Sunday, 10 November 2013

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

I did some actual cooking today, not just re-heating. Here's one of the things I made.

Icing has never been my strong point

100g soft marge
100g sugar
1 egg
100g self-raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa
1 orange
Icing sugar (amount will vary)

Makes 15

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180degC
2) Mix the marge and sugar in a bowl until smooth
3) Add the egg
4) Also add the flour and cocoa
5) Then squeeze the juice of half an orange into the bowl. You might need to add some flour to get back to a good consistenct
6) Divide into paper cases and cook for 15-20 mins
7) Squeeze the rest of the orange juice into a new bowl, and add enough icing sugar to make a thick paste (maybe 400g?)
8) When the cakes have cooled, spread the icing on top

Monday, 21 October 2013

Lemon Gingerbread Cake

Effectively working full-time is taking a bit of a toll on my culinary ambitions...generally all I manage is two large batches of food a week that get re-heated. Anyway, this weekend I made cake. Tasty cake. Here's the recipe.

225g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
Thumb of fresh ginger (or 1tbsp ground ginger)
Optional spices - 1tsp cinnamon, 1tsp mixed spice
115g soft margarine
115g brown sugar
200g golden syrup
250ml milk
1 egg

Makes 2 cakes, serves 12

1) Preheat the oven to 160degC
2) Mix the flour, bicarb and spices
3) Stir in the butter
4) In a saucepan, boil the sugar, syrup and milk (watch carefully, else it'll boil over like mine did)
5) Pour the hot liquid into the bowl and add the egg
6) Tip the mixture into 2 loaf tins and cook for 45 mins

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Cranberry and Cream Cheese Muffins

My freezer is full of cranberries (and other frozen fruit), and I had some cream cheese in the fridge so I thought I'd try this recipe for cranberry and cream cheese muffins, with a couple of tweaks.

175g frozen cranberries
250g caster sugar
100g soft cheese
200g self-raising flour
Pinch salt
2 eggs
75ml sunflower oil (it's got to be flavourless! i.e. not olive oil)

Makes 12

1) Preheat the oven to 180 deg C
2) Put the cranberries in a saucepan with 25g of the sugar, and heat until they are soft. Mash them then put them aside to cool
3) Mix the cream cheese with another 25g of the sugar in small bowl and put it aside
4) Put the flour, rest of the sugar, salt, eggs and oil in a large bowl and mix
5) Stir the cranberry mash into the large bowl with the other ingredients
6) Spoon the mixture into 12 paper cases, and cook for 20-25 mins
7) Leave to cool

Cranberries = 30p
Sugar = 40p
Soft cheese = 25p
Flour = 30p
Eggs = 40p
Oil = 15p
Total = £1.80, 15p/ muffin

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


I had half a tube of squeezy condensed milk leftover from when I made coffee ice cream. Simple and delicious, plus they still tasted great a few days later. I found the recipe on the back of the condensed milk tube.

115g margarine
115g sugar
85g condensed milk
50g chocolate chips
175g self-raising flour

Makes 15

1) Preheat the oven to 180 deg C
2) Mix the margarine, sugar, condensed milk and chocolate chips together
3) Stir in the flour
4) Use a dessert spoon to portion out the mixture, and place on a tray (well-spaced out)
5) Cook for 12 mins (until golden)

Marge = 12p
Sugar = 12p
Condensed milk = 50p
Chocolate chips = 30p
Flour = 20p
Total = £1.24, 8p/ cookie

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Slow-cooked Goulash

I got a slow cooker for my birthday this year, and only just managed to use it. I wanted to make goulash with the good deal I got on casserole beef, as well as the paprika in my cupboard.

2 tbsp oil
1/2 onion
2 carrots
1 stick of celery
1 tomato (optional)
1tbsp tomato puree
100g tinned tomatoes/ passata
1/2 pepper
3tbsp plain flour
Herbs: pinch salt, 1tsp mixed herbs, 1tsp paprika
300g diced casserole beef
200ml beef stock
200ml red wine

Serves 3-4

1) Heat the oil in a pan, and prep the veg. Toss in the veg and cook for 10 mins
2) Add the tomato puree and stir
3) Tip the cooked veg into the slow cooker

4) Mix the flour, salt, herbs and paprika on a chopping board. Coat the beef in the seasoned flour, then fry until browned for around 10 mins
5) Whilst the beef is cooking, boil the water for the stock. Make up the stock, and pour it and the wine (proportions variable, doesn't have to be 1:1) over the veg. Also add the tomato products
6) Add the beef to the slow cooker
7) Turn the slow cooker on low, and cook for 6-8h
8) Serve with a dollop of sour cream, and bread or potatoes. Tastes even better the next day!

Oil = 2p
Veg = £1
Flour = 5p
Herbs = 6p
Beef = £3
Stock = 10p
Wine = 60p
Total = £4.83, £1.21

Poached Egg on Toast = Breakfast of Champions

I got a 1/2 hour lie-in this morning, so decided to treat myself to a tasty breakfast.

1 egg
2 slices of toast
Strawberry jam
Pinch of salt

Serves 1

1) Boil a saucepan of water, filled about halfway up
2) Put the bread in the toaster
3) I used a silicone pouch thing to make my egg, in which case you put the lid on and cook on medium for 5 mins. Otherwise, crack the egg in whilst stirring the water (tricky) and boil with the lid off for 5 mins
4) Butter the toast, and spread jam over one
5) Slide the egg on to the other, with a pinch of salt

Egg = 17p
Bread = 15p
Jam = 3p
Salt = 1p
Total = 36p, 36p/ person

Monday, 7 October 2013

Chicken Risotto

I used some of the leftover roast chicken and chicken stock, along with some pepper and passata (from the pizza!) to make one portion of risotto.

1 tbsp oil
50g risotto rice
100g chicken
2 ladles of chicken stock
1/3 pepper
2 tbsp passata

Serves 1

1) Heat the oil in a pan, then add the rice and cook until translucent (onion optional here)
2) Tip in the chicken, 1 ladle of stock, and the vegetables. Stir, then heat on medium heat for 10mins
3) Add the last ladle of stock, then cover and heat on low for 10 mins

Oil = 2p
Rice = 13p
Chicken = 30p
Stock = 10p
Pepper = 15p
Passata = 10p
Total = £0.80, £0.80/ person

Apple Crumble

I'm really struggling with switching from cooking for five to cooking for one...this is my mini version of apple crumble (which tastes great hot or cold).

