Tag Archives: #dinner

Live Below the Line: Tasty vegetable & BARLEY (but a little bit ugly) SOUP, ready for winter…July

28 Jun

20130628-070300.jpgSoup… a way to save money, loose a little weight and boost my vegetable intake.  So, why not!  I love soup, I really really do.  I hate soup when my tuppawear opens and it leaks all over my bag, but this is a very rare occurance and it is the ONLY time I dislike soup.  I cannot think of any reason why people should not make it and eat it in summer… it lasts in the fridge, the taste increases (for the better) overtime and I just love it… as I am sure you will to.

I think soup is a traditionally quite a nothern staple.  I know as a little girl we were served a smooth vegetable soup as soon as my mum thought one of us had even a slight cold (evidenced by a little cough or a sneeze that she noticed and prayed upon).  Rather than it being a torturous occasion to have this soup, we would relish it and if we were really good mum would either make some homemade bread to go with it, some baked chicken wings or (my personal favourite) a little cheese on toast.  I have  (over the years of living away from home) tended to experiment with soups and now, as an adult, see them as a great way to boost my vitamins, minerals and even my fibre intake – with added pearl barley.  I am also more than happy to order them for dinner in a restaurant, as they are generally inexpensive, heart warming and really really filling.

I love pearl barley, nearly as much as I love soup.  It really bulks out a dish, but it is a wholegain and is great for your digestive system, as it is high in fibre and wholegrain goodness (extra B vitamins and some essential fatty acids).  It is also very cheap and if fills me up, so there is not much more that I could want from a food product!  If you haven’t cooked with it before, there really is no need to worry.  It is extremly simple to use, you just need to ensure you cook it until it is soft (like rice!).

I have decided to make this recipe a part of my ‘Live Below the Line’ series, as it really is THAT cheap to make.  You don’t even have to add the chicken (maybe just add some more veg if you don’t) but if you don’t have a lot of money and want something wholesome, healthy and low in calories, high in nutrients then you really don’t have to look any further… here we go!

PREPARATION TIME: 10 minutes

COOKING TIME:  45 minutes

MAKES: 4 portions

COST: 42p per portion (without the chicken it would be cheaper at 20p per portion)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 chicken thighs or 3 drumsticks (£3.00 for 6 thighs, so £1 for 2 – you could use a wing or drumstick, I prefer to buy de-boned thighs just to save me some time but using the drumsticks would cost about 88p)
  • 1 chicken stock cube (10p)
  • 2 carrots (12p)
  • 1 potato, or 5 new potatoes with the skin on (28p – see if you can buy them singulary or if there are any offers on large bags or reductions)
  • 1 large onion (if you buy a large bag of about 16 onions for £1 then use 2 of these as they are a little smaller – this will set you back about 12p)
  • 1 cup of pearl barley (59p for a 500g bag of this and you will need about 150g of dried pearl barley, so this will cost 17p)
  • Water (to cover, about a litre)
  • Black Pepper (to taste – a store cupboard ingredient)

HOW TO MAKE THE CHICKEN & BARLEY SOUP…

The first thing to do is to finely dice your carrots and your onions and pop them in a large pan.  To this add a dash of olive oil and cook for 5 minutes until they are just start to soften.

Whilst the carrots and onions cook, soak the pearl barley in a bowl with boiling water and place to one side (for about 20 minutes).

Add the chicken, and the stock cube to the pan and then cover with water.  If you are using a medium sized pan, fill the pan until the water level comes to about 2cm below the top (it should be about a litre, but you may need more – it depends if you want a thick chunky soup or a slightly more watery, soup).  Place a lid on and bring to the boil.  Once boiling reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  At this point the chicken should be cooked, so remove from the pan and place on a chopping board.  You need to cool the chicken down, so that you can shred it.  If you do this whilst it is still hot you will have very sore hands!

The pearl barley should now have softened a little, so pour into a sieve and then rinse until the water runs clear.  This will mean you have removed some of the starch, which is fine.  Add this to the soup and again return the soup to the boil.  Dice the potatoes (with the skins on for extra fibre) and then add to the pan.  You need to cook this until the pearl barley is soft… it’s a little like cooking rice.  If you don’t cook it through it has a hard centre which tastes bitty and unpleasant.  It will take about 20 to 30 minutes for the pearl barley to soften, so once boiling, reduce to a simmer and continue to cook.

Once the chicken is cooled, remove the skin and discard, then shred using a fork (or your fingers… after all they were they best tools we were born with) and then add this back into the soup.  Discard the bones and continue to cook the soup until all the vegetables etc. are soft.  I would add my pepper with about 5 – 10 minutes of the cooking time left and then taste to ensure I have added enough.

This soup should not be blended to a smooth consistency – which is why it is important to dice the vegetables nice and small.  Then serve… use a nice bowl to make it look a little prettier and if you wish serve with some nice chunky brown bread.  YUM!

