Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce with Tuna

I made this sauce with the last glut of tomatoes picked from the garden as the first signs of autumn crept up unawares in the early days of September.

Consigned to a container in the freezer for the past 2 months, I defrosted it this morning and transformed a basic sauce into a fast, but luxurious supper. With a few slices of garlic bread it is the perfect appetizer before a few beers down the local (I'm late so had better get on with it !).

To Make The Basic Sauce

1 kg Ripe Tomatoes, cut in half
1-2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and crushed
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Fresh Black Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 180C (160C Fan Oven)
2. Place tomatoes into ovenproof dish, sprinkle over the garlic, and drizzle the oil over
3. Season lightly, and roast in oven for 50-60 mins until softened and gooey
4. Rub well through a fine sieve and discard the skins and seeds
5. What you have left is the basic sauce

All I did tonight was bring this defrosted sauce to a gentle simmer, add a heaped tablespoon (or 2) of double cream and stir well until a healthy orange colour.

Creamy Tomato and Tuna Pasta

I then added a regular sized tin of drained tuna meat, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper and mixed well.

Taking the pan off the heat I stirred in 4 chopped basil leaves and served with a garlic bread baguette. Delicious. 

The taste of the fresh tomatoes with the thick double cream was a whole world away from those horrible, boring processed sauces you can buy. All the effort put into making the sauce all those weeks ago was well worth it.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Cambodian Marinated Steak

This dish  is a darker, more intense cousin to the chinese recipe of black bean sauce with beef.

The rump steak only needs to be marinaded for a short time to be infused with the deep flavours of the soy and oyster sauce, with extra saltiness provided from the splash of fish sauce. Underneath all  this thick flavour is a constant undercurrent of heat provided by the fresh chilli and ginger.

When eating, the interesting (and enjoyable) custom is to spoon a portion of the cooked beef onto a large leaf of crisp, fresh iceberg lettuce, add helpings of crunchy roasted nuts, slices of juicy tomato, crispy raw onion, and eat by rolling the lettuce into a small parcel and dip into the zesty simple lime dip.

Cambodian Marinated Steak

Time was tight tonight so I hadn't prepared a side dish, but the addition of a simple white rice dish would be ideal to mop up any excess juices from the meat.  The beef would, I feel, be complemented at the stir-fry stage with a large handful of crunchy, cleansing beansprouts to balance out the saltiness, and eaten in a more conventional manner with rice, omitting the lettuce wrapping stage.

Serves 2
Cost per Individual Serving   £1.38

240g Rump Steak, cut into small cubes   £1.83
1/2 Iceberg Lettuce, washed and leaves separated   £0.47
Handful of Peanuts, toasted and chopped
1 Large Tomato, sliced   £0.20
1/4 Small Onion, chopped   £0.06

1/2 Red Chilli, deseeded and chopped   £0.05
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and chopped
1 Inch Fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 Tbsp Tomato Ketchup
Splash to taste of Fish Sauce

To make Dipping Sauce
Juice 1/2 Lime   £0.15
Grind of Fresh Black Pepper, to taste

1. First blitz all your marinade ingredients in a processor until a smooth paste
2. Put steak into a bowl, pour over the marinade and stir - leave for at least 30 mins
3. Heat wok over high heat. Add oil until sizzling
4. Lift steak from the marinade and stir fry constantly for 3-4 min until beef cooked to required preference
5. Put into a serving bowl, and serve with the lettuce, lime dip, nuts, and tomato

Friday, 29 October 2010

Beef Mince Stir Fry

Hands up if you would come home from school in the late 70s and early 80s ravenous, only to find it was boring old  'mince and tatties' for tea again. No wonder microwave pizzas were so alluring when they came on the scene around the same time!

Tonight I have eaten those same two main ingredients, not under the guise of a northern England delicacy, but as part of a Thai dish - Laab neua. Those familiar ingredients were magically transformed using Thai staples of fish sauce, lemongrass, lime, and fresh herbs of mint and coriander.

But the reason this recipe stood out, and what aroused my curiosity, was the requirement of a tablespoon of dry roasted rice! Sounds a little unappetizing I reckoned, but as the recipe was from a reliable and trusted source, I placed my faith in his hands. I was right to do so too. The rice had a distinct dry, salty taste - very similar to salted popcorn - with a real crunchy bite.

Fresh crisp lettuce leaves filled with a combination of sour, hot, salty, and zingy flavoured meat was a real delight. Added to the plate were simple seasoned potato wedges and a bowl of hot chilli sauce for dipping.

Serves 2
Cost per Individual Serving   £0.97

250g Beef Mince   £1.00
1/2 Iceberg Lettuce, leaves separated   £0.25
2 Lemongrass Stalks, peeled and sliced   £0.43
1 Green Birds Eye Chilli, thinly sliced   £0.10
3 Shallots, peeled and sliced (home grown)
Splash of juice from 1/2 Lime   £0.15
Splash of Fish Sauce (to taste)  *
Handful of Mint and Coriander, chopped (home grown)
1/2 Tsp Dry Chillies, chopped   *
1 Tbsp Roasted Rice (see below)
1 Tsp Vegetable Oil   *

* denotes store cupboard items

1. Dry roast your rice in a wok/pan on medium heat for a few minutes until turning brown. Keep shaking pan
2. Put rice into mortar and pestle and grind until a mix of powder and broken smaller pieces
3. Heat oil and fry mince in wok/pan for a couple of minutes on medium-hot heat, stirring constantly, until
    brown and cooked to personal preference. Drain fat and put mince into a bowl

4. Stir in all other prepared ingredients and mix well
5. Arrange lettuce on plates and spoon mince filling onto them. Roll up and eat
6. I served mine with potato wedges and chilli sauce

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Lemon Sponge Cake

If you like your cake filling, moreish and moist then this is the one for you.

The lemony syrup gives it a nice zesty kick too !

Serves 12 - 15

For The Cake
225g Unsalted Butter, room temp
350g Caster Sugar
350g Plain Flour, sifted
3 Tsp Baking Powder, sifted
Zest 2 Lemons
120ml Milk
4 Large Eggs

For The Lemon Syrup
Juice 4 Lemons
6 Tbsp Icing Sugar, sifted

For Decoration
6 Tbsp Icing Sugar
Handful of Smarties

1.   Line a 22cm round, deep, loose-bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper
2.   Preheat oven to 180C (160C Fan Oven)
3.   In a bowl or processor mix the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
4.   Add flour, baking powder, pinch of salt, and mix well
5.   Add the lemon zest and milk - mix in well
6.   Add eggs one at a time; mix well; then add the next; and so on until well combined
7.   Add mixture to cake tin; bake for 50-60 min until risen and firm to touch. If a skewer comes out nearly clean
      from cake centre it is ready. Leave to cool for an hour or so
8.   To make the syrup mix the juice of lemons with the icing sugar
9.   Make little holes all over the top of the cake with a skewer, then pour the syrup all over - it will sink into the cake
10. When cake is totally cool remove from the tin
11. To make icing, mix the icing sugar with a little water until thick but runny. Drizzle over cake as desired and add smarties

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

White Wine Gravy

I never thought I would see the day when I cooked a full-on Roast Chicken dinner just to test out a recipe for a gravy !!

But White Wine Gravy is the first recipe in my challenge to cook my way through the entire Good Housekeeping Cook Book.

Was it worth it ?   Oh Yes !!!!

I always thought a gravy's purpose was to take away the dryness and blandness of your meat and vegetables. I never considered it to be anything more. But this gravy ended up being the jewel in the crown, an additional ingredient in itself, binding together and complementing the meat and vegetables in a fantastic way.

There was a lovely fruitiness to the sauce from the jelly and the wine, and it was so thick and silky in body I just had to pour a second helping over. 

This gravy would also be amazing with pork, turkey, or any other similar type meats.  It is definitely being added to my Xmas dinner list.

Roll on the next savoury sauce on my mission - Rich Red Wine Gravy

Serves 4 People

2 Tbsp Plain Flour
250ml Chicken Stock
75ml Dry White Wine
1 Tbsp Redcurrant Jelly
Salt and Ground Black Pepper

1. When chicken is cooked, skim the fat from the juices in the roasting tin.
2. In a bowl mix 2 Tbsp of the juices with the flour to make a paste.
3. Add the stock, wine and jelly to the roasting tin, and scrape the tin base with a wooden spoon, and mix
4. Pour into a pan, whisk in the flour, and bring to a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
5. Season with salt and pepper, and pour into your serving jug

Friday, 22 October 2010

Chicken Nuggets

This inspiration for this recipe came from another website - ZestyCook. He has some fantastic looking food there, and I would recommend anyone to go and have a browse.

