04 2 / 2014

Oh dear, I’m not doing as well as I hoped at keeping this blog regularly.  Flat hunting has been interrupting me somewhat. 

This week I made a beef and peanut curry using sainsbury’s basic’s diced beef.  This beef is really great for slow cooking as it has a high fat content.  I use it a lot because it’s cheap and relatively easy to cook up.  I cook it for at least 4 hours and it falls apart in your mouth.  I’m a great fan of the shove it all in a pot and leave it cooking method!

This is what I spent on my ingredients and a rough estimate of costs of what I had in my cupboard!

440g Basics Casserole Steak  x2: £6.36

Peanut Butter: 0.65p

Aduki Beans: 0.69p

Chick Peas: 0.39p

Cumin Seeds: 0.65p

Tomato puree: 0.48p

Large white Onion: 0.30p

Total Cost: 9.52

I also used lots of things I had already in my cupboard. Which probably adds another £1 or 2.  I made 10 portions of curry.

This curry is quite sweet, I used a couple of sweet potatoes that I allowed to disintegrate, creating a really thick tasty sauce.  Here is the full recipe:


880g Casserole Steak

I large onion

3 small sweet potatoes/ 1 large

1 tin chick peas

1 tin aduki beans

50g green lentils (which is what I had left in the cupboard)

1x beef stock pot

2 large tsp honey

2 tablespoons peanut butter

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 heaped tsp mild curry powder

2 tsp garam masala

2-5 dried birds eye chillis (depending on how hot you like your food)

2 cloves of garlic (crushed)

Splash of soy sauce

Splash balsamic vinegar

1 tsp madras powder

3 cardamon pods, crushed

Thumb of fresh ginger, diced or grated

Large tablespoon plain flour


Salt and pepper

I know there are lot of spices and things, if you don’t have something don’t worry, so long as you have most of it you’ll be fine!


Dry the meat with kitchen roll before frying in oil and salt and pepper. Do this in a large casserole pot and in batches and remove the meat to a plate when browned.

In the same pan fry the chopped onion, you want the onion to go dark.  Add the rest of the ingredients, the flour last.  Once you’ve stirred in the flour add a cup of boiling water and stir.  Gradually add more water until the ingredients are covered.  Bring back to the boil.  Pop in an oven at 140 degrees for about 3 hours with the lid on. 

After 3 hours stir and return to the oven with the lid off.  Keep an eye on it, it will probably take between 30 mins and an hour until it has thickened. 

Serve with rice

You could also try sprinkling desiccated coconut over it before serving.

To freeze simply divide into portions and freeze in containers once cool.

28 1 / 2014

I’ve been spending a bit more on my weekly shop recently as I let my freezer slowly empty over Christmas and had a month of not cooking very much.  This week I needed to stock up on more freezer food.  My partner requested fishcakes, which are always a bit of a pain to make as they are messy and take a long time.  But they are tasty and we do love them!  I normally serve them with chips or sweet potato wedges and peas or salad.

I decided to make trout fishcakes this week, normally I make smoked mackerel ones, I’ll put that recipe up at a later date.

I found that one and half fishcakes were good portion.  Obviously you can have two each and make them slightly smaller!

This is what I spent:

Trout fillets (3): £2.31  I bought Sainsbury’s basics trout, this would work with salmon too.

Basic Soft Cheese: £0.73

2 small baking potatoes: £0.83

1 large red onion: £0.17

I had oats in my cupboard but if you don’t some cheap porridge oats shouldn’t set you back more than £1

total: £5.54 for 12 fish cakes or 6 portions

This total includes an estimate of the cost of the below ingredients.

Other ingredients (approx):

1 egg

50ml whole milk (or whatever milk you normally get)

300g breadcrumbs (freeze any leftover bread or crusty ends and blitz in a food processor or grate by hand)

100g plain flour


Lemon juice

Mixed herbs


Salt and pepper

Oil for frying.


Cover the fish with salt, pepper, herbs, garlic and lemon juice.  Steam for about 10 mins.

