Thursday 31 December 2009

fresh start

Ok, so a lot of things have changed since I blogged last, and I've had a bit of an hiatus, but it's time I started keeping up and documenting my foodie life!

So money's tight, and so this year, I decided to mostly make foodie gifts for my friends and family.

I took 2 recipes from the January Sainsbury's mag - Salted Caramels, and Star Anise Truffles.

Both very successful, but differently. The caramels were very gooey, and some melted and reformed into one, and the truffles could have stood a little more star anise, but the kitchen smelt like Heaven, and they evening I was making them all, was the first night it snowed! It was SO Christmassy!

So, once the New Year is seen in, we'll be back to budget, using an array of books to help keep things interesting - I got a good haul for pressies - Economy Gastronomy, The Kitchen Revolution and The Vicar's Wife Cookbook.
Stay tuned and get cooking and get saving!

Friday 17 July 2009

ricey fish (an ode to the kitchen gadget..)

Godpapa brought home some lovely haddock (on offer in Morrison's this week) so I decided to use up some of the box veg and steam the fish en papillote. I have these wonderful silicon papillote dishes from Lakeland:

saves on foil and paper and fuss and fiddle. Anyway, I layered in carrots, broad beans and courgette. Then I laid the haddock fillets on top (beautifully skinned by my handsome fishmonger) and then added a layer of spring onions, some seasoning and finally a little dribble of white wine. Pop the lid on and pop in oven and it really only took 15-20 mins!

Along side, I made a lovely dill "pilau" rice. I fried the rice grains (2 cups) in some oil with a sprinkling of homemade garam masala (thank you Bamix) and about a tablespoon of dried dill weed, with a salt spoon of salt (oh I found some gorgeous juniper wood things in Covent Garden, just couldn't resist the salt spoon and a butter spreader, the scent is wonderful, and they are so pleasing to use.) I then added a teaspoon of Marigold bouillon powder and 2 and 3/4 cups of water (made easy by using my Tefal Quick Cup, LOL). Of course it boiled almost immediately, and I put the lid on and turned the heat down very low. 20 minutes later I gently stirred in half a bag of finely shredded organic spinach. Re-lidded and left for another 5 minutes, and then served it all. Gorgeous! And SO filling, and loads of veg portions!

Thursday 9 July 2009

perfect home made naan bread

I've experimented and sampled and finally come up with what I think is the definitive perfect recipe for home made naan bread, using bread machine and very very hot grill.

Into the breadmachine (follow the usual order as detailed in your breadmaker instructions)

1/2 tsp yeast
250g strong white flour
1tsp sugar
1 tsp kalonji (onion) seeds - optional
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (NOT CRUSHED) - optional
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp veg oil
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
100ml water

Put these in the breadmachine and put it on the pizza dough program (or basic dough program is you don't have a pizza program)

Divide dough into 4 balls and roll each into vaguely oval shapes or teardrop shapes. While you are doing this, heat a baking tray preferably with a non-stick liner on, under the grill and when hot, place 2 of the dough shapes onto the tray. Watch it and turn round if needed until evenly puffed and slightly blistered on top. Turn over with tongs and cook the other side. It should take about 2-3 minutes per side. The grill needs to be very hot to create the required air pocket inside the bread.

Tasted better than shop bought to me, as good as something from a ghetto curry house.

Monday 29 June 2009

something different with left over mashed squds...

It's Monday so I made tea for my 2 lovely Brownies (chicken mini fillets dipped in cornflour/water mix and rolled in crushed cornflakes, drizzled with olive oil and baked in oven til done and crispy, served with mash and peas/sweetcorn) and D is big on her carbs, so I deliberately made too much mash and she still ate more than I'd imagined possible! But there was still some left, so I divided it and made 2 different things with it - one to have for our supper, the other cos I fancied it.