Because the chicken is oven baked it is less fatty than if it was fried, but still has a nice crisp 'batter' than seals in the juices of the chicken, leaving it succulent and tender.  Next time I make this recipe I am going to substitue the chilli flakes for cajun spice as that particular spice is also a heavenly match with chicken.

Excellent finger food - perfect for a Friday night. 

Serves 4
Cost Per Individual Serving   £0.96

3 Chicken Breasts, cut into strips/shapes   £3.33
1 Organic Free Range Egg   £0.30
3 shakes of Hot Chilli Sauce  *
Paxo Natural Breadcrumbs, enough to evenly cover a plate's surface   £0.21
3/4 Tbsp Water
Plain Flour, enough to thickly cover a plate's surface  *
Sprinkling of Crushed Chillies, to taste  *
Salt and Pepper  *

* denotes store cupboard items
1. Heat oven to 180C Fan Oven
2. Season plate of flour with salt and pepper
3. Beat together the egg, chilli sauce and water and put into dish
4. Sprinkle chilli flakes onto plate of breadcrumbs
5. Coat chicken pieces first in the flour, then the egg; finally the breadcrumbs. Kepp adding more flour
    and breadcrumbs as necessary
6. Place onto baking tray lined with greaseproof paper
7. Place in oven for approx 25-30 min (turn over halfway) until outside is crisp and chicken is white and fully cooked inside
8. Serve with either a salad or wedges, and a sour cream and/or sweet chilli sauce dip

TIP - take out the tray after around 10 min and check no pieces are sticking to the paper, before returning to oven

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Chocolate Chip Muffins


This recipe will hopefully prove popular with all of you muffin lovers (you know who you are) as my Blueberry muffin recipe is, to date, the most popular on my blog. You all obviously have, like myself, extremely good taste!!

Before we get on with the recipe at hand, take 2 minutes to enjoy this hilarious clip, all based around "a lovely bit of muffin" from Ricky Gervais's Extras.

As it seems such a long time since I baked any kind of cake I decided to try my hand at Chocolate Chip muffins today. These will appeal to the chocolate lovers - they are a slightly drier alternative to the juicy fresh blueberry muffins previously baked by myself.

Makes 12 Medium Size Muffins
225g Plain Flour, sifted
2 Tsp Baking Powder, sifted
100g Caster Sugar
1 Medium Egg
125g Plain Yoghurt
125g Whole Milk
150g Milk Chocolate Chips
Pinch of Sea Salt
75g Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled a little

1. Put your cases into your muffin tray; preheat oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4 (160C Fan Oven)
2. In a large bowl lightly whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together
3. In another bowl mix the egg, yoghurt, milk and butter liquid together.
4. Add the above wet mix to your dry flour/baking powder/sugar/salt combination
5. Mix very very lightly until combined - it will resemble a thick Ready Brek and milk paste 
6. Carefully add your chocolate chips and combine until evenly mixed
7. Spoon mixture into your cases (around 2/3 full) and bake for approx 30 min until golden
8. Once cooked remove for 10-15 min to cool slightly, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Honey and Five Spice Turkey Noodles

If you like your stir fry's to be slightly sweet as well as spicy then this little dish will not fail to disappoint.

I cook this time and time again as it has everything going for it:
  • fast to prepare and cook
  • extremely healthy
  • tastes amazing.
No one ingredient overpowers the rest, mingling together in equal harmony. You get the sweetness of the honey, the lovely fresh taste of coriander leaves and spring onion, the saltiness of the soy sauce, and underlying heat of the red chilli and ginger. Integrated amongst all of these is the familiar five spice. It really is an explosion of taste.

In my humble opinion this Chinese recipe brings out the best of the accompanying medium egg noodles, as opposed to the straight to wok varieties that are so popular.

As always, once the first set of ingredients hit the sizzling wok there is little time to breathe before you are plating up, so to enjoy this at its best please prepare all of your ingredients before beginning.

Serves 4
Cost Per Individual Serving   £0.93

3 Turkey Breasts (430g), thinly sliced   £2.50
3 Layers Medium Egg Noodles   £0.60
2 Red Chillies, deseeded and finely chopped   £0.25
Thumb-sized piece Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely chopped  *
3 Tbsp Runny Clear Honey  *
4 Spring Onions, finely sliced   £0.35
Good Splash of Light Soy Sauce  *
3 Tsp Chinese Five Spice  *
Two handfuls Fresh Coriander Leaves, chopped  *
3 Tbsp Groundnut Oil  *

* denotes store cupboard items
1. Prepare noodles according to packet instructions, and drain (have them ready to go into wok)
2. Heat wok on a hob at highest setting; add oil when hot
3. When oil is sizzling hot, add turkey, chilli, and ginger; stir rapidly for thirty seconds
4. Add five spice; stir until turkey fully browned
5. Add honey, soy sauce, and spring onions; keep stirring (nearly there!!)
6. Add noodles and coriander to the wok; give a really good stir so that the noodles mix well with the sauce
7. Plate up and enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Classic Spaghetti Bolognese

This is a more traditional version of Spag Bol to the previously posted recipe on my blog.

Classic Spaghetti Bolognese
This recipe is very versatile - the basic spaghetti bolognese is fine to eat with pasta. However, add a dash of chilli powder, together with red kidney beans, heat through, and you have an instant chilli.  Alternatively, you can add a ladle full of meat sauce into a deep ramekin, top if off with cheesy mash and cook it in the oven for an instant mini cottage pie.  I will be preparing both of these options in the near future as I work my way through the frozen batch I prepared from the below ingredients.

Makes approx 10 Servings
Cost Per Individual Serving   £0.64

1 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
900g Beef Mince   £3.00 (Special Offer)
150ml Dry Red Wine  £0.80 (leftovers from bottle - add an extra 150ml Beef Stock/water if not using wine)
450ml Beef Stock, made from Knorr gel tablet    £0.27
2 Large Onions, peeled and finely chopped   £0.34
2 Carrots, peeled and finely chopped   £0.14 approx
2 Celery Sticks, finely chopped   £0.30 approx
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and crushed
250g Closed Cup Mushrooms, chopped   £0.86
2 Tins of 400g Chopped Tomatoes   £0.66
2 Tbsp Tomato Puree
Good Shake of Dried Oregano
Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

150g Dried Fusili Pasta   £0.35

1. Heat oil on medium heat in large pan. Gently fry the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until softened - stir now and then to prevent sticking
2. Add mushrooms and fry for a couple of minutes until starting to soften
3. Add the mince, turn the heat up, and cook until meat is browned. Keep stirring and turning to prevent sticking
4. At this point drain all the excess fat from the pan that has been produced
5. Add the wine, stock, tomatoes, tomato puree, dried oregano and salt and pepper. Stir together and bring to boil
6. Cover, turn the heat right down and simmer gently for an hour or so, until meat is cooked through
7. Cook pasta as per pack instructions and serve with your bolognese sauce, grate parmesan over if required

Monday, 18 October 2010

Thai Chicken Lemongrass Soup


At last - a use for that leftover meat from the Sunday roast that doesn't involve just sticking it into a sandwich for your lunch on Monday.

On this occasion I have made a basic 'make it up as you go' soup from a mix of my fridge and cupboard stand-bys. Served up with some Tesco Premium range Thai Fishcakes bought when on offer from my local supermarket (boy are they good!), and a hot chilli sauce, I have a meal for 3 ready with a minimum of fuss - and washing up!

The amounts of lime juice and zest, red chilli, and fish sauce were purely based on my taste preferences - they are not written in stone so do adjust to your palate. For myself, the pure exciting taste of the combined flavours of the coconut, salty fish sauce, and zesty lime, together with the heat from the fresh chilli, and the subtle but so essential lemon grass are a winning combination, and are so appetizing and satisfying.

To make a hearty meal from the soup just cook a layer (or 2) of your  favourite Thai noodles, and stir in to the soup. Add extra vegetables instead of chicken - savoy cabbage, oyster mushrooms, sweetcorn - with vegetable stock for a vegetarian option. Whatever you fancy, stick it in.

