A world of fresh delicious thrifty food

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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

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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

 


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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

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This simple supper is delicious, packed full of flavour and cheap to make. I always have a chorizo ring in the fridge. Although they are expensive in delis and some supermarkets, they are very cheap in places like Morrisons where they are just £2. This makes them very thrifty and a good way to add meat and flavour to dishes without breaking the bank.

Serves two

Do not freeze

Ingredients

2 Potatoes – large

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

1 tablespoon olive oil + a drizzle

1 Pepper (I use red, but any will do)

1 Onion, red small

1 Teaspoon smoked paprika

1 Teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and Pepper

2 Eggs

Method

  • Fill and boil the kettle
  • Peel and cube the potatoes into once inch pieces and place in a saucepan
  • Add the water boiling water to the saucepan, salt the water and bring the potatoes back to the boil
  • Simmer potatoes for about 7 minutes until they are just cooked, but still firm (important not to overcook at this point), then drain into a colander
  • While the potatoes are boiling cut the peppers into thin strips and slice the onion finely too
  • 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 1 tablespoon of 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
  • Add the cayenne pepper and smoked paprika
  • Toss the potatoes by giving the pan a good shake, this should distribute the ingredents
  • Cook for 5 minutes, shaking once in-between
  • Add the red onion and pepper, cook for 8 more minutes, once again shaking once or twice in-between
  • By now the potatoes should have browned nicely and the peppers charred slighly
  • Add the chorizo back to the pan and toss
  • It should be starting to look like this

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  • Cook for 5 more minutes tossing once in-between.
  • Whilst you are waiting for the potato/chorizo to cook for the last 5 minutes, heat a drizzle of olive oil in another pan
  • Once the oil is hot, add the eggs and fry until they are just done, but the yolk is still runny
  • Place potatoes and chorizo mix on a plate
  • Place the fried egg on top
  • Enjoy with a crisp green salad

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In case anyone is about to turn their nose up at the thought of tofu, let me tell you that before I tried this dish, inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi, I never really cared for it either. It seemed a bit…well…bland and boring, probably the sort of thing that someone who doesn’t really like food would eat. However, since my good friend introduced me to this recipe, I love tofu – I believe it absorbs flavours far more than meat. This meal is one of the most flavoursome treats you will devour and, in my view, it beats a chinese takeaway anytime. Far cheaper too, so happy days all round.

I have adapted this recipe as, despite being a chilli fan, the original was too hot – even for me. This meal is vegetarian without trying. Replace the butter with 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and it can be vegan too.

Some of the ingredients may not be in your store cupboard so I have offered some substitute ideas, however you will get a better result if you use the ingredients listed. I have also adapted the recipe to make it a bit less faffy than the original.

No freezing this dish – Gobble it up straight away

Serves 2

Ingredients

400g Firm tofu

2 x Tablespoons cornflour

Sunflower oil for frying

6 x Shallots or 1 x large onion -peeled

5 x Garlic cloves -peeled

1 x 5cm piece of ginger

1 x Mild red chilli – deseeded

75g x Butter

4 x Teaspoons light soy sauce (if you don’t have it substitute it with 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce, mixed with 2 x teaspoons water)

4 x Teaspoons sweet soy sauce (available in oriental supermarkets but could be substituted with 2 x teaspoons honey and 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce)

2 x Teaspoons dark soy sauce

1 x Tablespoon sugar

1/2 x Teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

3 x Spring onions (shredded into strips or chopped finely)

Method

  • First open and drain the tofu. Wrap it in kitchen roll and place it on a clean tea towel. Put a chopping board on top of it. Place some full tins, or anything heavy you have lying around, on the chopping board to weigh it down. This method is called pressing – it makes the tofu firmer and easier to handle. The longer you leave it, the easier the tofu will be to handle. I usually do this a few hours before I plan to make the dish.
  • When you are ready the meal take the shallots, garlic, chilli and ginger and chop very finely. I use my food processor to make this part less time consuming. If you have one, I would recommend you do this too.
  • Heat the butter in a wok or frying pan and add the chopped up veg. Reduce the heat at let this cook for about 15 minutes stirring occassionally until the veg is very soft and translucent.
  • Whilst you are doing this, take another frying pan and tip in the sunflower oil until it is about 1cm in depth. Heat the oil on a high temperature
  • Unwrap the tofu
  • Cut the tofu into one inch cubes and dust in the corn flour
  • When the oil is sizzling hot , turn it down to a medium heat, then add the tofu.
  • Fry for 4 minutes, then turn over – I recommend using tongs for this

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  • Fry for another 4 minutes. The tofu should now be crispy on both sides
  • Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on a plate with kitchen roll
  • Turn the heat off for that frying pan
  • Add the three types of soy sauce and sugar to the transluscent veg mix. Allow the suar to melt and the ingredients to bubble.
  • Next add the pepper and stir well. This dish should not require salt as the soy sauce is salty enough.
  • Next stir in the tofu and heat for a couple of minutes
  • Add the spring onion
  • Serve with rice

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There are some basics that you should have in your store cupboard/fridge, here is a good starting list:

Olive oil

Sunflower oil

Salt

Sugar

Pepper

Smoked paprika

Ground coriander seed

Plain flour

Vegetable stock cubes or frozen homemade stock

Chicken stock cubes or  frozen homemade stock

Malt vinegar

Balsamic vinegar

Cheap bottle of red wine (yes I know everyone says it should be expensive but I think that cheap does the trick and we are on a budget here!)

Butter – unsalted

I also keep the following in my larder at all times. Pesto, Chopped Tomatoes, Tomato Puree, Chipotle paste, Harissa Paste, Penne, Spaghetti, Arborio Rice, Cheap White Wine


Hello and welcome to my blog.

I have been reading a lot about how expensive food has become lately.  The Guardian is full of articles about readers who claim that they have to eat ready meals because they are so much cheaper than making food from scratch. Families saying that £5 for 4 ready meals means that they they have no choice but to buy the ready meals.

Others have been claiming that they are healthy and would like to buy fresh fruit and veg, but can’t afford to, so buy biscuits and chocolate instead.

I have to say that I am baffled by this. I think it is very possible to eat fresh food on a budget, maybe not organic or free range, but definitely cooked from scratch which is infinitely better than a microwave meal. I estimate that on average I spend about £5 for 4 people on most meals. Over the course of the week, I might spend a little more or a bit less but I don’t really shop around and I am sure I could get some items for cheaper than I do.

Anyway, all this talk of people not being able to afford fresh food insipired me to start my blog and share some of my recipes to help people create fresh meals for the equivalent of what they would spend in Iceland!