Tuesday, 8 July 2014

I'm back and I grew a radish

Oh blog I've missed you. To be honest, I have no exciting reason for being away - I've just been busy. But nonetheless, it's lovely to be back. Even though this post isn't a food post, it's another gardening post because I grew a radish. Look at it, it grew! And on my windowsill!

I probably should've left it a bit longer but the tension was killing me, and I really wanted to pull it up.

But there you go, hello and look at my radish!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Cheese Please: Margarita-ish

Time for a little patronising history lesson, the year was 1850ish, Italy had just been reunified but there was a big divide between the rich and poor, with the poor getting ever more dissatisfied. So the Queen Margarita went to a restuarant in Naples and ordered a pizza with mozarella, tomato and basil, the colours of the new Italian flag. Et voila, a new classic was born.

I love making pizza, and it's a great way to get kids interested in their food. They can roll out the dough and pile it high with stuff, just be careful of mozzarella because it spreads and will drip-drip-drip into a gooey mess at the bottom of your oven (I say this with experience). This is a slightly spruced up margarita as it involves a bit more cheese - first a thin dusting of hard cheddar (I used Morisson's Welsh Cheddar), the added morzarella before topping with crumbly feta (or Morrison's 'salad cheese'). Then topped with basil when it was cooked.

You will need to make 3 large ones:
200g plain flour
120ml milk
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt.

1) Sift the flour into a bowl and then add sugar and salt, incorporate the milk bit by bit into a well in the centre and bring together the form a dough. You can warm the milk up, but I always forget and it doesn't do me any harm.
2) When it's a ball of dough, turn onto a floured surface and knead, knead, knead. It will take a good 10-15minutes, but it will be worth it. It's ready when the dough feels smooth and is stretchy.
3) Roll out the dough to the thickness of a 2pence piece, or around 5mm, thin enough to cook quickly, but also take the weight of your toppings.
4)place on a tray and begin by adding tomato puree, leaving a crust around the outside, then lay on the rest of your toppings.
5) place in an oven around gas mark 6 for 10-12 minutes, until your cheese is gooey and your dough looks crispy. Serve and enjoy.

Fromage Homage

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Great Grandma Murphy's Chocolate Button Cake

When I read jibberjabber UK's brief of a vintage cake, I scrolled through webpages and recipe books. Didn't all cakes scream vintage? Without sounding like a cake xenophobe, apart from your panetone, French patisseries and fingle fangled American cupcakes, don't all British cakes come from a time when tea dances were the norm, cars were prettier and chilvalry (and institutionalised misogyny) was alive and well. Then I realised I was sitting on a recipe, a recipe that must date at around 1940, or even before that if my Great Gran got it from her mother. It's a proper vintage recipe, passed through the generations through word and aging yellow pieces of paper and it comes from my great grandma Nelly.
My great grandma Nelly was a culinary force to be reckoned with, she taught my grandad to cook, she taught my dad to cook and through a sort of osmosis, I suppose she taught me to cook.
I only met her once or twice as she died when I was quite young, and even then the memories are mainly of permed hair, hospital beds and cheap sandwiches. She was an English woman married to a stout ship builder from Port Glasgow and responsible for one of the hardest cakes I have ever tried to master - the chocolate button cake.
Now I hear you ask, what's so hard about chocolate button cake? Well it turn out a surprising amount. When I was young my dad and I spent weekend after weekend pouring over this small scrawled recipe that sounded so simple, after all it was essentially throw everything in a bowl, mix and bake. But time and time again there would be a beautiful sponge on top and a thick gooey layer of melted chocolate at the bottom, completely unlike the original where little pockets of chocolate heaven could be found evenly throughout.
But one magical weekend, we cracked it and now I present to you lovely readers, a Murphy family secret recipe.