Thai Chicken Soup
Serves 3
Cost per Individual Serving   £0.64

Large handful leftover Roast Chicken Breast and Leg meat
2 Sticks Lemon Grass, peeled and sliced as thin as possible   £0.68
400ml Tin Coconut Milk   £0.55
450ml Chicken Stock, made from Knorr Chicken Stock Gel sachet   £0.25  (or any other chicken stock) 
1 Red Chilli, deseeded and chopped   £0.13
Zest and Juice of 1 Lime   £0.30
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce (or to taste)

1. Pour stock and coconut milk into pan on hob and heat on medium until begins to simmer
2. Add the rest of you ingredients. Stir in and bring back to simmer; cook for 10 - 12 min; Serve up !

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Beef Stew

The day I cooked this stew there had been a new food delivery arriving at my home. I was keen to get some of those fresh ingredients cooked to free up storage space in my fridge as I had overspent as usual, and my fridge was at bursting point.

Thanks to my at times obsessive pre-planning, this stew was on my 'batch cook and freeze' to do list. I thought 'no time like the present'. 

I eat this meal in many ways - with a few nice slices of fresh bread, with green vegetables, with rice, or on top of a jacket potato. I'm even contemplating putting a couple of dollops inside some pastry and making a pie-cum-pasty. This allowed me to freeze it in various size portions - every extra meal squeezed out of fresh ingredients represents greater value for money.

Please note that I cooked approx 8-10 servings with the below set of ingredients. They just about all fitted into my huge casserole pan, so please please only prepare enough for 4 servings if you are unsure if everything will fit into your cooking pot !  On this occasion by the time I had all the ingredients prepared it was 9pm so I erred on the side of caution and cooked it for 3 hours. I had visions of falling asleep in front of Question Time (perfect cure for insomnia) and waking up in the early hours with a smoke filled kitchen and the smoke alarms beeping furiously, but I managed to stay awake until midnight when the stew was ready to remove from the oven.

The great thing about this stew is that you can swap the ingredients around with other veg or beans - its versatility is the beauty of it.

Serves 10
Cost Per Individual Serving:   £0.95

1.6kg Stewing or Casserole Steak, cut into small cubes   £5.49
1.4kg Floury Potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes   £0.30
2 Tins of 400g Cooked Chickpeas, drained   £0.96
4 Tins of 400g Plum Tomatoes   £1.24
4 Red Onions, peeled and chopped   £0.50
4 Carrots, peeled and chopped   £0.20
5 Sticks Celery, washed and chopped   £0.87
2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp Ground Cumin
Sea Salt
Ground Black Pepper
3-4 Sprigs worth of Picked Rosemary Leaves, chopped
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil

1. Preheat oven to 140C (125C Fan Oven) /275F/gas 1 to cook over 6hrs or 180C (165C Fan Oven)/350C /gas4 to cook
    over 3hrs
2. Add oil to very large casserole pan and turn up hob to a medium-high heat until pan oil hot
3. Add onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, rosemary, paprika, and cumin and stir for 2-3min. Don't let veg stick to pan !
4. Add your meat, tin tomatoes, and chickpeas. Stir well
5. Lightly season; add water to pan until everything is just covered and bring to boil
6. Place lid on pan; put casserole pan into oven. That is it !!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Ciabatta Burgers

I'm really treating myself tonight. Following my delicious home-made Carrot Soup, I am having Beefburgers and crispy, warm ciabatta bread.

I love to make my own burgers as I never make them the same way twice - whatever catches my eye in the store cupboard I will add. Today I have opted for some good old English mustard to give the meat a real kick with a capital K. Casting an eye in the fridge I spy a thumb sized chunk of parmesan cheese. Immediately I have the makings of a real tasty feast.

You could just as easily feed a family of four/five with this recipe, possible adding some potato wedges with your meal. This would reduce cost per serving to well under £1.

Serves 2
Cost Per Individual Serving (2 1/2 burgers each)   £1.10

225g Beef Mince   £0.75
1 slice white bread, blitzed to breadcrumbs   approx £0.05
1/3 beaten egg   £0.16
1/4 Onion, finely chopped   £0.04
1/2 heaped Tsp English Mustard (more if prefer stronger taste)
Thumb nail sized piece of Parmesan, grated (or any other cheese)
Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper to season
4 Ciabatta Rolls   £1.19

1. Gently fry onion for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Leave to cool
2. Put mince into a large bowl; add onions, breadcrumbs, mustard, cheese, and egg. Season well
3. Shape into preferred size burgers - I made 5 medium sized ones
4. Put on greaseproof paper and place in fridge for an hour or so
5. Heat oven for ciabattas and heat hob with griddle pan on top to medium-high
6. Cook ciabatta to pack instructions - usually 6-8 min
7. Place burgers on griddle and cook 5-6 min each side until nicely cooked
8. Place in ciabatta breads and add preferred salads, and sauce

Home-Made Carrot Soup

I had so many fresh vegetables that needed to be used up that I decided to make this soup, with the intention of consuming some portions immediately, and batch freezing the remainder.

As I was peeling all those carrots I had a brainwave - make two very different soups from the same set of ingredients.

At the end of cooking I took out two large ladles of the chunky vegetables and put them to one side. I then proceeded to liquidize the pan to a lovely silky smooth soup. Half of the soup I intend to use just as it is, but upon reheating I will grate in some fresh ginger to taste. This will give it some mild heat and a nice added twist.

To the other half of soup I added the chunky cooked vegatables. Immediately I have a half decent minestrone, perfect to eat as it is or made more substantial when reheated with some small pasta shapes or maybe a tin of cannellini or butter beans.

This satisfactory conclusion made all that peeling and chopping worthwhile after all !!  Equally pleasing is the fact that I am beginning to think for myself more in the kitchen, not just following recipes to the letter of the law, and discovering that it is possible to produce a recipe that, indeed, is all yours.

This is one of those soups that is nearly 100% fresh vegetables, so don't feel too guilty adding some nice sea salt to improve the taste. I also added ground black pepper - it really reacted well to the taste of the carrots.

Serves 9
Cost Per Individual Serving   £0.26
1.2kg Carrots, peeled and chopped   £0.51
600g Potatoes, peeled and cubed into small pieces   £0.30
5 Sticks Celery, washed and chopped   £0.87
4 Onions, peeled and chopped   £0.67
Sea salt and Ground Black Pepper, to taste

1. Place all the prepared vegeatables into a large casserole pan, and put on a medium-high hot hob
2. Add approx 2L of water until all the vegetables are covered, season, and bring to a gentle simmer
3. Simmer uncovered for around 40-45 minutes. Keep checking the veg for tenderness. Smaller chopped veg cooks quicker.
4. When cooked liquidize your contents, season again if required, and enjoy, or freeze in convenient sized portions

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Sweet Tangy Chicken Noodles

I don't know if it is just my taste buds being used to freshly-made oriental cuisine, but on the very odd occasion I find myself eating chinese food I know contains a shop bought sauce, it is invariably a bland experience.

Today I made a chinese sauce to go with chicken breasts and egg noodles. It was quite mild in terms of 'heat' from the chillies and ginger, with a pleasant sweet tangy vibe from the combination of peppers, tomatoes and sugar.

I heartily recommend that the soy sauce is not forgotten at the end of the recipe, as I found the saltiness raised the taste to a much higher level by offering a balanced contrast to the sweetness from the other ingredients. 

This is a sauce I have made extra batches for today in order to freeze, so that whenever I am pushed for time I can defrost this beforehand and make a very quick meal with chicken.

Serves 4 (generously)
Cost Per Individual Portion:   £1.48


6 Garlic Cloves, peeled and crushed
1 1/2 inch piece Fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 Red Chillies, deseeded and finely chopped   £0.15
1 Red Pepper, finely sliced   £0.50
3 Tomatoes, chopped   £0.44
7 Tbsp Water
3 Tbsp Tomato Ketchup  
1 1/2 Tsp Soft Light Brown Sugar


3 Chicken Breasts, sliced   £3.33
180g (3 layers) Medium Egg Noodles, cooked according to packet instructions   £0.64
1 Courgette, thinly sliced   £0.37
1 Red Pepper, thinly sliced   £0.50
Splash of Light Soy sauce
1 Tbsp Groundnut Oil

1. Place all the sauce ingredients into a food processor and blend to a paste
2. Add oil to a  hot wok and stir-fry chicken for 3-4 min until browned
3. Add the red pepper and courgette and continue cooking for 2-3 min, until red pepper soft and tender
4. Add sauce and bring to boil - a matter of seconds if wok is hot
5. Add cooked noodles to wok and mix everything together well
6. Add a good splash of soy sauce and serve

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Quesadillas and Guacamole

Tonight's tea-cum-supper witnesses a culinary first - making my own guacamole!

