I have no idea why this dish is called “country pie”, but that’s what my mom always called it. And, from a quick search, she wasn’t alone. Since most of the versions I’m running across call for instant rice, I’d guess it’s one of those ubiquitous ’70s casserole recipes.
We got a lot of one-dish meat and rice dishes when I was growing up, since it’s fairly quick and easy–and filling on a tight budget. This is a slight twist, involving a rice mixture cooked in a meat crust.
It’s also a great way of using up leftover rice. The one time I tried jasmine rice in this, it turned into an unpleasant-textured solid lump, so I wouldn’t suggest that. Leftover basmati tends to disintegrate when used like this (including brown basmati). Plain long grain rice or medium/long grain brown rice works pretty well. For this batch, I cooked some converted and wild rice we had lurking in the cupboard; sort of like with a red jambalaya, cooking with a tomato sauce like this is what converted rice is good for. 🙂 It keeps a good texture, and there’s enough seasoning that the rather bland taste doesn’t matter.
For a vegetarian version, I have used various veggie loaf mixtures for the crust; my favorite is a lentil loaf similar to this gluten-free one. As long as you pre-bake the crust until it starts to brown and let it cool to set up a bit before you add the rice filling, it works really well. You can also make up a double batch of the loaf mixture and refrigerate or freeze half of it for later use, to save time.
Meat crust mixture:
- 1.5 lb. (700g) ground meat — for this, I used the 400g of lean beef we had, bulked out with half a coffee mug of TVP reconstituted with 3/4 of the same cup full of veggie broth with a slug of GF soy sauce thrown in for extra flavor>
- 1/2 a medium onion, chopped fine
- 1/4 – 1/2 a sweet pepper, also chopped fine
- 1 -2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. seasoned salt
- 1 tsp. mixed herbs / Italian seasoning
- 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
- 1 tsp. paprika (optional, but nice flavor)
- 1/3 c. (75-100 mL) rolled oats — if you can’t tolerate oats, use about 1/2 c. (125 mL) GF breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- A little water if the mixture is dry when you try to mix the oats in
Basically, you’re making a fairly plain meatloaf mixture.
Mix it all together, spread it evenly in the dish, and let it sit 20 minutes or so for the oats to rehydrate while you mix up the rice filling.
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.
- 3 c. (750 mL) cooked rice — I cooked a cup (250 mL) of dry for this, with a beef stock cube and some onion (very optional, but nice extra flavor)
- The other half of the onion, sautéed — That was in the rice here
- About 1.5- 2 c. (350 – 500 mL) herbed tomato sauce — Spaghetti sauce from a jar is pretty good, but I mixed up my own quick version in a bowl
- 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
- Extra mixed herbs/Italian seasoning if required
- Extra salt, if your rice wasn’t salted
- About 1.5 – 2 c. (350 – 500 mL) grated cheese — I used a mix of medium Cheddar and Red Leicester
Mix the sauce into the rice, with the extra seasonings as required. Then stir in the cheese, and try to get it distributed fairly evenly.
Bake the meat crust for about 10 minutes, to make sure it gets thoroughly cooked in the middle.
Fill it with the rice mixture.
Cover the dish and let it bake for 25 minutes (35 if your rice was cold starting out). Then, remove the lid, spread an additional 1.5 c. (350mL) of grated cheese on the top, and bake it uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese starts browning. When it’s done, let it sit and cool for 10-15 minutes, and enjoy with a salad!