A new recipe for courgettes! Stuffed with feta

At this time of the year I am always on the look out for new recipes to try to use up the courgette glut. Last night I made a pot of  stock using chicken carcasses from the freezer, and I will use that to make courgette soup for the freezer.

imageFor dinner I made stuffed courgettes, using a recipe I found in an old student cookbook and which I adapted slightly. I really enjoyed it, but Mr S was looking for the meat! Next time I will add chopped bacon to stop him feeling deprived.

Stuffed courgettes

4 medium courgettes
2 cloves garlic
1 red onion, chopped
8oz sweet corn
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
3oz feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Halve the courgettes lengthways, carefully scoop out some of the insides to make room for the stuffing and arrange in a baking dish.

Put all the other ingredients apart from the feta into a food processor with some salt and pepper and whizz it, then crumble in half the cheese. Stuff the courgettes with the filling then crumble the rest of the feta on top. Bake for about 40 minutes.
I think this would be nice served with a tomato sauce or just as it is with salad and new potatoes. We had it with rubber beans as that is the other glut.

If you have recipes for the courgette glut, please bring them on!


Busy Busy! I need more hours in my days

Firstly, I just want to say thanks to Declutterbug for nominating me for the Very Inspiring blog award. I will take a proper look at what I need to do for that over the next few days.

It’s all getting very extraordinarily busy here at Shoestring Cottage. The lovely Italian student we had at the start of the year wants to come back to see us and spend time with DD3, as they became the best of friends during her time with us and have been Face Timing ever since. The trouble is she can only come when the Spanish boy we are expecting this Sunday is still here. She will sleep in with DD3 – as she won’t be a paying guest she doesn’t need her own room.

Then, on the day she leaves us, our Mexican family will be turning up to see if we are suitable hosts to leave their 16 year old with as she studies for her A levels. This will be tricky as I need to work that day so I guess the best thing will be to provide a pre- prepared buffet so we can all get to know each other.

My head is spinning with the number of jobs I would like to get done before they arrive. I would like first impressions to be good! However I am a realist. I won’t manage to redecorate the kitchen but I can make sure the stair carpet is in place, the garden is tidy and and the downstairs loo gets a lick of paint.

Well, you know I hate to be bored and work best to a deadline so hopefully it will all work out.


I love a container!

I love a container!

We have an area of the garden that just isn’t working. I had a plan to make a cottage garden bed there but because there are a large number of trees along the fence line on my neighbour’s side the bed is too dry for anything much.

We were thinking of abandoning it, maybe gravelling an area and growing some plants in pots. The problem is that large pots can be expensive! Stroke of luck then. One of Mr S’s neighbours rang him a couple of days ago to say she was revamping her garden and did he know of anyone who might want all her old containers 🙂 result!image

Now we just need to find some plants to it in them!

Knitting your own Yogurt :-)

I popped into Sainsbury’s after yoga last night to buy a few bits that they don’t sell in Aldi. I was debating how many Lactofree yogurts I could afford (ie none really as I really need to stretch my budget!). They were £1.25 for four little pots; not extortionate but I could get 6 Sainsbury’s fruit yogurts for £1.

Mix up the ingredients...

Mix up the ingredients…

So, in the spirit of frugality, I decided it was high time I made my own again. It really takes just minutes in my Easi-yo yogurt maker, so there is no excuse.

Pour boiling water into the yogurt maker...

Pour boiling water into the yogurt maker…

I bought some Lactofree UHT milk, a small pot of live natural yogurt to use as my starter and some dried milk powder to make my yogurt thicker. Ok, this lot won’t be lactose free, but as I have a dairy intolerance rather than an allergy it doesn’t matter that much. However, if anyone can suggest a thickener other than milk powder I would be grateful – I like my yogurt thick!

Put the container of milk and away you go

Put the container of milk and away you go

This morning I mixed a tablespoon of milk powder with the same amount of starter, then whisked in the milk. I filled my yogurt maker up to the required level with boiling water, stood the pot in it and put the lid on. By the time I get home from work this should be ready to go in the fridge.

