Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Slow-cooked Monday Pie

There are often recipes for Monday Pie in older recipe books.  Utilising the traditional Sunday roast on Mondays, and sometimes through to Tuesdays, was a common thrifty way to stretch out the meat.

The first homemade hotpot I encountered was at my mother-in-law’s for dinner (incidentally, when she was actually my mother-in-law to be.)  It smelled divine.  The potatoes, nutritious skin still in tact but unnoticeable in eating due to the slow cooking, were gloriously melt-in-the-mouth.  The flavour was deeply savoury because of the dark oxo stock.  We ate it with fresh crusty rolls and I managed to put way more than I should have into my gradually stretching stomach!

Once married, I was given the recipe and cooked it many times as given.  That original recipe contained corned beef in between the potatoes and onions.  Corned beef means something entirely different in the UK and the US.  In the US, it means spiced and brined meat.  Here in the UK, corned beef refers to something much humbler... a tinned meat which surged in popularity around the second world war due to its convenience and cheapness, and was often known then as ‘bully beef’.  It is often found in old-fashioned and local recipes such as corned beef hash, panackerty, pan haggerty and scouse where replaces fresh cuts or leftover meats from earlier recipes.  Some cheaper dishes, such as pan haggerty, was originally made without meat altogether, and corned beef was added by some cooks – such as my great grandma as far back as the 1920s - to introduce a cheaply available meat to the meal. It was just as often served as a cold meat, sliced with salads, or with baked beans and potatoes, or in sandwiches – my own dad still to this day occasionally enjoys a worryingly common sandwich combo of corned beef and tomato ketchup.  It is less frugal to use tinned corned beef today as prices have rocketed from 1.49 to £2.00 per tin and after the news broke of horsemeat and horse veterinary drugs found in the stuff in 2013, it might not be the best choice in 2014.
The recipe I would like to share with you today (see below) is the evolved version I serve to my family.  It is in keeping with the original ethos of a Monday Pie as it uses leftover roast.  This is only in theory, however, as I have been known (more than occasionally) to buy deli slices to make it from scratch. It smells so amazing. It is such a treat to come home from groups and meetings in the dark cold winter months to the scent of this wafting through the house to greet you at the doorstep.  Being able to pop this in the slow cooker at 2pm is a bonus for me.  It takes 4 hours, but only about 5-10 minutes of that time to make it.  I have the frugal advantage over my great-grandmother, as well as in many other aspects of life that I feel very thankful for, but in this case, in having a slow cooker.  I would be loathe to leave even a low oven on for 4 hours, especially with fuel costs, but the slow cooker takes little more than a light bulb to run. If you do want to cook this in the oven, you can cook at 140C for 4 hours as my mother-in-law did.

You could, of course, serve this with bread, but I find too many carbs at one meal just too much temptation to over-eat.  I find, as usual, greens are the perfect side dish, and with a hotpot they are best partnered with something red.   Some options I tend go for:
  • sliced cabbage with beetroot (use vac-packed cooked beetroot for ease)
  • peas and pickled red cabbage (this cabbage being a common accompaniment to North Western hotpots such as scouse and Lancashire hot pot)
  • green salad leaves with grated beetroot or pickled beetroot
500g potatoes, sliced to around 5mm thick
500g onions, sliced
100-200g sliced beef (we use leftover roast or slices: see above for reasons, below for sourcing)
400g tin of plum tomatoes, drained well and chopped roughly 9save the juice for another meal in the following couple of days, or freeze for future meals)
1 pint of boiling water from the kettle
1 tbsp. tomato puree
2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp plain flour

Mix a splash of cold water, soy sauce and tomato puree into the cornflour until smooth then mix in the hot water. Grease the slow cooker pot lightly.  Layer one third of the potatoes in the pot.  Scatter with one half of the onions.  Lay on one half of the beef.  Top with one half of the tomatoes.  Pour in around one third of the stock.  Add a layer using the second third of potatoes, the remaining onions, the remaining beef, and the remaining tomatoes.  Pour in about another third of the stock.  Top with a layer of potatoes.  Pour in the rest of the stock.  Put a lid in place and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or as the oven instructions above.
*Costings on 10/11/14 from Asda – total is £1.03 if using leftover roast
* Costings on 10/11/14 from Asda and Holland and Barratt on basis of buying 100g deli slices – total is £3.02
 *Costings on 10/11/14 from Asda and Holland and Barratt on basis of buying 200g deli slices -  total is £4.01

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