You will need:
120g self raising flour (plus an extra couple of tea spoons)
150g caster sugar
3 small eggs or two large
60g chocolate buttons
150g butter/margarine
1)Begin by creaming together the butter and the sugar with a fork until it's smooth.
2) Add 2 of the eggs one by one until you've made a runny eggy paste
3) Now add the flour and beat until its all incorporated. You can use a mixer if you have one, but I don't so I use a wooden spoon (true to the vintage theme).
4) now toss your buttons in flour until they're coated and stir them into the mix
5) if your mixture looks too stiff add the final egg and give a good beat.
6) I place in a large cake tin and bake for 30mins, slicing in half to sandwich. But you could divide into two tins and bake for 20minutes, either way it's at gas mark 6, until golden brown. To check the cake's done insert a knife in the middle if it comes out clean (bar a bit of chocolate), it's done.
7) Leave to cool in the cake tin and then turn out to cool a little longer.
8) Decorate as you see fit.
I've halved mine and then sandwiched back together with strawberry jam, then topped with a lime icing (just a little lime juice and icing sugar), it gives it a little touch of a modern edge but without losing that all important vintage feel.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Pickle chillis in under 5mins

Th oother day I stumbled across a recipe for pickled chillis that took all of 5 minutes to complete. I can't find the link to the recipe so if it was your recipe I've stolen, I'm really sorry - if you message me, I'll add a link.
It's also much cheaper than I thought it'd be. I generally have white wine vinegar in the cupboard and to make a small jar used around half of 59p 250ml bottle. Add to this the 45p for a bag of mixed chillis, plus 13p for two loose jalepenos and you fall way below the old el Paso price.

You will need:
White wine vinegar (cider vinegar is also apparently very good, according to my dad - don't hold me to that)
Some chillis
A jar
A pinch of sugar
A pinch of salt

1) Begin by sterilizing your jar, you can do this in warm soapy water, or the oven. It's worth looking up different techniques for this as I'm no expert.
2) Chop your chillis however you choose and place them in the jar. Then cover in vinegar to see how much you need, pour the vinegar into a saucepan.
3) Add the sugar and salt to the vinegar, then bring gently to the boil. When the vinegar has been boiling for a minute or two, pour it over the chillis. Leave for a few mins before placing the lid on the jar. Be careful adding hot vinegar to the jar if you haven't got a funnel kicking around. To be honest, I can't really remember why I have a funnel kicking around.
I've only had mine in the fridge for a day or so, but I hear they get better as they age andwill keep for a few weeks.

The astute of you will have noticed a huge burger in that picture at the top. I had 500g of pork mince that needed to be used up so I added 2 handfuls of bread crumbs, a tsp of paprika and 2tsp of mustard and kneaded it all together. I then made 4 patties and put in a medium oven for about 30minutes. They are the best burgers I've ever made, the breadcrumbs keep the juice in and they're just the right level of spice. You could of course fry or bbq them, but if you want them out of the way the oven is your friend.

To make the coleslaw I simply slice and onion, peeled a carrot and added 4tsp of yogurt.

Then I stacked everything onto some delicious buns and added some chillis. Perfect summer food.

Friday, 30 May 2014

A Spring Time Sort Of Garden

About a month ago I bought a sad little pot of 'grown your own basil' from Wilkos for 25p. Despite all of my predictions and accidental attempts to kill it, it grew. As more and more little seedlings began sprouting up - not looking disimilar to a platoon of the space fighters Luke Skywalker used to destroy the death star - I was bitten by the gardening bug. I picked up seeds (50p from B&Q, or two for £1 from the JMart next door), some cheap compost and planted to my hearts content.

And before I knew it things were sprouting up all around me, my chillis grew despite my need to uncover them every 5minutes to see if they'd germinated; the sage sprouted forth like little Audrey IIs and the spring onions have just started to sprout despite being in an ice cream container.
It hasn't all been happiness and rainbows - my sage now only has one stork as the others mysteriously dropped off, I also planted my chillis like an idiot, so I'm going to have to try and separate them into different containers. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, and it shows what you can grow on half a kitchen windowsill.

My next dreams are a little more ambitious, carrots in old mouthwash bottles,  empty mince tub lettuce, and I'm sure there will be some catastrophic failings in there, but hey - I'm learning. If you don't have a garden through cautious wind to the seed packet instructions and shove some seeds in some compost and pop it on the windowsill.

I do actually have a garden, although only half of it is mine, and the half that is mine is used as a back passage for the late night drug dealers and assorted night goings on that I'd rather not know about. Only the other night a torch light shone on me as I was watching TV, and a potential burglar was left disappointed that I was in. What chance would a spring onion have?

