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