Apple sauce (1 cooking apple, splash of water, sprinkle of sugar)
25g margarine
25g plain flour
25g sugar

Serves 2

1) Make the apple sauce - peel and chop the apple into chunks, and tip it into a saucepan with a splash of water. Simmer gently until it looks like sauce, then add sugar to taste. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C
2) Make the topping - mix the margarine, plain flour and sugar together until fine
3) Pour the sauce into a small ovenproof container, then tip the topping over the apple
4) Cook for 30mins in the oven (until golden on top)

1 apple = 40p
Sugar = 10p
Flour = 5p
Margarine = 10p
Total = 65p, 33p/ person

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Coffee Ice Cream

The great thing about this coffee ice cream is that you don't have to stir it while it's freezing. I based this on Nigella Lawson's recipe but only had (decaf!) instant coffee available. Turns out it works a treat, and has an amazing aftertaste!

I ate this in the garden, enjoying the late afternoon sun

300ml double cream
175g condensed milk (I got a squeezy tube of it rather than a tin)
1tbsp instant coffee granules + 4tbsp boiling water

Makes 1 pint

1) Boil the kettle and add to the granules
2) Pour in the cream and add the condensed milk
3) Whisk everything together until you get soft peaks
4) Scrape into a box and freeze

Cream = £1.10
Condensed milk = £1.10
Coffee = 15p
Total = £2.35

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Simple Roast Chicken

You can buy a small chicken for £4.50, and you get a lot more meat for your money than if you bought the components separately. I cooked this for my Sunday lunch:

Taken on my laptop's webcam...

1 small chicken (cooks in 70 mins)
Olive oil
Rosemary (optional)
Lemon (optional)
2tbsp plain flour
About 200ml chicken stock/ white wine/ combination

Serves 4

1) Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. If using the lemon, put it in water abd boil it for 5 mins
2) Put the chicken in a roasting tin, and rub the rosemary and salt into the skin
3) Use a sharp knife to make some holes in the lemon, and stick it up the chicken
4) Pour the oil over the top
5) Put in the oven, and baste every 30mins
6) Remove from the oven, transfer to a warmed plate and fish out the lemon. Cover the chicken with foil
7) While the chicken is resting, tilt the roasting tin so that 2 layers form: the oil is on top and the chicken juices below. Use a spoon to remove most of the oil (you can keep it in a jar in the fridge for another day if you like)
8) Heat the tin on the hob and add the flour. Start mixing it round
9) Pour in the liquid and continue to heat for 10 mins
10) Carve the chicken whilst the sauce is heating
11) Transfer the sauce to a jug and serve

Chicken = £4.50
Oil = 5p
Salt = 2p
Flour = 5p
Liquid = 20p
Total = £4.82, £1.21/ person

* If you are serving with other vegetables (potatos, carrots, parnsips), put them in 30mins before the chicken is finished cooking

* If cooking for one, you can carve up the rest of the chicken and use the leftovers in other recipes

Homemade Pizza

There are two parts to making your own pizza:
1) Making the dough
2) Adding toppings and cooking

I based my pizza dough recipe on Jamie Oliver's but halved the quantities and tweaked it a bit.

1) Dough

7g sachet dried yeast
340ml warm water
1 dsp caster sugar
2 tbsp olive oil

500g strong white bread flour
Pinch salt

Makes 3 pizzas

1) Mix the yeast, water, sugar and oil together and leave for 5mins
2) Tip the flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the middle
3) Pour the liquid mixture into the middle and work the flour and liquid in together, starting with a wooden spoon
4) Then lightly flour a work surface and tip the dough onto it
5) Knead the dough for about 15 mins
6) Leave it to rise in a warm place for about 1h, until it doubles in size:

7) Poke all the air out of the dough, and divide it into 3 balls

At this point you can freeze the dough if you don't want to use it all at once

2) Pizza

About 200ml passata
Vegetables (I used some sliced tomato and pepper)
Grated cheese (I used cheddar, but you can posh it up with mozzarella if you have it to hand)
Mixed herbs

Makes 1 pizza

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degC
2) Stretch out the dough into a circle or rectangle
3) Use a palette knife to spread the passata
4) Top with vegetables
5) Finish off with a sprinkle of cheese and mixed herbs

6) Cook in the oven for 15mins

Yeast = 7p
Sugar = 5p
Oil = 5p
Flour = 25p
Salt = 2p
Passata = 20p
Cheese = 20p
Tomato = 10p
Pepper = 30p
Total = £1.24 (if you eat 2/3 now, and 1/3 later then about £1/ person)

Monday, 23 September 2013

Back to uni

Since I'm back at uni with a couple of days to spare before term starts, I thought I'd get some batch cooking out the way to set me up for when things get busier. Here's what I made today:

L to R: 3 x sweet and sour sauce, 6 x tomato sauce, 2 x apple sauce, 1 x cranberry sauce
Recipes to follow when my internet's less sloooooow...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Creamy Bacon and Pea Pasta

I actually have an alternative version of this where I make a bright-green pea puree, but I didn't have enough peas or cream for that this week.

Here's what I came up with instead:

1/2 brown onion
1 tbsp oil
3 rashers of bacon 
Small glass of white wine
200ml single cream
2 eggs
300g tagliatelle
150g frozen petit pois

Serves 6

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C, and cook the bacon for 20 mins (I like it crispy)
2) Heat the oil in a large saucepan and chop the onion up small
3) Fry the onion for 5 mins on low heat, then add the wine and turn the heat up to medium for 5 mins, then just keep the pan warm on a low heat
4) Boil the water for the pasta, and cook it (fresh - 4 mins, dry - 12 mins)
5) Whisk the eggs and cream together in a jug
6) Cook the peas in the microwave/ on the hob for 5 mins, then drain
7) Drain the pasta, and tip into a cold serving dish
8) Chop up the bacon and tip on top of the pasta
9) Add the peas
10) Pour the eggy cream over the top, and stir round (carefully!) 

Pasta = 50p
Onion = 10p
Oil = 2p
Bacon = 60p
Cream = £1
Eggs = 40p
Wine = 40p
Peas = 30p
Total = £3.32, 55p/ person

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Spaghetti Carbonara

So simple (and delicious!), this is now firmly on my family's 'favourites' list. Plus it uses only a few core ingredients that I normally have in the fridge!

I actually used tagliatelle, not spaghetti - but sssh, no one'll notice
250g pasta (ideally a long thin one like spaghetti or tagliatelle, but not essential)
300ml single/ whipping cream
2 eggs
Nutmeg (optional)
Black pepper
3 rashers of bacon, or lardons, or combination

Serves 6

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C, and cook the bacon in the middle of the oven for about 20 mins
2) While the bacon is cooking, boil water for the pasta
3) Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl/ jug, and whisk lightly with a fork
4) Pour the cream into the jug, and continue to whisk
5) Cook the pasta (fresh - 4 mins, dried - 12 mins)
6) Add the pepper and nutmeg to the eggy cream
7) Remove the bacon from the oven, blot with kitchen paper and cut into small chunks. Leave to cool
8) Drain the pasta and put into the (cold) serving dish. Leave to cool for 3-5 mins. We're trying to avoid scrambled egg!
9) Slowly pour the eggy cream onto the pasta, and stir the pasta to coat the strands
10) Add the bacon chunks

Pasta = 50p
Cream = £1
Eggs = 40p
Spices = 5p
Bacon = 60p
Total = £2.55, 43p/ person

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Chicken Vegetable Pasta Bake

A tasty variation on my sausage vegetable pasta bake.