My point though, is that when 6 spring onions can cost up to £1 and you can get over 50 seeds for 50p, why wouldn't you want to grow your own?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Soda Bread (21p)

Every so often I get asked if I'm Irish, then in my slightly posh-slightly West Country accent, I reply that I'm Scottish and it throws them slightly.
However, any Irish genes that stay from the time my ancestors crossed the sea to Scotland have left a slightly racist love of potatoes, soda bread and a good sing song.
It remains perculiarly hard to get good soda bread or soda farls in England. But its so quick and easy I never want to pay ludicrous prices for it again, It is quite possibly the easiest bread I've ever made, and for 21p a small loaf can be yours.
If you don't believe that butter milk is cheap you can get enough to make this recipe 3 times for 50p in Waitrose. That's right, Waitrose.

You will need:
250g self raising flour
100ml butter milk
Pinch of salt

1) Begin by sieving your flour and adding your salt into a mixing bowl.
2) Next create a small well in the middle of your flour and slowly pour in the butter milk stirring as you go.
3) when it's come together roughly, turn onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or so. It needs very little, and the trick is to work quickly so the buttermilk and raising agents in the flour can work in the oven.
4) Place on a baking tray and make a deep cross about 3/4 of the way down with a knife, brush with milk (I forgot the milk, yours will be more golden than that) and bake at gasmark 6 for about 30minutes until the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Goodbye, chocolate

This morning I had a terrible moment when I looked in the mirror and I couldn't see my chin. I could see something, but rather than being something defined it was... well it wasn't.
My weight has always fluctuated, but I've decided enough is enough. No more large portions, no more picking at leftovers, no more *gasp* chocolate.
Chocolate is my nemesis. I can demolish a large bar in minutes, chocolate mousses are inhaled and chocolate biscuits just disappear. It's all (mostly) chocolate's fault.
But a couple of other things made me realise that it isn't always chocolate's fault. I found out that cooking lessons aren't compulsory at my old school, for any age. This shocked me more than I thought it would. Sure, my dad taught me how to cook, but I learnt the technical processes at school explained in simple ways (gelatinisation in bechamel sauces are because flour molecules pop, in pastry the butter makes a rain coat for the flour). If you don't know how or why things work, will you be quite so experimental in the kitchen?
Today is Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day. A time to make us think what is in our food. When I cook food, I know what's in it. I think. But I don't, I couldn't tell you how many calories are in a piece of lamb, or homemade bread, or how much vitamin d is actually in kale. It comes down again to education, we need to learn about food at all ages. I will certainly be watching much more carefully what I put in my food. In the meantime, goodbye, chocolate, I'm going to miss you.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Giveaway - cake!

Just over a month ago, this blog was just a twinkle in my eye. Now there are quite a few of you and I'm incredibly grateful that you exist, sitting there reading this.
To show you how grateful I am, and to celebrate the launch of my mailing list (it's going to have how to tips and not on the blog exclusives) I'm giving away 50free homemade cakes.
That's right, I want to make you cake.

All you have to do is sign up to my mailing list before the 20th May and 50 people will be chosen at random to receive a free cake.

If you have dietry issues, don't be put off. If you win, I'll sort something out for you when the time comes.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Cooking with Kids: Terry and his Train (£1.73)

it has to be said, Terry is more baker than train driver.
Kids’ birthday cakes can be very expensive, this one however comes to about £2 excluding decoration, you don’t have to make the sponge and it’s great to make with other kids. You will need a swill roll that won’t break up when you cover it – you could also cover it in melted apricot jam before applying the ganache, but it’s not necessary*. You should bear in mind, however that this is a messy cake, so cover anything surfaces which are going to come into contact with chocolate**with cling film, otherwise you’ll find you’ll spend your life savings in washing up liquid.

You Will Need
2 bars of dark chocolate – about 200g worth
A chocolate Swiss roll
Double cream
Sweets for decorating
1 bar of white chocolate

1.      Start by making your basic train shape. Cut a third off your Swiss roll, this will be the front of your train. Then take a small slice or two to create wheels however you choose. You might have to cut a 45degree angle off your front part in order for it to fit properly. When your happy set it aside.

2.      To make chocolate ganache, place a bowl over a pan of hot water – add one and half bars of the chocolate and melt over a low heat. When the chocolate is melted, take the bowl off the heat (careful now, it’s hot) and add the cream slowly. Work quickly and gently and what looks like a mess will turn into a silky ganache that gently coats the finger. When it’s come together leave to chill on the side. Don’t place it in the fridge or it will become too hard to work with.

