Not another courgette recipe! Spicy courgette stew with fresh tomatoes

courgette recipeHere is another courgette recipe for the glut! We have a ton of tomatoes in the greenhouse at the moment so this gets rid of those as well. It is a kind of ratatouille invented to use what we had in the fridge.

Spicy courgette stew with fresh tomatoes

1 large onion, chopped

2 sticks of celery, sliced

1 medium aubergine, cut into cubes

About three medium courgettes, sliced

3 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed

2lb/900g fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or two 400g cans)

2-3 tsp ground cumin

A dollop of tomato purée

2 tsp Marigold vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Put a good glug of oil into a large wok or frying pan and get it quite hot. This stops the aubergine from absorbing so much of the oil. Throw in all of your veg apart from the tomatoes and stir fry fairly gently for 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cumin and fry for two more minutes, then add the tomatoes, stock and tomato purée. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes more, stirring and adding salt and pepper to taste.

courgette recipeSo easy! We had this simple courgette recipe with some baked chicken thighs and roasted new potatoes, but it would be nice served  with rice.

The courgettes are nearly finished now and I am almost relieved! We still have a few runner beans arriving and the odd cucumber, but the tomatoes are growing at full throttle. They are so nutritious and versatile that I rarely have a problem using them. If all else fails I will make another batch of tomato soup for the freezer.

I don’t use any particular recipe for this. I usually fry up some onion, celery and garlic, add as many tomatoes as I need to use (skinned and roughly chopped) and then cover with vegetable stock. They produce a lot of juice so I don’t add too much, just enough to cover all the veg. I cook it for about 10-15 minutes, seasoning to taste, then blend it.

Do you grow your own and what are you fave seasonal recipes?

Courgette glut recipe: courgette and tomato eggy bake

Courgette glutIt is such a pleasure to grow and eat your own delicious fruit and veg. However, there is always too much of something and we have had a courgette glut for weeks. The freezer is packed with them in various forms. Actually, the courgettes have finally slowed but I am still dealing with the glut. Now the tomatoes are coming thick and fast. This seasonal vegetarian recipe combines the two.  It makes a nice change from courgette soup!

Courgette and tomato eggy bake

Serves 6

2oz/50g butter

1 lb/400g courgettes, thinly sliced

1 lb/400g tomatoes, thickly sliced

2 medium onions, chopped

Two medium peppers, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Heaped teaspoon dried mixed herbs

Half a pintwhite wine or cider

1 tablespoon Marigold vegetable stock

Pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)

4 or 5 hard boiled eggs, sliced

4oz/100g grated cheddar

Salt and pepper to taste

Firstly, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat the butter in a large frying pan or wok and sauté the onions, garlic, pepper and courgettes for 5 minutes or so, stirring regularly. Add the white wine, stock powder, herbs and seasonings and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chilli flakes if liked.

courgette glutNow start to layer up. Place the courgette mixture into a large baking dish. Add the sliced tomatoes.

courgette glut
Finally, add the sliced eggs and top with the grated cheese

courgette glut
Bake for around 30 minutes. This goes really well with some crispy roasted new potatoes.

Anyone else got a glut of anything? How are you dealing with your tomato or courgette glut?

Love your Leftovers: spinach cheese frittata 

Love your Leftovers

This is the second in my occasional Love your Leftovers series.

You know how it is when you cook fresh spinach? You think you have enough in the pan to feed the five thousand then you cook it and it disappears to a small bowlful!

I tend to over compensate for this and cook even more than I think I need. I love spinach and I know there are plenty of ways to use it up. You’ve got to love your leftovers!

love your leftoversUsing up leftover food is also helping me to stick to my £35 a week grocery challenge for August. The spinach, as well as some leftover canned sweet corn, went into this cheesy spinach frittata for a quick and easy dinner. Obviously, you can vary the ingredients for this type of dish, depending on what you have available or what needs using.

These quantities serve 2.

4 medium eggs

A splash of milk

About a cupful of chopped, cooked spinach

A couple of rashers of bacon, chopped

2 tablespoons canned corn

About 2-3 ounces grated cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Oil

I tend to use my wok for this as it is a good size and is non stick. It needs to go under the grill but obviously not a plastic handled one!

Fry the bacon in a little oil until cooked, then spoon it out and set aside, leaving some oil in the pan to cook your frittata. Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together then add the bacon. Pour back into your pan and cook gently until it starts to set. You can push the egg mixture around a bit to speed this up. Don’t allow it to catch on the bottom of the pan. When it has mostly set sprinkle the corn, spinach and finally the cheese on top. Place under a medium grill for around five minutes to cook the top.

This frittata is quick, cheap and easy, and a good way to help you love your leftovers. Have you any good recipes for cooked spinach?

Amazing Aldi

If you are a regular reader you already know that I love the discount supermarkets. They save me so much money on groceries – I found I reduced my bill by about £30 a week when I started using Aldi or Lidl rather than the larger, traditional supermarkets.  That’s a saving of over £1500 a year without even trying!

However, they are also great with their special deals on various home and lifestyle products.

Gluten free

This week Aldi has done particularly well. If you or one of your family have a problem with gluten, they have a whole shelf of interesting looking deals on gluten free food, including this Betty Crocker cake mix. I am having a dinner party on Saturday and one of our guests is a coeliac so I will make that for her dessert. They had lots of other yummy looking things too. As the cashier told me, these products move fast, so be quick if you are interested.

Baby savings

Aldi also have a fantastic range of baby and nursery stuff currently. Amazing prices! A high chair for £19.99, a changing mat for £3.99, some very cute bean bags for £16.99 and reusable nappies for £9.99.

I spent £50 on the week’s shopping for the three of us. I will add cat food and Lactofree milk to this total, but I think that’s pretty good going. I bypassed the plants and garden deals. They are so good I can’t resist them and I have spent enough on the garden this month.

What about you? Have you tried the discounters yet and which do you prefer?

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!

Black bananas in the bin? Not with this lovely loaf and you can even make it gluten free

imageDelia’s banana loaf is my go to recipe when I have over ripe bananas to use up. I tweak it depending on what ingredients I have in the house. I have replaced the walnuts with hazel nuts or even chocolate chips before and left out the citrus fruit peel when I haven’t had any.  The original recipe is here,: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/banana-and-walnut-loaf.html, and my gluten free adaptation is below:

75g soft margarine or butter
110g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
The grated rind of one lemon and one orange. (I used 3 heaped tsp of mixed peel as I had this from my Christmas pudding)
60g ground almonds
170g gluten free self raising flour
2tsp gf baking powder
1/2 tsp Xanthum gum (optional)
2 tbsp milk
4 medium bananas, mashed
59g walnuts, chopped

imagePreheat oven to gas 4, 180c. Grease a standard loaf tin. Place the marg, sugar, milk and egg into a bowl.sift over the flour, baking powder and xanthum gum if using, then the almonds. Whisk this all together. Add the mashed bananas and whisk again until thoroughly combined. Stir in the citrus rinds or mixed peel and nuts and place the mixture into your loaf tin.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 55-60 minutes, turning the temperature down a bit of it gets too brown.

This is delicious warm or cold spread with butter and a nice cup of tea :-).

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.

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?