British food classics: Tips for healthy, tasty and interesting meals

I take great pride in the meals I produce for my bunch of fussy eaters. I try to create a wide range of usually healthy, tasty and interesting meals in a small space and on an even smaller budget.

Even the simplest meals can be spiced up with just a few basic ingredients; adding grated cheese and chopped spring onion gives mash an extra dimension, and cooking the cheapest of sausages slowly in the oven, in gravy and with sliced onions, adds flavour.

Kitchen basics

Flavour and colour can be added to almost any dish with just a few basics including mixed herbs, chilli powder, garlic paste and one of my favourites, Worcester sauce. Extras not only add to the taste but they can also be used to bulk out ingredients and make meals go further. My mum's favourite, which I still use, is to add breadcrumbs to mince dishes. Another well known one is to add dried mash potato mix to soups and stews to thicken and bulk them out.

Number one ingredient

The ingredient that I try to never run out of is tinned tomatoes. They are one of the most versatile foods I have come across; from being an integral part of a fry up, to being essential in a Bolognese sauce. They are cheap, tasty and one of your five a day. They are also central to my version of an English classic, cottage pie.

Cottage pie: Classic but not old

A classic cottage pie generally consists of mince and onion cooked in gravy, covered with a layer of mash potato and cooked in the oven until the mash has browned. I have also come across a version that adds sliced carrot to the mince, and one that also had peas inside.

The version I cook uses baked beans and tinned tomatoes to add flavour and bulk and also includes my other favourite, Worcester sauce, too.

The recipe

To feed four people I generally use:

6 large potatoes

200g mince beef; lean if possible

1 onion

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tin of baked beans

Milk

Butter or spread

Worcester sauce

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Beef gravy granules

Pepper

To make:

1. Pre-heat oven at gas mark 7

2. Peel potatoes, cut into small pieces and boil until soft

3. While potatoes are cooking, peel and chop onion

4. Heat oil in a pan, add a dash of Worcester sauce and a pinch of pepper

5. When the oil is hot add the onions and cook until they are transparent

6. Add the mince and cook, stirring occasionally until the mince is brown

7. Turn down the heat and add tomatoes, beans and gravy granules to thicken

8. Simmer for approx 20 min, stir occasionally and add water if it looks to thick. (if it gets to watery add more granules otherwise the mash will sink when you add it to the dish)

9. When potatoes are cooked, drain and add milk and butter to taste. Mash thoroughly until smooth and creamy.

10. When cooked place the mince in a suitable oven/casserole dish and slowly spoon the mash on top. 11. Use a fork to spread it out evenly

12. Place in the oven on the middle shelf and cook for about 30 minutes or until the top is a golden brown

13. Serve on its own or with vegetables of choice