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.

 

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. 

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.

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.

Bring out the slow cooker

I haven’t used my slow cooker that much recently, although I really should. Even in summer you can cook a nice ratatouille in it.

imageI was very short of time the other day. I knew I would be late back from work, I really didn’t have time to prepare anything in advance and I had a whole chicken. I couldn’t roast it in the oven when I got home as we didn’t want to be eating at bedtime, and I didn’t have time before work to start jointing it and chopping veg to make a casserole. In the end I chucked it into the slow cooker whole with some white wine, chopped carrot and onion, and a bit of stock. DD3 did some mash and veg when she got back from school and it was marvellous, melt in the mouth and flavoursome.

The remaining chicken made a delicious curry last night, warmed through with a jar of sauce from Approved Food and served with brown rice. This is what  need when you work full time: quick, cheap and healthy!

Do you use your slow cooker? What do you use it for?

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!

 

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Strange weather today – very heavy rain punctuated by strong sunshine. Still, we got to see this:

imageI have been doing a deep clean today. All of the decorating and gardening and general busy-ness hasn’t left much time for cleaning so the place was a bit grubby. I still have a bit to do in the morning, but it is looking so much nicer it is worth the effort.

making meatloafMeatloaf turned out to be a very easy dinner as it just involved throwing all of the ingredients in a bowl, mixing them together and putting them in the oven in a loaf tin. It was tasty too with some creamy mashed spuds and broccoli. I would put more herbs and spices in if I made it again. I actually doubled up and made two, one for the freezer. The recipe suggests it feeds 6, but I would say only if you have a very small appetite. It made plenty for 4 however.

meatloaf

It is here if you want to try it:

 http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/6772/mum-s-meatloaf.aspx?o_is=Hub_TopRecipe_1

 

Mediterranean Chicken Pasta with Chorizo

I am keeping the holiday feeling going tonight with some Mediterranean ingredients from Aldi! The chorizo adds so much flavour, and is really delicious. It only cost £1.49 for 170g, and I will use the rest later in the week.

image

Serves 4-6

300g pasta bows
2 chicken breasts, sliced
Large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Large red pepper, chopped
1.5 cans chopped tomatoes or passata (600g)
1 heaped tsp mixed herbs
85g chopped chorizo
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and fry the onions, garlic and chicken breasts until the chicken is more or less cooked on both sides. Add the pepper and cook for minutes or so then add the tomatoes, herbs and chorizo. Season to taste. Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and mix with the sauce, and serve with some grated cheese and a nice green salad.

This was easy to make, which I needed today as I was unpacking and catching up with laundry. It’s good to be back and I even got the sun today, so can’t complain 🙂

Shoestring Sausage and Vegetable Ragu

This is one to satisfy the meat eaters in my family whilst being frugal and delicious. It is full of a rainbow of different coloured mediterranean vegetables, so is healthy as well. I used Aldi pork sausages, which are very cheap, but can be a bit fatty, so it is important to grill rather than fry them.

serves 4-6

image1 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, diced
Half an aubergine, diced
1 courgette, diced
Olive oil
6 pork sausages
500ml passata
Tbsp tomato purée
100 vegetable stock or water
Pinch of chilli flakes
450g pasta

First grill your sausages.  Whilst they are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan and add all the vegetables. Fry gently for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the passata, tomato purée, chilli flakes, stock and seasoning. Simmer gently and add the sausages, chopped into three or four pieces. Cook for 10 minutes. Cook the pasta in a large pan of water, drain and mix with the ragu. Serve straight away.

I am looking forward to grabbing a bowl of this before I shoot off to yoga tonight. An easy supper!

Boiled ham in parsley sauce, 62p a portion

hamFor a change, instead of roast chicken on Sunday, I bought what looked like a tiny joint of ham for £2.99 from Aldi, and boiled it up with some bouquet garni and whole black peppercorns for an hour. Amazingly, this made 5 meals; 2 for me and Mr Shoestring on Sunday, and 3 more last night for me and the girls. We had it with parsley sauce – I bought 10 for £1 from Approved Foods a while ago and used two over the two nights. It was delicious served with creamy mashed potatoes and veggies.

