Mince and tatties and the legend of “Valmont” pie

When my older son (the boy as opposed to the baby) was at nursery we would frequently ask him about his day only to be told that despite having left nursery minutes earlier he couldn’t remember. He’s already proving similarly reticent about school. One thing he would share with us about nursery was what he’d had for lunch that day, especially days when he’d had his favourite – “Valmont pie”. What was this sophisticated sounding dish we wondered? We asked for more information but he wasn’t telling. I looked online to try and track it down and eventually discovered that his nursery menu contained the very similarly (yet less excitingly) named Belmont pie but no clue as to what it was. The dish didn’t seem to exist outside their menus. It remained a mystery.

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying the boy for his first session at school dinners and there it was on the menu – Belmont pie! The boy picked macaroni cheese (another perennial favourite) and some delicious looking homemade lentil and vegetable soup. I got a portion of the pie and a taster of the chicken curry. Belmont pie it turns out is just good Scottish mince with a wee puff pastry lid served on the side, and very good it was too. All the food was lovely – clearly cooked from scratch with good ingredients. Another mum and I remembered none too fondly the processed crap that we had at our school dinners (stewed sausages, burgers in gravy, overcooked baked beans and chips with everything at my school) and marvelled at how kids these days don’t know they’re born and so on. It turns out I’m the grown up now- not a kid these days, which still surprises me, when I accidentally remember.

I wasn’t massively surprised that the boy’s favourite dish was a variation on mince: mince and tatties is a Scottish classic and always popular for tea in our house. My mince recipe, like most people’s, is a variation on my own mum’s version. We like carrots in ours and a bit of flavour from a bay leaf and some dried thyme which is perhaps not strictly in keeping with tradition but tasty all the same. My mum’s dad was famously so opposed to vegetables, even as a grown man, that he didn’t even like onion in his mince, thankfully everyone in our house is considerably less fussy. The boy is back tonight from his first full day of school and a weekend spent at his dad’s so we celebrated his return with “Valmont” pie.

Mince (for mince and tatties or indeed “Valmont” pie)

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 500g lean steak mince
  • 1 tablespoon of plain flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 500ml beef stock
  • Salt and pepper to season

In a big pot that has a lid, fry the onion and the carrots over a medium heat in the oil until the carrots have softened a bit and the onion is translucent. Take them out for now and set them aside.

Turn up the heat a bit and brown the mince. Once it’s browned, stir in the flour and mix it all into the mince letting it soak up the fat and cook for a minute or two.

Add the carrots and onions back in, along with the stock, the herbs and the seasoning.

Bring it to the boil then turn it down to a low simmer and stick the lid on. Let it cook for at least an hour but longer if you can. Check on it now and then and add more liquid if it needs it.

Serve it with buttery mashed potatoes (tatties) and a green vegetable, we like peas best. If you’re having “Valmont” pie, bake some puff pastry squares and stick them on top.

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