As you can see, I've used carrots, yellow pepper, broccoli, red onion and tomato as well as chicken that was leftover from the night before. 

Serves 6

Same process as before - I pre-cooked the pasta, prepped the veg and started layering. There was an offer on jars of pasta bake sauce, so I've used that and tinned tomatoes to make my sauce. 
Layer 1 - pasta
Layer 2 - tomato sauce
Layer 3 - vegetables
Layer 4 - chicken
Layer 5 - vegetables and tomato sauce
Finished off by stirring (carefully!) before cooking in the oven at 180 deg C for 40 mins.

Pasta = 35p
Tomato sauce = £1.20
Vegetables = £1.20
Chicken = £3
Total =  £5.75, 96p/ person

Monday, 9 September 2013

Raspberry Yoghurt Cake

I saw this cake in the newspaper over the weekend and thought it looked delicious. Plus I had some excess raspberries in the freezer that needed to make way for ice cream so a happy ending all round really!

My version is adapted from a recipe in the Telegraph here. It's a very soft, moist cake that cooks for a relatively long time without rising much.

300g plain flour
3tsp baking powder
125g soft margarine
225g caster sugar
1tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
120g plain natural yoghurt
200g raspberries

150g icing sugar
3tbsp lemon juice (in total, 1+3tbsp = approx. 1 lemon)
5 raspberries (optional)

Serves 10

1) Preheat the oven to 160 deg C
2) Takes 2tbsp of the flour and tip it over the raspberries
3) Mix the rest of the flour, the baking powder, margarine, caster sugar, lemon juice, eggs and yoghurt together
4) Spoon 1/3 of the mixture into a loaf tin
5) Scatter 1/2 the raspberries over the top of the mixture
6) Add the next 1/3 of the mixture
7) Add the rest of the raspberries to the top
8) Spoon the rest of the mixture into the tin (it doesn't matter if you can see some of the raspberries peeping through)
9) Cook for 1h15
10) Make the icing: mix the icing sugar and lemon juice. Wait for the cake to cool down for about 30mins, then drizzle the icing over the top
11) Optional: squish the raspberries a bit, and scatter over the top. If you omit them, you can freeze the rest of the cake

Flour = 20p
Baking powder = 10p
Butter = 25p
Sugar = 20p
Lemon = 40p
Eggs = 30p
Yoghurt = 15p
Raspberries = £2
Icing sugar = 15p
Total = £3.75, 38p/ person

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Altered Lorraine Pascale's Cheese, Ham & Chive Bread

This is my absolute, all-time favourite bread recipe. There aren't many bread recipes out there that use self-raising flour and require no kneading or proving. Simply mix 'n' go...

This version is adapted from a recipe in Lorraine Pascale's excellent book Home Cooking Made Easy. Enjoy!

I've hidden it in the bread bin - I know that as soon as the rest of my family get home, it'll be gone in minutes!

425g self-raising flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
150-200g grated cheese (mature Cheddar, double Gloucester etc all good)
Packet of ham (4 large/ 6 medium/ 10 small slices), chopped into squares
1/2 handful of chives, chopped with scissors
Mustard powder, paprika, salt, pepper
280-300ml water

Serves 4-6

1) Pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C
2) Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl except the water
3) Pour in the water, and mix to a sticky dough
4) Shape into a ball and place on a baking tray
5) Cook for 35 mins

Flour = 30p
Baking powder = 3p
Cheese = 80p
Ham = £1
Chives = 10p (although I grow my own and just give it a haircut)
Spices = 7p
Total = £2.30, 46p/ person

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Coffee and Invisible Walnut Cake

This was meant to be the usual coffee and walnut cake - until I discovered that the walnuts I thought were lurking in the cupboard had vanished. So with a couple of tweaks, this became coffee cake instead. I adapted a recipe from Jamie Oliver.

The mixture fills two loaf tins, so I can freeze one (perfect when it's only me), or my family can just give in to temptation! Even a few days on, the coffee aroma is fantastic.

175g soft marge
200g sugar
3 eggs
200g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
50ml cold coffee (made from instant granules, about 1tsp, or cooking liqueur stuff)

20ml cold coffee (as above)
100g icing sugar

Makes 2 loaves (serves 12)

1) Preheat the oven to 180 deg C, and put the kettle on
2) Cream the margarine and sugar, then fold in the eggs
3) Add the flour and baking powder and mix
4) Make up the coffee (do 70ml to include the icing too)
5) Stir in 50ml of the coffee
6) Bake for 25 min
7) Make up the icing by stirring the icing sugar (sift it first!) and remaining coffee together
8) Drizzle the icing over the top of the cakes when they have cooled for 5 mins

Margarine = 40p
Sugar = 30p
Eggs = 60p
Flour = 50p
Baking powder = 3p
Coffee = 10p
Icing sugar = 20p
Total = £2.13, 18p/ person

Tomato-Gazpacho Soup

I was going to try gazpacho soup until I discovered you don't cook the tomatoes, and I am not the biggest fan of uncooked tomatoes. So I took a couple of the ingredients you'd use in gazpacho (spring onions, red pepper, garlic) and a couple from traditional tomato soup (onion, carrot, celery, tomato puree) and combined the two.

1kg tomatoes
1 onion
1 carrot
1 stick of celery
2 spring onions
Half a red pepper
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1tbsp oil
1tbsp tomato puree
1tbsp sugar
2 bay leaves
2 pints of vegetable stock

Serves 6

1) Prep all the vegetables - peel and chop roughly. Quarter the tomatoes, and then scoop out the seeds and stems with a teaspoon
2) Heat the oil in a large pan, and tip in all the vegetables except the tomatoes. Heat on medium with stirring for 10 mins

2) Squeeze in the tomato puree, and add the garlic. Stir until everything is red

3) Boil the water for the stock
4) Then add the sugar, some salt and pepper, and 2 bay leaves. Tip in all the tomatoes and cook until they are squishy and the skin is coming off

5) Make up the stock, and tip it in
6) Cook for 25 mins with stirring

7) Remove the bay leaves and leave to cool for a couple of mins
8) Puree the mixture and serve

Tomatoes = £1
Carrot = 8p
Onion = 10p
Celery = 20p
Spring onions = 15p
Pepper = 30p
Garlic = 7p
Oil = 3p
Tomato puree = 10p
Sugar = 4p
Herbs = 4p
Stock = 30p
Total = £2.41, 40p/ person

I've entered this recipe into Made with Love Mondays:


Homemade Butter

The chemistry behind butter-churning interests me, and I'd heard you could make butter from a tub of whipping cream, which is cheaper than butter. So this experiment was driven by both science and economics!

