School Lunchbox: Cottage Pie, Corn Tortilla Crisps and Guacamole

A lunch box fit for a hungry, growing boy... (one can hope!)

A lunch box fit for a hungry, growing boy… (one can hope!)

Thursday, swimming day means hungry little boys in class before lunch break comes around. The packed lunch has to be filling, and with all those extra dough lounging around in the freezer, I thought a few mini pizzas to share with friends on the ride back to school from the swimming pool would be a welcome treat for all. Somehow for a child, food always tastes nicer when shared with friends.

Cottage pie can be stodgy, but oh so comforting! Imagine opening the cover of your lunchbox to soft, buttery, floury, golden mashed potatoes, with thyme and nutmeg scented gravy oozing in between the mash, hiding beneath it tender, juicy and flavourful minced meat with vegetables. Yummo! I tried to make sure that the gravy is thick but runny and the mash is still soft so that it will be just the right consistency by lunch time. He had a little preview of the pie before school (cottage pie and milk for breakfast?? *shudder) and seemed to be pleased enough with the result.

Which comes to the question, what is the difference between a Shepherd’s Pie and a Cottage Pie? Well, as explained by Karen Reeve, the lady who hosted my stay in her beautiful home in England for  a year between 1993-94, the earlier is made with minced lamb, and the latter with minced beef.

The recipe:

Cottage Pie (enough for one lunch box portion for a hungry boy + 1/2 portion breakfast tester for the same boy, and for mum to have for her lunch…) – Recipe adapted from the wonderful website cooking for engineers.

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For the mash:

  • 2 russet potatoes (large)
  • some butter
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup reserved water from boiling potatoes

Peel and clean potatoes, chop into size of golf balls. Put in pan with salted cold water, boil till fork tender. Mash with butter and reserved water, season with salt and pepper.

For the filling:

  • 350 gms lean minced beef
  • half an  onion – diced
  • 1 carrot – diced
  • 1 celery – diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • freshly grated nutmeg (a pinch will suffice)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup beef broth or water (1 used water, it’s fine)
  • some olive oil

– Heat olive oil, add onion, carrot and celery. Stir. Let the veggies soften with medium heat – about 10 minutes.

– Add minced beef. Stir until brown, if there is too much fat, at the end of 5 minutes, you can drain the oil off.

– Add flour to the beef, stir for about a minute, add the water / broth. Stir. Add thyme and nutmeg. Stir well and let the gravy thicken. Season and taste.

Place the filling in the bottom of an oven-safe bowl. Pour the mash on top (gently… the gravy tend to spatter all over if you just plop the spuds into the bowl, I do not know how I know this…) Scratch the top with a fork, dot with more (whoo hoo!) butter  and place in the pre-heated 180 degree celcius oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

Corn Tortilla Crisps (from

1 yellow corn tortilla, with pastry brush, lightly brush on some canola oil on both sides. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Put in pre-heated 160 degree celcius oven and keep a close eye on the tortilla – those things tend to burn REALLY fast and suddenly.

Once golden, remove from oven and cut into shards, it will crispen when cool.

Quick Guacamole

  • 1/2 onion chopped (use the other half from the cottage pie filling..ha!)
  • 1 garlic chopped fine
  • 1 ripe tomato chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 avocado
  • some chopped fresh coriander
  • salt

Mash the avocado and add all the other ingredients to the mash and mix. Taste and add more lime juice if needed.

The oven had to work hard this morning...

The oven had to work hard this morning…

About mumstech
Retired at 40 after working in various industries including banking and financial services, oil and gas as well as higher education.Now a stay-at-home mum, cheerleader for husband and son, cleaner, nutritionist, cook, laundry lady, driver, clerk cum administration assistant, public relations, personal assistant... I never knew that squeaky clean floors can give me such satisfaction!

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