3.      While the ganache is thickening up you can cover your train in warmed apricot jam, or prepare your decorations. I used the time to put together a little fondant icing - white and pink for my train driver, or Terry as he was christened.

4.      When the ganache is slightly thicker, but still of spreading consistency use a small bit to secure your engine to your cabin. Then spread the rest on by spooning it over and evening it out with a knife. When it’s all covered set aside again to cool.

5.      Melt the rest of the dark chocolate and prepare the rest of your decorations. I like to dip my wheels in the remaining dark chocolate and use white chocolate for my wheel spokes, but I couldn’t find any white chocolate. So I covered the wheels in ganache and planned to use dark chocolate for the spokes, but it was stolen by the chocolate fairy.

When your wheels are dry attach them to the side, that way the chocolate won’t drip. To make Terry cut a small round fondant circle and give him a face, cut pink hands and a white jumper shape, then stick him to the ganache. With regard to decoration, your imagination is your oyster.

Who needs Colin the Caterpillar?

*But it is what Mary Berry does
**Not children

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Essence of Summer Cordial (24p)

Summer is on its way. As I write this the sun is shining, a gentle breeze dances through the air and the birds are singing. Ok, it may have been raining for the past hour, but summer is definitely coming. Even if it’s still snowing where you are, tasting this will make you believe summer is well on the way.

You Will Need (to make about 150ml):
200g summer fruits – I used strawberries
100g caster sugar (I’m sure you could use granulated)
200ml water
50ml lemon juice/a lemon
1)      Cover your sugar with your fruit and stir until your sugar turns pink. Then leave in the fridge for half an hour. When you retrieve it your strawberries should be covered in a thick pink syrup.

2)      Mush your strawberries, I used an end of a rolling pin. Leaving to marinate in the sugar will make it easier, but you won’t be able to pummel them to a pulp just yet. They should be slightly broken up but still obviously strawberries.
3)      In a large saucepan add your fruity-goop to the water and bring to the boil gently, then turn it down and simmer for 20minutes. After 10minutes, I gave it another gentle mush with the rolling pin. If you are going to do this please be very careful as it’s very hot.

4)      Your sugar should have dissolved and your cordial should reduce down to a syrupy consistency. Add your lemon juice bit by bit and stir it in, add more or less to taste.
5)      Pour your cordial into a jug – this will make your first sieve easier. Pour the cordial through a sieve, mushing the fruit with the back of the spoon. Empty the sieve and pouring the cordial back in the jug. You will be left with a fruity red syrup and a mushy pulp.

If you leave the cordial in the jug and cover in the fridge it will last a few days, but if you decant into sterilised bottles it will last for much longer. To serve, dilute with water, or lemonade, or gin… you could try all 3 as this recipe serves about 6.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Woodland Orzotto (25p)

Served in stuffed peppers 

Orzotto is essentially risotto but with pearl barley instead of rice. It’s filling; nutritious and contains a lot of fibre, so you don’t want to eat too much. I call this Woodland Orzotto because the mushrooms add to the natural nuttiness of the pearl barley – making everything taste oh-so-slightly earthy and smell like woodland in the spring.

You Will Need (to serve 5):
200g pearl barley
100g spinach
About 10 mushrooms (I used button because that’s what I had)
1 onion
1 green pepper
A tiny spot of mozzarella or feta (optional)
2 pints of stock (I used chicken)

Finely dice the onion and sweat down in a little oil over a low heat for a few minutes until translucent.

Meanwhile finely slice the mushrooms, discarding the storks. You don’t have to waste these, you could use them in stock, soup or just on toast, but they taste a bit too woody for me. Adding the mushrooms at this stage means that the stock is enhanced with a subtle mushroom flavour.

Once the mushrooms have softened, add the green pepper. I like to roughly dice it, but you can  chop it however you like. Cook this down for a minute or two then add your pearl barley. Add just enough stock to cover it, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Don’t worry at this point if it looks a little sad – it’s meant to look a little rubbish at this point, because the pearl barley will puff up into little pearls of deliciousness.

Once boiling turn down to a simmer and stir occasionally to keep everything from sticking, but not too much as stirring incorporates air and lowers the temperature. Once the stock has nearly been absorbed add a little bit more, and repeat until all the stock has been absorbed. The pearl barley should be slightly chewy but not hard, and about 3 or 4 times its original size. If it needs a little more time, add hot water.