Meanwhile peel and dice the potatoes and onion, boil until the potato is tender.  Drain and mash, add about half the tub of soft cheese (150g).  Flake the fish and remove bones and skin, add to the mash mix; combine well with a wooden spoon.  Taste and season with more herbs and lemon juice to taste.  Add oats gradually until the mixture will stick to a spoon without falling off.

Now comes the messy bit!  I find it best have a bit of a production line going.  You want gather a large spoonful of mixture and mould it to a flat round shape.  Then coat in plain flour, then a mixture of egg and milk and then finally the breadcrumbs.  I made 10 large fish cakes but mine were too big, 12 is probably a better number to aim for.

Freeze any fishcakes you don’t want on this occasion by freezing on a baking tray first and then in plastic containers once frozen. 

To cook the unfrozen fish cakes heat a small amount of oil in a pan.  Fry the fishcakes on a medium heat for about five minutes on each side.  They should be golden brown and crispy.

26 1 / 2014

For my birthday last year my partner bought me an ice cream maker.  Since then it’s been taking up a lot of space in the freezer but also providing us with plenty of tasty ice creams and sorbets.I found a really easy berry ice cream recipe in my silver spoon italian cook book.  This recipe takes after that one, but uses a lot less cream (I still use a little as I find it helps prevent the sorbet from freezing solid in the freezer).

The colour of this sorbet is amazing when you use forest fruits or summer berries. I used ready frozen berries as I find they tend to be cheaper and are great for ice creams and sorbets.

This makes about 1/2 a litre, most ice cream makers will make 1 litre comfortably.


85g caster sugar

220ml water

200g forest fruits/ blueberries (I used a combination of different frozen berries)

1 tbsp double cream (This is optional)

lemon juice


put the sugar and water together in a saucepan, bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 mins until the sugar is all dissolved.  Add the fruit and a few sqeezes of lemon juice; do this carefully as the sugar mixture will be very hot. Bring back to the boil.

Cool the mixture by plunging the base of the pan into a sink of ice cold water. Be careful not to get more water into your fruit mixture. Once the mixture is lukewarm pour it into a blender and blitz until smooth.  Add the cream if using and pulse again.

If you want your sorbet really smooth pass the mixture through a sieve before chilling in the fridge for at least 2 hours.  Never use a mixture that is warmer than room temperature in your ice cream maker, it will not freeze.

Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

25 1 / 2014

This soup is easy and very versatile, I have made it with spinach in it and butter beans, but most pulses would work really well.  It’s also a great way to use up any tomato puree, especially if you’ve bought the little tins.

This soup comes with a garlic breath warning, you may want to add less depending on your tastes.


1 Tbsp tomato puree (use any you have, sundried tomato is great and so is one with added garlic, though you may want to use less fresh garlic)

A small amount of oil

1 large clove of garlic

A few blocks of frozen spinach


Mixed herbs

A splash of cream (optional)

A little bit of a stock cube (I used chicken)

A spoonful of plain four

Salt and pepper

Pulses such as butter beans or pinto beans


Fry the puree, oil, garlic, herbs and spices together for a couple of minutes.  Add a spoonful of plain flour and stir like crazy.  Gradually add some hot water and the cream, if using, as well as the stock cube. Stir (or whisk) between each addition.  The amount of liquid will depend on how thick you like your soup.  I reckon on about 400ml of water.  Once you’ve added the liquid pop in the spinach and keep stirring until the soup boils and the spinach is defrosted.

Serve with bread and cheese, or grate some cheese on top.  You could try filling a bread roll with grated cheese, wrapping with foil and popping it in the oven for about 15mins at 180˚C.

23 1 / 2014


So this is the bolognaise recipe I made this week using the ingredients I mentioned in my last post.  Everyone has their own bolognaise recipe and a way they like to make it.  This is mine!


1 kg Lamb Mince (you can use beef, if you do pay attention to the colour as this is a good indicator of how much fat is in the mince, the redder the mince the leaner the meat)

250g green lentils, soaked overnight in cold water

1 large onion, chopped

3 carrots sliced (I bought too many!)

1 courgette diced

3 or 4 peppers chopped (freeze any you have left!)