20130628-070337.jpg

The finished soup! I know it does not look that appetising, but that is because everything (the pearl barley) has sunk to the bottom and is all I could photograph was the watery soup… believe me it TASTES AMAZING!

Making a meal of it… PANCAKES GALORE! (…with very childish, but very yummy fillings!)

16 Jun

20130614-162750.jpgSo, the British summertime is officially here… well in terms of the month in the year it is… June. But, as we are all very much aware we are seriously lacking the summer weather to go with it. Some of us will have holidays booked, ready to jet off in search of the summer sun, but some of us will have been looking forward to simply soaking up the sun in our back gardens, which won’t be happening in the near future. Sorry to dash your hopes and dreams those of you who have bought the lotion ready for the weekend…

I am therefore offering you this recipe as a solution to that ‘rainy day’ with the family. It is actually something I made on pancake day this year for my friends (I am a little bit of a child at heart), so I thought it would be fun to make something inspired by my childhood.

Do you remember ‘Findus Crispy Pancakes’? I do, and a few years ago Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made these little gems on ‘River Cottage’ which made me think… I can do that too! Hugh made his with quite adult, modern day fillings, but I regressed straight back to my 8 year old self and made baked beans and sausage pancakes; and bacon in a cheesy sauce. The fillings though can be completely up to you… you can put in whatever YOU like. I shall offer up some suggestions at the end.

My versions of this recipe are not healthy, I warn you. They are about having fun with food and enjoying food. If you want to make a healthy filling i.e. sweet potato mash, white sauce and bacon with broccoli – there is no reason why you could not do this. You could make bolognaise and pop that in, or chilli (see my chilli recipe) or even meatballs (see my meatball recipe). The world is your oyster when it comes to this. The only fillings you cannot use – or I would advise you not to use are soups or salads. The first will not hold well as a filling and life could get VERY messy. The latter would be disgusting/wilted once baked, so do tread with a little caution!

PREPARATION TIME: 1 hour

COOKING TIME: 20 minutes

MAKES: 12 – 16 pancakes (depending on how large/small, thick/thin you make them)

INGREDIENTS

For the pancakes…

  • 200g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 75ml water
  • Butter (for the pan)

For my favourite fillings and the crunchy coating…

  • 1 box of cheap cornflakes
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tin of your favourite baked beans
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • 4 sausages
  • 1tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp plain white flour
  • 200ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 80g mature cheddar cheese
  • 6 rashers of bacon (any bacon will do – streaky, plain, smoked)

HOW TO MAKE THESE DELICIOUS, SLIGHTY NAUGHTY PANCAKES…

First of all you need to make the batter for the pancakes and then cook each pancake in a frying pan as per my pancake recipe in ‘how did you have yours!?’.

Once the pancakes are cooked and they are cooling (it is best to use them when they are cool as they will be easier/safer for you to handle), you can start to prepare the filling.

20130214-055049.jpg

My lovely, pancake just golden and very nearly perfectly round! Pile yours up on a plate as you make them and pop to one side to cool…

The first one ‘beans and sausages’ is a slightly more adult version of the traditional beans and sausages, as it uses proper sausages not those weird tinned processed ones! So, take the skins of your sausages and then cut them into small pieces. Coat each piece of sausage with a little flour. Heat the frying pan so it’s warm and then drop the sausage pieces into the pan. You do not need to add oil. Once the sausage starts to cook it will release its own oil. Once the little bits of sausage have turned golden add the baked beans, the tomato puree and black pepper to taste. Mix well and cook until approx. half the liquid in the baked beans has evaporated out of the beans (my younger sister refers to this as ‘bean juice’). You want them to be a little drier so the filling doesn’t just run out.

Place this filling to one side and prepare filling number two…

In a pan melt the butter and to this add the plain flour. Mix these together, you should get a paste. To this add a dash of milk and mix until smooth, repeat until the butter/flour mix is more like the consistency of a thick sauce, with no lumps and then add the remainder of the milk and stir. Add the grated cheese and stir. Place this over a low heat and stir continually. After about 10 minutes the cheese will have melted and the sauce should have thickened considerably. If you don’t stir constantly you could get lumps in the sauce, which you don’t want, so use a figure of 8 motion to stir ensuring you get all the sides of the pan. Once thickened, urn off the heat and cover with a damp towel, so it does not get a skin. You could also use clingfilm, but be careful as the pan will be very hot.

Cook the bacon as you like it – in a frying pan (don’t add oil) or under the grill. Allow to cool and then cut into chunks. It is easiest to do this using a pair of scissors as once the bacon is cooked it is harder to chop. Place the bacon bits into the slightly cooled white sauce, add some black pepper to taste and then stir. The sauce should have thickened even more now it has cooled a little.

Now your fillings are ready, you can start to assemble the pancakes!

HOW TO FILL THE PANCAKES…

Take one pancake and one of your fillings. Place the pancake on a chopping board or plate and using a spoon, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the filling onto one side (only) of the pancake.