When the pearl barley is done, add your spinach and let it wilt in the heat. You can also add tiny chunks of mozzarella and stir in to make it creamier, or feta for a salty kick.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Coronation Chicken

So I read a post on Acqua e Menta looking for recipes from World Cup countries. That got me thinking, what is an English dish? I wanted something that reflects the nature of what England is today - it's no longer roasts, terrible food and stodginess. However, when I came to choosing a dish I went for a classic.
Coronation chicken was invented for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1952 by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume. It was a poached chicken with a variety of herbs and spices and this dish evolved to the questionably bland sandwich filler which today fills British supermarkets.
This recipe falls into the modern, easier version and uses leftover chicken. It's simple, delicious, can be used as a side dish, put in a sandwich or just eaten by itself.
You will need:
About 150g leftover chicken
5tbsp mayo (you can mix mayo and natural yogurt for a lighter taste)
1tbsp spiced fruit chutney
2tsp curry powder (I used medium)
The method is nice and simple - mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl. For a more rounded taste you can toast the curry powder for a minute or so in a dry frying pan. When everything is combined add the chicken and coat.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Apple and Peanut Salad (26p)

Today I made salad dressing for the first time and it was delicious. I may never go back to shop bought dressings, in fact I may buy a book on salad dressings and learn all there is to know on this magical art form. This salad dressing (a delicious citrus number) came about because of an apple. I wanted something light for tea, like salad but more tart… like an apple salad. Once I had my base ingredient I knew I had to include lemon juice (the citric acid prevents enzymic browning), then I needed to balance my flavours – peanuts for saltiness and crunch.

The 26p includes the ingredients for the dressing, but if you’re making your own you can vary the ingredients. I’m not going to give you a full recipe for the salad dressing because it’s new to me, but if you’re looking for a good one, Jamie Oliver's jam jar dressings are quite good.. I used lemon juice, white wine vinegar and corn oil (I would use olive but it was all I had). I began by mixing equal parts of vinegar and lemon juice and adding a pinch of sugar to cut through it. Once I had my balance (more lemon juice, bit more sugar) I added the oil and whisked like crazy. Salad dressings work because the oil creates an emulsion – I used to know how this worked, but I can’t remember anymore. I was worried it was going to be too oily,but the emulsion actually worked a treat, and a little more vinegar and lemon and we were good to go!

You Will Need:
25g salted peanuts
2 apples
¼ lettuce
½ cucumber

1)      Chop your apple into cubes, there’s no need to peel it. You can use a sweet or tart apple, as long as they are crisp. Cover with a spritz of lemon juice and leave to one side
2)      Chop your lettuce and slice your cucumber, dd this to the bowl with your apple.

3)      When ready to serve add the salad dressing add top with peanuts. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

2 Bean Chilli: The Master of Versatility (17p)

as a side dish with jerk chicken schnitzel  and new potatoes
This recipe creates so much that it was used as a side dish when Jesus fed the 5000.* You can serve it with rice, have it as a side dish to a main meal or lunch, or put it on toast with a bit of cheese. Proper chilli takes a lot of time, and though this isn’t the time friendliest of dishes, once it’s there you can dip into it whenever you need to.

You Will Need
1 Sweet Potato
1 tin of kidney beans
1 tin of baked beans
1 pepper
1 carrot
1 chilli
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
2 handfuls of frozen peas
Squeeze of tomato puree

Peel the sweet potato and chop it into smallish chunks, add a little oil and roast at gas mark 6 for about 20minutes.
Meanwhile, prep the veg. Dice peppers, peel and cut carrots, open tins, roughly chop the onion, garlic and chilli.
When the sweet potato is cooked (you should be able to add a fork in easily), sweat the onion in a splash of oil until translucent, then add the garlic and chilli – fry for 2minutes.
Stir in your tomato puree and add a splash of water to get any gunk up off the bottom of your pan. (I added a pinch or two of enchilada seasoning, but that was only because I had some spare, you can also add paprika or cayenne pepper)
Next, begin to add your veg – fry the carrot and pepper for a minute or so, then add the sweet potato and kidney beans. Finally add your beans and tomatoes – the liquid should just come above all the veg, if it doesn’t add a splash of water or stock.
Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally. When it’s done it will be a deliciously sticky looking chilli, serve with rice.

