A Simple Supper

I have been visiting my mum in hospital after work and my daughters have been great at organising dinner. Last night darling daughter no 2 made a really tasty lentil and vegetable stew with crusty baguettes. She adapted it from a Nigel Slater recipe to suit what she could find in the fridge, as follows:

2 onions
2 tbsp veg oil
2 tsp rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 medium carrots
4 parsnips
2 sticks of celery
125g mushrooms
2 small sweet potatoes
150g red lentils
2 tbsp plain flour
750ml hot veg stock
2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
Large handful of spinach
tbsp wholegrain mustard

Chop all the vegetables and fry up in some oil until the parsnips are starting to turn golden. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the stock to the pan with the herbs and lentils and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the spinach, mustard and redcurrant jelly and stir then leave for a further ten minutes for the spinach to cook. This would be good with rice but we enjoyed it with some ready to bake crusty baguettes from Aldi.

I was able to take my mum home today. She has a lot of cramp in her new hip joint, but other than that she is doing well. My dad sorted her tea and I left her in bed as she didn’t get much sleep in hospital so needs to catch up. One down, one to go – my dad’s op is on Sunday.

It was a glorious day today with daffodils and primroses everywhere. I love spring! Until tomorrow, bye for now.

A frugal Indian dinner party

home made indianI mentioned previously that I was having the girls round at the weekend. I don’t do dinner parties much as it always seems to cost so much even when I try really hard to be thrifty. When you have guests you feel you need to give them a treat with three courses, plus there is wine to buy of course.

Well, this time I think I have cracked it. I made three Indian inspired dishes, one of my own recipes smoky chicken and chickpeas (not exactly Indian since the main spice is smoked paprika, but it went well with the other dishes); a tarka dhal recipe that I found on the Internet (on Jamie Oliver’s site but not one of his recipes) and one from the book I found in the charity shop the other day, Save with Jamie, for sag aloo. I can’t find that anywhere on the web so here it is:

1 onion
2 ripe tomatoes
half a bunch fresh coriander
2 heaped tbsp rogan josh curry paste
oil
1.2kg potatoes, cut into 3cm chunks
4 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chilli
2 tsp cumin seeds
300g frozen spinach

Peel the onion and blitz with the tomatoes, coriander stalks and curry paste in a food processor until combined, then spoon into a large non-stick frying pan on a medium heat with a lug of oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, then add the potatoes with some salt and pepper. Pour in enough water to come half way up the potatoes, bring to the boil then simmer with a lid on for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the heat up a bit for another 15-20 minutes until the potatoes start to get crispy and golden. Meanwhile make a flavoured oil called a temper. Peel the garlic and finely slice with the chilli, place in a small pan and fry with the cumin seeds and a good lug of oil and until golden, then take off the heat. When the potatoes are reading stir the spinach into the pan and cook for around 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Serve the sag aloo drizzled with the temper with the coriander leaves scattered on top.

Because I made this the evening before, I stirred the temper in rather than serving it on top. It was really nice!

sag alooThe food went down very well and I had lots of compliments. It also fed far more that the 6 of us, so we have been eating it most of the weekend. The starter was poppadums from Aldi with mango chutney and a simple raita made from yogurt mixed with chopped mint and grated cucumber. Because I was at work all day I didn’t have time to make a pudding, so the non frugal part of the meal was a lemon tart from Sainsbury’s with some ice cream.  I also bought two  bottles of wine but I didn’t really need to since everybody brought a bottle as well.

beehiveIt was a success and a very good way to feed a crowd cheaply. I think the quantity I made would have fed 10 easily.

It was glorious here on Saturday so I spent the whole day in the garden. I could happily do that every day – maybe I should retrain as a gardener? Mind you, I hate the cold, so I would end up as a fair weather gardener and starve in the winter. I rescued my currant bushes from the bindweed (this is the bane of my life), I weeded my small wild flower garden ready to add sweet peas to the wigwam when they are ready, repotted my geraniums and rescued an old bee hive Mr S had abandoned at the bottom of the garden to display them on. I was shattered!