20130214-055101.jpg

I choose to use the baked bean and egg filling here to add to my pancake. As you can see its just in half the pancake, and the shiny bit around half of the edge of the pancake is the egg… ready to glue the over half down!

Whisk 2 eggs in a cup using a fork and then, using a pastry brush, brush some of this egg around where you have place the filling in a half moon shape around the edge of the pancake. You only need to egg ½ the edge of the pancake not the whole thing, as then you can fold the other half over and stick it down – the egg will act as the glue. Repeat this with the pancakes and the fillings until all of your fillings are used up.

20130614-160938.jpg

You will now have lots of pancakes that have a filling in and look like this… They need their coats on. This is the exciting/messy bit which makes them crunchy and yummy!

I only put one filling in my pancakes, but you could go crazy and mix them up – just a note, if you are doing this ensure the fillings go together!

HOW TO COAT THE PANCAKES…

You will probably have some whisked egg left, so add the other 2 eggs to this and whisk. Pour this out onto a large plate.

On another large plate crunch up/crush about 4 handfuls of cornflakes. You want the cornflakes to be crushed a bit, as a cornflake is quite large and will not stick as well as lots of little bits will.

20130214-055135.jpg

The pancakes will now be coated on each side with crunched up cornflakes and they are ready to be baked in the oven…

Now you have 2 plates, one with whisked eggs on and another with cornflakes on. Take one of the filled pancakes and carefully place it in the egg mixture. Turn it over so both sides are coated in egg and then gently lift the pancake out and place it in the crushed cornflakes. Turn it over and once both sides are nicely coated, you can take it out of the cornflakes and place it on a baking tray. Repeat this until all your filled pancakes are coated and then bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 180 degrees/gas mark 4. You want the pancakes and the cornflakes to turn golden and for the filling to be heated through.

Serve your pancakes with a salad, some coleslaw or if you are being naughty just as they are! Enjoy!

20130614-160802.jpg

This is how they should look once they have been baked in the oven… golden and crispy!

OTHER FILLINGS…

My versions of this recipe are not healthy, as you will have very much gathered. They are about having fun with food and enjoying food. If you want to make a healthy filling i.e. sweet potato mash, white sauce and bacon with broccoli – there is no reason why you could not do this. You could make bolognaise and pop that in, or chilli (see my chilli recipe) or even meatballs (see my meatball recipe). If you like fish, you could make the white sauce recipe above that I made and then to this add a selection of fish – white fish would work well, or salmon; or you could go very fancy and use some prawns and make a seafood filled pancake! You could make a curry and rice – or use a leftover curry from the night before!? The world is your oyster when it comes to this.

The only fillings you cannot use – or I would advise you not to use – are soups or salads. The first will not hold well as a filling and life could get VERY messy. The latter would be disgusting/wilted once baked, so do tread with a little caution!

If you want to see how Hugh did it with the River Cottage team, you can have a look here. But I think my version is best… as I would!

ABC, 1..2..3… with SIXTEEN SiZzLinG Sausages, sizzling in a pan…

21 May

photo‘Why am I calling this an ABC recipe?’ I hear you ask… well… this recipe was sent to me by Anna Buttery and it’s a Casserole!  But making this recipe is also as simple as ABC, 1… 2… 3.  The ingredient list looks lengthy and potentially quite ambitious, but I assure you it isn’t really.  It is all about having the confidence to ‘have a go’ and even if you don’t do everything to the letter, it doesn’t matter as with something as simple as a casserole you can’t really fail.

Follow these simple steps and make a delicious, hearty dinner that you will be extremely proud to show off to your friends and family.  I made it this weekend after Anna recommended it to me, as my parents were visiting London and I had them and 2 hungry house-mates to feed, so the 5 of us sat down to dinner and really enjoyed this meal.  The herbs, wine and balsamic vinegar gave the casserole a fabulous flavour and I found that the recipe wasn’t too expensive make, so I could happily feed everyone for under £10.

I bought some garlic bread and baking potatoes (which I roasted in the oven at the same time as the casserole) as my carbohydrate and they complimented the dish well.  On finishing the meal I still had 4 sausages left, so I had 2 meals for work too.  Just sublime!

PREPARATION TIME: 20 minutes (including cooking the sausages)

COOKING TIME: 1.5 hours

MAKES: 8 portions (to feed your family, or to freeze)

