Vegetable bake – quick and cheap

This is a very simple vegetable bake based on Delia’s  Leek, Carrot and Potato Pie, which features in my original copy of Delia’s Frugal Food. It was perfect after a freezing day – 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 from their Super Six range and cost 59p.

Vegetable bake

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

vegetable 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.

This vegetable bake is cheap and easy comfort food.

Cheap and easy vegetarian

Ooh, should I call myself a ‘cheap and easy vegetarian’? Sounds dodgy!

Cheap and easy vegetarianNow that I have given up meat and gone back to being a veggie, I have been digging out some of my old vegetarian cookbook favourites. They are well thumbed as I never stopped using them. Even when I was eating meat we always had vegetarian food twice a week.

Going back to the greats

Many of my vegetarian cookbooks are practically vintage. The one that provoked the title of this post was Cheap and Easy by Rose Elliot. She was THE veggie food writer when I first gave up meat  in the late seventies. This one appeared in 1988.

I was having a browse through it last night with my vegan lodger. There are many very good recipes in there which, as the title of the book suggests, are cheap and easy vegetarian food and  quite a few vegan recipes as well.

Some old favourites

Some of the corners of the pages are turned over where years ago I marked dishes that looked particularly interesting. I am going to give some of these old recipes a try.

Glamorgan ‘sausages’, made with breadcrumbs, cheese, onions and lots of herbs appear promising and I remember eating lentils and mushrooms au gratin a lot (we called it lentil slop, but it was really delicious!). Vegetable rice with roasted nuts is a kind of veggie paella and easy nut burgers will be worth making in batches for the freezer.

Rose Elliot on the Internet

Finding this old book made me wonder what happened to Rose Elliot. I was delighted to discover that she is still going strong and has her own website.

She still sells lots of books but Cheap and Easy seems to be unavailable there, along with another  favourite, Not Just a Load of Old Lentils (which I have lost). However, she does have a promising looking collection in the Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian . If I am lucky enough to get vouchers for Christmas I am going to buy it!

In the meantime, I had a look on Amazon and found Not Just a Load of Old Lentils, so bought it for a mere £3 including postage. Bargain! If you fancy it, Cheap and Easy: Essential vegetarian collection is on there too from 1p plus postage.

I am really happy to have rediscovered this great writer. Her books will help me to be a cheap and easy vegetarian on a budget.

Does anyone else have recommendations for interesting vegetarian food writers?

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. If you link through and purchase an item it won’t cost you anything and I will earn a small commission.

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?

Lentil vegetable stew: A Simple Supper

lentil vegetable stewLentil vegetable stew

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 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 lentil vegetable stew would be good with rice but we enjoyed it with some ready to bake crusty baguettes from Aldi.

Update on mum

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.

Courgette and celery soup  – and beating the rag and bone man

 Last year’s courgette harvest is still feeding us. I am down to the last few bags in the freezer. I thought I would combine them with celery and it made a good combination. If you use frozen courgettes, like me, start with just a litre and a half of stock and add more if you need it. They are quite watery and can make your soup too thin. Here is the recipe I used today:

2 large onions, chopped
5 sticks of celery, sliced
6 tsp of vegetable bouillion power dissolved in 2 litres hot water
2lb courgettes, sliced
4 medium potatoes, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2tbsp oil

Hear the oil and sweat the onions, celery and potatoes for about 5 minutes. Add the courgettes and fry  for a couple minutes more. Pour on the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer with a lid on the pan for about half an hour. Add the soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste, then whizz in a blender.

This makes a large pan and you can put it into old margarine or ice cream containers and freeze for when you need it.

We had to take our student to meet her bus back to France this morning. She seemed to enjoy her week with us. On the way home we spotted a broken wooden garden bench and a heavy cast iron parasol outside our neighbour’s house. The bench seat was broken but the frame seemed sound so we asked if we could have them. They seemed delighted to be rid and they were close enough to Shoestring Cottage for us to walk them home. The bench is little project for Mr S but it won’t need much repair. With a lick of paint it will be perfect in the garden.

An hour or so later we heard the bell of the rag and bone men. We were lucky to have beaten them to it!

Bootstrap cooking

I am trying to eek out this week’s groceries by being creative and using things up. It’s good to do this every now and then as it makes me look properly at what is in my freezer and cupboards and use ingredients that have been hanging about a bit. I am lucky that we still have broccoli, spinach and chard in the garden too so I haven’t had to buy much veg. I did pop out to get milk from the local Co-op yesterday though and picked up parsnips and peppers reduced to half price. I will make a spicy parsnip soup for lunch today.
I don’t have much meat though so we are eating more vegetarian dishes. The other night I made a stew out of pretty much everything we had in the fridge: celery, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, mushrooms, peas and garlic with a tin of tomatoes, brown lentils, dried herbs and some vegetable stock. It was lovely with brown rice and a bit of grated cheese. I do like easy, no fuss dinners when I have been at work all day.