300ml whipping cream
Pinch of salt

1) Tip the cream into a food processor, and turn on to medium for about 20 mins, or until it looks like butter
2) Separate the leftover liquid and keep or chuck
3) Wash the butter with water until the liquid runs clear
4) Add a pinch of salt, and use a wooden spoon to work it into the butter (not a metal spoon)
5) Keep in the fridge

Cream = £1

Fish Pie

I'm working on a more streamlined, straightforward version of this recipe, but for the moment this is the best I have. It tastes great, but takes more work and time than I'd typically like. If you already have a batch of white sauce (e.g. from the freezer) then it's actually quite easy. Otherwise, it takes a while.

I like new potatoes on the top because I'm not a big mashed potato fan
400g fish pie mix
500ml milk, or a mixture of milk/ water
1 small onion
Couple of cloves (optional, but nice)
2 bay leaves (also optional, but nice too)
3 eggs (there isn't much fish to go round, so this helps bulk it up. Plus it tastes good)
Sprinkle of parsley

White sauce - made from the poaching milk, 50g hard marge, some plain flour
Sprinkle of nutmeg

1kg potatoes (mashed, or sliced and boiled)

Serves 6

1) Quarter the onion and push the cloves into the quarters
2) Put the fish, milk, onion, cloves, bay leaves and parsley into a large pan and heat on medium for 10 mins
3) Boil water in a separate pan, and hard-boil the eggs for 10 mins
4) Boil the water for the potatoes. Peel, slice and boil in the water
5) Take the eggs out of the water, shell and quarter
6) Make the white sauce if you need to: melt the hard marge, add the plain flour until it forms a ball and cook for a couple of mins
7) Meanwhile, take the fish out of the poaching milk and put into a large dish
8) Remove the leaves, onion, cloves etc from the milk
9) Add the poaching milk to the hard marge/ plain flour to make the white sauce. Stir and heat until it thickens. Add the nutmeg
10) Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C
11) Put the eggs in with the fish pieces
12)  Pour half the white sauce over the fish and eggs
13) Layer the potato slices over the top
14) Pour the rest of the sauce over the potatoes
15) Cook in the oven for 30 mins

Fish = £4
Milk = 30p
Onion = 10p
Herbs = 10p
Eggs = 60p
White sauce = 7p + 10p
Potatoes = £1
Total = £6.27, £1.05/ person

*Freezes well

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Curry #1: Chicken and Mango

A couple of weeks ago, I said I'd never tried to make curry before and probably wouldn't because it had so many ingredients. A bit of a defeatist attitude - and the scientist in me loves an experiment. So here's my first attempt at making curry, from a recipe on BBC Good Food with a couple of tweaks.

 And yes, it was delicious (sorry to ruin the ending)! As a novice I made it look harder work than it really was - not substantially more difficult than spaghetti bolognese.

6 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, chopped (I had to de-bone mine, started cooking it and then realised the skin was still attached and had to fish it off. D'oh!)
1tbsp oil
2tsp turmeric
2 brown onions
2 mangoes
6tbsp korma paste (will be quite dominant in the finished product so pick a good one)
Lump of ginger
2tsp cumin
200g coconut milk (half a can - and half what the recipe suggested it, but it's high in fat)
500ml chicken stock

200g rice

Serves 6

1) Fry the chicken in the oil and 1tsp of the turmeric until cooked (25 mins) in an enormous casserole dish
2) Whilst the chicken is cooking, chop one of the onions into quarters. Peel one of the mangoes, and hack off as much flesh from the stone as possible. Tip the mango and onion into a food processor, and whizz with the korma paste, cumin and the rest of the turmeric
3) Cut the brown outside off the ginger, slice, add to the food processor and blend
4) Chop the other onion finely, and add to the chicken. Fry until soft
5) Then add the mango/ginger/korma mixture to the dish and stir
6) Heat on medium for 5mins and boil the kettle for the stock. Start boiling the water in a new pan for the rice
7) Make up the stock. Stir in the coconut milk to the dish, then add the stock with stirring
8) Add the rice to the boiling water and heat on low
8) Cook the curry for 25 mins on low-medium heat
9) While it's cooking, peel the remaining mango and slice it (no. 5 on this website). Tip the slices in for the last 5 mins of cooking
10) Drain the rice and serve

*Great with naan bread and mango chutney

Chicken = £4
Oil = 2p
Spices = 6p
Mangoes = £2
Onions = 30p
Korma paste = 70p
Ginger = 15p
Coconut milk = 75p
Stock = 7p
Rice = 25p
Total = £8.30, £1.38/ person (more than usual, but it was a treat)

Homemade Hummus

I was clearing out the cupboard this week and found a kilo of dried chickpeas at the back. Rather than chuck them out, I thought I'd try an experiment and make some hummus out of them. Delicious with pitta bread or breadsticks!

55g dried chickpeas (these will double in mass to 110g when they've been soaked, which is the correct amount. Not 220g as I discovered)
5tbsp tahini paste (ish - it's pretty hard to get it out of the jar)
3 cloves garlic
3tbsp olive oil
2 lemons
2tsp cayenne pepper or paprika
1tsp salt

1) Soak the chickpeas in water overnight (leave about 6cm water above the top of the chickpeas because they will expand)
2) Boil the chickpeas in fresh water for 1.5-2h over a low heat with a pinch of salt
3) Blend the chickpeas and garlic in a (large) food processor until they look more like a paste
4) Add the tahini and olive oil and blend
5) Juice the lemons and add the juice, followed by the spices, and blend again. Keep going until it's smooth

Serves 4 

Chickpeas = 20p
Tahini = 50p
Garlic = 10p
Oil = 5p
Lemons = 30p
Spices = 5p
Total = £1.20, 30p/ person what to do with the remaining 890g??

Sausage Vegetable Pasta Bake

Back from sunny Italy now - at least it's still warm here so the cultural shock's not too much!

I've been busy since we got back, but I've also been suffering a bit from writer's block - so I'm turning to a family favourite to get things restarted. Here it is - a tomato-y pasta bake.

Half-eaten (and scraped clean!) 

250g pasta (I like fusilli because it holds the sauce well)
800g of tomato-based products (I like half/ half passata and tinned chopped tomatoes)
8-12 leftover (i.e. pre-cooked) sausages (feel free to economise the more vegetables you add)
Many vegetables - I used carrots, peas and sweetcorn here because that's all we had left, but I'd recommend broccoli (cauliflower too if you're into that), peppers, mini corn, beans etc.