Another plus is that the moody teenager of the household ate 3/4 of her share. Not bad going as the quesadillas were quite filling.

While our quesadillas had a distinctly cheesy aspect to them, I will be experimenting with other fillings as this is, in effect, a Mexican toastie ! I can see this being a typical fast and simple to make tea on a Monday evening in the future, using up the spare meat from the Sunday roast, and any other spare veg in the fridge.

For 3 People
Cost Per Individual Serving   £1.58

1 Avocado £1.09
2 ripe Tomatos, deseeded and chopped  £0.26
1 Red Chilli, deseeded and chopped  £0.10
2 Spring Onions, peeled and sliced   £0.23
Salt, to taste
Squeeze of Lime Juice
Handful Coriander Leaves (home grown)

250g Red Leicester Cheese, grated   £1.75
6 pack Tortilla Wraps   £0.49
4 Spring Onions, peeled and finely sliced   £0.47
1/2 Red Pepper, finely chopped   £0.25
1 Red Chilli, deseeded and finely chopped  £0.10
Handful Coriander Leaves (home grown)


1. Scoop two-thirds of the avocado flesh, 1 tomato, your chilli and spring onions into a food processor
    with the coriander and blend to a smoothish paste.
2. Pour into a bowl, adding the other tomato, the remainder of the avocado, chopped up, and a pinch of salt.
3. Give it a blast of lime juice and mix well


1. Mix all your ingredients in a bowl
2. Spread the mixture over one of the tortillas and place the second tortilla on top, as if you were making a sandwich
3. Once the required number of tortillas are prepared, heat a griddle pan and cook each quesadillas on a high heat for
    approximately 2 minutes on each side. The cheese should be nicely melted and gooey
4. Slice into quarters and serve with your freshly made guacamole

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Beef Sirloin Steak Wraps

It is not very often we eat Sirloin cuts of beef - they are most definitely a treat.

For such a simple meal, I love this as there are a variety of flavours all combining to produce an explosion of flavours. Today I had some lettuce to hand. On other occasions I have added diced cucumber, spring onion, red pepper instead of tomato, rocket instead of lettuce, red or white onions. The options are endless. What binds them all together nicely is the soured cream and houmous.

Out local supermarket sells thin cuts, hence they are so much cheaper than a standard sirloin. But as the cuts are not so chunky, our children find them really easy to eat. Add to the fact they are not as tough to chew as rump or frying steak, and taste delightful, it is no surprise that everyone fights over it at the dinner table !

Serves 2 adults and 2 children
Cost per Individual Serving   £1.45

Thin Cut Sirloin Steak 250g, thinly sliced   £3.33
6 pack Tortilla Wraps   £0.49
1/4 Iceberg Lettuce, washed and sliced   £0.12
1/4 Beef Tomato, sliced   £0.12
Houmous 200g   £0.88
Soured Cream 150ml  £0.55
Juice of a Lemon   £0.30
2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Black Pepper, ground

1. Heat a pan until really hot
2. With a sharp knife, score both sides of the meat and rub with the olive oil
3. Sprinkle the paprika over the meat and season to preferred taste
4. Cook steaks to your preferred standard; slice thinly once cooked
5. Put the lettuce and tomatoes in a bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice and the extra virgin oil
6. Cook tortillas according to packet instructions
7. Grubs up !  Serve with the houmous and soured cream

Friday, 8 October 2010

Sweet and Sour Cambodian Beef Noodles

My Friday night food treat tonight is a trip into the unknown - Cambodian.

In my pre-Amateur Chef days, only five or six years ago, I would have baulked at the mere idea of eating a Cambodian dish, never mind attempting to cook one. But today I am an enlightened human being, and this dish is so fast to prepare and cook. Any dinner guest will be impressed with this, especially when you tell them you are making Lort Char, to give it its authentic name !!

Please, dear blog reader, give this dish a try and tell me what you think - it is so simple, healthy, and tastes great.  I may even choose this as my first YouTube recipe to cook and post on my blog.

The trick is to have everything ready to go into the wok when required as you don't stop stirring !!

Serves 3 People (or a greedy 2) Total Cost £3.39
Cost Per Individual Serving  £1.13

300g Rump Steak, sliced into very thin strips   £2.40
Fine Egg Noodle 120g (2 layers)   £0.40
150g Baby Leaf Spinach   £0.34
100g Bean Sprouts   £0.25
2 Tbsp Hot Chilli Sauce (more or less to taste)
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
1 Tsp Light or Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Cornflour
2 Large Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1. Cook noodles according to packet instructions and drain
2. Mix together the chilli sauce, fish sauce, sugar and cornflour, together with 3/4 Tsp water
3. Heat oil in wok to high heat; add steak and garlic and fry, stirring constantly until the beef browns. Literally a
    couple of minutes only. This prevents the meat becoming too tough and stays tender
4. Now the fun part - add the noodles and sauce misture and toss well for 1 minute until nicely coloured
5. Add the bean sprouts and spinach - mix well for 1 minute until spinach begins to wilt
6. Get it served up and enjoy

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Chinese Hoisin Roast Crackling Pork

I had a spare pack of pork belly left in the freezer and found inspiration from an amazing recipe that I had in my folder - it had been ripped out of an old sunday newspaper supplement a couple of years ago. I left out some of the ingredients and added some of my own, as well as the amounts to suit my taste.

If you are a fan of pork crackling in your standard Sunday lunch, and a fan of chinese food, then this will be right up your street. Their are some really interesting flavours going on in this dish, the nice sweet and sour balance of the honey and lemon, together with with saltiness of the soy sauce and hoisin is intriguing, but boy does it work.

Serves 2 Adults and 1 Child
Cost Per Serving:  £1.14

450g Boneless Pork Belly Strips   £2.00
200g Purple Sprouting Broccoli, cut into short pieces    £1.00
100g Basmati Rice, cooked according to instructions   £0.10
Juice of 1 Small Lemon   £0.30
3-4 Tsp Chinese Five-Spice
1 Tsp Sea Salt
3-4 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce
1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
2-3 Tbsp Clear Honey
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1. Stand pork skin side up on plate in fridge a few hours before cooking to dry skin out
2. When ready, preheat oven to 220C (Fan Oven 200C)
3. Rub Five-Spice and Seal Salt all over pork skin and flesh
4. Standing pork up on roasting tray, cook for an hour
5. After an hour, turn oven down to 200C (Fan Oven 180C) and cook for up to 30 min. How long depends on how 'crackly'
    you prefer your pork.
6. Just before your pork is ready, heat the Vegetable oil with 3 Tbsp water in a wok until bubbling
7. Add broccoli, cover with a lid, and cook for 5-6 min, or until nice and tender. Keep checking if more water is needed
8. Tip in the rice, add hoisin sauce and soy sauce, and stir well until mixed and rice warmed through
9. Serve rice into bowls, chop up the cooked pork belly into slices and place on top of rice
10.Mix the lemon and honey together and drizzle over the pork

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Pork, Hoisin and Spinach Stir Fry

The aroma of Hoisin sauce is one of those magical ingredients in Chinese cooking. Its distinct salty and sweet taste is one that you either love or hate.

If your opinion leans towards the former, there can be no more better match than pork cooked until tender, wrapped in the sticky sauce of hoisin. Today I made a stir fry consisting primarily of those ingredients. Taste-wise it was exquisite, and far healthier than anything you can eat from your local chinese takeaway.

Like all stir frys, it was incredibly fast to cook, once my wok is smoky hot. The art, in my humble opinion, of a successful stir fry is to have your ingredients all chopped and ready to go into the wok when required. You simply don't have time to be messing around preparing ingredients once cooking commences.