I have saved and frozen the ham stock – this is far too good to tip away. I still have some leeks in the garden and plan to use the last of them to make some leek and potato soup, so I will use the stock for that.

I also used some more of the apples I was given – some of them have been sitting in my fridge for almost three months but they had kept brilliantly. We had them stewed with a bit of brown sugar and mixed spice with custard. Simple, cheap but delicious and it went down a treat.

Two recipes for Christmas leftovers

risotto 2I am still steadfastly working through my meal plan and using up all the leftovers from Christmas, as well as some of the bits and pieces I found at the back of the cupboard.  Yesterday we had a sophisticated yet delicious Turkey and Mushroom Risotto, which darling daughter 3 declared ‘banging’. I think that was a compliment 🙂 This came from the Daily Telegraph. I doubled up the quantities overall but only used 25g of porcini mushrooms and added 25g of fresh mushrooms, which worked really well. I also used paella rice instead of proper risotto rice as that was what I happened to have in the cupboard. I would make this again, even without the turkey.

Here is the recipe, plus some others that are quite interesting looking:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/seasonal-food-and-drink/10525654/Five-recipes-for-leftover-turkey.html

Tonight we have a Chestnut, Parsnip and Mushroom Roast, with roast potatoes, carrots and sprouts. I adapted it from Sarah Brown’s Layered Cashew and Mushroom Roast in her book Vegetarian Kitchen. It is an old book, but very much worth getting hold of if  you every come across a copy.

Chestnut, Parsnip and Mushroom Roast

This is a bit time consuming, but worth the effort. It made a very moist roast, so if you prefer it crunchier add another 50-100g of chestnuts.

nut roast 2

Tbsp oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
250g shelled chestnuts
110g breadcrumbs (whizz the ends of the bread up)
1 egg
3 medium parsnips, boiled and mashed
1 tsp fresh rosemary (or half tsp dried)
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped up
(you could just use a tsp of dried mixed herbs if you don’t have these)
1 tsp yeast extract, dissolved in 150ml hot water
For the mushroom filling:
225 g mushrooms, chopped and fried in a little butter

Fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes in the oil. Whizz up the breadcrumbs then the nuts in a food processor, and place in a large bowl. Add the egg, the mashed parsnips and the herbs, then the onion and yeast extract. Season to taste.

Grease a 2lb loaf tin and place half of the nut mixture into it, pressing down firmly, then add the mushrooms, drained so that you don’t make the mixture soggy. Add the rest of the nut mixture, press firmly again, then cover with foil.

Cook for one hour at 180 degrees, taking the foil off for the last 15 minutes to brown the top of your roast. Serve with gravy and vegetables. Yummy!

Leek and Potato Pie

photo 1So what to do for Saturday tea that is easy and filling? Searching in the freezer this morning, I found a pack of frozen short crust pastry that I must have bought for a specific purpose but didn’t use, so that was my starting point. I am trying to empty the freezer a bit for some Christmas meat that I plan to buy with my Sainsbury’s points, and also to make room for a new batch of pumpkin soup, so I will use up all the bits and pieces this week.

So, pastry. Lots of leeks in the garden. It had to be leek and potato pie!
I used up some bacon I had as well, but you could easily leave this out to make it vegetarian.
pie uncooked500g of shortcrust pastry
4 medium leeks, washed and chopped
Dessertspoon of butter
3 rashers of bacon
450g potatoes, peeled
Tsp of mixed herbs
130g cheddar, cubed

Preheat oven to 180C or equivalent. Cook the potatoes so that they are still slightly firm and chop into cubes. While they are cooking, melt the butter and add the leeks and chopped bacon, with the herbs. leek and potato pieCook gently for 15 minutes, or until the leeks are soft. Mix them with the potatoes and the cheese. Roll out the pastry and line the bottom of a medium pie dish. Add the filling, then add the pie top. Brush the pie with a little milk. Make a small hole in the middle, then bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.
This served 4 of us with a pile of cabbage, peas and gravy.