The thing I fancied was an utterly Bengali dish, alu bhathe, or alu bharta. V simple, just chopped green chilli, normally also chopped raw onion or spring onion, and mustard oil and salt all stirred into the cold mash til smooth. Inordinately good to eat, and always eaten COLD! Yum...

With the rest, I fried some mustard seeds, curry leaves, seeded sliced chili, turmeric powder and sliced garlic, in a little oil, then I mixed this all into the rest of the mash, with the left over veg thrown in for good measure.

This was served with Pilsbury Variety Mix dosa/uttapams and a really hastily put together coconut chutney from Anjum Anand's Indian Every Day which I have from the library and am definitely planning to buy to keep.

Last Friday, we indulged in her pink pickled prawns recipe, with homemade naans, which I'd probably say now is an easier accompaniment to Indian food than rice! Dough made in breadmachine, naans grilled on pre-heated baking tray for about 3 mins altogether. I've finally cracked the naan issue, won't be doing it any other way again, will post the recipe in another post soon...

Thursday 11 June 2009

back again and raring to go, new toys at the ready!

ok, it's been a little while as things were manic and I just wasn't sticking to budget or doing anything adventurous really, so nothing to report essentially, but I'm back with bells on and ready to go.

Last week we did one of our quick standby meals on Saturday; lamb mince from freezer, fried with cumin, pomegranate syrup and cinnamon, then with cous cous added, with stock poured on and left to steam til done. With some roasted cherry tomatoes. Yum.

Sunday was a tenderly slowly cooked ragu, with spaghetti, free-from, with some saved for the Brownies on Monday.

The grown-ups had beetroot keftedes on Monday, with pitta bread and tzatziki. Basically boiled grated beetroot formed into patties and fried. I found the recipe in Good Food mag, in a review of a veggie cookery book and had a lot of beetroots over a couple of Abel and Cole deliveries, it was delish, even the carnivores enjoyed it! As Claire put it, meatballs without the meat, like it!

Tuesday was a homestyle chicken curry, with a carrot and spinach and potato curry with green mango powder, and rice. Very yum. Love the rediscovery of green mango powder.

Wednesday was (apart from Mr D. J. Betts' birthday) stuffed prepared trout with potatoes and salad. Yum, but no acutal cooking really, so can't take credit. Godpapa bought the trout when they were on offer, and we put them in the freezer for just such an occasion.

Friday was a delish and wonderful rediscovered much loved recipe of one pan coconut and red paste rice and salmon curry. Very easy and uttely wonderful comforting food. Totally my kind of dish. I ate leftovers twice and LOVED it!!! LOL.

This week, we've had 2 brilliant slow cooker dishes: easy simplified cassoulet on Saturday, and slow cooked sausages and apples in cider, on Tuesday.

Sunday we had tandoori chicken cooked in a tandoori pot : - I used Anjum Anand's recipe, got one of her early books from the library, definitely buying a copy.

Monday we had another Anjum recipe, yellow sunshine daal and rice. Comfort food, yum. The Brownies had home made turkey mince burgers, with sweet potato chips (oven cooked) - tho we can call them yam chips for nightshade-phobics.

Wednesday we had an absolutely wonderful - shock horror - beef biryani, made with frozen casserole beef cubes, cook from frozen, and using a Pataks paste, and Abel and Cole baby spinach, and Easy Cook mag recipe.

Today we had a Cooking like Mummyji recipe, dry chickpea curry with home made naan, made the dough in the new bread machine, and tried to cook the naans in the tandoori pot but it wasn't working quickly so I stopped and used the chapati pan (tawa) instead.

Tomorrow is going to be tuna and jersey pot and beans salad, recipe from Good Food mag.

Other things I've done in this time frame have been the famous better than drugs choc brownies, in tiny cubes, for the church BBQ celebrating our Confirmation. (Along with 8 others, Godpapa and I took this momentuous step and it was fab. Can't say if it's made a difference, but will keep at it.) I also made custard fairy cakes, and fruit flapjacks for the BBQ, and I ended up staying up til after 1am baking, since typically Littl'un decided not to nap that day, so I couldn't use that time to do the baking! Glad those things worked out well, cos I did bake a disasterous banana bread, same recipe I've used for 15 years and it didn't work properly, was claggy and undercooked at the bottom. Oh well.