Serves 2 adults and 1 child
Cost Per Serving   £1.00

300g Pork Fillet, sliced thinly   £2.30
1 Red Chilli, deseeded and chopped  £0.12
80g Young Leaf Spinach   £0.17
Juice of small Lime   £0.30
100g Basmati Rice   £0.10
1/2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
1/2 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
1 large Garlic Clove, thinly sliced

1. Mix together until smooth the hoisin and soy sauce with the lime juice
2. Put your wok on a high heat and add vegetable oil
3. Once oil is hot and smoking stir fry the garlic and chilli for a few seconds; add pork
4. Keep stiring the wok contents for 3-4 min until pork is cooked
5. Add the spinach and sauce mixture; stir for 2-3 min until spinach starts to wilt
6. Ready to serve; ENJOY !!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Miso Tuna Steaks

Tuna is one of the types of fish that is a must have for a healthy diet. Japanese cuisine is one of the most beneficial healthwise in the world, and tuna is a staple food in their diet.

However, tuna can be a tad on the bland side and so has not always been top of my shopping list. However, the miso glaze of this Japanese recipe amazingly lifts this dish to another dimension, with the combination of the salty and sweet sauce complementing the fish perfectly. The steamed green pak choi and the noodles make up a light, but nutritional meal. Low in fat but high in protein - it is a complete winner!!

An added bonus is there are few ingredients to prepare, and it is incredibly fast to make. Of course, at £3.48 for two adult servings, it once again proves that extremely healthy, but exciting food can be prepared on a tight budget.

Serves 2
Cost Per Serving £1.74
2 Frozen Fresh Tuna Steaks, defrosted £1.20
3 Pak choi, separated £1.00
2 sachets Yutaka Miso Paste £0.64
150g Straight To Wok Noodles £0.63
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Mirin

1. In a small saucepan add miso, sugar, mirin; warm gently until sugar dissolves
2. Cook noodles according to pack instructions
3. Steam or boil Pak choi until cooked
4. Grill tuna two minutes on each side
5. Coat one side of tuna with miso mix and grill until cooked to preference
6. Arrange Pak Choi on plate, add noodles; place tuna on top

Saturday, 2 October 2010

TV Food Programmes

It seems that a day doesn't go by at the moment on our TV screens without yet another food-related programme eating up the schedules. Served up for our consumption in the next seven days are all the big guns of cookery. Today we have James Martin's mid-morning Saturday Kitchen, followed by the first episode of Nigella Lawson's new series.

Hot on their tails next week are Jamie Oliver's American Food Revolution, Best Restaurant with Gordon Ramsay, MasterChef: The Professionals, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Every Day.

The viewers appetite for the world of food in all its wonderful dimensions shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon, and it is fair to say that all of the above programmes do not overlap too much in their agendas or styles to warrant a charge of overkill.

Food: What Goes In Your Basket? is one of the newest programmes on the block. Presented primarily by Jay Rayner and Ravinder Bhogal, it juggles with the tricky balance of being simultaneously informative and entertaining. In the main, it is relatively successful in achieving this. A recipe or two is served up by Ravinder in each episode, but the meat in the sandwich is the way in which a range of current food issues are covered, with the primary aim of making us as consumers more savvy and knowledgeable as shoppers.

Hot issues like food sustainability and fairtrade have been regular features to date. Food manufacturers and the main supermarkets have also found themselves under the microscope. Week by week the layers of mysticism of the food industry are being peeled back to reveal what influences what we eat, and what it is we are actually consuming. The tone is non-preachy, serving to merely present the facts as they appear in all matters food, allowing us to make make our own minds up as to how we best make use of the information delivered.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

3 Nights Of Pre-Prepared Freezer Meals !

The benefits of cooking large quantities of one recipe and freezing them in family sized portions to be consumed at a later date has been highly visible these past few days, making it an easy week cooking-wise for yours truly.

Getting the defrost and heat through treatment has been Beef Goulash, Chilli con Carne, and Turkey Curry - not a shred of junk food in sight.Costwise, the 3 meals combined came in at just under £8 in total. That certainly lives up to my motto - High Quality Cheap Food.

All of these recipes are on this blog if you'd like to give them a go.

There is no secret to producing meals so economically. Anyone can do it. My Food Savings page may offer you a few tips on how to make your money stretch further.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Chicken Fajitas

Tuesday is one of those rare times in our household - we all sit down together as a family to eat ! Not that we are dysfunctional in any capacity, but it is the one 'night off' from the array of post school clubs and activities the children are involved with.

So tonight I have bowed to pressure and made the one meal guaranteed to see an empty plate all round and, most importantly, no groans or complaints about another of Dad's healthy but 'horrible' meals!

Served 2 adults and 2 children
Total Cost: £4.33

2 Chicken Breasts, sliced £2.00
8 Tortilla Wraps £1.00
1 Red Pepper, sliced £0.70
Handful of Mushrooms, sliced £0.30
1 Onion, diced £0.10
1/2 pack Fajita Spice Mix £0.23
1 tbsp Sunflower oil

1. Mix spice mix with chicken and oil
2. Stir fry on high heat in large wok the chicken until browned - approx 3 min
3. Add the mushrooms, red pepper, and onion - stir for 2-3 min until cooked
4. Serve with microwaved/grilled tortilla wraps

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Fast Prawn Frittata

Fast Prawn Frittata

This recipe has everything going for it - fast to make, not much preparation, really healthy, and keeps well within my  'Less Than £5 ' philosophy. There is little skill involved, so anyone can make this - it is just a glorified omelette.

The idea for it came from my latest cookery bible, Bobby Chinn's Vietnamese Food. Inside is a recipe for Trung Duc Thit, Minced Pork Omelette. Chinn says the pork can be substituted, which is what I have done.

I had been looking for a good introduction book to Vietnamese cuisine, and stumbled across this. The clincher was the foreword by Anthony Bourdain, who confidently states 'What Bobby doesn't know about Southeast Asian food is not worth knowing.'  That was good enough for me !

Serves 2
Cost Per Individual Serving £1.80

200g Raw King Prawns, chopped £2.50
4 large Free Range Eggs, beaten £1.00
2 Spring Onions, sliced home grown
2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 tbsp Fish Sauce
Chopped Red Chilli 10p
Few Sprigs Fresh Coriander, garnish

1. Add oil to non-stick pan and heat to medium
2. Mix prawns with the eggs and spring onions
3. Add 1/2 the mixture to pan and ensure mixture well spread over surface
4. Turn heat down to low as mixture begins to set, using a spatula to ensure not burning or sticking
5. After approx 5 min flip over your frittata and allow to cook for 5 min, or until egg is set and prawns are cooked (pink)
6. Repeat with remaining half of mixture
7. Serve once cooked and add fish sauce and chopped red chilli to taste

Friday, 24 September 2010

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

I am delighted with how these Blueberry Muffins have turned out. They really are a delicious treat to be enjoyed with a cuppa when you can grab 5 minutes peace. As an aside, I'm quite pleased with the photograph too ! I never knew how difficult it was to capture in a photograph the aesthetics of cooking.

40g Plain White Flour
13g Soft Brown Sugar
25g Unsalted Butter

1. Blend ingredients in a processor, or mix together using fingertips, until it resembles a crumble-type mixture

250g soft Unsalted Butter
200g superfine Caster Sugar
4 Eggs, and an Extra Yoke, lightly beaten
250g Plain White Flour, sifted
2 tsp Baking Powder, sifted
100g Blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F (180C Fan Oven)
2. Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
3. Add the egg mixture a little at a time; beat well before adding more
4. Gently mix in the flour and baking powder; add the blueberries
5. Place muffin cases into muffin tin and divide the dough between them (I made 15 from the above ingredients)
6. Sprinke the topping mixture over the dough; cook for approx 20-25 min until golden brown

Vietnamese Pork

My interest in Vietnamese food has risen tenfold in the last year. The first time I consciously created a cuisine from this country it was cold fried lean pork mince, mixed with a tangy, salty sauce of  refreshing lime, the ubiquitous fish sauce, and fresh red chillies. Served cold on top of lettuce leaves it is classic Vietnamese finger food, and incredibly healthy.

Today I decided to create this recipe, based on a recipe in 'Vietnamese Food' by Bobby Chinn,  as I had finally managed to hunt down the must have ingredient that gives so many Vietnamese dishes the true ring of authenticity - palm sugar. The recipe is in 2 parts. First you need to create a caramel sauce, before braising the pork in a broth of sauce, of which the caramel sauce is the main ingredient.

