You'd never induce me to buy a jar of ready made pasta sauce, or a box of cake mix but there are two commercially prepared foods I love, and am hardly ever without; canned tuna and canned condensed soup. They're fabulously versatile ingredients and just looking at them standing proudly full frontal, on supermarket shelves, almost fries my circuitry because of the lunch or dinner ideas that start to flood my mind.

In our house, there's no such thing as "tuna surprise" or "captain's casserole". Canned tuna is not cat food, not body builder chum and it's never euphemised; we love canned tuna and we're proud of it. We cook and eat it myriad ways, but this is probably our favourite; when cupboards are bare and purses are lean, you may yet find yourself looking with longing at kitty's supper.

Try to get good quality, chunk tuna in olive or other quality vegetable oil like sunflower or soy. It costs more, but you will get what you pay for and with a dish like this, you really don't want to find tuna hash or mince under your crust. I would advise against adding salt as there's usually enough in both the tuna and the soup and don't forget that you'll be adding cheese as well. If it would make you feel better, use brine packed tuna though I have to tell you that water packed tuna cannot match the rich flavour of its oil packed counterpart.

What I love about this recipe, apart from the wonderful flavour is that it's made with a scone topping which has much less fat than a short crust or puff pastry top would. I can eat an entire pie and maybe even a little more besides, without too much guilt. I figure I've been pretty good the last few weeks and deserve a treat. Go ahead then, have your pie...and eat it too.

This is unparalleled comfort food. We don't get snow over here but I love eating this on year end nights when the monsoon season hits and the usually hot and sticky weather turns wet and chilly. You must of course have this, on the sofa, front and centre of the telly, preferably with the rain gently pelting the windows, or soft falling snow. It just wouldn't feel right, otherwise.

Prep 15 mins      Cook 35 mins      Makes 5 med or 6 ramekin sized pies

4 cans tuna (oil or water packed)
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
4 small potatoes, peeled and cut into pea sized dice
150 g fresh mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
200 ml (1 cup) water
70 g (3/4 cup)grated mild cheese
100 g baby green beans, topped and tailed, and cut into short lenghts
Ground white pepper to taste
A generous squeeze lemon juice

Scone Dough Topping

300g (3 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
1 level tsp baking soda
2 level tsp cream of tartar
1 level tsp sugar
1 level tsp garlic powder
1/3 level tsp dried Italian herbs
1/2 level tsp fine sea salt
75 g (1/2 cup) cold butter, cubed
150 ml (3/4 cup) water
Beaten egg to glaze the finished pies


Thoroughly drain the tuna and set aside.

Heat about 2 Tbsp light vegetable oil in a deep pan and when moderately hot, cook onions until soft. Add the potatoes and stir for about 3 minutes, then stir in mushrooms.

Add the condensed soup to the pot and stir until combined with vegetables. Stir in water and when mixture begins to bubble, stir in grated cheese until melted.

Add the green beans, tuna, pepper and lemon juice and stir gently so tuna doesn't break up too much. Bring back to a bubble then turn off heat and divide mixture between 5 little casserole dishes or 6 ramekins. Leave to cool.

Preheat oven at 210 C (410 F)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, sugar, garlic powder, herbs and salt and stir with a whisk. Rub in the butter until you have a coarse crumblike texture, with pieces of butter still visible and distributed throughout the flour. Avoid a fine crumbed texture.

Pour in the water all at once and stir mixture with a spatula until you have a slightly sticky dough. If mixture resists coming together sprinkle over a little water at a time and continue to push mixture together to form a dough.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Do not knead. Flatten dough out with palm then dust lightly with flour. Roll out gently to an even thickness of about 3 - 5 mm (1/5 of an inch. Cut out the required number of circles slightly larger then the ramekins or container you've filled with the tuna filling, which should be cool by now.

Cover the ramekins with the circles of dough, folding and tucking the edges of the dough in to completely cover the filling. If you have leftover dough, cut out shapes to decorate the tops of the pies. Brush the dough with beaten egg and bake pies for about 20 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Remove from oven and cool about 5 minutes before serving. Take care if serving children as the filling is extremely hot.