*that’s not all that historically accurate, it actually serves about 8

The leftovers after feeding four.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Memory Lane Pasties

A little while back, I read this post on Lavender and Lovage about picnics, childhood and pasties. Like Karen, I too have fond memories countryside picnics, though in the idylls of Worcestershire rather than around the world. A significant part of the preparation would be making pasties with my dad. So, I decided to have a go at making Karen’s pies, but twisting it a little (read adding all the spare veg I could find in the cupboard). You can make your own pastry (I’ll do a separate post on this sometime) but a shop bought block will make about 6-8 really large ones.

You will need:
500g pastry
Around 600g of leftover veg –I used leftover potatoes and carrots
An onion
About 100g hard cheese (I had Morrison’s Welsh cheddar)
1tsp. English mustard
An egg

  1.  Cut your veg into equal chunks so that it’ll cook evenly, and cut your onions into half-moons, and boil for 20minutes or until the veg is soft.
  2. Add a splash of milk and mash well, grate the cheese and add this with the mustard and stir well. I also had some leftover roast chicken in the fridge, so I threw that in as well.
  3. Roll out your pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin and using a cutter (a small plate or large bowl is ideal), cut a circle.
  4. Spoon the filling on one half of the circle, leaving a rim around the outside. Using a splash of water wet rim and fold, securing using a fork or your fingers.
  5. Repeat, until you run out of pastry or filling, then decorate. I used a few sesame seeds and cut to allow the steam to escape. Then brush with beaten egg (or milk) to create a beautiful shine and bake for 25mins or until golden at gas mark 6. 

A Quick Post About Salad Dressing

When I was 13 I went on a French exchange to rural southern France where I fell in love with a mysterious salad dressing. The family I stayed with had it on almost every meal, if not the main dish than as a side. A quasi-Nicoise would be assembled from the previous day’s meat, cold rice, tomatoes and occasionally tuna. It was a haven for food poisoning, but it was amazing!

Today I found this in a French bakery, Le Delice in Malvern, for £1.15. After years of searching I had finally found it. I could’ve jumped for joy in the shop. It’s just as majestic as I remembered it; a cross between a creamy mayo and a tangy vinaigrette. Needless to say I will be inflicting this upon all who get within 3 feet of my front door. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Grilled Mackerel with Lemon and Ginger Stirfried Veg (73p)

I learnt to cook Chinese food from Gok Wan (I know, who thought I’d be saying that a few years back?) and Ken Hom. Therefore there’s a good chance that this recipe was one of theirs, but both would probably be very offended if I claimed that this was Chinese cuisine. 
Red Dragon does a ginger and lemon stirfry sauce, but while that is a sticky, far too sweet gloop (which resembles radioactive vomit), this is a light and tangy recipe which tingles the taste buds with warmth. It's brilliant for that special occasion, because while the fish feeds two you can keep leftover veg for lunch boxes etc.

I recommend chopping everything first, that way you can have something to hand without burning everything else. The key to the perfect stirfry is timing – beans cook more slowly than strips of peppers, chicken takes longer than both. Unfortunately it’s not a skill I’ve managed to master, but I like to think I’m getting there.

You Will Need:
1 mackerel fillet
Handful of dwarf beans
2 peppers (I went one orange and one red)
A small chilli
A small clove of garlic
A bit of ginger – twice as much as garlic
3 spring onions
Few splashes of lemon juice
Splash of soy sauce
Sprinkle of sesame seeds
Small pinch of sugar
1 carrot

1)      Season the fish well and place on the grill skin side up. There’s no need to turn it on yet, but it gets it out of the way.
2)      Meanwhile, finely chop your chilli, ginger, garlic and spring onions. You can add less or more chilli depending on your preferences. Set these aside too. According to Gok; garlic ginger and spring onions make up the base of all Chinese food- a bit like how everything we make seems to start with an onion.

3)      Top and tail the beans, getting rid of the straw bits at the end. I’m sure you can eat them if you want to, but I don’t like them all that much.
4)      Chop the peppers – I like to do it two different ways, so I did strips and flowers. To make a flower (I don’t know the technical name) cut the top so you can pull out the seeds and stork easily, then just slice. If flowers are a wee bit too big you can always half them.
5)      Turn on the grill. The fish takes about 10 minutes, and there’s no need to turn it as the skin will blister and be gorgeous.