It was a pleasant meal to eat - the salty, peppery pork and the sweetness of the 'broth' complemented each other really surprisngly well. At £1.30 per individual serving, it is something I will be making again and again, perhaps though with leaner cuts of meat.

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: Approx 45 min - 55 min

100 g Palm Sugar   £1.00
90 ml Hot Water

1. Melt sugar in saucepan on VERY LOW heat until melted
2. Turn heat to high and allow to brown and caramelize, swirling pan constantly
3. Once it begins to smoke, remove from heat and add water.

200g Pork Belly, cut into small cubes (skin removed)   £1.40
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
3/4 tsp Fish Sauce
1/2 tbsp Oyster Sauce
1/2 tsp Light Soy Sauce 

100g Rice   20p

1. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the pork in a saucepan; add half the warm caramel sauce
2. Mix and leave for 5-10 min
3. Stir saucepan of meat over medium heat for 10 min
4. Pour in 110 ml water; add the fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and remaining caramel sauce
5. Cover and braise over low heat for approx 30 min, or until pork is cooked through
6. Cook desired amount of rice (I used 100g for 2 people)
7. Serve braised pork over bowl of cooked rice. Pour over remaining juices

This recipe served 2 adults
Cost Per Individul Serving   £1.30

Make more of the caramel sauce than required for this recipe and freeze the surplus in small batches, as many Vietnamese recipes require small quantities of this sauce

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Banana Cake

I had ripe bananas sitting in the fruit bowl yesterday so decided to make my second Banana Cake in as many weeks. I used the same recipe as on my previous Banana Cake blog. This time however I left out the lemon juice from the icing.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Tuna Nicoise Salad

Tuna Nicoise Salad
I looked in my fridge, freezer and food cupboards and decided to make this nice simple salad for Sunday dinner.

Preparing it was nice and straightforward - eggs hard boiled in the morning while having breakfast, and spuds boiled while preparing a sandwich. So it was more of an assembly operation than having to be concerned with multiple pans all demanding attention at the same time - a usual Sunday dinner demand.

It was surprisingly a hit with Jim, my 8 yr old son. He ate all of his up, which gave me a good buzz afterwards.

Mind you, the only problem I had was that I had the munchies seriously come supper time - but managed to resist hitting the snacks, and undoing all the benefits of eating greens !

Prep: 12 min (if prepared simultaneously)
Cooking: all in the prep !

1 frozen Tuna Steak, defrosted   60p
2 large Free Range Eggs   50p
2 Little Gem Lettuces, leaves separated and washed   87p
250g New Potatoes (from the garden)
1 small Garlic Clove, peeled and crushed
3/4 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1 tbsp Basil, chopped
Handful of small Tomatoes, halved
1/4 size Cucumber, chopped
3 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Total Cost   £2.07
This recipe happily served 2 adults and an 8 yr old.

1.  Put eggs in saucepan of water. Cook for 7-9 min once water boiling. Rinse under cold tap; leave to cool
2. Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until cooked (test with a knife - should slide through easily). Drain and cool
3. Lightly brush tuna with a little olive oil and season. Cook in pan until just cooked through (approx 3-4 min each side)
4. Mix the mustard, garlic, basil and seasoning together. Whisk in the oilive oil
5. Assemble your lettuce onto plates; add potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber, and eggs (quartered)
6. Flake the tuna and add to plates; pour over your creamy dressing

Friday, 17 September 2010

Turkey Curry

I love a nice curry, particularly on a Friday evening with a nice cold lager!

This is another recipe that I cook and freeze in batches. Preparation was as easy as cooking a pan of basmati rice and grilling a naan bread while the defrosted curry was heating through on the hob.

When I cook a curry, I sometimes make it up on the spot, as was the case here. I had only an onion to hand. On other occasions I have added items like chopped mushrooms, sliced red or green pepper, and chopped red chillie.

Turkey Curry
The following recipe has made enough for three main family meals and one to be eaten with a jacket potato or inside a couple of chapatis. It just depends how big you like your portions. However, at an approx cost of only £1.62 to feed a family of 2 adults and 2 children per meal this must rate as one of the best, if not the best, meals I have blogged to date, in terms of the holy grail of taste, economy and health benefits. 

Prep time: 10 min
Cooking time: 40-45 min

Serves 6 - 8
Cost Per Individual Serving   £ 0.60p
878g pack fresh Turkey Fillets, cubed   £5.00
2 x 400g tin Chopped Tomatoes   £1.16
1 large Onion, peeled and finely chopped   15p approx
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Chilli Powder (or more/less depending on how hot you like your curry)
2 tsp Ground Cumin
2 tsp Ground Coriander
1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala

100g Basmati Rice, cooked to packet instructions   16p

1.   Heat oil and cook onion and garlic gently in a large pan until soft
2.   Add turkey pieces and turn up heat. Stir for a few mins
3.   Add the spices (minus garam masala) and stir until meat browned
4.   Add chopped tomatoes, salt to taste and bring to boil
5.   Simmer gently with lid on pan for approx 25 min
6.   Stir in garam masala and cook for another 10 min, or until meat cooked

Top Tip - if you are reheating the curry from frozen you may want to add a couple of dollops of natural yoghurt to give it a  creamier texture, or add a small piece of creamed coconut block just before serving to give it a nice Korma feel. 

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Coffee and Ginger Cake

Coffee and Ginger Cake

As I do often, I see a recipe I like the look of in a Sunday Newspaper supplement, rip it out and give it a go. Today I have baked this, and it all came together perfectly - even the cooking time was spot-on. The skewer came out clean on the first time of asking. And very nice it tastes too - a nice subtle coffee flavour, not overpowering, and the fresh ginger blending together well to give a very satisfactory taste - I give it 7 out of 10.  Possibly the substitution of the pistachios with chopped walnuts would give it a bit more bite and crunch, but that's entirely down to how you like your cake.

For the icing I used the same recipe as on my Banana Cake (see my posting for this). The lemon tinge did not clash with the coffee or ginger. The ingredients listed below are for the cake only, not the icing.

  • 50g unsalted butter

  • 75 ml milk

  • 1 tbsp ground coffee (not instant)

  • 2cm piece fresh ginger, finely grated

  • 2 large eggs

  • 225g caster sugar

  • 100 ml sunflower oil

  • 100g chopped pistachios

  • 275g plain flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder

  1. Line base and sides of deep 22cm square cake tin with nonstick paper

  2. Heat oven to 180 C/375 F (160 C fan oven)

  3. Melt butter in pan and remove from heat

  4. To butter add milk, coffee and ginger, and stir

  5. In a bowl whisk the sugar and eggs until fluffy and pale

  6. Beat in the coffee mix, and the sunflower oil

  7. Stir in 75g of the nuts and fold in the flour and the baking powder

  8. When everything ix mixed in and you have a nice goo pour into cake tin

  9. Bake for 30-35 min until a skewer comes out clean

  10. Allow to totally cool and spread the icing over the top, and sprinkle with remaining nuts

Chilli Con Carne

Everyone likes chilli. It is so versatile and can be added to a wide array of foods to make a lovely meal. The classic combination is with rice, but I also like it with potato wedges, a salad, or with tortilla wraps. Today I had some freshly grown potatoes from my veg patch to use up so decided to have a large jacket potato with my chilli.

It is probably my favourite food to make in large quantities and to freeze into large and small batches. It is then just a case of defrosting thoroughly and heating through, eradicating the need for a lot of preparation and washing up (no-ones favourite job). A large batch will be for the whole family, while a small batch (like today) will be sufficient to scoop on top of a jacket potato.  At a cost per serving of less than a pound it is a hit with the purse strings too, which is guaranteed to impress the boss (my wife!). So everyone is a winner.