COST PER PORTION: 91p… this gives everyone 2 sausages, lots of beans and casserole sauce and if you then add a carbohydrate to this you want to add an extra 25p per person for a potato or some garlic bread or maybe even some rice.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 16 Cumberland sausages – I bought 3 packs from Sainsbury’s for £5 and used 2 packs, using these offers is a great way to save money – £3.34
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes – 69p
  • 1 bag Sainsbury’s cherry tomatoes – £1
  • 200g tomato passata – 24p
  • 3 gloves of chopped/crushed garlic – 4p
  • 4 whole garlic cloves – 5p
  • 2 large onions (red or white)
  • 2 rosemary sprigs – from my garden so free to me!
  • 1tbsp fresh thyme – also from my garden so free to me!
  • 1 can of cannellini beans – 69p
  • 1 can of baked beans – any brand will do, I had a spare tin of Heinz, Branston are cheaper and have more flavour but the Sainsbury’s own are the cheapest, so the choice is yours – 70p
  • 150ml Red wine – only use this if you have a leftover bottle lying around, I did so this went in.  If I hadn’t I would not have opened a bottle for this, as I just cannot afford to.  For this reason, and because we are using up leftovers this is pretty much a freebie!
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar – 30p
  • 1 red chilli with seeds or 3 tsp chilli powder – this is a store cupboard ingredient, or if you have a chilli plant in the garden it’s pretty much free!
  • 1 tsp paprika – this is a store cupboard ingredient, so we don’t need to include this in the costings.
  • 1 Kallo stock cube – beef or pork is fine, use Kallo as they are organic, have less salt and more flavour, cheaper stock cubes mean you are paying for expensive salt! – 12p
  • 2 stalks of celery – 10p
  • 100 ml water – if you do not use the red wine increase this to 200ml

HOW TO MAKE THIS DELICIOUS CASSEROLE…

So, the first thing to do is to cook the sausages! Lets get them going in the frying pan, turning them a quarter turn ever couple of minutes so that they become nice and golden/brown all over.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Once done remove them from the pan and place them on a plate to rest.  Do not throw all the ‘sausage juice’ left in the pan away, as this is where most of our flavour is going to come from.

IMG_5413

…my sixteen sizzling sausages, sizzling in the pan!

Next, peel and chop the onions in to 8ths and separate a little.  Throw these into the pan with all the sausage juice and cook until golden.  To this add the little pieces of celery, the chopped/crushed garlic and then the pressed, whole garlic cloves in their skin. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes and then add the chilli, the chopped up rosemary, the thyme (leaves only, not the twig bits as these will get stuck in your teeth).  Cut the cherry tomatoes in halves and then add to the pan and leave for another 5 minutes.  Now add the balsamic vinegar and the red wine and allow to cook for a further 5 minutes.  IMG_5414

Finally add the stock cube, the tin of chopped tomatoes, the baked beans and the cannellini beans.  I would also add the water at this stage, as in the oven the sauce will reduce somewhat and you don’t want a dry casserole!

IMG_5415

Stack the sausages, as per the picture in your casserole dish.  This will allow the sauce to get in between the sausages and allow everything to mingle nicely together.  To this add the casserole sauce, and if there are any sausage juices on the plate where the sausages have been resting, put these into the casserole and mix a little.  It should look a little bit like this now…

IMG_5416

Cover this with tin-foil and bake in the oven at 180 degrees for an hour.  If you want a jacket potato wrap this in foil and put this in the oven now too. For the last 30 minutes remove the tinfoil, reduce the heat in the oven to about 140/150 degrees and allow some of the liquid to evaporate off.  The sauce will become all sticky and gooey in this time and become extra tasty.  Now you are ready to serve – with the carbohydrate of your choice.  YUMMY.

photo-3

The final casserole… all scrummy and ready to eat. It may look like an ordinary casserole, but believe me it’s a taste sensation. THANK YOU ANNA BUTTERY xxx

I’m not French but French Onion soup I am… with very scrummy, very cheesy *CHEESE CROUTONS*

8 May

crutons

From the feedback I have received for my last post in my ‘Living Below the Line’ series, I decided to make a slightly more ‘extravagant’ version of my French Onion Soup, for those of us who would like to indulge a little bit and eat this soup like the French do… with CHEESY CROUTONS.  The best cheese to use for this is a traditional Gruyère cheese, as this has a rich cheesy flavour with a stringy, soft texture (when melted).

When I was in Paris last year, I made sure that I had this soup as a starter or as my lunch each day.  I wanted to see how different restaurants made it and after ordering it for my lunch on the first day, and trying the traditional soup for the first time I was not only delighted, but I was hooked. It was THE most incredible French onion soup I had ever eaten and I have wanted to recreate it for a while now, but haven’t dared in case I did not do it justice.  But, this recipe was amazing and it took me straight back to my first day in Paris.

PREPARATION TIME: 10 minutes

COOKING TIME: 1.5 hours

MAKES: 4 portions

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large white onions
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 40g butter 
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2.5 pints of boiling hot water
  • 275ml white wine (this is a really important ingredient to get a really authentic tasting soup)
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • approx. 1 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 small ciabatta bread
  • 80g Gruyere cheese

HOW TO MAKE THE SOUP…

Let’s start by preparing the onions.  So, chop in half, peel and then slice.  We are going to make half moons of the onion so that we have large pieces of onion in our soup. Delicious.  The onions are the star of the show after all.

