Tag Archives: #winter

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!


It’s chilly… So let’s eat CHILLI… yum!

18 Mar

chilli 2Recently it has been very cold outside, and to be honest it doesn’t seem like it is going to get any better soon.  I heard the weather forecaster this morning telling the world it was going to SNOW in the North of England.  So, I thought that I should give you all my chilli recipe, to stave off the winter chills.

I used to prepare this chilli and make a relatively normal amount, so I could freeze the left overs.  I soon realised that rather than making 6 portions I may as well make a HUGE batch and then freeze the rest.  Therefore, my chilli has become an epic chilli making day.  I literally set aside a day to prepare this and then I can portion it up and freeze it for easy meals when I come home from work.

I am going to give you the recipe for my EPIC CHILLI and if you feel that it is too much, you can reduce the portion sizes.  However, the cost will increase per portion if you do this.

Here we go chilli people… this long winter will not beat us if we have chilli in our tummies!


COOKING TIME: 45 minutes

MAKES: 20 portions

COST PER PORTION: approx. £0.67

I think this is really really good value for money (especially when you are purchasing fresh, lean beef mince).  I have used Sainsbury’s to buy my ingredients as it is most local to me, but do shop around try to buy your tins/cartons when they are on offer, as you can reduce the 67p even more.  Also, if you live near a market go there to buy your peppers, courgettes and onions as they will be significantly cheaper.


  • 1kg lean beef mince (I buy 2x 500g packets when they are on offer.  These will cost approx. £6.00)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 10p
  • 3 onions £1
  • 2 small courgettes £1
  • 2 large dark red peppers (I always feel like these have more vitamins and minerals as they are so deep in colour) £1.60
  • 2x 400g tins of kidney beans (In water, not chilli sauce, unless you really want that one!) £1.40
  • 3x packets of tomato passata (Don’t buy the ones in the glass jars they are a lot more expensive) £1.60
  • 300ml water
  • 4 tsp chilli powder 10p
  • 3 tsp black pepper 10p
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce 5p
  • 1 tsp salt (I do apologise, but it does need it…) 1p

You are also going to need some freezer bags… shop around for this, get the smallest ones you can.  I estimate these will cost 2p each so add this to the cost of the recipe to.


Lets do this in stages to make it more manageable…

1. Prep your area:

I warn you, your kitchen is going to erupt into kitchen mayhem.  So be prepared!  Lets start by getting out our pans.  I have 3 pans – we have a pan set, so I use these.  If you have 2 large pans this would be best.  Ensure you choose pans that have lids, we will need these! Get out your chopping board and a sharp knife.  Then get a bowl – this is going to be for all the rubbish from the onions (the skin and the root), the tops and tails of the courgette, the pith and seeds from the red pepper.

2. Prep and cook your vegetables:

We are going to prepare the onions first, so chop the top off, chop them in half and then peel them.  Leave the root intact, this will stop your eyes stinging anywhere near as much.  Now dice the onion so that it is quite fine.  If you like chunky vegetables then feel free to leave the onion quite large, I like everything small.  Do as you please!

Place the oil into one of the pans and heat until it is warm, not spitting.  Place the onions in and leave to cook until golden.  You will need to stir them every now and again.  Whatever you do, do not let them burn. (This should take 10 mins).

Whilst the onions are cooking wash your courgettes and red peppers.  Dice these finely (about the same size as the onions, however you did those) and then place to one side.  Chopping a red pepper is really easy – when you know how.  Place it down on your board with the stalk facing upwards.  Then chop down the edges of the pepper, so you end up with all the pith and the seeds attached to the stalk.  You can then chop off the rest of the base and the rest of the red pepper from the top… taaaa daaa!  Then you can chop the red pepper nice and finely… do this flesh side up, shiny side down – much easier.  The knife will glide.

Add the courgette and red pepper to the cooked onions.  We want to cook these until they just start to loose their colour and become soft.  This should take about 7 minutes.  Ensure the pan is on a medium heat.