1kg Lean Beef Mince  £5.00
2 400g tins Chopped Tomatoes   82p
2 Medium Size Onions, peeled and finely chopped  36p
3 Celery Sticks, finely chopped   40p
2 Red Chillies, seeded and finely chopped   33p
1-2 tsp chilli powder, to taste
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tbsp Tomato Puree
2 tsp Soft Dark Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Worcester Sauce
1 tbsp Dried Oregano
300 ml Beef Stock
2 tbsp Olive Oil

  1. Heat oil in large flameproof casserole pan to a medium heat (not too high so onions don't burn!)
  2. Fry onions, celery and chillies until onions soften (approx 10 min)
  3. Increase heat, add beef mince, and cook until browned, stirring constantly
  4. Pour out excess fat (if any) into old container
  5. Add chilli powder, ground cumin, and tomato puree. Mix well for a minute.
  6. Add sugar, worcester sauce, oregano, stock and tomatoes. Stir well and bring to boil.
  7. When boiling, lower heat to a gentle simmer and cook for approx 40 min until ready
  8. If you wish to add kidney beans, stir them in 10 min before the end
Total Cost £6.91, which produces 8 servings,
Cost Per Individual Serving = £0.87p

Banana Cake

I made this just over a week ago, and it was an amazing hit with everyone - my children are my biggest critics when it comes to my cooking, and the clean plates said it all. This recipe does have icing, but is very 'butter free' so I don't have as much guilt eating it. I found this icing can be used for all manner of cakes.  I have just applied it to my Ginger Coffee Cake I made earlier today (post coming up a bit later on for that - once I've tried a piece after dinner !).


2 eggs
200g (7 oz) soft brown sugar
300g (10 1/2 oz) banana, mashed
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/4 tsp salt
130 ml (4 1/2 fl oz) vegetable oil
240g (8 1/2 oz) plain flour
45g banana, chopped


30g unsalted butter
225g (8 oz) icing sugar
100g (3 1/2 oz) cream cheese
Juice of 1/2  squeezed lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 120 C (235 F), or 110 C fan oven
  2. Grease a 20 cm round baking tin, or line with greaseproof paper
  3. Whisk eggs and brown sugar until pale and fluffy
  4. Add the mashed banana, bicarbonate of soda, salt and oil. Mix (slowly if using processor) until well combined
  5. Sift in the flour, increase speed gradually until no flour is visible. Fold in chopped banana and put mixture into tin
  6. Bake until a skewer poked into centre of cake comes out clean. 1 hr 55 min for mine; recipe says 60 min so keep checking !  Once cooked allow to cool for 15 min in tin before placing onto rack to cool completely
  7. Beat icing butter and butter together as best you can for such a small amount. Then add the cream cheese and lemon juice and beat until mixed nicely
  8. Spread over the top of your cake; leave a while to set, and ENJOY !!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Beef Goulash

As summer turns to autumn and the nights get a little colder and darker, this is one of those nice hearty comfort foods at the end of a long day. Goulash is so versatile and can be added to a wide array of side courses - today I decided to add Nantes Carrots and Potatoes from out of my garden, together with a helping of garden peas and sweetcorn.

As the cooking time is quite long for this, I like to make one big casserole pans worth in one go, and freeze it in batches so that it only requires defrosting and warmed through. In this instance I have made enough for 2 family-sized meals.

For this recipe you require a large, lidded casserole pan.

Approx Preparation: 30min
Approx Cooking Time: 2hr 30min

900g Beef Casserole Steak, cubed £6.00
168g Pancetta Cubes £1.60
600g onions, peel and chop 35p
400g can peeled plum tomatoes 31p
300ml beef stock
2 garlic cloves, peel and crush
4 tbsp paprika
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
2 tbsp plain flour
salt and pepper
3 tbsp vegetable/sunflower oil

Total Cost £8.26
Real Cost per Family Meal £2.75

1. Mix beef with flour; turn oven on at 170C (155C on my fan oven)
2. Heat 1tbsp oil in large casserole pan
3. Fry onions gently until soft; remove from pan
4. Fry pancetta in same pan until crisp; remove from pan
5. Heat remaining oil in pan. Add meat and brown
6. Return onions and pancetta to the browned meat in casserole pan
7. Add garlic and paprika; stir well for a minute
8. Add herbs, tin tomatoes and beef stock and bring to a simmer. Season to taste
9. Cover tightly with lid and put into oven for between 1hr 30min - 2 hr. When meat is tender it is ready.

It is best to keep an eye on this. Check on it after 45min-55min to check if more stock needs to be added.

Tuna Steak Teriyaki and Noodles

Like most Japanese food, this recipe is very healthy and tastes amazing. The added bonus is that it only takes a matter of minutes to prepare and make.

Approx Prep: 10min
Approx Cooking: 5-10min

2 Frozen Tuna Steaks, defrost as per packet instructions   £1.25
1 tbsp Sunflower oil
1/4 tsp Crushed Dried Chilli
1 tbsp Clear Honey
1 1/2 tbsp Light Soy Sauce

300g Sharwoods Stir Fry Wet Noodles   £1.00
1 small Red Chilli, seeded and sliced thinly   15p
1 Garlic Clove, peeled and crushed
juice of a Lime   20p
Splash of Fish Sauce to taste
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tbsp chopped Fresh Coriander

Serves 2 adults  Total Cost A Criminally Cheap  £2.45

1. Microwave noodles according to packet instructions. Drain under cold water and put in large bowl
2. In a small bowl mix the sliced red chilli(not the crushed) with the garlic, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Blend with  noodle and add coriander.
3. In a pan heat the oil with the dried chilli (I griddled my tuna brushing it with the oil)
4. Add tuna and cook until required level
5. Add the honey and soy sauce to the pan and cook for a minute, turning the tuna over several times until well coated
6. Serve tuna on plate of cold noodles, pouring over any juices from pan

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Ainsley Harriott's Feel-Good Cookbook

I probably would not have bought Ainsley Harriott's Feel-Good Cookbook had it not come to my attention from one of those booksellers who leaves his samples in the workplace for you to look at. Once I browsed though its pages I knew I had to have it. Four years from purchasing it I have to say that, along with Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries: Over 300 new recipes from Britain's best-loved food writer it is one of my favourite cookery books, and my respect and awe at Harriott's knowledge and expertise in all things culinary is not in doubt.

I go back to it time and again for culinary inspiration. My Smoked Mackerel Pilaf I cooked recently was influenced by Ainsley's recipe from this book.

There are 150 recipes. The first section offers original recipes for breakfast. A particular favourite of mine is the toasted muffins with mushrooms and bacon. I also recently made his healthy breakfast bars, packed full of dried fruits and nuts, bound together with oats and honey. It fed our family of four for nearly a week, and only took an hour to prepare and cook.

Portable foods does what it says. My favourite is Ainsley's take on a Gr8 steak and mushroom sandwich - ideal when you've just got home from work totally famished, but don't want to spend hours in the kitchen. As well as the main ingredients, you add red opnion, garlic, Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar. I have mine not in French bread, as he recommends, but freshly baked ciabatta.

The books other chapters include Light Bites, Substantial Salads, Quick and Easy Suppers, Midweek Meals, Pushing The Boat Out, Side Orders, Puddings, and Cakes and Bakes. What is impressive is that he covers thoroughly many kinds of cuisines - Middle Eastern, Thai, British, Indian, Chinese, Mediteranean, African - and they are, in the majority of cases, relatively easy for a novice cook like myself, to follow and produce great tasting food on an economical budget.

If you have always fancied having a go at something more than popping a ready meal into the microwave, but have always lacked the confidence (as I once did five or so years ago) then this is the starter Bible you need to look at. I give it 10 out of 10. Have a go and give me your comments.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Thai Salmon and Rice Noodles

Although classed as Thai, this could just as easily be labelled Vietnamese cuisine (my current favourite !) as it includes those ingredients I absolutely love - tangy, refreshing lime, salty fish sauce and red chilli. The vegetables I used could just as easily be substituted, as could the salmon with chicken or pork. At a total cost of £6.59 I nearly got a nosebleed at surpassing my comfort zone of £5 per meal, but one look at the fresh, healthy vegetables and fish used made it worthwhile.

Another thing I've grown to love about Thai/Vietnamese food is that the recommended ingredient quantities is only a rough guide. I'm a big fan of tasting my food while it is cooking - if I feel it needs another (liberal) splash of fish sauce, a twist of lime juice, or an extra shake of soy then I do it. There's no right or wrong when it comes to pleasing the old tastebuds!