Serves 6-8

1) If your sausages aren't being used up from another meal, you need to cook them first (180 deg C, about half an hour). Skip this step and go to 2) if they are
2) Boil water for pasta, then start cooking the pasta. Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C
3) Prep the veg (if they're frozen, don't bother defrosting them first but just get them out the freezer)
4) Chop the sausages into slices
5) Pasta should be done by now (about 12 mins) so drain it but keep the cloudy water for later
6) Take a large dish and tip the pasta in to make the bottom layer. (I normally discover I've made too much at this point, but then it just becomes tomorrow's lunch)
7) Tip in half the tomato stuff and stir the dish contents to coat the pasta. To speed the cooking time up, you could heat the tomatoes on the stove until it's bubbling before doing this
8) Now add the sausages
9) And finally the veg
10) Add the rest of the tomato stuff and stir (carefully! It might be a bit overflowing by now). Add a splash of the pasta water if there's not enough and stir in
11) Cook in the oven for about 30-40 mins (about 45-50 if you didn't heat the sausages first)

Pasta = 35p
Tomato stuff = 90p
Sausages = £1.50
Veg = £1.20
Total = £3.95, 60p/ person

*Heats up well the next day for a hearty lunch
 - Take out the sausages and replace with more vegetables for the vegetarian version
- Also great with a couple of tins of tuna instead of the meat

Friday, 2 August 2013

First Tomatoes of Summer

I'm off on holiday tomorrow so there will probably be a brief hiatus from me.

To celebrate travelling to Italy, here's a photo of the tomatoes I picked from the garden this evening:
I pomodori


Jar sauces are not all evil - Butter Chicken

It's been a pretty hectic week for me, and so I haven't done as much 'good' cooking as I'd like to. But I thought I'd share one of my better meals this week with you.

I used a jar of 'butter chicken' sauce. Not sure exactly what's in it (tomato, cream and coriander at a guess) but it's a mild curry sauce that I found at the back of the cupboard. It got me thinking about the other jar sauces I sometimes use - for example, I've never made a curry from scratch (too many ingredients, for starters) but I'd never buy one of the Italian sauces. Since my sweet and sour sauce discovery, I wouldn't buy that one either. In terms of value for money, I've done a quick analysis of what you're getting for your money in a typical Italian sauce:

Dolmio Original Bolognese Sauce (500g)
£1.80 for the jar

Here are the ingredients, and how much you'd pay for them if you bought them individually:

10 chopped ripe tomatoes - £1
Finely sliced fresh onion - 10p
Chopped basil leaves - 4p
Crushed garlic - 4p
A good splash of Italian olive oil - 4p
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice - 2p
Spoonful of sugar - 3p
Touch of aromatic herbs - 3p
Seasoning to taste - 2p
Total = £1.32, saving 48p

Anyway. I digress.

Here's how I managed to cram some more of our 5-a-day into a quick and easy tea.

I fried some chicken, and then added some chopped green pepper and carrot (feeling lazy so I didn't do the carrot diagonally). Then I tipped in the sauce and heated it up.
I served it up with leftover reheated mashed potato - not very classy I know, but the sauce tasted good with the potato. 

Chicken = £4
Carrot = 15p
Green pepper = 50p
Sauce = £1.50
Potato = 50p
Total = £6.75, £1.35/ person

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Bargain Bruschetta

More bruschetta than bread?

Traditionally more of an appetiser, I like to double up and have these as a proper meal with a bit of salad and mozzarella (if I'm lucky). There are lots of ways to save money here too.

Old bread - I had half a stale French stick that was perfect
Tomatoes - if using whole/ salad tomatoes, budget for about 1 tomato/ slice (I used 3 anaemic salad tomatoes + 5 squishy cherry tomatoes). I reckon you could use tinned tomatoes here if you strained off the liquid
1 small onion - red is better, but if you only have brown then go with that
1tbsp tomato puree if available
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Splash of oil (olive is better), about 1tbsp
Splash of vinegar (balsamic is better, but malt will do)
Basil - dried is OK but fresh is a lot better
My basil plant passes through a death/ regeneration cycle once a week when I remember to water it
Quantity variable - 1/2 a French stick gives about 8 slices

1) Slice up the bread and lay out on a baking tray. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C
2) Roughly chop up the tomatoes. I like to leave a couple of larger chunks in there too, and I'm not fussy about the seeds. Feel free to take them out if you are
3) Finely chop the onion (a mini food-processor is perfect if you have one)
4) Stir the tomato and onion together in a small bowl. Add the tomato puree if your tomatoes were a less-than-vibrant red like mine
5) Mince the garlic into the bowl
6) Add the oil and vinegar and stir so everything is evenly distributed
7) Scoop the mixture onto the bread. Sprinkle basil over the top if using dried
8) Cook for 10-15 mins. Add the basil leaf after if using fresh

Tomatoes = 50p
Onion = 8p
Tomato puree = 5p
Garlic = 5p
Oil = 4p
Vinegar = 5p
Basil = 2p if dried, less if fresh. I grow mine from a pot I got for £1, and it's given me >50 leaves so far
Total = 80p, 13p/ person if one each as an appetiser, 40p/ person if as a whole meal

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Cheat's Paella

Stage 11

If my Spanish and Catalan friends ever find out I wrote this, I will probably be dead to them. In my defence, I love paella but making it on a budget is very difficult for two reasons:

  1. There are so many ingredients. Seriously. 
  2. In traditional paella, there are 3 'meats' - chicken, chorizo and prawns, none of which are particularly cheap.
When I first made this, I based my recipe off the Delia version, and made some changes. I've marked essential ingredients with a *. Feel free to swap/ compromise as you go.

2tbsp oil
*2 large/ 3 small chicken breasts or equivalent e.g. chicken thighs (you can get away with even less because there is so much other stuff in here), cut into chunks
*1 onion, chopped
*2 peppers (or 1), in chunks without seeds
*100g chorizo sausage (if you can, get the 200g cooking version for £2.00 and not the diced one which is also £2.00 but only 130g. Whatever you do, don't get the salami-style slices. I've also seen normal sausages with pork and chorizo which might work out cheaper too). Take off the ammonia-smelling skin, and slice into rounds which you can then quarter
*3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Spices: *2tsp paprika, 1/2tsp cayenne pepper, 0.2g saffron (NB: this is super-expensive and in my opinion, not worth adding. My mixture ended up being really yellow anyway, but if you wanted that colour you could add a couple of drops of yellow/ red food colouring instead!) 
*200g tomatoes, in chunks without seeds (I reckon you could substitute tinned tomatoes here. If you do, make sure to sieve them to remove the seeds - how-to video here)
*2 pints of boiling water
*300g risotto rice (there are fancy paella versions out there, but we only had arborio risotto rice and it still tasted good)
*2 handfuls of cooked prawns (I used small frozen ones because they were reduced to half price. Use bigger prawns for a treat. If you use raw ones (grey) then make sure to cook them properly first, in a separate pan)
*50g of frozen peas 
Splash of lemon juice

Serves 6 (or 5 greedy family members)

1) Prepare all the vegetables and meat first (this will take a while)
2) Heat the oil in an enormous pan
3) Fry the chicken pieces until they are properly cooked
4) Remove the chicken, then add the onion and fry for 4 mins on low heat
5) Next add the chopped peppers and chorizo and fry for 5 mins (put the kettle on for the boiling water)
6) Bung in the garlic and spices and cook for 1 min
7) Tip in all the tomatoes and the boiling water
8) Put the chicken back in
9) Simmer for 15 mins
10) Add the rice, and leave to simmer uncovered for 15 mins (stir it occasionally)
11) Add the prawns and the peas and cook for 5-10 mins (if prawns are frozen, err on the side of 10 mins)
12) Sprinkle the lemon juice over it and you're done - serve in the pan for minimal washing-up!

