Life on the 'feed me for a fiver' challenge is interesting, especially when you look closely at fitting in the recommended minimum 5-a-day fruit and vegetables, discounting potatoes, while trying to make affordable, wholesome meals from scratch. That's why we love pies!
The kitchen is one of the easiest places to start money saving, especially if your budget is tight or if you are taking part in our 'feed me for a fiver' challenge in the forums. Your kitchen, regardless of size, shape or design, is also the hub of most frugal homes. In many cases, it is also the gateway to your frugal kingdom - the kitchen garden. Even at this time of year, here in Scotland, we can find some winter greens by way of leeks and kale. It is like finding free food and everything counts when it comes to feeding the household and zero waste. I'm told some places already have wild garlic appearing but I haven't seen any signs of it here yet, just rain, hail, sleet and more high winds. Anyhow, let's get back to pie-making.
Pies are the frugalers' best friends during lean times, especially when made for specific meals. I prefer to use self-raising flour for most things, so this is what gets used for my pastry, along with cheap lard and margarine. Lard is about one third the price of margarine while margarine is about a third less than the cheapest butter, so I tend to do a 2 parts lard to 1 part margarine for pastry making. It makes for a very short and tasty crust on any type of pie and I think it tastes much nicer with that little bit extra lift from self-raising flour. It also helps that SR flour is still only 45p per 1.5kg pack from supermarkets.
The pie above was made from a single chicken breast fillet weighing about 100g. I chopped the garden leeks and added 2 portions of frozen mixed vegetables (77p per kilo) to a frying pan and stir fried the finely chopped chicken with the veg for a few minutes before adding instant gravy and pouring it all into the pie dish to be baked in the mini oven for half an hour. Served with kale, shredded cabbage and an onion, again all cooked in the frying pan on the hot plate, this pie is sufficient to feed four adults without a problem.
Blackcurrants! These are so easy to grow once you get the bushes established and they just keep on reproducing! Every year, I cut back the bushes and stick the prunings into pots or buckets until I can plant them into the ground and every year, more blackcurrant bushes grow! These are now being introduced to the Frugaldom Project as part of our edible hedgerow, as they are such prolific fruiting bushes. Most are of the Ben Connan type, so are quite winter hardy and produce large berries. Blackcurrants are packed with vitamin C and have plenty of pectin, so make ideal jams and jellies, but we are now sampling them as fruit portions for breakfast, served with the porridge, and in pies, ice cream, cheesecake and yoghurt. They need to be soaked in sugar overnight to make them less tart and for today's blackcurrant pie, I used vanilla sugar. (My vanilla sugar is homemade, I just keep topping up my sealed jar containing 2 vanilla pods and they keep doing their job.)
This is the pie ready to go into the mini oven - painted with milk, sprinkled with sugar and the pastry trim made into a little decoration for the centre. I baked it for 35 minutes at 200C, but it should be noted that the top element of my mini oven has blown, so only the bottom one is heating it, meaning everything is taking a bit longer.
Freshly baked blackcurrant pie, just out the mini-oven. It really does smell delicious! As usual, I was impatient to cut into the pie - it just looked too tempting, so I cut a slice while still hot and ran some of the juices into the bowl.
This will be served with custard after tonight's dinner. I'm tempted to cook an early dinner just to get at the frugal pudding quicker! As the pie cools, the juice will set a little but we prefer our fruit pies hot and juicy, served with either homemade ice cream or ordinary pouring custard.
This pie can be made using any fruit or berries you have available, just sweeten them to your own taste. I've left another serving of the blackcurrants in the fridge for having with tomorrow's porridge.