Heat the oil and the butter in a pan until the butter has melted and then add the onions and cook on a high heat.  You will need to keep stirring this and then letting it cook for a minute, stir, cook, stir cook so that the onions do not stick, but just allowing them enough time to soften and caramelise.  Once the edges of the onion are just starting to become golden, like this…

soup 1

.. the onions with the butter and the oil, just becoming golden around the edges.

We can move onto the next stage where we are going to get as much flavour from the onions as we possibly can.  So, we need to pay close attention to the onions as they could burn and if that happens we will have to start again from scratch.  We are going to turn the heat down to low – as low as it will go and allow the onions to cook for a couple of minutes and then stir and repeat.  Ensure you are scraping the bottom of the pan each time you stir to make sure NOTHING is stuck to the bottom.  After half an hour the onions should be golden brown and have reduced to quite a small quantity in the bottom of the pan.  If this is the case you are ready to add the stock.  If not, keep going for another 10 minutes or so.

Now add the 2.5 pints of boiling water, the 275ml of white wine and the 2 beef stock cubes.  Turn the heat up to high and once the stock cubes are dissolved and the soup is at a rolling boil reduce the heat to low and allow it to reduce for 45 minutes.  This will allow the soup to thicken a little as the volume of liquid reduces.

soup 2

The onions have coloured the soup and added a fantastic deep brown/golden colour to the soup. The stock cubes, water, wine and pepper have now been added and we are ready to reduce the soup for 45 minutes.

Whilst the soup reduces, slice the ciabatta bread to create giant croutons – if you are making this soup to serve 4 people I would make 8 croutons, therefore 8 slices of ciabatta, so that everyone gets 2 croutons. Ciabatta bread is the best to use as it is a slightly more hardy bread… if you were to use white sliced bread it would completely disintegrate in the soup and you would be left with crouton mush.

Place these onto a baking tray and grill, until they are just slightly golden.  Turn over and repeat on the other side.  Whilst the croutons are being toasted you can grate approx. 80g of Gruyere cheese.  If you use the smallest grater this will be best as the cheese will melt more quickly.  Once the croutons are toasted remove them from underneath the grill (using your oven gloves) and sprinkle with approx. 10g of cheese on each one.  Place back under the grill until the cheese is melted.

Once you have reduced the soup and it is looking thicker than when you first added the stock, then you are ready to serve the soup.  Use a ladle to spoon the soup out into the bowl and then place 2 croutons in the centre of the bowl.  You are now ready to eat… ENJOY!

crutons

My version of French Onion Soup with Gruyere cheese, CHEESY CROUTONS.

I thought I would take the opportunity to show you a few little snaps from my trip to Paris… and most importantly the French Onion Soup from the *Cafe du Centre* – it was truly incredible.  I hope this recipe inspires you to make this soup.  It is a real treat and not too indulgent if you are watching your waistline.

Cafe Paris French Onion 1 Me ParisLou Paris

Live Below the Line – Part 2: I’m not French but French Onion soup I am…

6 May

french onion 1My first recipe in this series came in a lot higher than I wanted it to, so I thought I would maybe try a soup next.  This has coincided with me having a real craving for French Onion Soup and my reminiscing about my trip to Paris last year, where I ate possibly the best French Onion Soups I will ever eat.  This soup is also a firm favourite of my fathers, so I am writing about this in the hope that it will a) cost a lot less than my first recipe; b) be incredibly tasty and my father will also be inspired to make it; and c) that the flavours will take me back to Paris, if only for the evening and within my memories.

This soup is traditionally served with Gruyère cheese croutons on the top of it, but as we are living on £1 a day I think we are going to have to forgo the croûtons and simply enjoy this delicious soup.  I have added some black pepper and thyme to the recipe to increase the flavour, in the hope that we won’t miss the croûtons to much.  Let’s have a go…

PREPARATION TIME: 5 minutes

COOKING TIME: 1.5 hours

MAKES: 6 portions

COST: 29p – I am much happier with the cost of this recipe, it is all about portion size and eating a little less.  Ideally this soup would feed 4 people, but we are stretching out to serve 6 in order to keep the cost a little lower.  You could have my couscous for lunch and this soup for dinner and still have 12p left for breakfast and snacks.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 large white onions – £1 for the 3 onions from Sainsbury’s local, however you could get these much cheaper in a local grocery store.  I needed 4 onions so this cost me £1.33
  • 1tbsp olive oil – this is a store cupboard ingredient, so we are not going to include this.  Granted you would have to buy this at some point and it is quite expensive, but for the sake of this challenge, we are going to have to cut a couple of corners, sorry.  You don’t NEED this, so if you are low on olive oil you can leave this out.
  • 35g butter – Asda own brand butter is £1 for 250g, so this is a snip at 14p
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roasted – it was 20p for the bulb and 2 cloves will set you back a mere 3p
  • 2 tsp brown sugar – at Tesco I found dark brown sugar for £1.39 per 500g, so this will be approx. 2p
  • 2 tsp plain white flour – 1.5kg of Asda Smartprice flour is a mere 40p, so a couple of teaspoons of this will be about 2p
  • 3 pints of boiling hot water – free… woooo!
  • 2 beef stock cubes – it is always best to buy in bulk, so if we get a large packet of these which include 24 cubes, one cube will set us back 9p and 2 cubes will therefore be 18p
  • approx. 1 tsp black pepper – free… this is a store cupboard ingredient
  • 1 tbsp freshly picked thyme leaves – free… wooo!  I am lucky enough to have these in my garden, so I am going to pick theses and use these.  I know not everyone can do this, but if not then it isn’t an essential ingredient so you can leave it out.

HOW TO MAKE THE SOUP…

Let’s start by preparing the onions.  So, chop in half, peel and then slice.  We are going to make half moons of the onion so that we have large pieces of onion in our soup. Delicious.  The onions are the star of the show after all.  Now heat the oil and the butter in a pan until the butter has melted and then add the onions and cook on a high heat.  You will need to keep stirring this and then letting it cook for a minute, stir, cook, stir cook so that the onions do not stick, but just allowing them enough time to cook.  Once the edges of the onion are just starting to become golden, like this…

soup 1

.. the onions with the butter and the oil, just becoming golden around the edges.

We can move onto the next stage where we are going to get as much flavour from the onions as we possibly can.  So, we need to pay close attention to the onions as they could burn and if that happens we will have to start again from scratch.  We are going to turn the heat down to low – as low as it will go and allow the onions to cook for a couple of minutes and then stir and repeat.  Ensure you are scraping the bottom of the pan each time you stir to make sure NOTHING is stuck to the bottom.  After half an hour the onions should be golden brown and have reduced to quite a small quantity in the bottom of the pan.  If this is the case you are ready to add the flour.

Add the 2 tsp of flour and stir it into the onions so that there are no lumps.  Now add the thyme, pepper, cook for 2 minutes and then add the boiling water and the 2 stock cubes crumbled up.  Ensure everything is mixed together well and then turn the heat back up.  Once this is on a rolling boil reduce the heat to low and allow it to reduce for 45 minutes.

soup 2

The onions have coloured the soup and added a fantastic deep brown/golden colour to the soup. The stock cubes, thyme, flour and pepper have now been added and we are ready to reduce the soup for 45 minutes.

Once you have reduced the soup and it is looking thicker than when you first added the stock, then you are ready to serve the soup.  Enjoy!

french onion 2

The tastiest soup I have had in a while… YUM!!

(If you have had a very low cost lunch you could stretch to a slice of toast with this… but no butter and please ensure it’s wholemeal bread.)

…a little less frugal and a lot more indulgent *ROASTED VEG, CHICKPEA & FETA COUSCOUS*

6 May

couscous 1

I love the roasted vegetable couscous recipe I uploaded yesterday, as a potential recipe in my ‘living below the poverty line on £1 a day challenge’, but as I mentioned there are a few things I would do differently if I were not trying to cut corners and make this recipe as cheap as I possibly could.

I understand and appreciate that there are people in our country who are not as fortunate as I perhaps am, and would only just be able to afford my 59p recipe never-mind this slightly more indulgent recipe.  But yesterday I was thinking to myself what the cost of a bottle of water is in my local supermarket (approx. 89p) and what I paid last week for a lemon water drink (£1.95) when I was gasping for a drink in central London and it was all I could find.

I was actually pretty shocked at this and thought if I am paying £1.95 for a drink which lasted me half an hour and simply quenched my thirst, then surely I could spend a little more to make this lunch even more healthy, nutritious and enjoyable whilst still only spending a pound or so a day for my lunches.

I have friends who pop to Pret each day for a sandwich, drink and bag of crisps, this must cost around £7 each day?  And, I know others who pop to our local salad bar at lunch for a £4.50 a day salad.  None of these my budget will allow for, but this recipe with a few additions it will, so by goodness I am going to go all out!  Get ready folks we are about to get a little more jazzy with the couscous…