Last night we had some chicken thighs from the freezer in chicken chasseur as I had red wine that was a bit old for drinking but fine for cooking. I always use the recipe from A Girl Called Jack: 100 delicious budget recipes (my affiliate link). This is one of my favourite cook books ever. I have the second one but it doesn’t appeal to me as much. I have also signed up for her third which was crowd funded through Kickstarter. I should receive a signed limited edition copy for my money next month some time. I know Jack has become a vegan on the last few months so it will be interesting to see how this affects the recipes on offer. It wasn’t billed as a vegan cookbook but I don’t mind as lots of meat makes cooking more expensive. It is called Cooking on a Bootstrap.

As with anything related to Jack Monroe there is an interesting story behind the use of crowd funding to get the book out. It will actually come out with a ‘proper’ publisher in 2017. You can read about the saga  at https://cookingonabootstrap.com.

Off to the garden now as I have more seeds to start for the garden. Happy Sunday!

Low Fat On A Budget?

low fat on a budgetIs it possible to eat low fat on a budget? I think it is. 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 expensive 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.

Low fat on a budget is possible

Logically if you are eating less you shouldn’t be spending more. 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 which is low fat on a budget. 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.
low fat on a budget

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
0.5 tsp saffron, soaked in 2 tvsp water
110g green beans
110g 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! Do you eat low fat on a budget?

Little vegan number: spicy chick peas with spinach 

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

Spicy chick peas with spinach

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4-6 balls of frozen spinach
1 bell pepper, chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
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.

This spicy chick peas with spinach dish is so easy. It is also low fat and vegan. A simple supper with rice or as a side dish and cheap as chips!

I like to serve this as part of a frugal Indian dinner party for friends. Cheaper than eating out!

Cheesy potato bake with parsley, rosemary and thyme

cheesy potato bakeWe 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.

cheesy potato bake900g 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

cheesy potato bakePlace 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.

This cheap and easy cheesy potato bake is also vegetarian and gluten free.

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

What to take to the Christmas buffet?

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 healthy  that wouldn’t break the bank. I decided on this frugal version of a Greek salad.

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 on the way home from work and the salad cost £3.50 not including the dressing.

greek saladGreek salad

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.

This Greek salad 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.

Simple grub: vegetable gratin

I still haven’t been shopping! We seem to have a glut of unused veg in the fridge so I put off the Aldi trip another day to use them up.

imageI also took the opportunity to use a couple of sachets of cheese sauce mix that came from Approved Foods. I don’t usually use packet sauces, but they were so cheap, and the parsley sauces I bought last time were pretty good, so I thought I would give them a try.

imageI used two sticks of celery, a large courgette, a yellow pepper, a head of broccoli and a handful of mushrooms, but you could throw in any veg that needs using up. I sautéed all the veg for about 5 minutes, chopped quite small. If you prefer your veg less crunchy you could parboil it. I made the sauce and mixed it all together, put it in a casserole dish and topped with grated cheese. I then baked it for 20 minutes so that the cheese was golden and bubbly. We had this witimageh baked potatoes and spinach, so most of our five a day in one hit. It went down a treat and the cheese sauce mix was pretty good.

I will do a shop tonight though: I can’t put it off forever !

Brown Rice and Mediterranean Vegetables

Another chuck it together healthy tea. We had this brown rice and Mediterranean vegetables with baked chicken but it is a perfectly good veggie supper with grated cheese stirred in.

brown rice and Mediterranean vegetablesI am still using up the huge courgettes I got in Sainsbury’s! I like the flavour soy sauce adds to these.

Brown rice and Mediterranean vegetables

Serves 6

1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
I green pepper, chopped
1 large or 2 small courgette, diced
100g mushrooms, sliced
325g brown rice, cooked with a veg stock cube
600g (1.5 cans) chopped tomatoes
2tbsp chopped parsley (or 2tsp dried mixed herbs)
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheddar to top (optional)

Heat the oil and gently fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add the courgettes, mushrooms and pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes then add the parsley and soy sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve your brown rice and Mediterranean vegetables with a good sprinkling of grated cheese.

image

We were out getting the best from our RHS membership today. Once it finally stopped raining the sun came out and it was boiling, so we took a drive to Hyde Hall Gardens in Runwell in Essex.

This is the fourth time we have been this year and it has been fantastic to see the garden changing and developing through the seasons. This is one of the four main RHS gardens and we are lucky to have it half an hour’s drive from home. It never fails to inspire!

rose2

Chick Pea Burgers and Super Cheap Veggie Soup

chick pea burgers 1It being Sod’s Law and a Saturday, I did of course wake up at 5.30 am, so no lie in for me. The up side of being a naturally early riser is that I am quite productive in the mornings. The down side is that I will be fast asleep on Mr Shoestring’s shoulder by about 9 pm … I am nothing if not entertaining!