Oil = 4p
Chicken = £3
Onion = 8p
Pepper = 70p
Chorizo = £1
Garlic = 6p
Spices = 10p
Tomatoes = 80p
Rice = 66p
Prawns = £1
Peas = 10p
Total = £7.54, £1.26/ person

Toast Pizza

One of my favourite snack creations - I'm eating it right now whilst typing one-handed.
Double it up for a simple lunch.

1 slice of bread
2tbsp ketchup (I used the homemade ketchup I made earlier in the week, but bog-standard is obviously fine)
15g of cheese (aka the manky double gloucester I found lurking at the back of the fridge)

Serves 1

1) Make toast
2) Spread ketchup on toast
3) Grate cheese onto toast

Bread = 8p
Ketchup = 4p
Cheese = 6p
Total = 18p

Monday, 29 July 2013

Spaghetti Bolognese (Spag Bog)

For some as-yet-undetermined reason, what the rest of the world shortens to 'spag bol', my family calls 'spag bog'. Fans of UK slang will understand why this is funny...

Second time round, I added courgette and some leftover mini corn...yum

There are a lot of recipes out there claiming to be the 'best' bolognese recipe, or that 'true' bolognese contains white wine, not red, etc. etc. Now, I don't know much about that. But what I do know is that bolognese is delicious. And great for making in a large batch and then freezing portions. I'm always flexible on the vegetable choice and tend to use up whatever I have left.

1tbsp oil (olive is best but not compulsory)
1 medium brown onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
500g beef mince
2 tins of tomatoes
Vegetables e.g. 3 chopped carrots, handful of mushrooms, handful of peas, 1 red/ orange/ green pepper, 2 celery sticks
1 pint of stock (beef or vegetable)
300g dried spaghetti/ other pasta

Optional extras:
4 rashers of streaky bacon, cooked and chopped up
1 glass of wine
Extra cherry tomatoes
1tbsp tomato puree
Herbs - basil, oregano, rosemary, mixed herbs
Parmesan gratings to finish

Serves 4-5

1) Heat the oil in a very large casserole dish or saucepan
2) Add the chopped onion and fry gently for 7 mins
3) Add the garlic and cook for 1 min
4) Tip in the mince, stir and cook - it will start to turn brown, then release water which you want to burn off. When the water and liquid is gone you will be left with the meat/onion/garlic mixture (add wine now if using, and boil off the ethanol). Boil the kettle to make the stock (fry the bacon if using)
5) Add the tinned tomatoes (and tomato puree if using)
6) Add all the vegetables (and cherry tomatoes and bacon if using)
7) Add the stock (and herbs if using)
8) Heat on the stove until it bubbles in the middle. I like to transfer it to the oven for about 45 mins at 150 deg C (make sure to check the liquid levels and add more stock if it is looking dry), but you can just leave it on low heat on the stove for about 30 mins
9) 15 mins before finishing, start boiling the water for the spaghetti. Cook the pasta for about 12 mins (see packet), then drain and serve

Beef = £4 (less if you buy it on offer, e.g. 3 for £10)
Onion = 10p
Oil = 3p
Garlic = 5p
Tomatoes = 70p
Stock = 10p
Vegetables (depends on what you use) = 40p ish
Spaghetti = 60p
Total = £6, £1.20/ person

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

We had burgers for tea last night - it was the perfect opportunity for me to experiment with ketchup recipes, one of which I found here. The end-product is very different to Heinz - but still completely delicious!

2 cans of tinned tomatoes
1 medium brown onion
2 cloves of garlic
2tbsp oil
1tbsp tomato puree
Spices - I went with 1/2 tsp salt, 1tsp actual mustard (we were out of powder), 1tsp paprika, 1tsp mixed spice (if you have cloves, use those too), 1/2 tsp turmeric
100g brown sugar
About 70ml vinegar (I used cider vinegar)

Makes 2 medium-sized jam jars

1) Chop the onions whilst heating the oil in a large saucepan, then sautee for about 7 mins until soft and transparent.
2) Crush the garlic and add to the pan, cooking for 1 min
3) Stir in the tomato paste
4) Add all the spices, and stir thoroughly so they are evenly distributed
5) Add the sugar, vinegar and tinned tomatoes and stir
6) Heat gently for about 45 mins, until the amount of liquid has reduced
7) Use a blender (hand-held is best) to puree the sauce (NB: beware hot splashes of sauce - I wrapped a tea towel around my arm)
8) Transfer the sauce into clean jam jars - although it smells a lot like chutney when you're cooking, I doubt it would last as long on the shelf. But it's so tasty it wouldn't anyway!

Store in the fridge

Highly dependent on which spices you use, but the tomatoes, onion, garlic, sugar and vinegar add up to:
2 tins tomatoes = 75p (don't get the cheapest ones)
Onion = 10p
Garlic = 7p
Sugar = 25p
Vinegar = 8p
Total = £1.25

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Marshmallow and Chocolate Cookies

I found some stale marshmallows in the back of the cupboard this afternoon (you know, those mini ones you can put on hot chocolate) and thought I'd try to use them up. I created these cookies as an experiment, and they ended up tasting better than I could have ever hoped!

6oz plain flour
4oz soft marge (plus some extra)
2oz sugar
About 3oz mini marshmallows
2oz dark chocolate, cut into chunks

Makes 16

1) Pre-heat the oven to 160 deg C
2) Mix the flour, marge and sugar together
3) Tip in the marshmallows and chocolate and stir
4) Add some extra marge if it's not sticking together well - it should look a bit like shortbread
5) Shape the mixture into balls and cook on baking trays for 15-20 mins (longer makes some of the marshmallows go toffee-like which is delicious)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Homemade Pesto

I can't believe I've only just discovered how great pesto is - it makes even the most boring pasta dishes exciting. This recipe is inspired by Delia's but I didn't have much luck weighing basil leaves. I tweaked the quantities, and substituted cheddar for the pecorino (I know, sorry) which worked surprisingly well.

As many basil leaves as you can get hold of/ approx. 1 handful
2 garlic cloves (I love garlic, but if you're less worried about warding off vampires then 1 clove is fine)
2tbsp pine nuts
4tbsp olive oil
Some grated cheese (ideally pecorino romano, but cheddar worked)

Serves 3-4 on pasta

1) Tip everything except the cheese into a blender and whizz it up until there are only small bits of basil leaf left (add extra oil if necessary to make it go further)
2) Transfer to another dish and stir in the cheese

Basil = £1
Garlic = 6p
Pine nuts = 40p
Oil = 3p
Cheese = 30p
Total = £1.79, 45p/ person

How to cook meat on a budget

It's difficult. No two ways about it.