Approx Preparation: 15min
Approx Cooking: 20min

2 fresh Salmon fillets  £3.25 (promo price - usually £4)
1 stick Lemon Grass   34p
Thumbnail size Fresh Ginger, peel and slice thinly
1 small Red Chilli, seeded and finely sliced   15p
Juice of 1 Lime   20p
A handful Mangetout   75p approx
Handful Frozen Sweetcorn   10p approx
2 heads Pak Choi, leaves separated   £1.00
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
1 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
1 bundle Rice Noodles  80p
900ml vegeatable stock
Small handful chopped fresh coriander

Total Price for 2 adults and two children   £6.59

1.  Peel the lemon grass down to the soft greeny layer and slice thinly
2.  Add lemon grass, chilli, ginger to stock; squeeze in juice of lime and bring to boil
3.  Reduce to a simmer for 5 - 10min
4. Add fish sauce and soy sauce; then add the salmon. Cover pan and cook for approx 5min until cooked through
5. Remove the salmon from the pan; strain stock through a fine sieve into a new pan and bring back to boil
6. Add noodles, mangetout, pak choi and sweetcorn. Simmer for a couple of mins until soft
7. Flake the salmon and add to the pan and stir everything together
8. Once served scatter with the coriander. Enjoy !!

Hassle Free Smoked Mackerel Pilaf

I'm always looking for new ways to do something different with fish. This is a super tasty, superhealthy, super cheap 'cheat' smoked mackerel pilaf that performs a culinary miracle - it makes brown rice taste fantastic! The combination of the smoky mackerel and the spices is a winning one. At a cost o £2 in total for 2 adults you can't complain either!

150g smoked mackerel, flaked £1.50
125g brown rice 50p
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 cardamon pod, slightly crushed
handful or so of frozen peas

1. Cook rice as per packet instructions and drain
2. When rice ready, cook onion gently in a pan/wok until soft
3. Add garlic,and spices to onion. Stir for a minute
4. Add cooked rice to wok and mix well.
5. Add smoked mackerel and peas. Mix well.
6. Warm through gently until peas are cooked - 5 min or so.
7. Serve.
Absolutely divine served with mango chutney and poppadums!

Serves 2 generous adult portions

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Leftover Sausage Casserole

A really easy meal to prepare tonight. Just myself to take care of as everyone else is out, so I put a baking potato in the oven. This allows me plenty of time to do the dog walking duties, and start watching The Damned Utd with a mug of tea and a couple of cookies. The weekend begins here!

When the potato is nearly cooked I gently reheat the casserole for 20 min. The 2 days spent in the fridge have allowed the flavours to intensify and, if anything, it tastes even better than on Wednesday. Served up in a bowl with a buttered spud, this really could have fed another person, such is the size of the portion. I justify this with the fact that, apart from the 2 sausages, everything else is mainly vegetables and pulses.

Total Cost 0.20p

Thursday, 29 July 2010

1 Hour Rustic Sausage Casserole

From beginning preparation to serving it up on the table this took exactly one hour. Most impressively, there is no shortage of taste. It feels like it could have been simmering away for hours, such is the depth of taste and flavour. Next time I cook this I am going to substitute teh salami for chorizo, and the lentils for either butter or cannellini beans, which I think will make the finished casserole more hearty and filling. However, if you like lots of sauce and sliced crusty bread to mop it up, the below ingredients will be to your liking.

The pack of sausage were the 'healthier' Butchers choice variety, and were on special offer at half price.

1 Onion, thickly sliced 17p
2 tbsp Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
100g Salami, sliced £1
8 Pork sausages, 454g £1
500g Passata 0.92p
400g tin Green lentils, drained and rinsed 0.46p
2 Bay leaves

Total Cost £3.54

1. Moderately heat oil in casserole dish and cook onion gently until soft.
2. Heat frying pan on another hob.
3. Add garlic and stir for a minute.
4. Add salami and cook for a couple of minutes.
5. Brown sausages in frying pan.
6. Add passatta, drained lentils, and 500ml water to casserole dish and bring to boil,stirring gently.
7. Add browned sausages to casserole dish. Add bay leaves.
8. Cover the dish with its lid and simmer for 30-40min until the lentils are soft.

No kids tonight so generous portions for 2 adults. A quarter of casserole leftover for another time.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A Week of Cooking

I have just roughly estimated the cost of the last 7 days of family meals, and it works out at under £40. It has been hard work but looking at what I have cooked I am satisfied at the range and quality.

One of the mantras I have adopted from Nigel Slater is to enjoy better quality food, with slightly reduced portions. I have discovered that it is not the quantity of food that is piled onto the plate, but rather the quality of the final dish, the ingredients used, and how it has been cooked.

I am conscious of the need to reduce levels of salt and saturated fats in the family's daily diet. That is not to say that we don't enjoy treats. Life would be just too dull without the odd sweet or pastry to munch on. This week the Rolls Royce Carrot Cake was a big hit with everyone, and lasted 3 whole days.

But I am hopefully doing something correct as everyone in our household is of a normal build and weight. I myself have lost small amounts of weight gradually over the past 2 years since I grabbed hold of the main responsibility for cooking. I am just under 6 foot tall and weigh under 12 stone. My aim is to reach 11 1/2 stone at some point, but as long as I don't go over 12 I won't beat myself up about it. The best thing is I don't have any severe restrictions on chocolate, cakes, crisps etc. When the mood takes me I have it. But I have noticed that my intake of junk food has reduced as I don't enjoy the taste as much as I used to. Hopefully that means I am doing something right. Long may it continue.

Roast Crusted Cod, New Potatoes and Mushy Peas

I love white fish in breadcrumbs, and this recipe is an ideal weeknight meal - quick to prepare and make, healthy, and great tasting.

3 slices cod 300g £3.33
2 slices white bread, crusts cut off, whizzed into crumbs £0.15 approx
2 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley
1 clove garlic finely sliced
1/3 lemon finely grated zest £0.20
Knob Butter, melted £0.20 approx
Squeeze of lemon
Salt and Pepper
1/2 bag Charlotte Spuds, approx 10 £0.30
Tin of Mushy Peas £0.33

Total Cost £4.51

1. Switch oven on 220C/Gas 7
2. Bring pan of water to boil. Add potatoes, simmer until cooked.
3. Season fish with salt and pepper
4. Mix together breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, zest. Add butter and lemon juice.
5. Put fish onto ovenproof tray, press mixture firmly onto fish's surface.
6. Bake in oven for 20-25min. Check halfway through that fish not sticking to tray.
7. While waiting for fish place mushy peas into pan and cook on hob gently until bubbling. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
8. Serve up and enjoy!

This fed the entire household of 2 adults and 2 children aged 8 and 13.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Spaghetti Bolognese - Here's One I Made Earlier

Monday's are always traumatic enough, what with kissing goodbye to the weekend and having to spend all day doing something that nearly bores you to death, and attempts to induce rigor mortis. Once at home it's time to wake up, walk the dog, pick up the kids, take oldest kid to and from her sports class etc. Thus, I always try and have a trick up my sleeve when it comes to having a quick, but classy meal. Today I am reheating what I tend to cook in heavy batches (4-5 family meals worth), before freezing in plastic containers and taking out when required. This is based on a recipe I used from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries recipe book. The slight difference with his Spag Bol is the addition of cream or milk, something I have never seen anywhere else. It does work though, and at last I can truthfully say my quest to find the perfect Spag Bol is well and truly over. Try it yourself and share your thoughts.

50g Butter 20p
80g Cubed Pancetta 80p
1 Onion 10p approx, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled
1 Carrot 7p, chopped
2 Stalks Celery 20p approx, chopped
2 Large Field Mushrooms 66p, chopped
2 Bay Leaves
450-500g Minced Beef (try healthy options - less fat) £2.50
200ml Passata 46p
100ml Red Wine (just use the leftovers from the night before) 70p approx
300ml Beef Stock 25p (I use the Knorr 8 pack jelly-type stocks)
2 heaped spoons of cream 25p approx
Salt and Pepper
Pasta/spaghetti of choice - 250g easily feeds our family serving 40p approx

Total Cost £6.59 The above makes one family pasta meal, and one where bol sauce used with jacket spud.

1. Melt butter on low heat in a frying pan. Add pancetta and cook slowly for 5-7min
2. Add onion and garlic and stir in. Don't cook so high that onions brown.
3. Stir in carrot and celery.
4. Add mushrooms and bay leaves to pan. Cook for 10min, stirring frequently.
5. Turn up heat to medium high. Add mince. Break up and then brown meat.
6. Add passata, wine, stock, and salt and pepper. Bring to boil.
7. Reduce heat until bubbling/simmering gently. Partially cover with lid and cook for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Check sauce doesn't get dry. Add extra water/stock where necessary. Stir now and then.
8. Add the cream a bit at a time, always stirring, 15 min before serving.
9. Check the seasoning and serve.