Category Archives: Gluten Free

Courgette and celery soup  – and beating the rag and bone man

  Last year’s courgette harvest is still feeding us. I am down to the last few bags in the freezer. I thought I would combine them with celery and it made a good combination. If you use frozen courgettes, like me, start with just a litre and a half of stock and add more if you need it. They are quite watery and can make your soup too thin. Here is the recipe I used today:

2 large onions, chopped
5 sticks of celery, sliced
6 tsp of vegetable bouillion power dissolved in 2 litres hot water
2lb courgettes, sliced
4 medium potatoes, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2tbsp oil

Hear the oil and sweat the onions, celery and potatoes for about 5 minutes. Add the courgettes and fry  for a couple minutes more. Pour on the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer with a lid on the pan for about half an hour. Add the soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste, then whizz in a blender. 

This makes a large pan and you can put it into old margarine or ice cream containers and freeze for when you need it. 

  We had to take our student to meet her bus back to France this morning. She seemed to enjoy her week with us. On the way home we spotted a broken wooden garden bench and a heavy cast iron parasol outside our neighbour’s house. The bench seat was broken but the frame seemed sound so we asked if we could have them. They seemed delighted to be rid and they were close enough to Shoestring Cottage for us to walk them home. The bench is little project for Mr S but it won’t need much repair. With a lick of paint it will be perfect in the garden.

An hour or so later we heard the bell of the rag and bone men. We were lucky to have beaten them to it!

Cheesy potato bake with parsley, Rosemary and thyme

imageWe had a cheap and filling late lunch today, a cheesy potato bake served with Aldi sausages and vegetables. As we were going to the cinema I wanted to keep it simple. This is how you make it.

image900g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Heaped tsp dried rosemary
Heaped tsp dried thyme
Large handful fresh parsley, chopped finely
1/2 pint milk
Salt and pepper
100g grated cheese

imagePlace the spuds, onions and garlic with the milk in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in all of the herbs and season well. Grease a large casserole dish and pour the potato mixture in. Cover with the grated cheese and bake at about 180C for 45 minutes. Eat as an accompaniment to sausages or as a vegetarian main with some vegetables.

We saw the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything tonight. What a great story and an excellent film. I really recommend it if you can get to see it!

Vegetable bake and a good day’s work

Before...dirty and rather tatty
Before…dirty and rather tatty

I had the day off today to start the refurbishment of an old dresser. My parents had it made in the seventies and gave it to me when I bought my first house. Back then honey-coloured pine was all the rage – I remember this dresser in the family kitchen with its matching table and benches. At some point I painted it blue, but for the past 3 years it has been at the back of Mr Shoestring’s workshop gathering dust.

 

It is a cute little dresser and is the first part of our planned redecoration (on a shoestring, of course) of our kitchen – Mr S is going to remove the ugly breakfast bar to make space. We chose a chalk finish pale green. Today I sanded it, washed it thoroughly and applied the first coat. It is looking very encouraging so far! Hopefully I will get the final coat on tomorrow and will wax it over the weekend.

Mid transformation!

Mid transformation!

Because I knew I probably wouldn’t fancy cooking when I got in, I prepared the dinner before I went, a very simple veggie bake based on Delia’s  Leek, Carrot and Potato Pie which features in my original copy of Frugal Food. It was perfect after my day freezing in the workshop – warming and comforting. I used tinned potatoes to save time – they are 15p in Aldi and I couldn’t buy fresh for less – and also a packet of bechamel sauce that cost 10p from Approved Food. Half of the leeks were from the garden – the last of them – and the other half came from Aldi this morning from their Super Six range and cost 59p.

200g carrots, chopped ( I don’t bother peeling them)
2 x 420g tins of potatoes
50g butter
100g mushrooms
500g leeks, washed and chopped
1 small onion
1/2 pint white sauce
150g cheddar, grated
2 tbsp breadcrumbs, made by whizzing up half a crust of bread with my hand blender
2 pinches cayenne pepper

veggie bakeCook the carrots in boiling water until cooked but still al dente. Sweat the leeks, onion and mushrooms in some butter until soft. Season well to taste. Drain the carrots, reserving 1/4 pint of water to make up the sauce, then follow the instructions on the packet but replace half the suggested milk with this water (or make a bechamel from scratch so that it can be gluten free if necessary). Slice the potatoes. Arrange the vegetables in layers in a deep casserole dish, finishing with a layer of potatoes, seasoning as you go. Combine the breadcrumbs with the cheese and cayenne and sprinkle on the top. Bake in a medium oven (180C) for about 40 minutes until the topping is golden brown. Serve with a green vegetable and enjoy!tinned spuds

The girls complained at the lack of meat, but since they both presented me with clean plates I don’t think they suffered too much 🙂

Fabulous Easy Fruit Cake

Thanks for all the comments on gluten free baking yesterday. I have had much more success with my baking today!

