A world of fresh delicious thrifty food

Corn and Lemongrass Soup – Vegan

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Autumn has arrived and at lunch time, I have been in the mood for something a little more warming than a sandwich, so have been opting for soup. Pret do a lovely range and last week I had a delicious corn spicy soup nearly every day. At £2.99 a pop, I started to feel a bit poor and I especially resented spending the money knowing I can make 4-6 portions for roughly the same amount. Feeling inspired,  I decided to try to re-create it and I am pleased to say I did a fine job. The recipe is below.

Serves 4-6

Freezing – Freeze once cooled – defrost over night or in microwave. I like to freeze individual portions so they are ready to take to work.

Ingredients

1 Brown Onion

3 Cloves of garlic

1 Tablespoon Sunflower oil

3 Corn on the cobs (or 3 handfuls of frozen sweet corn)

1 Large potato

1 Inch of fresh ginger

1 Red chilli

3 Stalks of lemongrass

200ml Reduced fat Coconut milk (1/2 standard tin)

1 Litre of veggie stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Finely slice the onion, garlic and chilli
  • Peel and grate the ginger
  • Alternatively use a blender to chop the above ingredients
  • Heat oil on a medium heat in a large pan
  • Gently sauté the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger for about 10-12 minutes  until onions are translucent – being careful not to let it burn
  • While this is cooking, chop the potato into little cubes and set aside
  • If you are using fresh corn, slice the corn off the cob and set aside with potato retaining the cobs
  • If you are using frozen corn skip the above step
  • Peel and chop the ends off the lemongrass and score it several times with a knife
  • Add the potato, corn and lemongrass and stock to the onion mixture
  • If you have fresh cobs add these too as they will add flavour
  • Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes
  • Remove the lemongrass and corn if you used fresh corn
  • Add the coconut milk and heat through
  • Split the mixture in two and blend half until smooth
  • Return the blended mixture to the unblended mixture and stir
  • Serve – lovely with crusty bread

Courgette and Parmesan Tart

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Well, this blog hasn’t been updated for some time now, mainly because I think there are far better things out there. Anyway, a few people have said I should update it, so here we go.

Annoyingly my last recipe was also a tart recipe, but I am still going for this one – courgettes are in season and I have many in my garden, it is quick and easy, so this is what I have been cooking.

My friend Julia put me onto this recipe a year or two ago, it is an adaptation of one she found on Good Food. A great way to use up courgettes and very tasty hot or cold.

Serves 4 with a salad or 6 with a side dish

Freezing – No freezing

Ingredients

Puff Pastry – 1 pack of pre-rolled (or make your own) – I used the reduced fat version

1  Whisked Egg (optional)

Mascarpone – 4 Tablespoons (low fat soft cheese will also work)

Grana Padano or Parmesan grated – 2 Heaped Tablespoons 

Medium Courgettes x 2

Garlic Cloves x 4

Red Chilli x 1 (or 1 tsp dried chilli flakes)

Olive oil x 1 dessert spoon

Small Red Onion x 1

Salt and Pepper

Method

  • Heat the oven to gas mark 6, 200c, 400f
  • Line a large baking tray with some baking paper or grease and flour it
  • Place your pre-rolled pastry on the tray
  • Mark an inch (2cm) border round the edge
  • Optional – Brush the border with the whisked egg. (This will give the pastry a shine but is not imperative to the dish, milk could be used or nothing at all)
  • Take the courgettes and slice them very thinly, putting them in a bowl
  • Peel the garlic cloves and crush them into the slices courgettes
  • Add salt and pepper to your taste (I used about a 1/4 tsp of each)
  • Slice the chilli and add it to the courgettes along with the olive oil
  • Coat the courgettes by tossing the ingredients, I find it easier with my hands as the courgettes can break with a spoon
  • Very finely slice the red onion, put to one side
  • In a separate bowl mix the mascarpone and about 3/4 of the cheese
  • Spread the mixture on the pastry leaving the border clear
  • Place the courgettes on the mascarpone base overlapping them slightly
  • Once complete tip any excess chilli or garlic on top
  • Place in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes and bake
  • After the 15 minutes, add the left over cheese and sliced red onion
  • Bake for another 15 minutes until the courgettes start to brown
  • Remove from the oven, leave to sit for 5 minutes and serve. Or serve cold if you prefer
  • This is great with a salad

 

Prosciutto and Camembert Tarts

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I have been wondering whether to put these tarts on my blog as they are not the thriftiest meal to make. That said, this recipe can be made cheaper by buying the supermarket’s own brand ingredients. I have done a quick search around the main supermarket’s websites and this recipe can be made for under £6, which isn’t bad as it serves six. If you shop in Waitrose, you can expect to add about 30% on that!

Anyway, if you like quite strong flavours, these are for you. What is great about these tarts is that they are so easy.

Serves 6

Freezing – These can be frozen but before you add the camembert. Defrost and then add the camembert.

