Category Archives: Main Meals

Love Your Leftovers: chicken risotto

Love your Leftovers I thought I would start a new occasional series called Love Your Leftovers. I hate food waste, so I try to use it all up. It saves lots of money too!

I also find a love your leftovers approach makes me more creative, and try food combinations that are a bit different.

Last night I decided to use the leftover chicken from the Sunday roast in a risotto. I also had leftover cooked runner beans and courgettes from the annual glut, so obviously they had to go in too! I found a 400g box of risotto rice in Lidl the other day. I knew it would come in handy!

I started by using the carcass, along with a couple of others I had stored in the freezer, for home made stock, but you could use a couple of stock cubes.

Here is the recipe, which serves 4.

Chicken Risotto

350g risotto rice
300 fl oz chicken stock, ideally hot
Left over cooked chicken, however much you have
1 red or yellow pepper, diced
1 small courgette, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp smoked paprika
A handful of fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
About 10-15 black olives
Any other left over veg you may have hanging around!
Olive oil

Saute your chopped vegetables in some oil for around 5-10 minutes. Add the rice and stir for a minute or so. Add about half of the stock and stir. As it starts to be absorbed, add the remainder. Stir frequently so that it doesn’t stick to the pan. Add the paprika and season to taste. When the rice is almost soft enough to eat, add your leftover chicken, olives, parsley and any other veggie leftovers.

This is pretty much a meal in itself but is also nice with a salad or green vegetable.

Do you love your leftovers? What would you do with the excess meat from the Sunday roast?

 

 

Think you don’t like pulses? Ten thrifty recipes that might change your mind

We all know that meat is expensive, so if you are trying to save money on your groceries it makes sense to eat less of it. There is also a substantial body of evidence showing that a well thought out vegetarian diet is healthier too.

However, I  have lost count of the number of times people have told me that they hate pulses whilst being known to happily scoff a nice pot of hummus, baked beans or a spicy lentil dahl!

Here at Shoestring Cottage we enjoy a wide variety of meals, some of which contain a little meat and some that are meat free. We often include beans and pulses in our meals. As well as being packed with protein, they are low in fat and a great source of fibre. You can buy them cheaply in cans and sachets, so don’t have to spend a lot of your precious time soaking and cooking them.

Here are some of our favourite frugal meals containing pulses (forgive my chick pea obsession):

Smoky chicken with chickpeas. This is mildly spiced and the cheaper chickpeas stretch the chicken and uses my favourite smoked paprika.

Tarka dhal, a recipe featured by Jamie Oliver. This is nice as a side dish or can be eaten with rice or bread for a simple, super frugal meal.

Chick pea curry. This is cheap, tasty and easy to make.

Red dragon pie. I have been cooking this for years from my old copy of Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen – lovely book! This recipe involves a lot of chopping but is much easier if you use canned beans, as I usually do. This link takes you to a nice little website called Sprinkles of Love, which is an online shared cook book but sadly nobody seems to be contributing any more.

Spanish chicken with butterbeans, chorizo and tomatoes. One from the lovely Delia Smith. My friend cooked this for me at a dinner party one evening and it was delicious!

Chick pea burgers. Stick them in a bun with some salad and relish.

Cheesy mushroom and lentil cottage pie. I like this with lots of veggies and gravy.

Quick beany enchiladas. One from the BBC Food website. I like to double up when making the filling and freeze if for a quick ready meal to use with rice. They use frozen peppers, although I tend to use fresh since I always have some in the fridge.

Another one from Delia, although you can find versions of this all over the Internet: Boston baked beans. As I am generally pushed for time, I always buy canned beans to use in this.  It needs long, slow cooking.

Finally, the recipe that launched Jack Monroe’s career as a cookery writer, carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger. How can you go wrong when you can make a burger for around 10p?

Give beans and  pulses a try. They can help you stick to your budget and improve your nutrition.

 

Organised? I have to be

My colleagues quite often start a sentence with  ‘You’re organised, you will know this’ or ‘Jane will find this’ if they are looking for a particular file. I am pretty organised at work. I have to be – I have a terrible memory so I need to keep lists of what I need to do and when, set reminders in my calendar and have a sensible filing system. 