I have some blackberries in the garden so I will make a purée to mix with the yogurt and take a small pot to work each day. I reckon it will make double the amount contained in the 4 little pots and cost me £1.35 for a litre of Lactofree UHT AND 50p for my starter pot plus about £1 for the milk powder. Next time I won’t have to buy the powder or starter so it will be £1.35 for at least 8 pots of yogurt.

Do you knit your own yogurt? Any tips on a lactose free thickener?

Skip surfing and the village show: what a lovely day

In his element

In his element

We had the most fantastic day today in Suffolk, one of my favourite counties and just up the road. We decided to drive out to a little traditional village show, but stopped off in Ipswich to eat our picnic by the marina.

We idly looked in a skip on our way past a restaurant – well you have to, don’t you – and couldn’t believe what we saw. About 100 or so large white restaurant quality plates of various shapes and sizes and in perfect condition had been chucked in there! No one else appeared to have spotted them, so we picked out 6 round dinner plates, and 12 bowls, 6 round and 6 square. We would have taken more, but they were heavy and we had to lug them back to the car, and by then a crowd had gathered and started picking bits out. No one could believe they had just been dumped. The restaurant was closing down but it would have been a criminal waste to send them to the tip.

Can you believe what people throw in skips??

Can you believe what people throw in skips??

The marina has been hugely regenerated and is very smart these days, so it was a lovely place to watch the boats whilst we picnicked. We left in driving rain thinking the village show would be a wash out, but as we neared Butley, where the show was, it was suddenly dry!

We looked at the flower and produce show, watched an assortment of dogs running riot in the arena, bought some plants and a lovely Pyrex casserole dish on the WI stand, and finished it off with a cream tea, which at £2.75 each was an affordable treat.  I love these traditional shows, and wish we had more in Essex!

Village show veg

village show flowers



We decided to drive onto Orford Ness – what a beautiful Suffolk village this is, with its own castle, lovely pubs, picture box cottages and it’s own RSPB reserve. We plan to go back to have a proper look when we have more time.

So a successful and enjoyable day :-).

The Good Life: Redcurrant Jelly, and ‘this week we will be mainly eating runner beans’!

redcurrant jellyMy freezers seem to be very full, which is a bit ominous as I am about to hit courgette, runner bean and tomato glut time and will need to be freezing some. I have pulled out all the ends of bread for bread pudding, and some frozen redcurrants to clear some space. I don’t get that many redcurrants (from my neighbours overhanging bush, as she doesn’t use them) so save up a couple of years worth to have enough for redcurrant jelly, my favourite. I know you can use it on meat, but for me it is completely delicious on hot toast! Mmm, salivating now.

Straining the redcurrants with my dishcloth strainer!

Straining the redcurrants with my dishcloth strainer!

So I made some this morning, and I am waiting for it to cool so that I can eat some 🙂 I couldn’t find my jelly muslin, so I fashioned a strainer from a new dishcloth and it worked a treat! Necessity is the mother of invention after all.

rolling boil

Bringing the jelly to a rolling boil

The garden is looking lush and productive, with spinach, lettuces, courgettes, cucumbers, tomatoes and runner beans all ready to eat.

The sweetcorn looks just pathetic. I’m not sure why, although I haven’t grown it in that spot before so maybe it doesn’t like it for some reason.

Triffid pumpkin

Triffid pumpkin

The sweetpeas are just starting to look lovely so I need to cut some today, and the pumpkin is going crazy! If I’m not careful it will take over the veg patch. I deliberately planted it right at the edge but it is spreading everywhere. I think I will grown my pumpkins somewhere else altogether in future, but for now just keep pulling and training it onto the grass at the front of my patch.

Off to try to dry my laundry before it rains again, and do the weekly clean. It is non stop at Shoestring Cottage as usual, but if I get everything done today I can have a nice day out with Mr S tomorrow.

What are you growing this year? And what are your plans for the weekend?