3 tins of chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

2 tsp white wine vinegar

Splash of soy sauce

1 beef stock pot

1 tbsp Mixed herbs

1 tbsp Thyme

1 tsp paprika

½ jar of pesto

2 or 3 cloves of garlic, crushed


Fry the onion until soft, add the carrots and peppers and then the mince. (if you are concerned about the amount of fat in your food you can always brown the mince separately and drain the fat away).

Once the mince is browned add the rest of the ingredients, fill one of the tomato tins with water and add that, simmer for at least 30 mins stirring occasionally.  Taste and add extra flavourings to taste.

Enjoy with spaghetti or in a lasagne!

To turn this in to lasagne layer it up in an oven proof dish with sheets of lasagne pasta.  Top with a white sauce (whisk together 1tbsp oil and ½ tbsp flour over a low heat and gradually add 250ml milk, continually whisking, bring to the boil and remove from the heat, add to the top.)

This did 14 portions for me which I’ve frozen in tubs for two!  This freezes really well, just get it out of the freezer and pop it in the fridge the night before you want to eat it.  You can also freeze it as lasagne in oven proof dishes with the white sauce and grated cheese on top.  Make sure this is defrosted before you put it in the oven.

I estimate the cost of this to be around £14 (so £1 a portion) though it really depends on whether you have a lot of the herbs knocking about in the cupboard already.  If you don’t I wouldn’t go out and buy all of them, just the ones you’re most likely to use again; ingredients like vinegar are not essential.  Keep tasting your food, and add more flavouring if you need to.

18 1 / 2014

So I thought I’d share with you a break down of the ingredients I buy for the meal I’m cooking for the freezer this week.  This week it’s bolognaise, I will be adding to these ingrediants with herbs spices and other things I already have in my cupboard.  I will put the full recipe up soon.


Lamb Mince (1kg): £7  (Beef mince is cheaper but I prefer the taste of lamb in my bolognaise)

1 Bag of Mixed Peppers: £1.45 (I buy value/ basics vegetables. I probably won’t use them all but I will slice up the rest and freeze them)

3 large white Onions: £1 (I probably won’t use all of these but they will last in my cupboard for a week or more, or I can slive them up and put them in the freezer)

Lentils (green): £1.39

4 Carrots: £0.51

1 Courgette: £0.91

2 Tins of chopped tomatoes: £0.86

Total: £13.12  Portions: 12 (hopefully)

Ingredients like peppers, onions and lentils won’t be used up in this meal so I will either chop the fresh veg for the freezer or use it in something else. The lentils will keep in the cupboard for a while.

I will add a large number of the herbs and spices from my cupboard to my bolognaise - the cost of which I have not included above.  I am not that good at maths, nor that accurate with my measurements!

We also got doughnuts for 20p! Yum!

I’ll put my bolognaise recipe up shortly, along with my beef stew recipe.  Both of which are my take on these classics, I think everyone does them in their own way!

07 1 / 2014


I always have something easy in my freezer that can be either cooked for one or if I have forgotten to take something out in the morning.  These are normally veggie bean burgers as they’re often on offer (two boxes of four for £3) and so work out being very cheap.  I also have a range of things that can be added to risottos or curries.  Whenever I see a good offer on frozen prawns I snap them right up! I hate wasting food and anything I can freeze I will.  This includes vegetables when I’ve cut up too many (raw onion can be cooked straight from frozen as can peppers, carrots and most vegetables; though I’ve not had much luck with mushrooms from frozen.)

I love how easy frozen veg is to cook, so frozen peas and sweet corn are an essential item in my freezer.  I’ve recently discovered frozen spinach and went through a period where any food I cooked had a good helping of spinach in it too!  I still add it to a lot of my food but to the same degree.  It’s far cheaper and goes further than bagged fresh spinach.

Soup is another item you can find a lot of in my freezer.  Making your own soup is ridiculously easy and you can add pretty much what you want to it.  I make my own stock too, either by pinching the bones left from my parents roast or by boiling up a ham/ gammon/ bacon joint.  This second option is great as I will get a lot of meals from the meat and use the cooking liquid in soup.

I recently became the proud owner of an ice cream maker.  Unfortunately this takes up a lot of freezer space and doesn’t quite fit with my budget when making lots of custard based ice cream (I refuse to waste the whites and end up spending loads on ingredients) but I’m slowly finding some cheaper recipes.  And you have to allow yourself a treat sometimes, right?