PREPARATION TIME: 15 minutes

COOKING TIME: 30 minutes

MAKES: 4 portions

COST: £1.07 per portion – which is quite a significant difference to my £0.59 recipe, but it is still much better than buying one drink for £1.95 or lunch for £4.50.  Eating this for lunch for 4 days would be do-able and actually it would make for a cheap lunch, in comparison to what you could be paying for this in a restaurant.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250g couscous – this costs £1.25 in Tesco’s for 500g, so although you would need to buy the whole bag, you would only need half of it, which would make it 63p . Try to find the whole-wheat version for a slightly healthier version.
  • 1 and a half red peppers – now this cost me 80p per pepper as I bought it from my local Sainsbury’s.  You could shop around for this and get it for a lot cheaper in a local grocery shop or market stall (the bowls of peppers for £1 will get you 3 or 4 peppers). Mine cost me £1.20.
  • 2 red onions – look through all the bags/onions and ensure you get a large one if they are all the same price, this is what I do!  60p
  • 2 courgettes – I bought a packet with 2 courgettes in for £1
  • 1/2 a tin of chickpeas (200g) – I shopped around for these a little and found them at Asda for 62pI think these may be cheaper to buy somewhere like Aldi.  It is much cheaper to buy these dry and soak them yourself, though this will add some extra time to the preparation of this recipe, as they will need to be soaked overnight. So these cost me 36p.
  • 1/2 a lemon – it was 30p for a whole one (again shop around and you will get this cheaper!) 15p
  • 2 cloves of garlic – the bulb was 20p so approx. 2p
  • 1 stock cube – it was £1.09 for 8 stock cubes so this makes it 14p per stock cube
  • 300ml boiling hot water – this one you can have for free as we all have the right to water and I am sure you can make it hot (there has to be some cutting of corners here)
  • 80g of vintage/aged feta cheese – I have choose a vintage version of this as it will have a deeper/stronger flavour and therefore you will need less cheese to get the flavour and consequently it will be slightly healthier.  Feta cheese is quite expensive, but the cheapest I have found was in Waitrose (ummmmm I know!) for £1.69 for 250g, so for this recipe I spent 54p
  • 15 mint leaves – very specific I know, but if you roll these up like a cigar and then finely chop them, they are an excellent flavour enhancer, but too much and we have mint couscous and nothing else.  A bag of mint leaves was 80p, so use about 1/3 of this and it will cost approx. 26p
  • 1 tbsp olive oil – this is a general store cupboard ingredient so we aren’t going to cost this one (as I am also running out of money!)
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes (again a store cupboard ingredient!)
  • 2 tsp paprika (store cupboard ingredient)

HOW TO MAKE THE ROASTED VEGETABLE COUSCOUS…

First we need to make the couscous, so make up the stock using boiling water and dissolving the stock cube in this.  Then weigh out the couscous, place in a large bowl and pour the stock over the top.  Cover with a clean tea towel and place to one side.

Wash the vegetables and then chop them into slices… they can be left quite large at this stage.  Peel the garlic cloves, peel the onion and chop into quarters and leave in its quarters (otherwise it will burn).  Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp chilli flakes and 2 tsp of paprika and rub together to ensure all the ingredients are coated in spices and oil.

couscous 3

Roughly chopped vegetables coated in olive oil, paprika and chilli flakes.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until all the vegetables are soft, slightly brown/golden but definitely not burnt.  Allow them to cool, whilst you use a fork to break up the couscous, mix this well and then we can ‘mince’ all of the vegetables.

couscous 4

… beautifully roasted vegetables – even if I do say so myself!

Mincing is a chopping technique, so place all your vegetables (and garlic) onto a chopping board and then, using a large knife ‘rock’ the knife over the top of them in different directions, until all the vegetables are finely diced/minced.  Add these to the couscous.

couscous 5

My roasted vegetables once ‘minced’… look at those fabulous colours. YUM!

Now we are going to make the dressing, so in a small bowl zest 1/2 the lemon, then roll it on your chopping board using the palm of your hand to release the juices.  Chop in half and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon into the bowl.  To this add 1 tbsp olive oil and mix well.  Roll your mint leaves into a cigar shape and then finely chop these, you can use the rocking technique to make them even smaller and then add to the olive oil and lemon mixture. Pour this over the vegetables and the couscous, then open your tin of chickpeas, drain, add to the mix.

Finally crumble your 80g of feta cheese into the couscous, mix well and then we are DONE!  Now you can enjoy this lovely hearty roasted vegetable couscous…

couscous

From humble beginnings to a delicious, nutritious meal with all of our food groups… dairy, carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables; and a little fat/sugars, but good fats from the olive oil. DONE!

*MEATBALLS* … inspired by MASTERCHEF, made by ME. Simples.

21 Apr

meatballs 8

I have been away for a little while, doing ‘life admin’, which I agree is absolutely no fun at all, but it has to be done.  I have however continued to bake/cook at every opportunity and have made a range of things which I will share with you over the next few weeks.  Whilst I have been away I have however been watching one of my favourite TV shows… Masterchef.

Masterchef has been back on our TV screens (hoorah!) and I have been avidly watching the new series – is it me or has there been a few dodgy hopefuls?  It left me thinking ‘surely I am better than those people, who don’t even know the difference between pork and lamb?‘… Hummm.  Not too impressed, I must say!

Anyway, I often watch Masterchef and think ‘I would love to make that, if only I could afford XXX ingredients’.  I never can and always think it’s a little unobtainable for me, though I do enjoy viewing the show.  However, this week all was different.  John Torode made meatballs… what!?  Simple, easy and something I liked and could easily get all the ingredients for.  I was inspired.

So, here is what I did and how I did it.  John – they may not be as good as yours, but God loves a trier!

PREPARATION TIME: 15 minutes

COOKING TIME: 15 minutes

MAKES: 40 meatballs (serve 4 per person)

COST:  The meatballs will cost approx. 80p per portion to make and the sauce and pasta will add another 68p to this.  Overall the dish will cost £1.48.