6)      Heat some oil in a frying pan or wok; add the chilli, ginger, spring onions and garlic. Fry for about a minute before adding the beans.
7)      After another couple of minutes add all the pepper and stirfry for another 3-4 minutes before ribboning the carrot. That means quite simply, getting a peeler and peeling it into the stirfry to create thin ribbons.
8)      After one more minute add the soy sauce, lemon juice and sugar. After another few seconds add a tiny splash of water. When the water has all turned to steam add some sesame seeds and toss. The sesame seeds are optional, but well worth the investment if you use them often enough. My big bag was about 80p from a local health food shop.
9)      Serve with the fish and you’ve the perfect grown up meal.

If I’m serving the veg as part of a family meal – say with chicken or beef – I’ll make a huge pile of the veg and pop it as a big rainbow in the middle of the table. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Sausage Bolognese (19p)

I discovered this recipe about 5 years ago from a Sausage Bolognese recipe card by Sam Stern, I credited this to him for years until I rediscovered the original a couple of years back when I was and realised that I’d completely changed it from the original. It’s well worth checking out Sam’s recipe though, if you can find it.
This is the perfect midweek meal, it’s quick but with great flavours and a brilliant way to use up sausages hidden at the back of the fridge. Ideally, you want to use thick sausages but any are fine. In the original recipe, you take the them out the skins and make meatballs – these days I tend to just chop them into chunks.
The recipe easily feeds four, and if you have any leftover there’s no need for pasta – it’s like a fancy version of beans and sausages.

You Will Need
1 Onion
A minimum of 4 sausages, but add as many as you have
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
A clove of garlic
Pinch of chilli powder
½ tsp. paprika
Tomato puree (can be substituted for ketchup)
Splash of Lemon juice
Splash of red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar

1.    1.    Roughly chop the onion and soften it for a few minutes, before adding the sausages. Brown them for about 5 minutes with the onions. Add a finely chopped clove of garlic and fry for a further minute- if you add the garlic too soon it will burn.
2.     2.   Add a squeeze of tomato puree and the spices. Tomato puree creates a more tomatoey flavour in the end product. Cook for a further two minutes.
3.      3.  Add a splash of water, as it heats up it will help remove what’s stuck on the bottom of the pan – all of which contains flavour. Then add the tomatoes, lemon, vinegar and sugar. The latter 3 can be left out but help to create a delicious depth of flavour, I add lemon juice and vinegar to practically everything. Bring to the boil.

4.     4.  Simmer for about 10minutes with a lid on, whilst the pasta’s cooking. It will become this gorgeous deep red colour. 

Serve with pasta and cheese

Lemon and Lime Posset (31p)

I had left over cream, I also had some yogurt (I’m sure you can use natural yogurt though which will bring the price down), so all I needed was a wee spot of caster sugar and some fruit and I’d have some posset. What is posset? I’m still not entirely sure, but it looks nice in the pictures. I found a recipe for grapefruit posset in Waitrose’s magazine, but I substituted 2 grapefruits for 2 lemons and 2 limes (99p in Morrison’s).

Until a couple of weeks ago I had never heard of posset. Suddenly it’s everywhere – I turned Mary Berry on whilst mine was chilling and there she is, making one entirely differently. I think posset might be one of those things where everyone makes them their own way. The recipe below is the one I followed –but I’d definitely add more sugar as it’s very tart.

You Will Need...
100ml double cream
4 lemons/limes
50g caster sugar
100ml lemon yogurt (you could probably use natural)

1)      Add the cream, zest of the fruit and sugar to a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes.
2)      Take off the heat and add the juice of the fruit, stirring together. Mine looked a bit like soft lime green baby vomit – I think this is how it’s meant to look. It smelt nice.
3)      Put the yogurt in a jug and add the cream mix, mixing it all together until it’s all smooth.

4)      Place in serving glasses – you only need small portions – and leave to chill for a few hours.

Et voila posset... perhaps. Do you know what a posset is meant to look like?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Summer Onion Soup (49p)

For the past week I’ve been hiding under my blanket with a lurgi which refuses to leave. In times like this I turn to soup. The market for fresh soup is huge, but if they’re not on offer you can find yourself paying through the nose when, well, when you can’t even breathe through your nose.

