Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Leek and Potato Soup (Slow Cooker)

This is a lovely rich soup - considering its only got 3 main ingredients its yummy, very easy to make and doesn't require any fancy gadgets. It can be made in a pan or slow cooker.
I have adapted this recipe for the slow cooker. if you want to make it in a pan just ask for the recipe ;)

You need to go easy on the seasoning, until the end as the flavour is deeper than cooking it on a hob.
This is a really nice soup the added milk gives it a creamy texture that  I really like. If you don't like milk or cant have it just leave it out. You might want to add some herbs to give it a bit more oomph - chervil, parsley or thyme work well

Spoon usage 1
Skill level -Novice
serves 2 large portions or 3 small
Cost £0.80

2 small or 1 large leek
2 - 3  medium sized potatoes
1 medium onion
3/4 pint chicken or veggie stock)
125 Ml Milk (can be left out or use a milk substitute eg soya)
Salt and pepper
*knob of butter (optional)

slice the leeks - cut length ways (remove the tough outer layer) then slice thinly
dice the onions - finely chop the onions
peel and dice the potatoes- you want to dice into small cubes
Make the stock - 1 cube to 3/4 pint boiling water


slow cooker method

1.pre heat the slow cooker for 20 minutes on high

2. Use a small amount of oil and pop in the leeks, potatoes and onions - leave to soften in the oil for 20 - 30
    minutes you want to stir a couple of times.

3. lightly season - add more later

4. Pour in stock and milk

5. Set slow cooker to low (cook for 9 hours) I usually do this over night or high for 4-5 hours

6 . Stir once or twice during this but generally leave well alone. taste and add more seasoning if needed

7.  Once all the veg is soft and well cooked either liquidise half of it, I like my soups to have a bit of
     substance rather than smooth. If you don't have a hand help liquidiser, use a potato masher

8.  Serve with some grated cheese or fresh parsley & fresh warm bread if you like it

* This is an adapted recipe from Delia Smith

Cauliflower Surprise

This is a childhood favourite of mine, its a variation of the classic cauliflower cheese. Its such an easy recipe, that's a stick to your ribs winter comfort dinner. When I was a child the surprise was always what else was in there - I think my mum used what ever she could afford really. I put ham or bacon in it but you can leave it out if you are vegetarian.

This is an oven baked dish, but I'm sure would work just as well in the slow cooker - you would need to steam the cauliflower first as you leave it in big chunks. Its a very versatile dish, can be served with macaroni, mash or on its own with some steamed cabbage Nom Nom.

Other than the claulli you can pretty much add what ever veg you like or have, the original recipe has tomatoes in it, but i don't like the combination of creamy cheese sauce and tomatoes.
If you cant have a cheese sauce or don't like it then a spicy tomato sauce works very well for this too.

Spoon usage  3
Skill - some skill
cost - £3.50
serves 4 ( use a small cauliflower and halve the rest of the ingredients for a smaller portion)

1 medium - large cauliflower
1 medium onion or 1 leek
1 small courgette
1 red pepper (or any colour you have)
*hand full of peas (optional)
*hand full of sweetcorn  (optional)
*100G smoked bacon or ham (leave out for vegetarian version)
1 pint of milk
100G hard cheese
2 tble oil
3 heaped tbl flour
2 tps Paprika

remove outer green leaves but don't throw them away- cut into 4 pieces, dont cut away the thick white stem you want the florets whole.
chop the onion - roughly chop
slice the courgette - good size chunks
slice the pepper - roughly chop
cut the bacon into lardons (small pieces) or shred the ham into bite size pieces

1. part cook the cauliflower - steam for 15 mins simmer for 10 (you just want to start the process off don't over cook - you want the florets to still be firm)

2. Drain and set aside


Make the cheese sauce

**If you dont have the energy, time or confidence to make the sauce - use a packet mix or jar of white sauce. The white pasta sauce type things are fine, you can just heat them up add some more milk to thin them down to a pouring consistency (thick double cream) add grated cheese til its melted - and follow the rest of the steps.

Cheese sauce
1 pint of milk
90G hard cheese grated  ** leave this is up to you and how cheesy you like it - set some aside for later
2 tbs oil
3 tbls flour
salt & pepper

use a heavy bottomed saucepan and whisk

1. Pour in the oil and heat over a medium low heat - you want to warm the oil not make it too hot

2. Add the flour and whisk til its smooth, keep stirring and cook the flour out for 1 - 2 minutes turn down
   heat, if it looks too dry add a tiny bit more oil

3. Add the milk and whisk, you need to keep stirring in a figure of 8 motion to avoid getting any lumps.
   when the sauce reaching a slow bubble and is thick (you want a thick double cream consistency) add the
   cheese, pinch of salt and pepper.