Today I made my favourite fruit cake. I make it about once a month. As suggested by Kate in the comments yesterday, to make it gluten free I substituted the wheat flour for 75% Dove’s Farm self raising and 25% ground almonds. I also added 1 fl oz more milk as I have read that GF flour can take more liquid than the regular stuff. The recipe was given to me about 15 years ago, and I have it stuck to the front of one of my baking books. It was a huge success in its gluten free form – as you can see, several pieces had gone before I even got round to taking the photo!

imageHere is the recipe, in old money so apologies to those of you who are strictly metric:

8 oz self raising flour or 6 oz GF self raising with 2 oz ground almonds
1 tsp mixed spice
5 oz brown sugar
2 eggs
5 oz butter or margarine
12oz dried mixed fruit
4 fl oz milk, or 5 if using GF flour

Gas mark 2/150C for 1 1/4 hours (check after an hour as you don’t want to over cook it)

Grease and line an 8 inch round cake tin.
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and beat well until mixed.
Place the mixture in the tin and smotth the top.
Cook until firm.

It couldn’t be easier and is fail safe as long as you don’t cook it too high.

I also discovered that yesterday’s cheese muffins weren’t quite the disaster I thought they were. When they were hot, the feta tasted awful – really overwhelming. This morning, tasting one cold, they were much nicer. The recipe suggested refreshing them in the microwave for 30 seconds before eating, so I tried that and my muffin was really quite good. Better for lunch with some soup or a salad than the dry GF rolls I have been buying in the supermarket. I have frozen them in batches of six to take to work and left some out to eat over the weekend.

Mr Shoestring and his brother spent much of the day on the roof finishing off. They have done a splendid job. The roof now appears to be completely water tight and cost about £200, rather than the £1500 we feared a roofer would charge us.

Not sure I will ever get the hang of this gluten free baking lark!

imageI had the afternoon off work today, and I thought I would have a go at making some delicious sounding triple cheese and onion muffins from the BBC Good Food Gluten Free book. The recipe suggested using cheddar, parmesan and soft cheese, cubed. I prefer to use Lactofree soft cheese which is definitely more liquid than solid. I couldn’t see how it could be cubed and thought it would make the mixture a bit soggy. I considered doubling the amount of cheddar, but then saw the Aldi version of feta, only 75p, so thought I would try that. They came out looking pretty nice, but the feta is completely over powering and the texture is a bit strange. The recipe claimed this would make 12 muffins, but there was masses of it and it made 26. Lots of muffins, but they aren’t very nice! I will be surprised if they get eaten at all, so that is a waste. They weren’t that cheap to make either, with all that cheese!!

My only real successes so far have been the chocolate brownies I made a couple of days ago (really yummy), some fruit crumbles and a pavlova which is completely flourless anyway so only incidentally gluten free. I am concerned that my Christmas pudding will be rubbish, so need to think about an alternative just in case!

I have tried a few different types of rolls and bread. Most are OK toasted or fresh out of the oven, so not much good for work lunches. I have been eating mainly oat and rice cakes. The Coop Free From chocolate digestive biscuits are very good – I am having one now. My friend, who has coeliac disease, often makes cheesecake using gluten free digestives for the base so that might be something to consider.

And it is all pretty expensive! I won’t give up just yet, but will need to do a bit more research on what is likely to work well before I shell out loads on ingredients. I will experiment with what I already have. I have my favourite fruit cake recipe so I am going to have a go at that with GF flour over the holiday.

Mr S has been hard at it all week sorting out the roof so that it doesn’t leak. We had heavy rain overnight, and nothing came in, so success!! He hasn’t quite finished yet, but hopefully tomorrow it will all be done. Thank goodness I have a partner who is handy or it would have cost a fortune to mend. 🙂

Greek Salad

We had the work Christmas buffet today. Everybody takes a contribution  and it is always a fantastic spread, with leftovers to last a few days as well. Money seems to be getting sucked continuously out of my purse at the moment with all the Christmas celebrations. I wanted to take something health and gluten free that wouldn’t break the bank.