At home I am no different. I get really stressed if I’m not on top of the cleaning, laundry or shopping. At times I feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do, but good time management and a routine keeps me in control.  I have to have a really good clean through every week and make sure any paperwork is taken care of. I do this on a Saturday.  I do washing about three times a week. I don’t iron much because I shake clothes out before I hang them and smooth them out as much as possible.

I check my bank balance once a week so that I can keep an eye on spending, make sure all the bills are paid and that there are no odd payments in the account. I know what I pay for everything. If I didn’t how would I know if I was getting a good deal? I also check to see if there is any extra that I can put in one of the savings accounts.

I plan the menus for the week as well as the shopping list. As things get low I write them on a board in the kitchen so we don’t run out.  I frequently cook double what I need to save myself a bit of time. We either eat it the next day as well or freeze it for those days when we are too tired to cook. On Sunday I made pukka yellow curry from Save with Jamie and we ate it again last night – curry is always better as leftovers! This is a nice recipe and it really is a good book. The recipe is here.

I started cleaning a cupboard or a drawer each week as my new year resolution in 2016 and it has really paid off. I know where things are and chuck out stuff we don’t need. Having said that, the drawers in my bedroom really need sorting at the moment as a continuation of my great wardrobe challenge, making sure I wear what I own or get rid of it. That’s one for next weekend. 

I never feel I have much spare time, but being organised helps a lot. If I do everything I need to on a Saturday I have the day free to relax on Sunday. We either go out for the day or spend some time in the garden, depending on what we feel like and the weather. 

I have areas I can improve on but I know that little and often is the way to go. Get things done, get organised and then you save time in the long run.

Are you an organised person? What are your tips to staying in control when you are really busy?

The working worried 

I heard on the news yesterday that 19% of British workers admit to losing sleep over money worries. I know how this feels -that gnawing anxiety that there are bills to be paid but there isn’t enough money coming in. The report said that the 18-24 year old age group were worrying the most. Having three daughters in that age category I totally understand. It’s hard to get a job that pays enough to afford a rented box to live in, let alone save any money for a contingency fund or to get a foot on the housing ladder. And the report was only talking about working people. Lord knows how anxious it makes people when they are unemployed.  It’s tough out there!

It helps me to know I can stay in control if I make a big effort and I am disciplined but sometimes it wears me down and I get anxious too. 

We are still eating mainly what we have in the larder. I wanted to use some of the paella rice so I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Save With Jamie. It was supposed to be chicken and chorizo with prawns but I made it more frugal by cutting out the chicken and using pepperoni instead of chorizo as I had some leftover from the chicken tray bake I made the other day. 

Jamie’s recipe is here.

We have snow predicted for the next couple of days in the east of England. I hope it doesn’t arrive! Last time we had snow it took two hours to do the half hour journey to work. 

I hope you are keeping warm wherever you are and not losing sleep over money. 

Bargain of the week

Yesterday I said I don’t rely on yellow sticker bargains. I did, of course, take a peek in the reduced sections when I was in Sainsbury’s yesterday but there was nothing I wanted and the reductions weren’t that great. I only go in there for the cat food and my Lactofree milk anyway so trudged over to the pet aisle and was amazed to find this:

That is my idea of a yellow sticker bargain, 48 sachets of cat food for 99p! I don’t know why it was reduced so drastically. The box was a bit damaged but nothing major. I was chuffed and so were the cats!

I spent £45 for the 3 of us in Aldi for the week, which wasn’t bad at all. Last night we had a delicious chicken tray bake. I already had a pack of peppers that needed using and some olives. I adapted the recipe to use what was in the larder: green olives instead of black, dried thyme instead of fresh and balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. The chorizo in Aldi was in huge packs for almost £2.50. I bought pepperoni instead at 89p and will use some of that today. I am making paella to use up some rice. I also added a 15p can of Aldi potatoes to make it more substantial and served it with canned sweet corn. It was lovely. The original recipe is here. I got it from the BBCGood Food website, which is a great resource when you need a little inspiration.

What are you cooking this weekend? Do you adapt recipes to suit what you have or what you can afford?

