Ragu and Stew: big family pots that won’t stretch the budget or your waistband!

Meals times can be one of the most stressful times, for me- pulling them away from the TV, getting them to sit still on their chair as well as the ‘I don’t like that’ fiasco 😫. You bloody do! You absolutely woofed it down last week. 🤬. Both of these recipes are great because they can be prepped in advance and reheated, or slung in the slow-cooker. So all you have to worry about at tea time is dishing it out! They even taste a bit better a day or so later.

Frozen veg has been used to save prep time and it’s really cost effective. You can use just the right amount with no waste! I’ve also used a small pack of baking potatoes (or you can buy loose ones) because I never end up using a whole bag of white potatoes before they start sprouting roots. This way is cheaper and there’s less waste, and I’m more likely to use any left over spuds for jacket potatoes as a quick meal one night.

Beef Ragu: Serves 4 adults (or lots of little people) and is 543 calories per serving if served with 75g of dry spaghetti, cooked.

– 1 tablespoon oil
– 75g pancetta or streaky bacon diced, or bacon lardons
– 1/2 bag of frozen ‘sofritto’ or ‘vegetable base mix’ (finely chopped celery, carrot and onion)
– 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, or a dessert spoon of jarred garlic
– 500g beef mince
– 125ml red wine
– 2 tablespoons tomato purée
– 400g tinned, chopped tomatoes
– 300ml reduced salt beef stock
– 1/2 teaspoon oregano
– 1 bay leaf
– black pepper to season
– Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, over a medium heat. Add the bacon and colour for around three minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn or stick.
– Add in the vegetable base/sofritto mix and heat for around five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veg has softened.
– Turn the heat to medium-high and brown the mince, until dark and almost crispy, stirring frequently. Break the mince down with a utensil, so there are no lumps, and cook until any fat has rendered away.
– Pour in the wine and continue to cook on high for a minute or two, until the boozey smell has gone.

– Stir in the remaining ingredients and sprinkle a little black pepper in (salt is of course an option if you’re not cooking for kids).
– Bring the pan to bubbling and simmer for 24 minutes. Alternatively, tip it into the slow-cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
– At this point it’s up to you: twirl through cooked tagliatelle; layer through lasagne sheets; blend for the baby with some petite pasta shapes; freeze for the future in portions. Just enjoy!

Stew and Dumplings: Serves four adults or two and a few little ones, and is 452 calories per serving.


  • 500g of lean diced beef
  • 1/2 bag of frozen casserole mix (carrot, swede onion and leek)
  • 1 1/2 pints of instant gravy
  • 2 baking potatoes
  • Hendersons relish
  • Packet of dumpling mix


  • Tip the frozen veg, beef and gravy into a large pan.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a low heat and cover.
  • Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Alternatively, add to a slow-cooker and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours
  • If cooking in the pan, stir every 15-20 minutes to stop the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Peel and chop the potatoes into cubes about an inch big, and add to the meat and vegetables.
  • If using a slow-cooker, transfer the mix to a pan to cook the potatoes- they never seem to go very soft in the slow-cooker…
  • Give a few generous shakes of Henderson’s over the stew.
  • Turn the heat up, until the stew begins to bubble again, then reduce the heat until the mixture is lightly bubbling.
  • Cover the pan and simmer for another 25 minutes, stirring half-way through.
  • Add the water to the dumpling mix, as per the instructions.
  • Use a fork to mix the mixture, adding a splash more water if necessary, until there is no more of the dry ingredient visible.
  • Dampen your hands and form the sticky mixture 4-8 dumplings.
  • Place the dumplings on the top of the stew, cover and simmer for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of your dumplings. Gently stir the stew half way through, trying to avoid sinking the dumplings.
  • If you prefer crispier dumplings, transfer the stew into an ovenproof dish, place the dumplings on top and leave uncovered for 25-35 minutes on 190 degrees.
  • When finished, the stew can either be kept warm or re-heated in a slow-cooker, or eaten there and then with lashings of Henderson’s Relish.
  • Or, it can be kept in the fridge and microwaved or reheated in a saucepan when you want it!

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