4. Whisk until thick and smooth - take off heat

5. If you need a little rest at this point - get some cling film put it on top of the sauce to stop a skin forming


Putting dish together

1. pre-heat oven to 200C gas mark 6

2. Gently fry the onion until translucent, add in the peppers and courgette. cook on a low heat for 3 - 4
    minutes -  put the veg into a deep oven proof dish, add the peas and sweetcorn

3. If using bacon fry until crispy - then add to the oven proof dish and stir in

4. Place the cauliflower quarters on top of the veg - sprinkle on 2
   tps paprika

5. Pour on the cheese sauce so it covers the cauliflower evenly.

6. Sprinkle on the saved grated cheese be as generous as you like.

7.  Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 - 35 minutes

8. Steam the outer leaves - treat like cabbage (discard the hard stalk
    just use the green cabbage like leaf) wash thoroughly and discard the
   outer part -or cook what ever veg you fancy I used carrots

Serve with mash, baked potato, pasta or crusty bread.

*** Note - you could adapt this for a slow cooker - just follow steps above and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hrs. if you want a browned top spoon onto a heat proof dish and brown under the grill

Monday, 11 February 2013

1 week, 2 people, £35 quid

Living on a very small budget is not easy, but it is possible to have interesting and varied meals, planning ahead is key and if like us you are a meat eater buying 1 type of meat for the week allows you to plan a series of meals and cut your costs down. You don't need meat every day, so throwing in a few veggie meals and it is possible to have well balanced, filling and delicious food.

Buying a mixture of fresh, packaged, reduced and pre -prepared all go into the mix. we don't always have time or inclination to cook something from scratch, so being realistic is  important. We always have a few fall back things in the cupboard and freezer..like oven chips, fish fingers and my husbands fave cauliflower cheese grills. This blog isn't about making anyone feel they should do anything, its purely about recipes and ideas you might want to try.

before deciding on meals for the week - check the fridge and freezer. Yes i know that sounds obvious but its surprising how often we don't and end up throwing things away because we haven't used them up.I'm certainly guilty of it, on such a limited budget we cant afford to do that..and well its bad form as captain hook would say.

a few tips if this is all new to you and you have suddenly found yourself juggling a tiny budget

  • Bulk buy fortnightly (if your on a benefit that pays out every 2 weeks) meal plan and shop accordingly 
  • Buy a few treats even on a tiny budget of sod all if you like pot noodle or fish fingers have something nice that's a  "I'm fed up of this crap" - mine is nice vanilla ice - cream
  • If you don't have much of a store cupboard buy 1 thing every shop so you build it up over time
  • **Freeze wine, left over stock even milk -
  • Take a calculator and know when a bargain is a bargain
  • its worth paying a little more for some things like tinned tomatoes 
  • try and buy seasonally its cheaper. 
**Im sure some will throw thier hands up in horror at freezing wine - however we rarely buy it, but it add lots of flavour to some recipeies. we pour the wine into ice cube trays.
This week we had a full store cupboard we just needed to replace Mung beans and coriander seeds.
The fridge had
2 leeks
half a bag of spuds
whole bag of onions (LM bought a huge bag last week)
2 carrots
Pot of natural yogurt
2 Eggs
1 bottle red wine (thanks mum in law)

I love pouring over recipe books, and chatting about what we fancy eating, my husband likes spicy food, were as im a bit of a wuss with spice. After a bit of intense marital discussion.. we decided the humble mince would have a starring role in this weeks dinners. Buying one type of meat, like a whole chicken, a load of mince etc allows you to get more from it and make your budget go further. Mince is very versatile

The trick with meal planning is you buy only what you need for a recipe.Supermarkets are good at packaging it all so you can never quite get the amount you need and end up paying more. If you cant get to a butchers, try out the butcher and deli counter - sometimes they have offers on and you can buy just the right amount you need.

Bearing in mind what we had - we decided on:

Breakfasts: porridge for me, malty cereal for my husband

Lunch - My husband works full time and takes a packed lunch, as I'm at home i either have soup or pittas
Spicy Lentil Dal pasties
Stuffed pittas - Egg salad
Blueberry & lemon cakes (variation of Orange and Cranberry cup cakes)

Sunday Lunch - Leek & Potato soup (using left over leeks and spuds from last week)
Sunday dinner - Cauliflower Surprise

Monday - Savoury mince, veg and mash (may yet be a Shepheard's pie)

Tuesday - Meatballs in Tomato Sauce & Pasta

Wednesday - Chili con Carine in jacket spuds

Thursday - Lasagna, Salad & garlic bread followed by Apple pudding *well it is valentines day

Friday -  Cauliflower & Veg Curry, Nan bread and Rice

any left overs will be frozen

Our total spend for 2 adults was £35.00 - we aim to keep it below £40 a week for both of us this includes stuff like washing powder, light bulbs etc. which pushes the cost up

Shopping list:
from the market
cost £4.50
Large Cauliflower
1Lb carrots 
3 x Bramley Apples
3 courgettes
4 large king Edwards (baking and mash)

£4.00 for mung beans, green split peas and coriander seeds from a market stall - we could have got them a tiny bit cheaper in the supermarket but hey the stall holder complimented me on my hat.