I need to keep everything as cheap as possible this month as I have had a couple of unexpected bills. So I am planning to eat from the freezer and store cupboard as much as I can over the next few days. This means more veggie meals, which I love but everyone else will doubtless compain about. They will have to cope!

The first recipe in my store cupboard blitz is for these tasty little chick pea burgers. They are cheap, healthy and quick (as well as being vegetarian, vegan and excellent if you are on a low GI diet).

For 10-12 small burgers you will need:

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
Large handful of fresh coriander if you have it – failing that parsley is good too
2 tbsp plain flour
Salt and pepper to taste

chick pea burgers 2Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until mostly smooth, although a few lumps of chick pea is nice. Put a little flour on a chopping board and shape the mixture into about 12 little patties. Cover and place in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill. When you are ready to cook them, heat some oil in a frying pan and cook them for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. They are nice with some chilli jam on the side.

Since I was having a clear out, I pulled two chicken carcasses out of the freezer and made them into stock with 3 celery sticks, a large carrot, an onion, 3 bayleaves and 6 peppercorns. This is currently simmering away and I will drain it and use it for soup for lunch. I have saved bits and pieces of leftover cooked veg in the freezer, so that is defrosting, and I will add some onion, celery, carrots, pearl barley and whatever else I can find to make a good veggie soup.

So a good start to my mega cheap week!

Spaghetti Cheese Casserole

spaghettiToday is my 100th blog post! I can’t believe I have written that many!

We had this yesterday – an old favourite adapted from Marguerite Patten’s Health Food Cookery. It’s my usual – cheap and cheeful, and easy after a day at work. It’s an old recipe, so it is in ‘old money’.

8 oz spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
2 sticks celery
2 cloves garlic
3 oz mushrooms
4 large tomatoes (I have made it with tinned in the past)
2 grated medium carrots
1/4 pint cider or white wine
Seasoning
1 tsp oregano
2 tbsp chopped parsley
6 oz grated cheddar

Heat the oil and cook the onion, celery, mushrooms and garlic for 5 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes, carrots, herbs with the wine or cider and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti. Add this to the pan with the vegetables and grated cheese, and season to taste.

We had this with a large green salad. It is supposed to serve 4 but 3 adults scoffed the lot. 🙂

Teach your Kids to Cook

curried chick peasCooking is a hugely useful life skill, especially if you are on a budget, health conscious, or adventurous in your eating habits…

I really can’t understand parents who cook themselves but don’t teach their children, or even worse, parents who don’t cook at all and live off ready meals. I know quite a few teens who are completely hopeless in the kitchen. DD2 went off to uni and was amazed to find one of the boys in her flat had filled the freezer with meals lovingly prepared by his Mum. Very nice of her, but wouldn’t it have been more useful to teach him a few basic culinary skills so that he could do it himself? Is she planning to bring him several months worth of meals at a time so that he never has to cook? I suspect so!!

My children were all up to chopping a few vegetables by the age of three, and we always baked cakes together. DD1 cooked her first full family roast dinner aged 10! They can all cook, and all understand what is healthy food and what is rubbish. I am not saying they don’t eat rubbish given half a chance, but generally their habits are pretty good. I always fed them decent food and didn’t allow them to become fussy eaters. I think you lead by example – if you cook good food and eat lots of fruit and veg, then your children will do as you do.

Tonight I asked DD3, who is 15, to make dinner as she is still on school holidays, and she made a really delicious Curried Vegetable and Chick Pea Stew:

1 onion, chopped
1 small courgette, chopped (I used frozen from my garden – you could use a bit of broccoli instead)
2 small carrots, sliced
chunky clove of garlic, minced
half a pint of stock
1 x 400g can of chickpeas
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
Half a teaspoon ground ginger
half a teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
half a teaspoon ground cinammon
Dash of tabasco to taste
Salt and pepper to season

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and soften the onion and garlic for a few minutes, then add all of the spices and stir for a minute or so. Add the courgette and carrot and fry for 5 minutes. Now add the chickpeas, stock and tomatoes and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for around 15 minutes. Serve with some cous cous or rice.

Super easy, healthy and cheap!

Get your kids cooking as early as you can, and encourage them to try as many different foods as possible. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables yourself to show them how delicious they can be, and to encourage good habits from an early age. Then, when you need them to knock you up a speedy tea, they will be able to and you will reap the rewards!

