“Student food.” His eyes went to the tomato on the sill. “Whatever’s in the refrigerator over pasta.”
~ Kim Harrison, Dead Witch Walking
I’ve been making variations of this pie since I was a college student living away from home in share houses – back in the days where we were all perpetually broke, hungry and in need of cheap meal ideas that would fill us up and keep us going.
I refused to live on instant noodles, so I usually ended up being the chief cook. Pooling our money, my housemates and I always ended up with more food than if we bought just for ourselves. More importantly, sitting around the table each night was a way for us to bond, and to support each other. In its own funny way each share house I lived in became like a little family.
My main criteria for recipes was that they needed to be quick to prepare, economical and yummy. It was a bonus if there was enough for leftovers the next day, and any recipe that could be padded out cost-effectively if friends were coming over was a keeper.
This version of my pie is vegetarian, and could easily be made vegan by swapping out the dairy.
I’ve given basic quantities to serve four, but this is a fantastic recipe for winging it. Got cold leftover pasta or baked vegetables? Chuck them in. Vegetables that need using up? Chop them small, slice or grate and add. Like it cheesy? Add some extra into the bean mix. A bit dry? Add more salsa, a can of baked beans or diced canned tomatoes. Want a bit more heat? Add a dash of tobasco sauce or a little chilli. Not a vego? Add some chopped up barbequed chicken, a little bacon or a can of tuna. See what I mean? This is a recipe than can be extended enough to feed an army and adjusted to your own taste preferences!
The bean layer of the pie is cheesy and soft, and the top layer of rice and cheese becomes chewy and crunchy for a contrasting texture.
Here’s what you need:
2 x 400g cans of kidney beans, 1 x jar of tomato salsa (or a 400g tin of diced tomatoes) 1/2 a raw onion, 1 cup of sliced zucchini or other green vegetable of choice, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 vegetable stock cube or one heaped teaspoon dried stock powder, 1 cup of corn kernels, 1 and 1/2 cups of grated tasty cheese, 1/2 cup of feta cheese OR an extra 1/2 cup of grated tasty cheese), 2 cups of cooked rice ( I used brown rice), 1/3 cup of slivered almonds (posh optional extra now that I am no longer a poor student), 1 tablespoon of butter plus extra for greasing bowls, salt and pepper to season.
Bean Layer – Mix the beans, salsa, cumin powder, corn, one cup of rice, the stock powder, vegetables and 1/2 a cup of grated cheese, plus the feta if you are using it, in a pot or bowl. Add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning or ingredients to your liking.
Grease a pie plate or some ramekins and add the bean mixture, leaving a little room at the top for the crumble topping.
Cheesy Crumble Topping – Use your fingers or a large spoon to mix the butter, 1 cup of cheese, one cup of rice and the almonds together. Spoon the crumble over the top of the bean mixture.
Bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes or until crispy and golden on top. Serve on its own or with salad or seasonal vegetables. If you’re feeling fancy try a dob of sour cream and a little guacamole on top of your pie. Delicious!
Now for a trip down memory lane, here are the Young Ones – a grotty group of British students living the 1980’s sharehouse dream and subsisting on lentils. Their surreal adventures kind of mirrored our own (or so we liked to think!). As impoverished students without a television, we’d gather at the local pub on Tuesday nights waiting for the Young Ones to come on. But my cheesy bean pie beats Neil’s lentils any day!