Supermarket £19.00
750G Mince
Pitta bread
fresh ginger
2 little chilli's
3 slices of nice ham
 6 x yogurts
pack of jelly
baked beans
Clover (marg)
non edible house bits and bobs - kettle descale etc
Rye Bread
Pack of granose veggie burger mix (for the store cupboard)
Milk 4 pinter
Bread Mix

My husband does all the chopping, i cant manage it but you can use pre chopped veg, tinned, frozen or a gadget to do the hard work. when you work out your meal plan you will know what you can do or manage.
This blog isnt just aimed at people like me who cant physically manage to cook.

I will write up the recipes over the week and post them up.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Make your own Jelly Pot Treats

this is a short blog - im working on a longer weeks meal planner one.

I love little pots of jelly and fruit - it is enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, why i hadn't thought of this before i will never know. We normally buy me 3 for a quid type pots. usually 49p each.

yesterday when we were shopping suddenly had the idea Doh!

1 pack of jelly - 40p makes 1 pint - you quick veggie jelly crystals
1/2 tin cheap peaches - 20p  - or what ever fruit you like (whole tin is 32p)
empty yogurt pots (we have loads as its my husbands sweet treat)

*you only need half a tin - you can freeze the peaches so they can be used for something else or more jelly pots later on

Have worked out that i can make 6 big pots of jelly and fruit in a standard 125 yogurt pot
or 12 if you add more fruit

Makes 4 large or 8 -10 small pots
Total cost 59p
this compares to the 49 p each pot usually costs.

4 x 125g yogurt pots 14 pence
8 x 75g fromage frait pots 7 pence

Spoon useage 1 (if that)

1. follow instruction to make up jelly - usually tear jelly apart into a heatproof jug, pour on boiling  water and disolve

2. open tin - chop up peaches into small pieces

3. let jelly cool (but not set, you dont want to melt the yogurt pots)

4. put fruit segments into emplty clean yogurt pots

5. pour on jelly

6, stiir

7, cover pots with clingfilm

8. enjoy

vary quatity accoridng to how much you want to make

Im sure doing a fruit compot and custard combo would work out equally well and be super cheap indeed - i shall experiment.
Id love to hear your money saving tips on making little pots of sweet treats.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Savoury Pasties

I love making pasties, I will get round to sharing my traditional Cornish pasty recipe soon. Pasties are cheap and tasty, they are great for packed lunches. The tradition of the humble pasty is an interesting one, In Cornwall the thick crust was for the tin miners to hold and throw away (their hands were covered in poisonous tin deposits)  The pasties had both a sweet and meaty filling - the meat on one side, sweet on the other.  

I  used a bread mix for the pasty - that might seem odd but i got the idea from the Hairy Bikers. I was very sceptical but not only is it lower in fat, the "pastry" is very nice indeed.
You could also use short crust, puff or rough puff pastry too..

Savoury Minced Beef Pasty
This is very cheap to make, using  a small amount of a few ingredients, you can use the cheapest mince for this if needs be, the condiments you use add lots of flavour. This savoury one can work just as well with veggie mince. I have added lentils to the mixture. Lentils are not only a great source of fibre and iron, they also bulk out meals. 

Spoon usage 2/3
Kitchen Skill - novice to some skill
cost £2 - 33p per pasty (20p per small)
Makes 6 medium  or 10 small

food processor (if you have one)
Mixing bowl
Rolling pin

If the pastry is too difficult to make by hand (it requires some dexterity) use pre rolled pastry either short crust or puff
Make pastry in a food processor if you have one
If chopping is too much then grate the veg - works just as well

100g mince beef or veggie mince
1 medium carrot
1 onion or small leek
1 medium potato
2 handful of red lentils* (optional just use more veg)
handful of frozen peas
1/2 pint boiling water
1 beef stock cube  - use veggie stock cube if making veggie version
good dash worcestershire sauce  (use hendersons relish for veggie alternative)
1 tsp ketchup
1tsp brown sauce
Salt & pepper

250 packet bread mix
150 Ml hand hot water
(that's half a packet of a small bread mix)

dice or grate the:
onion or leek
make beef stock - dissolve stock cube in the boiling water
heat the over to 190C or gas mark 5


1. brown the mince - if you have used a cheaper mince drain off the juices and excess fat

2.add onions or leeks, cook on a medium heat until the onion is translucent, season with salt & pepper

3. add the worcestershire sauce, ketchup & brown sauce to the beef stock and stir well, pour on to the meat

4. add the carrot, potatoes and peas and lentils

5. cook on a low heat (you want it to be just bubbling) until the lentils are plump - you may need to add more liquid.

6 leave to go cold

Rest - if you are too tired at this point, put the filling in the fridge will be fine over night

1.make the dough according to the packet mix and follow instructions - up to baking
  Or make what ever pastry you fancy, or use the pre made stuff.

2.roll out the dough until its 2-3 mill thick - use a small plate to cut out a circle - repeat until
  you have 6.

3. spoon the mixture into the centre of the circle, use a little but of mil to wet the edge nearest you.

4.  fold over the back edge towards you and using a fork press along the edge to seal them. I use a Cornish
    pasty crimp action but using the fork is fine.

5. brush the pastry with milk or an egg wash 

5. place in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes.