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The carrots have tunnelled their way to the Centre of the Earth. The kids will need to break through the earth’s crust, dig through the steaming hot lava and find the veggies. Your mission is to help the kids find them and eat them to defeat them. Start their journey by saying…

Dig for victory!

Tea-time adventures turn a meal into a game you play together. It’s about finding the fun in the food because that encourages children to eat it. It’s not so much about the recipe which puts the food on the plate (that’s up to you), but the fun which gets the food from the plate into their bellies.

This is a cottage pie. You can make it any way you like, we have suggested a simple recipe below with lentils mixed in to reduce the cost. The important thing is to put a layer of carrots or other vegetables in fairly large chunks on the bottom of the dish so the kids can hunt them down.

To get started, tell your kids that as part of Eat Them to Defeat Them you have a challenge called Dig-Down Pie and ask if they would like to watch the video. Watch the video above together and repeat the rally cry “dig for victory”  with as much enthusiasm as you can muster.  Then ask the children if they want to help Chef Andrew to defeat the veggies.

Before you serve your dig-down pie you might want to watch the video again. As you serve, repeat the rally cry catchphrase: “Let’s dig for victory”! This meal has a wonderful story which you should repeat and act out with the kids. The carrots have buried their way to the centre of the earth. You need to crack through the earth’s surface (the potato crust), dig through the hot lava (the pie filling) and find the carrots hiding at the bottom. Then, you know what to do… “eat them to defeat them”! During the meal, avoid any pressure and keep the mood fun – be the storyteller, the children’s imagination will do the rest.   

Once the meal is over, praise, praise, praise – but don’t mention health. “Well done, we defeated the veggies”. Remember, for veg-resistant children a sniff, a lick or a nibble is good progress – praise it. Then add a sticker to your Eat Them to Defeat Them wall chart, if you don’t have one you can download one here. Ask the kids if they enjoyed the challenge, and would they like to try another. Good luck.

Cottage Pie


Serves: 4

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 1 hour


200g beef or lamb mince, or veggie alternative

200g cooked sliced carrots (or any cooked veg leftover you can layer at the bottom of the pie as the bit to find at the “centre of the earth”)

1 onion, diced

100g carrots, diced

100g peas (frozen is fine)

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 400g tin cooked lentils, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp tomato puree

For the potato topping:

1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped into small chunks

1 tbsp oil

100g carrots, thinly sliced or coarsely grated (or use a different veg if you prefer)

100g sweetcorn (frozen is fine – or use a different veg like more peas if you prefer)

50g cheddar cheese or plant-based alternative, grated

Handful fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Veg Portions / Serving: 4


Here’s our recommended cottage pie recipe, or you can simply adapt your own recipe – just keep the veg chunky and serve with a reminder to the children to Eat Them to Defeat Them and say “Dig for Victory!”



Preheat your oven to gas 4/350°F/180°C.

Lay the cooked sliced carrots (or other veg) on the bottom of an ovenproof casserole dish.

Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add the mince, onion, and diced carrots, then cook for 10 mins until meat is browned and veg is slightly softened. Add the tomato puree, cook for a minute, then add peas, tomatoes, and lentils, and cook until everything is piping hot, about 5 mins. Taste, and add a little salt and pepper if needed. Spoon the mixture on top of the layered carrots in the oven proof dish.

While the meat mixture is cooking, boil the potatoes in a large saucepan of water until soft (about 10-15 mins depending on how large the chunks are). Mash the potatoes (add a little milk and/or butter if they are dry or hard to mash), then layer over the meat mixture in the oven proof dish.

In a small bowl mix together the oil, carrot and sweetcorn. Mix the vegetables with the grated cheddar or plant-based alternative and evenly sprinkle on top of the mashed potatoes.

Place into the preheated oven to cook for 20-30 mins or until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the chopped parsley if using, and serve.

Kids in the Kitchen:

Have the kids help you measure and weigh ingredients, mash the potatoes, layering ingredients in the dish and stirring things together (show them how to safely stir over the heat and keep a close eye on them). For more tips on cooking with kids check out Kids in the Kitchen on Simply Veg.