I’ve slowly started to build up other things in my freezer such as bread crumbs and pastry but those don’t take up much space.

Using a freezer as much as I do it’s important to get the organisation right.  This mainly means labelling your food.  Once it goes into a container it can be very tough to tell apart from anything else you find in your freezer (as I learnt after many meals of oh, I thought this was curry but actually it’s vegetable ragu…)

30 12 / 2013

This savoury dish uses meat left over from a roast pork loin that I got on offer as it was going out of date.  If you don’t have left over pork (and you probably don’t!) you could use diced pork shoulder or mince pork made into meatballs, adding salt, pepper, and some sage to the mince and shaping small balls of meat by hand.  Roll these in flour and brown them with the onions but remove before you add the lentils.

I used too much apple when I made this, you probably want to aim for the apple to be about half as much as the pork.  You can use as much or as little pork and apple as you have and bulk the rest out by adding more onions and lentils.  I served this up on its own; but it would go well with some mash (although as I don’t like potato I am going by my partner’s recommendation.)

Freeze in plastic containers without the bread crumbs or in foil dishes ready to go straight in the oven with the breadcrumbs.


Leftover pork loin/ diced shoulder of pork/ pork meatballs.

Dry sage (if you don’t have sage then rosemary will work, but sage is better!)

1 baking apple cut into 1 inch pieces

1 large onion

2 large tbsp of green lentils

1 veg stock cube/ pot

White breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper

Plain flour


  1. Dice the onion and fry in a little oil, once clear add the diced pork/ meatballs (not the cooked leftover pork). Remove the meat and add the lentils.  Fry for a minute and add some water, salt and pepper, a pinch of sage and about a third of the apple.  Keep an eye on the water level and top up if it starts to dry out.
  2. While this cooks put the rest of the apple and the cooked pork in a pie dish, small roasting tray, small casserole dish.  Sprinkle with a good amount of dried sage, salt and pepper.
  3. When the lentils are tender drain them, keeping the liquid, and add to the pork and apple.
  4. Return the liquid to the heat and add the stock cube.  Whisk in a tbsp of flour, add more water if needed as you want a fairly think gravy but not a paste.
  5. Pour the gravy over the pork and apple filling.  Top with the bread crumbs and bake in the oven at 180 degrees or until the bread crumbs are golden brown.

24 12 / 2013

My beast of a stollen doesn’t quite stick to my weekly budget, but it’s Christmas!  And I think it will be feeding us for a while!  Recipe to come.

My beast of a stollen doesn’t quite stick to my weekly budget, but it’s Christmas!  And I think it will be feeding us for a while!  Recipe to come.

21 12 / 2013


My box of tricks is in reality a basket of herbs, spices, stock pots and various other edible things to bring flavour to my food.  I’ve got so many of these now that they are overflowing somewhat.  I didn’t buy them all in one go but  have built them up over the past year.  The basics I bought when I moved were;

Mixed herbs






ground corriander

garam masala

chilli flakes




I know this seems like quite a lot, and can cost quite a bit all together, but they are all things I use regularly in my cooking.  I find the cheapest way to buy herbs and spices is always to check out the world food sections in supermarkets and check out your local chinese or indian supermarket too, they’re often half the price of supermarket branded packs.

When it comes to fresh herbs I try to buy potted ones in the summer, they last longer than cut herbs.  Fresh corriander and parsley freeze really well so long as you cook them straight from the freezer.  Good hardy plants are Rosemary, which can live through most things and Mint, which will die off in the winter but should grow back in the spring.  Be careful of planting these in your garden as they may take over.

Over time I’m built up some other favourites for my box and now have these which I use regularly,

bay leaves

mild curry powder

stock cubes and pots (the pots are great for bulk cooking)

balsamic vinegar

fried garlic

smoked paprika


lime juice

Cardamom pods

The main thing I always think about when buying herbs and spices is ‘will I use this again?’ if the answer is no then I normally look to see if I can replace it with something else. I’ll try to suggest alternatives to some of the ingredients used in my recipes but you can always ask me about them.