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.