Get back to basics: How traditional meals like jiggs dinner and cottage pie can feed a crowd and help your budget

Get back to basics: How traditional meals like jiggs dinner and cottage pie can feed a crowd and help your budget

With today’s rising costs, Atlantic Canadians are increasingly looking at where every dollar is spent — and one of the biggest areas that they’re trying to cut is their grocery bills.

To help stretch the food dollar, some Atlantic Canadian home cooks and chefs are sharing some budget-friendly cheap eats that can serve a lot of people without breaking the bank while still tasting great.

Jiggs Dinner

For Bonita Hussey, a jiggs dinner is an ideal way to fill a lot of bellies without breaking the bank.

Hussey — a home chef and founder of Bonita’s Kitchen, which she runs out of her home in Spaniard’s Bay, N.L. — describes the popular Newfoundland dish as a good ol’ Sunday dinner from a long time ago.

“This recipe has been handed down from generations from our elders and is the type of meal that goes a long way,” she says. “One would say it can feed a big family and plenty for 20.”


Bonita Hussey with a plate of her Jiggs Dinner. The Newfoundland home cook says this is a perfect meal for a large group, or use your leftovers to make up to four more meals. - Contributed
Bonita Hussey with a plate of her Jiggs Dinner. The Newfoundland home cook says this is a perfect meal for a large group, or use your leftovers to make up to four more meals. – Contributed

Hussey explains that the difference between jiggs dinner and boiled Sunday dinner is that jiggs dinner is served with no gravy — only pot liquor ‘juice’ — while a boiled Sunday dinner is served with gravy from protein like roasted chicken, beef, pork or turkey.

“It can be made for one person in a small saucepan to a big family gathering or catered meal,” she says. “I’ve cooked it for our big family gatherings and as well for a big New Year’s Eve catered event.”

Hussey says the cost is a little more now to cook this meal with the increasing cost of living, but it is still affordable for a big family gathering.

“Traditionally we would cook this meal for Sunday dinner, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and for special occasions,” she adds.

Have some leftover veggies, salted beef and peas pudding from your jiggs dinner? It can be turned into four more meals, she says.

  • Couldnt’s or Hash: Pan-fried veggies and salted beef with butter and chopped in small pieces, fried until brown and served with a slice of homemade bread.


  • Leftover Peas Soup: The leftover peas pudding, salted beef and veggies can be cooked in a small boiler with leftover pot liquor ‘juice’ and served with homemade bread or doughboys. 


  • Cold Plates: This cold salad meal is made from leftover potatoes and carrots from your jiggs dinner or boiled dinner and mashed with mayonnaise. Add other ingredients, like mustard and beet juice, to make different kinds of potato salads. Go online: https://youtu.be/cgoEFpyytME
  • Potato Biscuits: Use your leftover potatoes to make these tasty little biscuits to serve with any meal. Go online: https://youtu.be/qj6YQcr1DcE

Cottage Pie

Paul Routhier’s personal chef service, called Knife for Hire, is based in Halifax, N.S. His favourite cheap eat is cottage pie.

“It’s a recipe I’ve been making for years, which probably came from my mother,” he says.


Paul Routhier’s personal chef service Knife for Hire is based in Halifax. He believes cottage pie is the best budget-friendly meal to prepare. - Contributed
Paul Routhier’s personal chef service Knife for Hire is based in Halifax. He believes cottage pie is the best budget-friendly meal to prepare. – Contributed

Some may know this recipe as shepherd’s pie but Routhier points out that it is traditionally called cottage pie.

“If you were to top the dish with bread crumbs it would be called a Cumberland pie,” he points out.

The big difference in the name of the dish comes down to the meat. Shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb, often a braised lamb shank that’s shredded off the bone. The version most people have is made with beef, which technically makes it cottage pie.

Looking to make it a bit more affordable? Take advantage of frozen. You can substitute frozen diced carrots instead of fresh diced, he suggests, simply adding the frozen carrots when the peas and corn are added. Using ground beef and frozen vegetables makes this dish affordable.

“This dish is comfort food for us. We typically make it when the weather is a bit chilly and we need a pick me up.”

Veggie Burgers

Chef Brittany Boothroyd graduated from the culinary arts program at the Culinary Institute of Canada in her home town Charlottetown, PEI in 2012. She received her pastry arts certificate in 2013 and her cook’s red seal certification in 2015.

Boothroyd became a vegetarian in 2016, which is reflected in her Charlottetown-based business Wild Kitchen, where she offers plant-based cooking classes in a variety of capacities.


Brittany Boothroyd believes cooking for yourself at home should be a fun, creative and stress-free experience, no matter your budget. - Contributed
Brittany Boothroyd believes cooking for yourself at home should be a fun, creative and stress-free experience, no matter your budget. – Contributed

Boothroyd’s cheap eat is a recipe for veggie burgers that she developed herself. She says these freezer-friendly veggie burgers are great for meal prep.

“The burgers turn out best when made the day before and has the night to bind together,” she adds.

Boothroyd says the burgers are “great for vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters.”