But here are some ideas to get you started.

1) Celebrity chefs always say things like 'cook with offal', 'use the obscure cheaper cuts of meat', 'make friends with your local butcher'...blah blah blah. All very well and good. But I (like most people) don't like offal - and how convenient it sounds so much like 'awful'. And I also don't have time for faffing around, even though I know the meat from butchers tends to be better quality. Here are some cheaper cuts of meat that are readily available in your supermarket. They may need cooking slightly differently.
          Chicken thighs - cheaper than breast, and good if you're just going to chop it up anyway. The meat               isn't as white as breast meat, so it's good if you're going to cover it in sauce (see sweet and sour sauce           below, for example) or put it in a pasta bake
          Beef brisket - bit muscly so cook it for ages
          Lamb neck - ditto, good for stews and casseroles

2) As a follow-on from the previous point, whole chickens often work out to be a good amount of meat for your money. Roast a medium chicken and you will be able to feed four for two meals

3) Processed meats like mince and sausage are cheaper and often on offer

4) The 'reduced' section - my favourite hunting ground. Beware sell-by dates - after all, that's why the price has been reduced - but if you're just going to freeze it straightaway, what does it matter? N.B. Don't buy it if it's a funny colour or the packaging is damaged. I do not like green ham, Sam-I-am.

5) Frozen meat - if you're going to freeze it immediately, what is the point of spending more on fresh meat? I always buy my chicken breasts frozen, but experience with the value/ cheapest own-brand stuff is that they are pumped full of water to look better and weigh more. Obviously when you cook it, you lose the water and they shrink substantially. So it's worth spending a bit more so that you're actually buying a larger mass of meat.

6) Less is more. Or rather, less goes further. I will be posting recipes that help you make the meat you are cooking go further. Typically this involves bulking out with more vegetables and so has the happy benefit of being better for you!

Further suggestions on a postcard. Or in the comments section below.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Raspberry and Lemon Fairy Cakes

Slight departure from the budget theme - but these are very tasty and won't blow the bank. I wanted to combine lemon sponge and raspberries in the one cake.

4oz soft marge
4oz caster sugar
4oz self-raising flour (plus a little extra)
1tsp baking powder
1 medium/ large egg
1 lemon

2oz soft marge
4oz icing sugar (plus a little extra)
About 10 raspberries

Makes about 12

1) Preheat the oven to 160 deg C
2) Combine the marge and sugar and beat until pale and smooth
3) Add about half of the flour and baking powder, and fold in
4) Add the egg and beat in
5) Add the rest of the flour and baking powder
6) Add the juice of about 1/3 lemon, and add some extra flour to return to previous consistency
7) Spoon into baking cases and cook for about 12-15 mins
8) Puree the raspberries and then filter (sorry, sieve) them to remove the seeds to leave you with a bright red raspberry puree
9) Combine the marge and half the icing sugar, then add a couple of spoonfuls of the puree
10) Add the rest of the icing sugar, plus a little more to thicken it up. Return this to fridge to harden it up
11) Slice the rest of the lemon thinly for decoration
12) Let the cakes cool before icing

TIP: If you have leftover raspberry puree, you can use it up (like I did) in my frozen fruit fool recipe

Monday, 22 July 2013

Roast Vegetable Pasta

Great for when you feel like pasta but don't have any tinned tomatoes left - a colourful dish that works in summer and winter! I like it with root vegetables in autumn.

50g pasta (spaghetti/ those twirly ones/ etc. all fine) per person - the packets typically recommend 70g/ person but I have never met anyone able to eat that much pasta in one sitting
Oil for roasting
1 carrot/ person
1 parsnip/ person
2 cloves of garlic/ person (leave the papery skin on)
1tbsp creme fraiche/ soft cheese per person
Optional - 1/2 red pepper/ person
Optional - 1/4 onion (red or brown)/ person

1) Peel and chop the root veg into chunks about 3cm long
2) Set the oven to 180 deg C and roast the veg and garlic in the oil for about 45 mins, until soft
3) After 30 mins, boil the water and tip in the pasta, cooking for about 12 mins (see packet for details)
4) Drain the pasta, take the veg and garlic out of the oven and tip into the pasta saucepan (you might want to take out some of the oil if there's loads)
5) Stir in the creme fraiche/ soft cheese - you might need to heat the saucepan a bit until it all melts nicely
6) Serve!

Pasta - 3p
Oil - 2p
Carrot - 7p
Parsnip - 10p
Garlic - 5p
Creme fraiche - 10p
Total = 37p/ person

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Sweet and Sour Sauce

So much healthier (and tastier) than the supermarket or fluorescent takeaway versions - and surprisingly straightforward! It freezes nicely if you've got leftovers.

250ml orange juice
2tbsp vinegar (malt is fine)
2tbsp tomato ketchup
Squirt of tomato puree
2 tbsp sugar
2 carrots (diagonally sliced looks nice)
1 bell pepper (I like yellow because of the colour contrast but it really doesn't matter)
2 spring onions, chopped (optional)
Handful of mange tout/ sugar snap peas (optional)
Handful of pineapple chunks (optional because I can't stand pineapple)
3tbsp cornflour

Serves 5-6

1) Tip everything except the cornflour into a large saucepan and heat on medium until bubbling in the centre and the carrots are cooked
2) Put the cornflour into a separate bowl and gradually add small amounts of water, mixing in between, until you have a smooth white paste
3) Add the paste a spoonful at a time to the sauce and stir in until the sauce thickens and is gloopy
4) Heat for 5 more mins
5) Done!

Bake or fry chicken pieces and pour the sauce over at the end. Great with rice or noodles

Juice = 15p
Vinegar = 2p
Ketchup = 2p
Puree = 3p
Sugar = 5p
Carrots = 14p
Pepper = 50p
Cornflour = 2p
Total = 93p, 19p/ person

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Frozen Fruit Fool

Raspberry - I went to get a camera and someone tried it...
I froze it a bit too quickly (you can tell from the lumps), needed a bit more stirring

I invented this in the throes of what we in the UK like to call a 'heatwave' - it's been hotter than 25 deg C for a week so naturally the country is in meltdown! This refreshing dessert is a cross between frozen yoghurt and fruit fool. I've tried it with strawberries and raspberries, but I reckon it would work with blueberries, cherries, other red fruit, etc. too.

100g soft fruit
1tbsp icing sugar
200g fat-free Greek yoghurt
2tbsp caster sugar

Serves 4-5

1) Blitz the fruit in a blender until it forms a puree
2) Transfer to a container that can be frozen, and stir in the icing sugar
3) Add the frozen yoghurt and caster sugar, and whisk until mixed
4) Freeze and stir approx. every 30 mins until frozen solid - or remove earlier if a more liquid consistency is desired

Serve with a shortbread biscuit and mint leaves for a more sophisticated dessert.

