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 🙂

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.

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!

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:

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

Sadly imperfect in every way!!

I wish I was one of those bloggers (or even one of those humans!) who showed fabulous pictures of all my wonderful creations every day….I had hoped to post a pic of a passable gluten free chocolate sponge today. However, for some reason my oven shelf was on the wonk and I didn’t notice, so the mixture all tipped to one end of the tins! This means it is a big fat cake at one end and a thin biscuit at the other. Oh well, hopefully by the time I have iced the thing it will taste nice. I will give you an update tomorrow (and possibly a recipe if it tastes good. Don’t hold  your breath; I am new to this gluten free baking lark!).

sweet potato pie 2We did have a nice dinner though. I am really enjoying sweet potatoes right now. They are very reasonable in Aldi and very good for you. Last night I made a big bolognese sauce for tea. I deliberately made too much and padded it out with vegetables and tomatoes so that I could use half of it for a cottage pie tonight. It was just beef mince cooked up with onions, garlic, celery, a green pepper, tinned tomatoes, herbs and some stock. Yesterday we ate it with gluten free pasta. Tonight I topped it with mashed sweet potatoes and a little grated cheese, baked in the oven for 25 minutes and served with sprouts and carrots. Quite a few of our 5 a day in that little lot.

sweet potato pie

As you know, I like my food straightforward, nutritious and quick to prepare after work. This kind of thing fits the bill perfectly. What are your quick and easy dinners?