Soup was one of the first things I learnt to cook, me and my dad used to make pots of vegetable soup. This recipe is based on James Martin’s recipe for French onion soup, but is golden in colour an
d much lighter.
Poaching chicken makes it soft, succulent and just fantastic. I only tried this for the first time recently, and it made me realise how dry I’d been cooking my chicken. It also adds more flavour to the stock and is healthier because you’re not adding extra fat to the chicken. However, the chicken is optional and it's still a delicious soup if you don't add it - without the chicken the cost is 16p per portion. You could also add other veg like broccoli and carrots - the world or veg counter is your oyster (or cauliflower).

This recipe will feed 3 with big bowls. If white onions are too expensive (the price tends to fluctuate dramatically) then use 2 red and 1 white.

You Will Need:
1 chicken breast
2 white onions
1 red onion
1 litre chicken stock
A splash of milk (about 50ml)
1tsp flour
A couple of handfuls of frozen peas
¼ tsp chilli powder (optional)

1.       Trim your chicken breast, getting rid of the tendons or ‘gross bits’. Use a large pan to bring your stock to the boil, then turn the heat down to a low-medium and add your chicken breast. Place a lid on and leave for 25minutes, or until it’s cooked all the way through. When it’s cooked, put to one side and drain your stock into a jug.

Yes, this is a different colour onion.
 I was making something else at the time!
2.       Thinly slice your onions into half-moons, caramelise in a mix of oil and butter over a medium heat. This will take about 15minutes, stir them regularly so they don’t burn until they have reduced in size and taken a brown colour. When they first start to sizzle, you can add a pinch of sugar to add a sweeter flavour.

3.       Add the milk and the flour. Stir in the flour until it cooks out – this will help thicken the soup but won’t make it taste of flour. If you wanted to you could also add wine at this stage. 

4.       Add your stock and leave to simmer for about 15minutes. Shred your chicken using two forks or your fingers, after 10minutes add the chicken and the frozen peas to the soup.

Hello There!

I have read many, many articles, cookbooks and pieces of advice on living cheaply. Most of them turned out to be nonsense. Most weeks my food budget is £20 for 3 people –that includes toiletries and household products –some weeks it’s less. If my questionable maths is correct, that’s 95p per person per day. As a consequence I’m a highly creative cook, and I hope this blog will show an honest representation about how people on a low budget cook, some tips, and actual meals by someone  who knows how much things are (have you seen how much smoked salmon actually is, Jamie Oliver?)
So, I thought I’d start with my top 8 tips:

1)      Plan
I used to plan a loose menu when I was a student, and everyone thought I was crazy. I now plan menus meticulously, that’s not to say things can’t change if I find something better, but I more of less know what I’ll be eating all week. I know someone who spends over £100 a week to feed a family of four, she just throws everything in a trolley when shopping and wonders why she spends so much.

2)      Learn to cook
I know this sounds obvious, but if you learn some basic dishes – like a tomato pasta sauce – you can customise it and take those skills to other dishes.

3)      Stay away from leftovers
My biggest vice has always been picking at leftovers. Tell yourself strictly that leftovers are for the following days and even hide them from yourself if you have to.

4)      Only buy what you need
If you’re one person and you’re making a salad – buy one tomato. If you’re not going to use them, then you’re wasting money on a pack of 6.

5)      Colour is tasty
I used to know someone whose ‘budget dish’ was potato waffles and super noodles. She would swear by the bizarre beige gloopy mess, whilst I will sit and judge eating my student budget dish of choice – baked beans and pasta. Mine may not have been any better, but at least there was colour in my dish. I stand by colour always being better – throw in tomatoes, or add green veg on the side.

6)      Experiment
Every good thing comes from trial and error, can you stir fry parsnips? Not really, but hey I tried and found out. This comes back to knowing some basic skills – the more you know, the more confident you’ll feel to play around.

7)      Know where to spend money
I’d much rather spend money on higher quality meat than the value equivalent – I once saw Tesco value chicken wings which were so feathered, I thought they were going to start flapping. Similarly, if you know that you like a certain brand of something that you’re not willing to replace – I’m very fussy over sweetcorn – then spend the money on what you’re going to eat.

8)      Learn to recognise deals which are actually worth your while
7 kilograms of potatoes for £5.Can you use 7kilos of potatoes before they go off? With meat deals and fruit, you can freeze what you don’t need. Be wary.