At this stage I would add the salt, pepper and chilli and then leave to cook out for another 2 – 3 minutes.

3. Brown the beef mince…

In the second pan place the lean beef mince, turn on the heat and cook.  You want to keep ‘chopping’ this with the spoon you are using to stir, so that it all breaks up into little pieces.  Cook this until it is golden.  If you can do this at the same time as the onions, peppers and courgettes then great.  If not that is fine, but ensure you turn the heat off on the onion etc. whilst the beef cooks.  Browning the beef mince will take 10 – 15 minutes.

4. Share between the pans…

This is where the cooker starts to get messy!  Well mine does!  I now have veg in one pan, beef in the other – so either get a large bowl, throw everything in and then split between the 2 pans, so that they both contain the same, or add everything to one pan and split.  Its up to you, but now you need to ensure that both the pans are equal in veg:meat.

5. It’s time to get saucy!

The main ingredients for our chilli are now done.  Well done!  Now we need to make the sauce.  Add 1 and a half cartons of passata to each pan.  Add 1/2 the water to each pan too.  Now measure and add 2 tsp of chilli to each pan (you can always add more later if it is not ‘hot’ enough – but you cannot take it away, so be careful!).  Drain the tins of kidney beans, so there is no liquid and give them a good wash.  I find the best way to do this is to put everything into a sieve and then run water over the beans.  Add half to one pan and half to the other.  Shake approx. 1/2 a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce to each pan of chilli annd then give them a good stir to combine all the ingredients.

It is now time to leave the chilli to cook.  So add the pan lids, bring the contents to the boil and then reduce the heat so that the chilli is just bubbling (simmering).  We are going to let this cook for half an hour.  Set an alarm for 10 mins and then stir the chilli, set for 10 mins and stir the chilli etc.  This will stop the chilli sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.


Here is my chilli cooking away… I split everything between 3 pans, which makes the maths complicated!
NB. My kitchen doesn’t seem to messy for ‘chilli day’.

You know the chilli is ready when it has changed colour and become a deep red/purple – as per the pictures.  The liquid should have evaporated off and the chilli should have reduced a little.  If it does not look like this, remove the lids, and leave for another 10 – 15 minutes.

I then allow all my chilli to cool down – with the lids on.  This takes a few hours.  Once it is cooled I place all my chilli in a very large bowl add 1 large cup of water, mix well and then its portioning up time!

6. Portioning up!

I get out my scales and my freezer bags and then I begin to portion up.  I am a Nutritionist and have worked for a well known supermarket, so I know that the approximate portion size for meat and sauce is about 200g.  I therefore weigh out 200g of chilli into each freezer bag.  I tie/roll and then place them in the freezer and I am done.

When I come in from work (generally on a Monday after a long day) I get one portion of chilli out the freezer and defrost it for 6 minutes in the microwave.  I then cook it in the microwave for 4 minutes, 30 seconds and then serve it with wild rice and a dollop of sour cream.  If I was more prepared I may leave the chilli to defrost in the fridge overnight then cook in a pan on the hob – but Monday holds an element of laziness (for me) so unfortunately I resign myself to the microwave.


Winter Warm… Spicy Butternut Squash Soup!

24 Jan

Feeling cold?  Feeling a little down?  Feeling like you need a boost of vitamins and minerals?

Look no further!  This week I have been making this delicious winter warmer, and as per usual I took a recipe I know and then mixed it up a little.  It’s the time of year where we all need a good, hearty soup for our lunch/dinner to keep us warm, but so we feel like we are being good to ourselves too…. It is January after all!  I know I require soup at this time of year! So, why not make this recipe and then  freeze some of the portions for another day (see below), or you can pop it in a warm flask or Tupperware and take it to work with you for a delicious lunch.

If you want to eat this with some bread, try to choose a wholegrain/brown bread, as this will be packed with wholegrain goodness!  You could even have a tasty scone (see my next recipe, coming soon!) and make sure you eat these warm, with piping hot soup!  WOW!