Mixed Vegetable Gratin

Sometimes you just need something light and healthy that is quick to prepare. Last night was one such night. Darling daughter no 2 was invited back to her sixth form college for the annual awards evening. I am a very proud mummy as she worked really hard and got an A* and received the English award for academic achievement. It was all a bit of a rush, so before I left for work I made this easy vegetable gratin, which serves 4, and we had it with jacket potatoes, although roasties would be particularly nice.

image1.5lb mixed veg (I used a head of broccoli, 4 carrots and 3 sticks of celery), lightly boiled or steamed
1 pint milk
2 oz margarine
3 tbsp flour
8 oz cheddar

Place your cooked veg in a baking dish. Make your cheese sauce by melting the marg then adding the flour and cooking for a few minutes on a low heat. Whisk in the milk and turn the heat up a little until it thickens, then add 3/4 of the cheese. Take off the heat and season to taste, then pour it over your veg. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese. If I was eating this immediately I would stick it under a hot grill until the cheese browns. As I reheated it I warmed it in a medium oven for 25 minutes to half an hour.

Cheese and Pasta Casserole, 71p

This is an old family favourite – it is absolutely delicious and healthy too. It worked out at £2.86 overall, and fed 4 of us, so around 71p a portion. We had this with a mixed salad that was yellow stickered at Asda for 64p.

pasta cheese casserole350g pasta, 35p
3 small onions, 12p
100g mushrooms, 36p
1 clove garlic, 5p
100g cheddar, grated, 30p
400g can of chopped tomatoes, 33p
2 carrots, peeled and grated, 5p
Quarter pint of white wine, 40p
Small handful of chopped parsley, free from garden

Heat some oil in a large pan and fry the onions, garlic and mushrooms until they are soft. Add the grated carrots and white wine, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes and parsley. Simmer for another few minutes, then season to taste. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to boil and cook your pasta. When it is ready, add to the sauce with the grated cheese and stir it all together. Serve straight away with a salad and maybe some crusty bread if you are pushing the boat out. You could substitute stock for the wine, but it does add a lovely flavour if you have some.

Chick pea curry – cheap and cheerful

I would happily stop eating meat if I was just feeding myself, as it is so expensive. I prefer vegetables anyway, especially when I have grown them myself. Sadly, my daughters feel deprived if I don’t give them meat some of the time. Fortunately, there are many veggie recipes that they will all happily eat, and this chick pea curry is one of them.

Chick Pea Curry

chick pea curry We had this chick pea curry tonight and it is a real family favourite. Healthy, delicious, easy and cheap. You could make it even cheaper by using dried chick peas, but I tend to go for the canned variety. I got this recipe from my thrifty mother, and we all love it.

1 lb chick peas (2 cans)
3 tablespoons oil
2 onions (I used leeks I had lying around in the fridge as well)
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons chopped root ginger (I usually buy a piece and freeze the rest, but I’m sure dried will do)
6 cardamoms, split and seeds removed (I rarely bother)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tin of tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
Half a pint of vegetable stock
Seasoning
Chopped parsley for garnish
Chick pea curry

Chop the onions and fry until soft but not brown.

Add the spices and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.

Tip in the tomatoes, tomato puree and chick peas, then the stock.

Cook for 10-15 minutes on a low heat, seasoning to taste.

Serve with rice. My mum likes to mix in some sour cream or yogurt at the end and it is nice, but not essential.

Pumpkins and a fabulous harvest

pumpkin soupChopped pumpkin

We had a veritable bounty of wonderful veg from the garden and greenhouse this year. This was the first year we had put so much effort into growing our own food; last year we managed a few courgettes in grow bags and some runner beans. This year we have had fabulous tomatoes (thanks to a bargain greenhouse purchased on Ebay and free plants from a friend), peppers, celeriac, onions, carrots, French and runner beans, peas, fennel, rhubarb, various courgettes and squashes, beetroot, leeks, a few currants and berries and best of all, some lovely big pumpkins. Now that Halloween is out of the way, it is time to make some more soup for the freezer. Pumpkins make the most glorious, smooth and delicious soup. Here is the recipe I use:

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

One medium pumpkin

2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock

3 large onions

2 sticks of celery

2 tsp of cumin

4 cloves of garlic

Vegetable oil

Plenty of salt and pepper

The first thing you need to do is roast your pumpkin. Preheat your oven to gas mark 6, 200C. Peel your pumpkin and cut into large chunks – about 2 inch squares should do. Put into a bowl and mix in a couple of tablespoons of the oil. Roast in the hot oven until the pumpkin begins to soften – about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion and garlic and brown for 5 minutes in a small amount of oil, then add the cumin and cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes. Add the roasted pumpkin and the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, seasoning to taste, then puree and cool.

I save margarine, ice cream and large yogurt pots for my mega soup making sessions. I ladle single, double or larger portions, depending on the size of my container, label and freeze. Home-made soup is so much nicer than tinned, and a lot cheaper when you are using home grown veg as well as being a great way of using up a glut.