INGREDIENTS:

For the meatballs…

  • 400g pork mince (£3.50)
  • 400g lean beef mince (£4)
  • 1 onion (33p)
  • 2 English breakfast muffins (50p)
  • 6 tsp sage (50p)
  • Black pepper (to taste)

For the pasta & sauce… (serves 4 people)

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes (89p)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree (20p)
  • 1 tbsp heinz tomato ketchup (20p)
  • 1 onion (33p)
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce (5p)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (5p)
  • 240g wholemeal pasta (£1)

HOW TO MAKE THE DISH…

meatballs 1

Grate the English muffins, to make breadcrumbs.

Some people don’t use breadcrumbs and they make this dish with 100% meat, but I like the texture the breadcrumbs give the meatballs and so does John, so here we go!  If you have a blender then great, you can use this to make the breadcrumbs, so just break the English muffins up into small pieces but into the blender.  If you don’t have a blender (like me) you can use a cheese grater to get the same result… honestly!  (I prefer it to using a blender actually as I hate cleaning the blender!)  So, once you have your breadcrumbs place these to one side.

Finely dice the onion and then (using a tiny bit of olive oil) cook these until they are soft and golden.  Do not let them catch and burn, as this will make the meatballs taste burnt too.  Once the onions are soft add the sage and continue to cook, this will release the flavour from the sage.

Next add the breadcrumbs, to the onions and the sage.  I was also quite surprise when I watched John Torode do this, but as he explained, if you don’t do this (in effect toast the breadcrumbs) then they will give the meatballs an ‘uncooked’ texture i.e. soggy!  So cook the onions, sage and breadcrumbs until they everything is golden.  This will only take about 5 minutes. Again, be careful not to let them burn and keep stirring them in the pan.

Place the pork mince and the beef mince in a large bowl and break up a little.  To this add the onions, sage and breadcrumbs mixture (I added this straight away, if you want to let it cool a little this is fine too, its probably best unless you have asbestos hands!).  Add some black pepper to this too, this will just bring out the flavours.  Add as much as you like… some people don’t like pepper and I do believe that it is an acquired taste. Then mix together well until everything comes together and is evenly distributed.  Interestingly, if you just use pork mince for this recipe then the meatballs will be very dry.  Using the beef with the pork keeps the mixture moist and brings out the ‘meaty’ flavour.  I do agree though, it is a little odd having pork and beef in the same recipe… but hey ho, it tastes great!

The meatballs mixture is now ready to roll (so to speak).  So, you can roll them into small balls.  I like to have smaller meatballs so that they get fully coated in sauce, so make lots of smaller meatballs or fewer larger ones.  This bit is for you to decide!  You could even make mini-meatballs, so that they are about 1cm each… this is what I will be doing next time… just to mix things up a little.

meatballs 7

My meatballs… rolled and ready to be cooked and eaten!

Now it is time to cook the meatballs.  In a large pan (or frying pan) heat a little olive oil and then once this is smoking a little (not spitting) drop about 8 meatballs in (2 portions) and cook these for about 3 minutes, constantly moving them around so that they do not stick and are evenly cooked.  Once they are golden all over remove them from the pan and place to one side.  Repeat this with all the meatballs you want/require.

Now it is time to make the pasta and the sauce.  Make the tomato sauce first, so that this can reduce whilst you cook the pasta.  Dice the onion and then fry this in a little tiny bit of olive oil until it is golden.  To this add a tin of chopped tomatoes, the tomato puree and the tomato ketchup.  I know that this is a little bit of a cheat, but if you don’t use this, you will need to add a little bit of sugar so it’s just the same but more tomato-y.  (This is one of my friends little cheats and it works a treat!)  To this you can add the Worcestershire sauce and a little black pepper and then you sealed meatballs, leave this to reduce and also to allow the meatballs to cook through and take on the tomato sauce flavour.  Whilst this cooks we can make the pasta.

meatballs 4

The sauce with the sealed (not cooked) meatballs, happily reducing whilst my pasta cooks.

So, boil some water and pour into a pan.  The standard portion size is about 60g of raw pasta per person, so measure this out and then place into the boiling water.  Unless you have quick cook pasta, this will take about 10 – 12 minutes to cook… just the right amount of time for your sauce to come together and thicken.

Once everything is cooked… the sauce has reduced, the pasta is cooked and drained; place the pasta in with the meatballs and sauce and mix well.  Serve and ensure that everyone gets the same number of meatballs!  Its really important to ensure everything gets mixed together as otherwise you end up with dry pasta… and this is just not what the Italians would do.  So ensure all the pasta gets coated with the sauce before you serve.  Sprinkle with some parmesan (if you like, I do) and enjoy with a glass of red wine!  DELICIOUS.

meatballs 5

The final dish, with everything coated in the sauce served! DONE!