Tag Archives: #stew

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!


COOKING TIME:  45 minutes

MAKES: 4 portions

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


  • 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)


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!


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!


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.


  • 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


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.


…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!


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…


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.


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

Utterly Delicious Chorizo, Tomato & Spinach Pasta… gobble gobble!

19 Jan

chorizo stew

Hello readers!

I thought today I would give you a lovely, healthy, delicious, heart-warming, inexpensive dish that you can make over and over again – to share with family or friends; or just to eat all to yourself if you like!? Once made you could also freeze a few portions of this recipe, so that you have a tasty meal when you get in from work which will be ready in just 15 minutes.

So, ‘what is this amazing recipe’, I hear you cry? As the title suggests it involves chorizo, tomatoes and spinach. It is a little more like a stew than a sauce, but it can be eaten with pasta or rice, or you could even just toast a few pitta breads and dip them in the ‘stew’. I have done all 3 of these versions and it’s just great each time!

I have to mention where this recipe originated… I am very lucky to have some gem icecreamwonderful friends, some that are great cooks (others potentially not so!), but those that can cook, cook with me and it is generally a highlight of our reunions! So, this Christmas I ventured over to Anna’s house (you can see her over there…  eating ice cream with me) and we raided the fridge and made this! It was excellent and so I want to share it with all of you…

Without further ado…


COOKING TIME: 15 – 20 minutes

MAKES: 4 portions


  • 1 Large Onion  (33p)
  • 2 tsp Chilli Flakes
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/3 Ring of Chorizo (£2 for the whole ring, so approx. 67p)
  • 1 tin/carton Chopped Tomatoes (79p)
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (the bottle cost me £1.30, so about 10p)
  • 1/4 bag Spinach Leaves (£1.50 for the bag, so approx. 38p)
  • Ground Black Pepper – to taste


Overall this dish should cost about £2.27 and with wholemeal/brown rice or pasta add about another £1.  I think a grand total of £3.27 is exceptionally reasonable value for a family of 4.

If you add a little cheese, add about 40p to the cost of the recipe, and if you eat a pitta bread with each portion too add another 60p.

I think the key with this recipe is, once you have the basic stew/sauce, you can make additions as you like to keep in line with your weekly budget.  Give it a go and experiment, if you find a cheap alternative to something you could always add that instead.


The first thing to do is obviously to get the onion cooking, so lets chop that nice and finely, then add a tiny bit of olive oil to the frying pan, heat it up (so that it is just lightly smoking… no more, you don’t want the onions to sizzle when they hit the pan).  Use a garlic crusher (or mortal and pestle?) to crush the garlic, and add this straight to the onions.  Add the chilli at this stage and then let all of this cook until they turn golden, but do not let them burn.  If they do burn, throw them away and start again as burnt onions will really spoil the taste of your dish.

Now the onions are lovely and soft, reduce the heat and prepare the chorizo.  I like to cut this into small pieces, just roughly chopped is fine (we aren’t cooking in a Michelin star restaurant so its ok!) and then pop the chorizo into the frying pan too.  You want to turn the heat back up and keep moving the chorizo and the onions around in the pan.  The chorizo will start to release its flavour as it cooks, through the oils in it.  This will give off a lovely aroma and will colour the onions.  Give this process about 5 minutes.

*If you are serving this dish with rice or pasta, start cooking it around about now.  Don’t add salt and try to use brown rice or pasta for a little extra wholemeal goodness.*

Next reduce the heat, so it is just on low… add the chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and black pepper (to your taste preference).   I would advise not adding any salt to this recipe as the chorizo is salty and will give a salty flavour.  If you do add salt remember it is not good for your health to have too much salt, but also you could spoil the dish.  Just proceed with caution!

Let this cook for about 10 minutes.  The volume of the sauce/stew will reduce, so do feel free to add a little water to keep a saucy consistency –  we aren’t making chorizo and tomato paste.. unless you want to give that a go to!?

After the 10 minutes has elapsed you can start thinking about adding the spinach.  I would get this out of the bag and give it a very good wash.  Sometimes the spinach leaves can have grit/soil still on them and this will be discovered when you start eating and your teeth crunch onto the grit!  Once washed, tear the leaves or roughly chop them and then drop them into the stew/sauce and cook until the leaves wilt.  If you have never cooked spinach before and don’t know what the ‘wilt’ looks like, it is ok!  Just keep stirring until the spinach goes very dark green and becomes very soft, you will hardly be able to see it any more in the sauce!  (See my picture above!).

You are now about ready to serve!  Drain your pasta or rice, toast your pitta bread and then serve in a bowl.  If you want to indulge a little sprinkle some cheddar cheese or parmesan over the top.  If you have made it very hot you could add a little sour cream or natural yoghurt to reduce the heat a little.

Most of all… ENJOY!  You have put a lot of hardwork in, so sit down and enjoy your meal.

Ps.  If there is lots left over portion it up and freeze it in Tupperware boxes or freezer bags ready for another day – or make a large batch and freeze it.

PPS.  Another amazing addition is houmous!  (You can make this really easily, but if you buy it, buy the reduced fat version…)  So,warm some wholemeal pitta breads, carefully cut them in half, spread with houmous and eat with your chorizo and pasta/rice.  AMAZING.