There are always lots of carbohydrate at these events – sausage rolls, sandwiches, pork pies, crisps, etc – so I thought a Greek salad would be welcome. It was very easy to make last night and the ingredients weren’t expensive. I bought them from Sainsbury’s last night on the way home from work and the salad cost £3.50 not including the dressing.

greek saladI used:

1 med cos lettuce, £1
half a cucumber, cubed, 25p
Half a pack of cherry tomatoes (about 150g), halved, 50p
half a bunch of spring onions, chopped, 30p
1 pack of Sainsburys Basics feta cheese, cubed, 85p
A small jar of black olives, 60p

From the store cupboard for the vinaigrette I used 3 tablespoons of olive oil, half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar and salt and pepper.

Combine all of the salad ingredients. Mix the oil, vinegar and mustard together in a jug and add seasoning to taste. Pour over the salad just before serving and mix well.

It went down a treat! The feta – cheap because it is made with cow’s milk so isn’t the genuine stuff – is just as good as the real thing at about a third of the price.

I took mine in a lovely big ceramic bowl that I bought recently in my favourite charity shop for £1.50.

Best gluten free chocolate brownies

imageI have mentioned previously that I bought two nice looking little gluten free cookery books last week. One is Hamlyn 200 Gluten Free Recipes by Louise Blair and the other is BBC Good Food Everyday Gluten free Recipes. They both look really promising and seem to use ingredients that are easy to buy in the local supermarket.

Yesterday was my first chance to try out a imagerecipe and I thought I would start with some chocolate brownies from the BBC book. Actually they should have been made with fresh raspberries too, but they aren’t easy to come by this time of year so I decided to stick with just chocolate.  My local Co-op only had milk chocolate so that is what I used. They were delicious! They weren’t cheap to make however so I will save this recipe for treats. Here is the original version. Next time I will be more prepared and use Aldi’s cheap dark chocolate – today I used Cadbury’s!

imageChocolate and raspberry brownies

Makes 15 squares

200g dark chocolate broken into chunks
100g milk chocolate broken into chunks
250g pack salted butter
400g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
140g gf plain flour
50g cocoa powder
200g raspberries

Heat oven to 180C or gas mark 4. Grease and line a 20x30cm baking tin. Gently melt the chocolate, butter and sugar in a saucepan, stirring well. Remove from heat and whisk in the eggs one at a time. Move to a mixing bowl and sieve in the flour and cocoa powder. Whisk together, then stir in half the raspberries. Pour the mixture into the tin and scatter over the remaining raspberries. Bake for 30-35 minutes until set but nice and squidgy. Cool and then cut into squares.

I have put half in the freezer as they are best eaten within three days.

We had them still warm with a cup of tea but they would be fab as a posh pudding with a big dollop of cream.

I want to try some corn and cheese muffins next which are made with polenta and look scrumptious!

Chicken and Chorizo Casserole

Fry up the onion, celery and garlic

Fry up the onion, celery and garlic

I mentioned that I went to a friend’s for dinner last week and she made a delicious chicken and chorizo casserole with butterbeans.  I loved it, so recreated it yesterday. I had a look at a few similar recipes on the internet, then adapted it to what I had. It is amazing how tasty a butter bean becomes when it is stewed with chorizo and smoky paprika. I put mushrooms in to use them up, but think it would work well with a chopped red pepper instead. This is lovely served with plain rice and salad or a vegetable. Yum!

Add the paprika and mushrooms

Add the paprika and mushrooms

Serves 4-6

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees

Pack of 8 chicken thighs, skins removed
Large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 sticks of celery, chopped
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can butterbeans
80g Chorizo, diced
2 dessertspoons of smoked paprika (or just paprika if that’s all you have)
200ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Ready to serve!

Ready to serve!

Heat some oil in a large pan, and add the onion, garlic and celery and sweat gently for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and paprika and continue to fry gently for a further 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, butter beans and seasoning and stir. Place the chicken in a large casserole dish and pour the sauce on top. Cover and cook in the oven for about an hour.

This is quite inexpensive for entertaining and I will definitely be doing this again. DD 1 isn’t keen on chorizo, so I might replace that with bacon.