Makes: 6 portions

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes (until all the squash is soft)


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 4 carrots (finely chopped)
  • 2 stalks celery (finely chopped or grated)
  • 1 Leek or 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 large Butternut Squash (diced or grated)
  • 4 handfuls Red lentils
  • 2cm grated ginger
  • 1 ½ tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 tsps ground chilli OR 2 fresh chilli’s, finely chopped (or enough to suit you!)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped/grated
  • 1 tin reduced fat coconut milk
  • 2 litres / 8 cups water
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • Black pepper to season
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 handful of finely chopped fresh coriander – to serve (optional)


Wash your hands, get all your equipment and ingredients ready and then before you chop anything wash all your vegetables.

The lentils need washing next.  Place your 4 handfuls of red lentils into a large bowl.  Add lukewarm water and using your hands rub the lentils together.  You will notice the water turns cloudy.  Drain the water and repeat until the water is clear (approx. 3 rinses).

Next the lentils need to be cooked.  Most people would probably put the lentils in towards the middle/end of the cooking process, but this isn’t the right way to use lentils in your cooking.  It’s best to cook them and allow them to soften before you add any other ingredients.  So, place them in a pan, add the 2 litres/8 cups of water and bring this to the boil and then allow the lentils to simmer whilst you prepare the vegetables.

Now you are ready to start preparing your vegetables.

It’s really important when making a soup to ensure that all the vegetables are cut to the same size – this will ensure they all cook at the same speed.  So, if you are grating your vegetables (this will reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes) then you need to grate the carrots and the butternut squash.  If you are chopping – chop the carrots, butternut squash, celery and onion (or leek) so they are all the same size – no more than 1cm cubed.

You will notice that the pan with the lentils in is boiling away nicely, but that foam has developed on the top.  Spoon off this foam and throw it away – it doesn’t add any flavour, in fact just the opposite!

So, you’re ok to put all your vegetables into the pot now.  Place them in carefully – do not burn your hands and then add all of your herbs and spices.  Chilli is a flavour that some people can handle and others can’t, so if you are not sure just add 1tsp.  If you are brave or just like spicy food you can add a few more – but you must taste after each one to check it’s not too spicy.  If it is too spicy it could be inedible. Add the crushed/finely chopped garlic, stock cube/s and ginger.

Bring the soup to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Finally add the reduced fat coconut milk, stir well and take off heat.  I choose to use reduced fat coconut milk as it just reduces the calories a little, without taking away any of the flavour – so why not?  I think this is a slightly healthier option; especially if you are watching your calorie intake!

If you prefer a smooth soup then blend the soup with a hand blender or food processor for a thick, smooth consistency.  If you like chunky soups then you can leave it without blending; it will taste just as good.

Serve with brown, wholemeal or granary bread for an additional treat – or to make the meal even heartier.


Squashes are in season from August right through to March, so they are a fantastic winter vegetable.  They are a great source of fibre, to help you feel fuller for longer and they also contain lots of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is really important in the winter months as it helps boost the immune system, which can help you fight off colds or even prevent you from getting them in the first place.

Soups, as you will know are a great winter warmer!  So, if you live alone, don’t discount this recipe as it makes 4 portions.  Get creative!  You could make this recipe, eat one portion right away and freeze the other 3 for occasions you fancy some hearty soup.  Ensure to freeze it in suitable containers so that you can easily defrost and reheat the soup – you may just need to add a little more liquid when you come to heat it up again.  Alternatively, you could take this soup to work in a flask as a tasty, healthy lunchtime treat or out on a walk in the biting cold to help you defrost and re-energise.

If you decide to eat some bread with this soup, try to choose a healthy wholemeal/brown bread.  Wholegrain/brown bread is a great alternative to white bread as the wheat is not refined, so you get the wholegrain goodness, which includes extra fibre, B vitamins and essential fatty acids.  The increased fibre will keep you feeling fuller for longer!