Cottage Pie

Nothing beats a warm and hearty pie on a Winter’s Friday night….something that packs a lot of flavour punch with minimal effort.  The first incarnation of this recipe was initially taught to me in Year 9 Home Economics class (I remember proudly cooking it for my family after school). Over the years the recipe has been changed and adapted until it actually doesn’t resemble the original at all.  Best of all, the kids absolutely love it, which makes life a whole lot easier. It also goes very nicely with a glass of red.

You will need:

500g extra lean beef mince

1 tbs olive oil

1 brown onion diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 cup of frozen peas

3 tbs BBQ sauce

2 tbs tomato sauce

2 tbs tomato paste

3 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tbs HP Sauce (English Brown Sauce)

1 cup of beef or chicken stock

700g potatoes, diced

35g butter

1/4 cup milk

25g extra tasty cheddar cheese, finely grated


1. Heat large frypan over medium heat. Add oil & onion and sauté until golden and softened.  Add carrot and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When carrot has softened slightly, add minced beef and stir until browned all over.

2. Once mince has browned, add all the sauces and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes & then add peas.  Simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn grill on to high heat.

3. Meanwhile, boil & mash potatoes with butter and milk and season well.

4. Put pie filling into an ovenproof baking dish. Top evenly with mashed potato. Rough up potato with a fork and sprinkle with grated cheese. Place under hot grill for about 5 minutes or until golden brown, crusty topped and bubbling.

Serves 4-6

Family Reviews

The Cook – 4 stars…sentimental favourite and real comfort food. Very hard for me to be unbiased on this one.

Fusband – 4 stars. Cottage pie is normally quite bland so you have to smother it with a lot of sauce, but this recipe packs a lot of flavour. A good boy meal for a winter’s night.

Miss Fussypants – not home for dinner.

Babe – 4.5 stars – big smiles all round and a lot of novice fork action. Loves peas so it was a big success.

Caramel Chicken

Tonight I felt like some Asian flavours, so I decided to try a streamlined version of the Vietnamese dish, Caramel Chicken.  I’ve included the recipe as I prepared it tonight, but next time I might add some fresh chilli slices and a touch more fish sauce to the caramel sauce to give it a bit more zing. Having said that, it was delicious as is, and very child friendly as well.

You will need:

500g chicken tenderloins sliced thinly

1 tbs peanut oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

3 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal

1 tbs brown sugar

1 tbs white sugar

1 tbs fish sauce

1 tbs light soy sauce

2 tbs water

fresh coriander leaves to garnish



1. Heat wok or large frypan over high heat. Add half the peanut oil. Add the chicken and brown in batches.

2. Add the rest of the oil to the pan along with the red onion. Cook for three minutes until the onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Add the soy sauce and stir to combine.

3. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from the pan and transfer to a plate. Increase the heat to high, and add the sugar, fish sauce and water. Cook, uncovered, for a few minutes until the sauce is caramel coloured and syrupy.

4. Return chicken to pan and stir to coat with the caramel sauce. Allow to heat through. Add spring onions and stir to combine.

Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with steamed basmati rice and steamed or stir fried broccolini. Serves 4.

FAMILY REVIEW (out of 5 stars)

The Cook – 3.5 stars. I really liked this dish but I think it could be tweaked slightly to be even better.

Fusband – 3.5 stars. Nice when you get lots of sauce. Different flavours without being too ‘out there’.

Miss Fussypants – 4.5 stars. Scrumptious

Babe – happy with leftover meatloaf.


Prosciutto Wrapped Meatloaf

A rainy Monday night demanded a quick and satisfying meal that would, hopefully, please the whole family. This tasty Prosciutto Wrapped Meatloaf, served with mash & steamed broccoli, did the trick. I also love a recipe that mainly cooks itself in the oven giving me time to tackle other Monday night activities like making sure homework actually happens before bed time.

You will need:

6 slices of prosciutto, fat trimmed

400g lean beef mince

200g lean pork mince

1 brown onion, finely diced

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from white bread

1 tbs tomato paste

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 1/2 tbs tomato sauce

1 1/2 tbs BBQ sauce (I used Smokey BBQ)

2 tsp wholegrain mustard

1 tbs water


1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 degrees if fan forced). Lightly spray a loaf tin with olive oil. Line base and long sides of tin with prosciutto, overlapping slices slightly.

2. Combine beef and pork mince, onion, egg, tomato paste, breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce and garlic in a large bowl. Press mixture into prepared tin. Fold prosciutto slices to cover mince mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. remove meatloaf from oven. Drain excess juices from the loaf pan.

3. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Turn meatloaf upside down onto prepared tray and remove tin. Combine tomato and BBQ sauces,mustard and 1 tablespoon of water. Brush meatloaf with half the sauce mixture. Bake, basting occasionally with remaining sauce mixture for 20 minutes or until meatloaf is cooked through.

Serve with mashed potato & steamed vegies. Serves 6.

FAMILY REVIEW (out of 5 Stars)

The Cook –  3 stars. Very tasty & easy to prepare. A hit with the kids. Would’ve been much moister if I’d remembered to put the egg in the mix!

Fusband – 3 stars. Flavoursome but a little dry (see user error above). Prosciutto was a nice touch.

Miss Fussypants – 4 stars. Delicious.

Babe – 5 stars. Polished it all off accompanied by lots of “Yums”

And so it begins….

Welcome to The Dinner Diary…a chronicle of our family’s dinners.

Every mother knows the question that’s inevitably going to come out of their children’s mouths at about 5 o’clock every afternoon…”What’s for dinner, Mum?”  Almost every evening we have to miraculously conjure up a meal that is delicious, nutritious, time efficient and isn’t going to break the bank. Not only that, it also has to suit a number of different palates.  In our family’s case, two reasonably easy to please adults, a super fussy 9 year old girl & a 1 year old boy who is still coming to grips with new and different flavours.

The Dinner Diary will give you an insight into the answer that I come up with every night.  I aim to blog as often as possible as I typically cook at least 6 evening meals a week.  I will include recipes and photos of each meal, along with a one sentence review from each of the (verbal) family members.

I look forward to sharing our family’s culinary journey with you.