Smart Phones, Burgers and too much Wine

We had an unexpected last minute invitation to a barbecue yesterday evening. It arrived so late we had already eaten our tea (Mr S’s sister decided to be spontaneous), so we went along for a few drinks anyway. I only had a couple, but I am such a lightweight I have had a headache all morning!

imageWe finally discovered something our fussy student would eat with a junk food tea of burgers in buns and chips. It was quite nice actually – I can recommend the Aldi frozen quarter pounders, but I am not eating like that too often!

I got a new iPhone at a bargain price yesterday. I am already a Tesco customer so I managed to negotiate a brilliant deal on a new iPhone 5 that is only a couple of pounds more than I pay now. I managed to get the old one to last me nearly four years, but it was so slow, kept switching off and then I dropped it and cracked the screen. It is good for blogging and I am using it now!

Making it up as I go along: pasta with everything

Our student declared at the last minute that he didn’t want dinner. I was grateful not to have to eat the junk food tea I had planned in order to get him to eat something (burger and chips – I will have to endure that tonight!), so I had to decide what to make at the last minute. I looked what was lying around in the fridge and  decided on pasta with a courgette and mushrooms sweated in butter, some grilled chopped bacon, half a pot of tomato pesto that DD1 had opened and a third of a pot of soft cheese. I mixed it all together and also chucked in some canned sweetcorn I found lurking asimage well.

Guess what? It was delicious and had the added advantage of using up lots of bits and pieces that needed eating. I had the last portion for my lunch today at work.


Digging for Treasure (in the Rain)

It hasn’t stopped raining here today for more than 10 minutes at a time. We had hoped to spend the morning in the garden tidying up the veg patch, but we only managed an hour in the end. However, I did manage to dig up the remaining salad potatoes. They are lovely and there were loads – I felt as if I was digging for treasure!

spudsI also found another monster lettuce. No idea what variety they are (they were passed on by Mr S’s neighbour) but they are a large curly leaved sort that just get bigger and bigger rather than going to seed. One is too many for a single family in fact – I divided it into 4 lots to pass on to family. I also picked more courgettes and runner beans. I expect we will get sick of them at some point, but right now we are really enjoying them.

In anticipation of the harvest beginning, I bought no veg in Aldi this week, which meant I spent a lot less than usual. I did buy quite a lot of meat, including a joint of pork for a fiver that I roasted for lunch today. It fed 5 of us easily and there is loads left for tea so I think it was excellent value. The crackling puffed up beautifully. Even our student ate some of it with some roast spuds, although he couldn’t stomach the lovely roasted veg or the rhubarb crumble I made for pud. His loss!

Soup Kitchen: soup for free!

chuck it in soupAs I type this I am enjoying a large bowl of delicious vegetable soup. As regular readers will know, I save and freeze all of the leftover bits of mashed potato, broccoli, peas, carrots, chicken carcasses, gravy, even meat (although that isn’t often left over) and when I have enough I chop up a couple of onions and maybe a head of celery, and throw it all in the pot. So, it is almost free, as I am using what most people would throw in the bin! I have never had a failure – just use a decent stock and plenty of seasoning and you can’t go wrong.

Usually I make stock first from a couple of frozen chicken carcasses, but this time I used ham stock that I saved a while ago and also a large bag of last year’s frozen courgettes. We had so many I am still using them as the next lot are arriving!

Bits and pieces of leftover veggies don't go to waste

Bits and pieces of leftover veggies don’t go to waste

I had a productive day yesterday as I had the afternoon off to wait in for Talk Talk to come and sort out my internet connection, which has been wobbly to say the least. I made the most of it and got most of the cleaning done as well as making all those phone calls to various organisations that I am usually forced to try to do in my lunch hour. Oh, to work a four day week….it is sadly not going to happen any time soon.

I am being forced to cook as plainly as possible for my fussy student. He ate a dry looking bit of turkey and some new potatoes for last night’s dinner, while the rest of us enjoyed our meat with some red wine and tomato sauce, green beans from the garden and broccoli. I know which I preferred!! He seems to exist mainly on crisps :).