Jiggs Dinner

Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces salt beef or pork
  • 6 potatoes
  • 1 cabbage
  • 1 medium turnip
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 bag split yellow peas
  • 1 or 2 parsnips
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • pepper to taste

Veggies peeled and soaking in cold water, along with the boiler with salt beef and peas pudding cooking for Jiggs Dinner. - Contributed
Veggies peeled and soaking in cold water, along with the boiler with salt beef and peas pudding cooking for Jiggs Dinner. – Contributed

Directions:

  • Soak salt beef or salt pork riblets overnight in cold water or boil in large boiler for a half hour then drain. Add more cold water to lower the amount of salt on the beef then add onion to pot.
  • Pour half the bag of yellow split peas in a pudding bag and tie the top with a string. Soak overnight or start cooking peas in your pudding bag with salt beef or salt pork riblets for about one hour, then check to see if split peas are cooked. (Note: You can remove the pudding bag from the pot or leave it in the water and add your vegetables with it.)
  • Add cabbage, turnip and carrots to your pot then boil for another 15 minutes.
  • Add potatoes and parsnip to your pot then boil for another 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender.
  • When the salt beef or salt pork riblets and vegetables are cooked, remove the peas pudding bag from the pot then cut the string from the bag and pour all peas into a bowl, mash with butter and pepper to taste.
  • Remove all vegetables from pot and put in separate bowls.
  • Keep your pot liquid for your gravy or soup broth.

Note: You will need a cotton traditional pudding bag for your yellow split peas to make a steamed pudding. If not, you can slow boil it in a small saucepan, stirring every so often so it doesn’t boil dry or burn.


Jiggs Dinner laid out in separate bowls before assemply - Contributed
Jiggs Dinner laid out in separate bowls before assemply – Contributed

Cottage pie

Meat Filling:

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 lb ground beef (lean)
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn

Potato Topping:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lb. russet potatoes (cubed)
  • 1 clove garlic (smashed)
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (35%) cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional)

To make the meat filling:

  • Add the oil to a large pan and place it over medium-high heat for two minutes. Add the onions and carrots. Cook five minutes, stirring occasionally until carrots are soft and onion begins to brown.
  • Add the ground beef to the pan and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Add the dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Cook for six to eight minutes, until the meat is browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Stir to combine. Cook for one minute.
  • Add the flour and tomato paste. Stir until well incorporated and no clumps of tomato paste remain.
  • Add the broth, frozen peas and frozen corn. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce to simmer. Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Set the meat mixture aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Make the potato topping:

  • Place the potatoes in a large pot. Cover the potatoes with water. Using your palm, smash the garlic clove to peel, remove the root and add to the pot. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender, 15-20 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes in a colander. Return the potatoes and garlic to the hot pot. Let the potatoes rest in the hot pot for one minute to evaporate any remaining liquid.
  • Add butter, cream, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mash the potatoes and stir until all the ingredients are mixed making sure the garlic is well mashed
  • Add the parmesan cheese to the potatoes (if using). Stir until well combined.

Assemble:

  • Pour the meat mixture into a 9×9 (or 7×11) inch baking dish. Spread it out into an even layer. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the meat. Carefully spread into an even layer.
  • If the baking dish looks very full, place it on a rimmed baking sheet so that the filling doesn’t bubble over into your oven. Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes or until it begins to bubble and the potatoes begin to brown. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.
  • Once cooled, you can cut it into individual portions and freeze for later. Serves six to eight.
Cottage pie is one of the tastiest ways to use up leftover potatoes. - 123RF Stock Photo
Cottage pie is one of the tastiest ways to use up leftover potatoes. – 123RF Stock Photo

Veggie Burgers

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can black beans or 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 1/2 yellow onion (chopped small)
  • 1/2 pack cremini mushrooms (chopped small)
  • 1 Tbsp Montreal Steak Spice (Or spices of choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and cut the sweet potato in half. Rub with olive oil, salt and pepper and place face down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake sweet potato until soft and tender to a knife check – about 30 minutes – set aside. Reduce oven heat to 375°F. While potatoes are roasting, cook the rice.
  • Heat a large frying pan on medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil, mushrooms, onions, and spices of choice. Stirring often, cook until the pan goes dry and onions are browned.
  • Add black beans and sweet potato to a mixing bowl and lightly mash, add 1/2 cup of the rice, cooked mushrooms and onions and spices if you choose, add an egg at this point if you want, to help with binding. Mix well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add more rice if the mixture feels too wet. It should moist but moldable.
  • At this point, allow mixture to sit and chill in the fridge as long as time allows (overnight is ideal but not necessary). This allows the ingredients to bind and the flavours to blend.
  • Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper or reusable option.
  • Use your hands to shape the mixture into burger patties. Place on the baking sheet and gently press down to desired thickness.
  • Bake burgers for 45 minutes, carefully flipping 30 minutes in to ensure even cooking. The longer you bake them the firmer and drier they will get.
  • Serve with favourite buns, condiments and toppings, enjoy!
  • Serves six to eight people.

Freezing instructions:

  • Par-bake for about 20 minutes, let cool, then carefully layer between pieces of parchment paper and enclose in a freezer bag or container with a secure lid. Reheat from frozen at 375 degrees °F for about 20-30 minutes or until desired firmness.