced and right at the end of the cooking, I added a cup of frozen peas. A small amount of cornflour thickened the stock. In a separate pot I boiled three large potatoes, one sweet potato and half a small butternut pumpkin/squash. When cooked, the boiled vegetables were mashed with a little butter and added to the top of the meat in a pie dish. I added sharp cheddar and a small amount of parmesan because it adds flavour and makes the top crispy and golden. Omit the cheese if you're dairy-free.
The vegetables you add to your pie depend entirely on what you have in the fridge however, the trio of onions, carrots and celery is the starting point for most European-style food. Start with those three, then add whatever you have. That might be one extra vegetables such as zucchini, or many extras such as garlic, turnip, silverbeet/chard, spinach, beans, kale, cabbage, corn, eggplant, or whatever. Try to stick with the topping of potatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin because it's colourful, sweetish and it goes well with the flavour of the meat and vegetable filling. If your children struggle to eat a variety to vegetables, still use all those you wish to use but instead of chopping, slicing and dicing, put the vegetables into your food processor and blitz them. That will turn them into a bit of mush but they'll still retain their nutrition and they'll be unrecognisable. They'll melt into the sauce as you cook.
Jamie loved this pie, so did Hanno and I. We still have more than half a pie to eat for today's lunch. It would make a great leftovers lunch for any workers who can take a container and heat it up at lunchtime. This pie is easy to make, fairly cheap, enjoyed by everyone and delivers on nutrition and flavour. You won't find this recipe in any superfoods cook book but it's good wholesome food that most kids will love. Just make sure the tomato sauce bottle is close by. ;- )