Strawberries =  50p
Icing sugar = 3p
Yoghurt = 50p
Caster sugar = 5p
Total = £1.08, 22p/ person

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Fail-safe Tomato Sauce

One of my freezer staples - I'll make a big batch and freeze it in portions to whip out when I get back from the lab and am too tired for anything more challenging than reheating this, and cooking pasta!

It's really flexible - use up whatever veg you have left at the back of the fridge or freezer - and is a great way to get in several of your 5-a-day.

For a change, I won't list ingredients but instead suggestions of things to include. The only compulsory component is the tomatoes.

Makes 4-5 portions

1) If adding onion and/ or garlic and/ or celery, put 1tbsp of oil in the bottom of a large saucepan and fry gently for around 8 mins
2) Add the 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
3) Add everything else:
        Fresh veg - carrots, broccoli, mange tout/ sugar snaps, mini corn, bell pepper, celery,                         mushrooms
        Frozen veg - peas, sweetcorn, broccoli
        Meat - cooked bacon, leftover cooked sausages
4) Heat until the liquid in the centre is bubbling
5) Done - use straightaway or leave to cool

Obviously the final cost depends on what you put in.
2 tins tomatoes = 62p

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Best Flapjack Recipe

I must have made flapjack about 20 times in my life - recipes with flour, recipes without, recipes with fruit, recipes without...there is a surprising variety out there. But this one (adapted from a Delia Smith recipe, has to be my favourite - only 4 ingredients and 5 things to wash up (weighing bowl, metal spoon, saucepan, wooden spoon and baking tray, if you're counting). Quantities are fairly approximate - it's a pretty robust recipe.

8oz soft margarine
8oz light brown sugar
3tbsp golden syrup
10oz porridge oats

Optional extras:
Dried fruit like sultanas, cranberries, apricots, prunes...

Makes about 20 squares (1 baking tray's worth)

1) Pre-heat the oven to 160 deg C
2) Melt the margarine in a large saucepan
3) Add the sugar and golden syrup and stir
4) Mix in the oats so they're all nicely coated *
5) Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and tip in the mixture. Press it down with a spoon so it's even
6) Cook for 20-25 mins (until golden and bubbling)
7) Leave to cool in the tray before trying to cut it up

Tip: If it sticks to the greaseproof paper (a common occurence in my household), turn the flapjack upside down (paper side up), boil the kettle and splash some of the water on the paper. When it's soaked through, it should peel off nicely

* Add the dried fruit here if you want to, approx. 4oz or whatever looks right

Margarine = 30p
Sugar = 30p
Syrup = 10p
Oats = 18p
Total = 88p (5p/ square)

Recipe No. 1: Carrot Soup

My notoriously-picky family were initially highly suspicious of this vegetable-based concoction. But after much persuasion, I managed to get them to try it.
The verdict? 'Delicious and not too carrot-y' - whatever that means. Enjoy!

1tbsp oil (sunflower/ vegetable/ olive)
1 small/ medium brown onion
500g-ish of peeled carrots (start with about 1kg of carrots to achieve this end-weight)
1 medium white potato
1L stock (chicken or vegetable)
200ml orange juice

Optional extras:
Soft cream cheese or creme fraiche to finish
Bread roll

Makes about 5 portions (6 at a push)

1) Peel and chop the carrots, aiming for a thickness of about 3mm because they'll cook faster. It's best to do this step first because it's not speedy
2) Heat the oil in a large pan (casserole dishes also great)
3) Meanwhile, chop the onion (doesn't have to be too fine because the end product is going to be pureed) and add to the oil. Fry gently for about 8 mins, until it softens
4) Whilst the onion is frying, if you are using stock cubes put the kettle on to boil. Peel and chop the potato into small-ish chunks. Make the stock
5) Add the carrots and potato chunks to the onion and heat for about 5 mins with stirring
6) Add the stock and juice and leave the pan on the heat until the liquid in the centre starts to bubble. If you are in a rush, then leave the pan on medium heat for about 15-20 mins - until the carrots are soft when you stick in a knife in them. If you have longer and used a casserole dish, you can put it in the oven on a low temperature (about 120-140 deg C) for 30-45 mins - make sure to check the liquid level occasionally.
7) Turn off the heat and let it cool for 10 mins (washing-up opportunity!) *
8) Dig the blender/ hand-held food processor/ other pureeing gadget out of the back of the cupboard and use it to puree the soup. This will probably have to be done in batches and can get a bit messy
9) Done!

* If you are using coriander, add it in step 7 before pureeing

Meal suggestion: great for lunches and re-heating at work. It freezes well too.
Add a bread roll for a more filling meal. To finish it off, I like to add a spoonful of soft cheese (or creme fraiche if I'm lucky enough to have any left in the fridge) - the colours look delicious too!

Oil = 3p
Onion = 12p
Carrots = 80p/ kilo
Potato = 10p
Stock = 8p
Juice = 13p
Total = £1.26 for 5 people (25p/ person)
Total with cream cheese and nice bread roll = 50p/ person

Monday, 15 July 2013


Hello and welcome to my new blog! 

My inspiration was this article, which was popular on the BBC website a few days ago and which you can find here:
I read it, and two things sprang to mind:
1) The £1/ meal rule-of-thumb had already occurred to me a couple of years ago, and
2) the know-it-all that I am reckoned I could probably do a better job than this article did...

And once the idea had occurred to me, I kept obsessively returning to it over the next few days, mentally making lists of the recipes I'd include and playing around with snappy titles - generally while doing far more scintillating tasks like the ironing.

Having recently graduated (and therefore with slightly more time on my hands than I am comfortable with, at least for a few months), I thought this blog was worth the gamble - mainly because if it fails, nobody will notice. Win-win. 

Cooking became more than just baking variations of fairy cakes when I started uni - there followed much-mocked meal plans, and some inventive (if not always delicious) creations when the cupboard and bank account were looking bare (least successful combination: fish fingers, noodles and ketchup. Do not try this at home). 

I saw it as something of a challenge to experiment with limited ingredients on a budget, generating the minimum of washing-up along the way. I began to develop a healthy skepticism (some may say disregard) for recipes with exotic ingredients that I have to Google before fruitlessly searching for in the supermarket! Hence the title of this blog - my recipes will be simple, economical, healthy-ish, and use ingredients that you typically buy on your weekly grocery shop. Hopefully the results will also be tasty! 

This blog won't be exclusively recipe-based - sometimes there will be tips I've picked up about student cooking for one, or feeding many on a budget. Sometimes there will be a theme or a project, but basically it will be an eclectic mix of my musings. Your tips and suggestions are welcome. 

Let's go!