Moroccan rice with chicken and sausage

What to cook when you have just returned from holiday and don’t have much food in? A search of the freezer found a couple of small chicken breasts and 4 sausages. In the fridge we had onions, peppers and a few slightly wrinkled mushrooms. I thought I would make a kind of poor man’s paella, but only had normal rice, so came up with this! It serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are.

10 oz rice
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bell pepper, any colour, chopped
100g chopped mushrooms
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
Vegetable or chicken stock cube
4tsp Moroccan seasoning (I used the Asda one)
2 chicken breasts, sliced
4 sausages, chopped into chunks
Olive or vegetable oil
2tsp dried mixed herbs

Cook the rice in boiling water with the stock cube. In the meantime, heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the chicken, sausage and onions, frying gently until the meat is almost cooked through. Put the garlic, mushrooms, pepper and Moroccan seasoning in the pan and fry for another five minutes or so. Add the canned tomatoes, mixed herbs and some salt and pepper to taste. Cook through. Drain the rice and add to the pan. Stir well and serve with a green vegetable and maybe some crusty bread. 

We were tired when we got back from Devon yesterday, so it was great to find my eldest daughter, who had been looking after the cats, had kept the house tidy and made us all dinner. I still had a ton of laundry to do today though! Luckily the forecast rain didn’t materialise so at least some is dry. Work tomorrow and I’m not looking forward to the 100’s of emails I will find in my inbox, but that’s the price to be paid for my holiday! Have a good week. 

Who needs Glastonbury?

 

Wild Willy Barrett and the French Connection


 We had a lovely afternoon at Leigh on Sea at the annual Folk Festival again this year. The rain held off as a bonus. Last year we got soaked! 

I love this kind of community event. It is completely free and rather eccentric, and relies on the goodwill of volunteers and donations from the festival goers to keep running. The photo above is Wild Willy Barrett and the French Connection, which was brilliant and a lot of fun. Music, cider, cockles and sunshine. Where else can you get a combination like this at a seaside music festival?
 

Nick Pynn, centre, with the Famous Potatoes

 
We bumped into an old friend of mine, Nick Pynn, who is an amazing musician and seems to play every stringed instrument you can think of. We watched him guesting with local band the Famous Potatoes and he did his own set too. Look him up on You Tube.

Ok, so it wasn’t Glastonbury but it also wasn’t £200 a ticket!

We have actually watched some of Glastonbury on TV having said that. Adele was superb last night, such a performer and what a great voice.

  We came home and had a late dinner : liver and bacon casserole. I know offal isn’t to everyone’s taste but it is worth trying. 500g of pig’s liver cost 98p in Sainsburys and the Hairy Bikers’ recipe I used feeds 4.  You can’t get a cheaper meat dinner! We really enjoyed it. If you want a go the recipe is here: 

http://www.hairybikers.com/recipes/view/liver-and-bacon-with-onion-gravy#QB0Rd0QWB2uGZ8SY.97

I bet you can’t find that at Gladtonbury either 😀😀.

Stretching the chicken rations: warming smoky chicken with chickpeas


We had a lazy kind of day today. Up late, big breakfast, a drive for tea and cakes to my parents and then home for dinner. We watched The Durrells on TV as well – I love this and it has brought back happy memories of our holiday to Corfu last year. It is the most beautiful place and I would love to return. One day!
I had a couple of sad looking chicken breasts in the freezer. Not really enough for dinner, so I decided to stretch them with chick peas. I got a few ideas from the Internet, then cobbled this together. You could use ordinary paprika but I think the smoked variety added a lovely depth of flavour. I chucked in a bit of cooked spinach too as it needed using up but it isn’t essential.
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed, with a little salt
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1tsp cumin
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp turmeric
400g can chick peas
400g can chopped tomatoes
Chicken stock cube
2tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil
Heat the oil and sweat the onion and garlic for a few minutes, then add the chicken and spices and fry gently for about 10 minutes. Dissolve the chicken stock in a quarter of a pint of boiling water and add to the pan with the tomatoes. Add the lemon juice and bring to the boil, then tip the chick peas in and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently for another 10 minutes to make sure the chicken is cooked through. Serve with rice and bread. It
Serves 4.

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 🙂