Ingredients

Red Pepper x 2

A little olive oil

You can also replace the above two ingredients with jarred roasted peppers

Rolled Puff Pastry Sheet- 1 x 320g (or make your own – I am too lazy busy)

1/2 jar of red pesto

Prociutto Crudo 100g (also known as parma ham)

Camembert x 1 box 250G

1 Egg

2 sheets of baking paper

Flour for dusting surface

Method

  • Preheat the oven to the highest temperature
  • Wash and de-seed the peppers, cut them into quarters
  • Place peppers on a baking tray and drizzle with oil making sure they get a good coating
  • Roast for 20 minutes until they start to char and are completely soft
  • You can skip the above steps if you are using jarred peppers, just drain and pat with kitchen roll to dry
  • Line two baking trays with baking paper, if you prefer, grease the and flour them instead. Either way is fine, you just want them to be non-stick
  • Dust a clean surface with flour and cut your tarts in 12 equal rectangles
  • Put six on each tray
  • Whisk the egg and brush the edges of each rectangle with a pastry brush (about 1.5 cm in)
  • Take the pesto and divide between the tarts spread it on each one with the back of a teaspoon ensuring that you leave a 1.5cm border round the edge (where you have spread the egg).
  • Remove the  white fat or leave it if you prefer and divide the prociutto between the tarts ensuring it is distributed over the part of the tart where you have spread the pesto
  • Take the roasted peppers, remove the skin, and slice, then distribute between the tarts, once again ensuring you leave a border.
  • Slice your camembert and divide between the parts
  • Reduce the oven heat to Gas mark 6, 200c, 400f, Fan oven 180
  • Cook for 20 minutes on a medium shelf, you may need to swap the trays half way through if you don’t have a fan oven. This will mean they both get time on the top.

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  • When they are done they should look like this and be crispy on the bottom
  • If they don’t but the topping is burning, cover with foil and cook for a little longer.
  • Once cooked remove from the oven and cool on wire racks
  • Ensure warm or cold. These are great for parties, picnic or just for supper with a salad

Chorizo and Potato Quesadilla

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More chorizo and potato! This time in quesadillas. Quesadillas are a huge hit in our house and very versatile, lovely fillings include refried beans, grated courgette (zucchini) and carrot, goats cheese and sun blush tomatoes. Potato and chorizo however are two of my favourite ingredients, so this is what I have used for this recipe which is one of my favourite meals of all time.

Serves 2 (with left overs for lunch!)

Freezing – Does not freeze, but makes great leftovers cold the next day

Ingredients

Chorizo 100g  (the ring type, not the cooking sausage or the slices)

Potato x 1 large (or 2 small)

Red onion x 1

Grated mozzarella 100g (1 cup)

Dried chilli x 1 teaspoon (optional, leave out if you don’t like too much heat)

Salt and Pepper + extra salt for boiling potatoes

Olive oil  x 2 Teaspoons + extra for greasing

Tortilla Bread Slices x 2

  • Fill and boil the kettle
  • Peel and cube the potatoes into 1.5 cm pieces and place in a saucepan
  • Add the boiling water to the saucepan, salt the water and bring the potatoes back to the boil
  • Lower the heat and simmer potatoes for about 5 minutes until they are just cooked, but still firm (important not to overcook at this point), then drain into a colander and set aside
  • While the potatoes are boiling slice the onion finely
  • Chop the chorizo into cubes – about 1cm
  • Place chorizo in a non-stick pan and turn on the heat
  • Cook the chorizo, stirring occasionally until you can no longer the see white fat and it has melted into oil within the pan.
  • Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon and set aside
  • Add olive oil to the melted chorizo fat and heat on high
  • Once boiling hot, reduce heat to medium
  • Add cooked potatoes to the fat
  • Whatever you do from this point onwards DO NOT STIR – it will turn the potatoes to mush
  • Add salt and pepper
  • Give the pan a good shake to coat the potatoes in oil
  • Cook for 5 minutes, shaking once in-between
  • Add the onion cook for 5 more minutes,  shaking once or twice in-between
  • By now the potatoes should have browned nicely  and the onions should be soft
  • Add the chorizo back to the pan cook for a few more minutes
  • Turn off the heat cover and set aside
  • If you are making guacamole prepare this now
  • Next take a large frying pan and drizzle with a little olive oil
  • Rub the oil in with kitchen roll so it covers the pan
  • Place the frying pan on the highest heat
  • Take a tortilla
  • Put in on a plate
  • Put half the chorizo potato mix and half the grated mozzarella on the right half of your tortilla, leaving the left half empty
  • Fold the left half over the right half so you have a semi-circle filled with ingredients
  • Do the same with the other tortilla using the other half of the ingredients
  • Once the pan is hot turn the heat down to medium
  • Slide both tortillas into the frying pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until they are crispy and browing (being careful not to burn)
  • Once ready place on a chopping board and leave for a couple of minutes, then cut each one into four pieces – I find this is easier with a pizza slicer
  • Serve with guacamole and salad – enjoy!

Polpette di Ricotta – Baked Ricotta Balls

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Meat free ricotta balls are a great alternative to meatballs when combined with  lovely tomato sauce and pasta. They are also yummy as a snack.