I made double so no cooking for me today – I don’t mind the same thing two days in a row, especially when it is really tasty!

Review of the Month: November

1st December already! November has flown by. I would love to say I have spent no money but actually I bought almost all of my Christmas presents. This didn’t hurt at all as I have been putting money aside and still have £300 in my fund which will kick off next year’s present and holiday fund. It pays to plan ahead!

I have discovered a fantastic charity shop nearby that sells all of its clothing items for 99p so I have allowed myself a bit of retail therapy and spent a whole £10 on 10 new (to me) items. These included a pair of Monsoon jeans, a good black coat and a skirt from Zara.

I also decided to start eating gluten free this month. I stopped eating dairy containing lactose a couple of years ago to counter my long running IBS issues. This helped a lot, but the issue wasn’t resolved. I didn’t want to believe that gluten was a problem but October was a particularly bad month for me with my IBS so I decided it was time to try cutting the gluten out as well. I do without doubt feel a lot better. As yet I haven’t been 100% strict about it: I have sauces and gravy mixes in the store cupboard that I don’t want to waste for example. But I haven’t eaten any bread, cakes or pasta unless it was gluten free. I have my work Christmas meal booked for Tuesday, which was arranged before I changed my diet and thus won’t be gluten free. My plan is to gradually cut it out completely.

On the right path

On the right path

An unexpected bonus so far is that I have lost 3lbs with zero effort!

I made my Christmas pudding, gluten free of course. I had already bought an Aldi five bird roast which isn’t GF but I will avoid anything else contains gluten over Christmas.

I had intended to get on top of the garden but the weather put paid to that. I have only managed about 5 hours work when it needs several long days to sort it out.

The leak from the roof and damage to the bedroom ceiling that I blogged about yesterday caused me some consternation as I can see this costing some money. The £300 left over the Christmas fund might have to be diverted to sort this out.

Mr S bought me a wood burner at the start of the month. There is a lot of work to do to prepare the chimney and fireplace for its installation so we won’t start that until after Christmas.

I managed to host a frugal and GF dinner party too. I spent about £20 on this.

My goals for December?

I have 2 meals out to pay for with work colleagues and a tiny bit more shopping to do. Other than that I intend to spend as little as possible and work through all the food in my store cupboard. I also need to research gluten free eating and cooking on a shoestring and will share my experiments as I go. I want to do a lot more exercise. Just yoga, walking and digging, none of which costs me anything but all of which makes me happier and healthier.

We are going to sort out all the sheds. They are full of junk so it is time for a clear out. I have some days off over Christmas so I should be able to find the time. Then we will be off to the tip and listing things on eBay and Freecycle.

What have you achieved in November and how are your Christmas preparations going? Does anyone have any tips on the cheapest way to eat gluten free?

Stir it up Saturday!

Ready to go

Ready to go

Today I have made my first ever Christmas pudding! I have never bothered before because I have either been given them or bought them very reasonably from Aldi.  However, this year, as I am now eating gluten free, I thought I would make my own. I have used the recipe from the Dove’s Farm website: http://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/recipes/christmas-pudding/

Stir it up!

Stir it up!

It is also dairy and egg free. It smells lovely, but I will have to wait until I eat it on the day to know whether it has been a success or not. I had to beg the pudding basin from Mr Shoestring’s mum first thing as I realised I didn’t possess one the right size. I didn’t want to buy one specially or that would start to make it a very expensive pudding, but I will keep an eye out for one when I peruse the charity shops and boot sales between now and next year.

Ready to be covered and steamed for 5 hours...

Ready to be covered and steamed for 5 hours…

I also made a massive pot of soup with some of the courgettes out of the freezer. Instead of adding potatoes I bulked it out with a packet of vegetable savoury rice I got a while back from Approved Foods.  It was just a chopped onion, 4 chopped celery sticks, a huge bag of courgettes (about 6 I would say), 3 pints of veggie stock, some left over mashed potato and seasoning, with a packet of vegetable savoury rice to thicken it. If I hadn’t used that I would have added 3 medium spuds. It was delicious and will be perfect for some of our lunches at work next week. I am struggling with gluten free bread so no longer take sandwiches to work. It is just not that nice!! Instead I have been taking soup or a salad with rice or oat cakes. This is quite satisfying, but it does mean I need to be organised in advance. Anyone else been cooking today?

veg soup with rice