I still managed to get up for the boot sale but that is another story and my next blog post…

Using wonky veg, making extra cash and cutting back on plastic waste

It’s all go at Shoestring Cottage! I have been working my way through the veg in the Asda Wonky Box I was given to review and I have to say it has lasted all week easily. It is excellent value at £3.50.  Asda has committed to putting 10,000 boxes into a selection of stores across the country at least once a month. This is currently making the boxes quite rare – I have yet to find one in my local store. Let’s hope they commit a little further! The problem will be, I am guessing, that if they really take off it will affect sales of Asda’s unwonky vegetables! The cure for this is simple – forget about perfection and just sell all of the veg as it comes…

spanish eggs and riceThe first thing I made was Spanish eggs – so easy and really delicious. I chopped a couple of the red onions and fried it up with some garlic and two of the red peppers from the box. I added a tin of tomatoes, a pot of Oxo Herbs & More rosemary and thyme that I picked up really cheaply in Home Bargains, a glug of wine and some salt and pepper. I cooked this up in the pan for 20 minutes then made some wells and dropped a couple of eggs on the mixture. I put the lid on and cooked this gently for 10 minutes then served it with some rice. As it was only me eating that evening I used two eggs, but you could add another couple and this would be a nice supper for two people – I had the leftovers for lunch the following day.

veg from boxWe also had a chicken and vegetable curry, which used more onions and peppers, sausages and  mash, using red onions, potatoes and the cabbage, and carrot and coriander soup, using the carrots. Tonight we will have beef casserole with yellow stickered beef, frozen tomatoes from last year’s harvest and from the wonky box red onions, parsnips and leeks. We will eat this with ‘wonky’ potatoes. We have eaten most of the cucumber in sandwiches and dipped into humus for lunches. The rest of the onions and potatoes will be used next week.

It is definitely worth buying a Wonky Box if you are fortunate enough to come across one.

peace ringI have also started a little Instagram/Facebook shop, selling some nice bits of inexpensive jewellery I managed to source plus the used designer dresses that I have been selling for a while on eBay.  I have also found some very pretty scarves so will add those as soon as they arrive. I sold two pendants the day after I made my page on Facebook, so I was pretty happy! You can find me on Instagram – @janeysboutique and on Facebook with the same name. I don’t expect it to make my fortune, but every little helps!

I am trying to cut the amount of plastic I use. It seems so difficult to avoid, but I am making a start. So far I have switched from butter in a plastic pot to the old fashioned stuff in paper, given up liquid hand soap for bars of soap and gone back to washing powder in a cardboard box. Of course I can recycle plastic containers but it is better to avoid them in the first place!

Low Fat On A Budget?

  I made this yummy Slimming World recipe over the weekend, crustless bacon and mushroom quiche. The recipe says it will serve two but I would say  three as two of us couldn’t eat it all: recipe here.

So-called ‘slimming foods’ can be dear in my experience, but all of the ingredients for this came from Aldi and it was quite a cheap supper. We had the left over cottage cheese and bacon over the weekend, so no waste there. 

Logically if you are eating less you shouldn’t be spending more….I guess people tend to buy more healthy fruit and veg and lean meat and less of the cheap stuff like sausages and processed food when they are dieting. But if they also purchase fewer treats, less alcohol and gave up the takeaways you would think it would even itself out!

 I am encouraged at the number of nice looking veggie meals that are either low fat or can be adapted to be lower fat than usual. A meal based around pulses, vegetables and grains will generally be cheaper than eating meat. 

Another nice dish which happens to be vegetarian is vegetable paella, another Slimming World one. Delish and packed full of peppers and other veg so lots of antioxidants too. Replace the saffron with turmeric, use dried parsley and use ordinary rice instead of risotto  rice to make it a bit cheaper. I used mushrooms instead of courgettes as that was what I had. Use frozen instead of fresh peas and beans.
   