You will find these are so versatile  and you can experiment by adding different flavours to them like paprika, cayenne, chilli, cumin or even chopped up sundried tomato. If you are going for a less healthy option you could add a square of mozzarella for a melt in the middle finish.

Kids love these, my 2-year-old son ate nearly half a batch yesterday over lunch. Here is the basic recipe.

Note to my American followers – I have added American measurements in – these are approximate, but I believe they are correct, please let me know if you have any issues

Serves 4 if serving in tomato sauce with pasta or bread –25  balls

Freezing

Freeze these once the are cooked. To reheat thaw, wrap in foil and heat in the oven on 190C, 170C Fan, 373F, Gas 5 for 10 minutes

Ingredients

Ricotta – 1 Tub (250g) – 1 cup

Egg x 1 yolk only

Grana Padano grated  50g – 1/2 cup

Garlic clove crushed x 1

Bread crumbs – panko/dried  – 60 g  – 1 /2 Cup

Black pepper and a pinch of salt

Oil for greasing baking tray

Method

  • Heat oven to 190C, 170C Fan, 373F, Gas 5
  • Lightly grease a baking tray with oil
  • Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl

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  • Ensure they are well mixed with a fork
  • Shape into little balls about 2cm/1 inch balls (mixture makes around 25 balls)
  • Place on a baking tray
  • Place in oven on a medium to high shelf
  • Bake  for about 15 minutes until golden
  • Serve in tomato sauce with pasta or bread – alternatively eat them on their own as a snack
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Lighter Rigatoni con Pancetta e Piselli – Bacon and Pea Rigatoni

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As we are in January and probably all attempting to eat more healthily, here is a lighter alternative to Carbonara – I find it just as satisfying.

To reduce the calories further I often use a cream substitute such as Emlea because you can’t  really taste the difference, I also grill rather than fry the bacon. The peas are cooked for a long time, such is the way with a lot of Italian cooking, that they take on a lovely flavour and softness which makes them especially palatable for kids.

This is a very cheap dish, so great all round.

Serves 4

Freezing

Can be frozen then re-heated in microwave or pan, but you may find you need to add a little extra liquid such as milk or water.

Ingredients

Rigatoni 400g

Pancetta or smoked bacon 150g

Red onion x 1

Olive oil – 1 tbs

Frozen petit pois (or normal peas) 150g

Single Cream 250ml

Chicken Stock 250ml

Back pepper to taste

Grana Padano (or parmesan) 50g

Method

  • Grill the bacon on a medium heat until crispy – set aside on kitchen roll to absorb the excess fat
  • While the bacon is grilling, finely chop the onion
  • Heat the olive oil in a large non stick pan on a medium heat
  • Add the onions to the oil and cook until translucent and soft
  • Cut the bacon into 1cm squares, it find this easier with scissors (I also remove all the fat, but that is up to you)
  • Add bacon to the onions once they have softened
  • Put in the peas and then heat until no longer frozen
  • Season with black pepper and then add stock  – I find this to be enough seasoning considering saltiness of the bacon, but do add salt if you prefer
  • Cook on a medium, stirring occasionally until almost all the liquid had absorbed (just a bit should remain) this will take around 25 minutes. Once it reaches this stage add the cream and heat it until it simmers
  • In the meantime boil some water, cook the rigatoni until al dente and drain
  • Add the pasta to the cream sauce and stir in half the cheese
  • Serve immediately sprinkled with the excess cheese

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Chilli Pesto Chicken Nuggets

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These chicken nuggets are an amazing home made alternative to processed shop bought ones and they taste delicious. Whether they are thrifty or not is a matter of opinion, they work out at about £3.00 for 20, which is probably more than processed nuggets, but these are healthier and far better.

If you are not keen on chilli pesto, you can substitute it with green or red pesto. These are a family favourite, I think you will really like them.

Serves

Makes 20 nuggets

Freezing

Can be frozen before cooking. Defrost before cooking

Ingredients

Chicken breasts x 2

Chilli Pesto – 3 tablespoons

Panko Breadcrumbs – 100g

Olive oil x 2 tablespoons

Method

  • Pre heat oven to 230C, 210C fan, 450F, Gas mark 8 and add two tablespoons olive oil to a small baking tray. Place in oven for oil to heat (on a shelf about a quarter down from the top)
  • Cut each chicken breast into about 10 pieces
  • Place in a bowl and mix with the pesto until completely coated
  • Put Panko breadcrumbs into a freezer bag, add the chicken, seal bag and shake until the chicken is coated. Alternatively place bread crumbs in a bowl and then add the chicken a few bits at a time until coated
  • Remove the baking tray from the oven and check the oil is bubbling hot. You can tell by putting a breadcrumb in, if it sizzles it means it is hot enough, if not return the tray to the oven until very hot. This is important to ensure nuggets are not soggy
  • When the oil is hot, place chicken nuggets on the baking tray and return to the oven.
  • Cook for 10-15 minutes turning once. The nuggets should be crispy and slightly golden
  • Serve with salad or chips or both!

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