1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1.5 pints veg stock
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, sliced
2 courgettes, sliced
454 g tomatoes, skinned and chopped (I used a tin)
349g risotto rice
1 tsp paprika
0.5tsp saffron, soaked in 2 tvsp water
113g green beans
113g peas
salt and pepper
3tbsp chopped parsley

Put the onions and garlic in a large pan with half a pint of the stock and simmer until the onions are soft. Add the peppers, courgettes and tomatoes and cook gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and paprika. Pour in the saffron and add the peas and beans. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer and cook very gently, adding stock as it is absorbed and stirring regularly until all the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste and add the parsley just before serving.

I will definitely be making both these again!

Little vegan number: spicy chick peas with spinach 

  I love chick peas! And I love spinach. Mostly I love frugal healthy food and this fits the bill on both counts. 

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4-6 balls of frozen spinach
1 bell pepper. chopped
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 400g can chick peas, drained
half to one tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsps cumin
half pint veg stock
oil
salt and pepper

Fry up the onions, garlic and pepper  in the oil until soft, then add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the spinach and all the other ingredients and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for at least half an hour, covered. Taste and season.

A simple supper with rice or as a side dish and cheap as chips!

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.

Pauper’s Spanish Omelette

Last night’s Spanish omelettes were a big success. As ever, if I can produce something quick, tasty , cheap and delicious I am happy. I rarely spend long cooking, unless I am entertaining. However that is rare theses days as it can be an expensive business.

imageFor two people I chopped up half a green pepper and sautéed it gently with 6 chopped mushrooms. I also used 10 small potatoes from an tin from Aldi, sliced. These cost 15p and are incredibly useful – I am sure that must be cheaper than fresh. I will use the rest up in a casserole. I whizzed up 2 eggs for each of us in separate jugs with salt and pepper and a little milk then added half of the vegetables to each. I decided to make two separate omelettes rather than one big one as they cook more quickly but you could do it in a big frying pan if you are making this for more people. I cooked them gently in a small frying pan and when nearly set I added a handful I grated cheese to each and finished them off under a hot grill.

Today we had planned a drive out somewhere as the girls are all doing their own thing. However it is currently pouring, despite the forecast saying dry with sunny spells. Maybe it will have improved by the time we are ready to go!

Once again the dehumidifier is coming in handy, both drying the laundry and preventing our condensation problem resurfacing. Looks like it may be on all day today as I have washed all the bed linen!

What are you doing on this rainy Remembrance Sunday? I hate the idea of war, and lots of the young men who died in the First World War seemed to be little but cannon fodder. I will spare a thought for them today.
image

Macaroni Cheese – doubt you need a recipe, but here is one anyway :-)

I have had a busy Saturday, as usual, shopping and cleaning and getting everything done today so that I can have a relaxing day tomorrow. I am going to meet my old college friends. It has been 25 years since I have seen most of them. I am totally excited!! One is coming from Colorado. All being well, there will be 10 of us – I can hardly wait 🙂

I will leave the girls in charge of the student at lunchtime,  but I will need to be back to give her dinner, as they will be going to see their Dad. I will prepare the vegetables in the morning and just throw a couple of chops under the grill to serve with them when I get home.

Tonight I wanted something easy for tea, and macaroni cheese was perfect. It is so simple yet cheap and delicious. This was yummy – total comfort food on a rainy Autumn day.

mac cheeseHere is the recipe I use, although I vary it by adding bacon, mushrooms, leeks, or sometimes all three:

To serve 4

250g macaroni
2 heaped dessertspoons marg or butter
2 heaped dessertspoons plain flour
500ml milk
half tsp mustard powder or made up mustard
150g cheddar, grated
Lots of ground pepper and salt to taste

Cook the macaroni in plenty of boiling salted water and whilst it is cooking, make the sauce. Melt the marg or butter then add the flour and mustard and cook gently for a minute or so. Whisk in the milk and and bring to the boil, stirring all the time so that it doesn’t catch. Lower the heat and stir until thickened. Add the grated cheese, then season with the salt and pepper to taste. Drain the macaroni and stir in most of the cheese, leaving some to sprinkle on the top. Pop under a preheated grill for 5 minutes until it turns golden and bubbly. Serve straight away with a green salad or some vegetables.

We had runner beans with this as we still have plenty coming through.