I also took delivery of the long awaited bread machine! I've tried plain white rapid loaf, which my handsome older nephew ate most of, then I tried a half and half white and rye n the timer, to be ready at breakfast so we could have some at elevenses and lunch. That's a hit, Little'un has been chomping that with great pleasure. Tho she has a preference for "crunchy skin", doesn't so much like it when the crust is soft the next day, any ideas? And I made the naan dough in the machine, what a breeze! My next try is gonna be bacon and cheese. Will keep you posted...

Monday 8 June 2009

natural colourings

I just spotted lots of lovely bread flours in Asda, but more importantly, a whole range of natural food colourings, and writing icing, own brand, really good price, and it means I can now do funky bright coloured icing on fairy cakes for the girls, and they can do the age old icing on cookies/dig bikkies crafting! Yay! Well done Asda! They also do their own brand colas without Aspartame, tho most did contain Acesulfame K, which I avoid also. It's a start!

More actual food blogging coming soon...

Monday 25 May 2009

anyone else noticed

price of Sainsbury's basics going up suddenly and sneakily?
A few months ago they did HUGE advertising campaigns about the Basics, and I was converted, and one of the big things was the Basics 10 fish fingers for 49p, using sustainable not minced fish, and sustainable palm oil. Suddenly its gone up to 69p!
That's a LOT to increase in one go, on a so called "hero" product, and that's the only one I noticed, wish I had more old receipts around to compare now...

I don't have anything to prove!

(and no this isn't about bread making!)

But yes, I used a Pataks biryani paste for the quick biryani, and it was yum, and it's all decent ingredients. I tend to always have a jar on hand, as I find the one pan pilaf is such a quick and easy meal. I don't always use the Biryani, I've also used the Korma, tikka masala and Rogan Josh, I think. Don't get the tandoori if you're like minded, as it does contain one of the to be avoided colours, which I was highly disappointed to find out.

I added frozen leaf spinach and peas to the "biryani", as well as the liver, obviously. Would you be surprised to know Littl'un adored the liver? She's had liver a few times before, and always asks for more. Of course it's "chicken" to her. Classically, all meats are "chicken" even the beautifully fresh haddock we had as a treat the other day! LOL! I don't give liver too often as it's v high in iron and vit A, both of which not good in too high doses in little people.

On the other hand, I may have used a bought curry paste for that meal, but I made chapatis myself today! And the "subji" was really simple today, just made with cumin (whole and powdered) salt, tomatoes (half a tin) and a little sprinkling of turmeric and garam masala to fry the veg in. I microwaved the chopped unpeeled potatoes before adding to the pan to speed up the cooking. Shimples!

Just like the chicken yesterday, wow, pop it all in slow cooker before Mass, come home to be tempted by the divine smells of the poaching chook. Early supper with the kids, juicy tender bitey meat. Didn't so much carve it as stop it from falling apart as it was taken out of the pot.

I have poorly just returned from abroad parents, so used some of the poaching liquor and veg and a lil of the leftover meat (there wasn't much left!) to make a soup for the sickly ones. Added some ginger and garlic and more stock and sent it in a flask. Hope there weren't any passengers who'd been to Mexico on their plane...

bacon sour recipe

people have been asking me what is a bacon sour. It's something I invented at uni, and used to serve with rice, or pasta or Ebly, or left over chips, or pitta bread or jacket squds or whatever.

Basically chop up and fry about half a pack to a pack of bacon, however flush/greedy you are feeling... Cook it til its as you like bacon, but it won't stay crispy if that's all you eat, so beware!!

Add some chopped onion if you feel like it.

Pour in some tinned chopped tomatoes, half a tin to a tin.

Add a capful of whatever vinegar or lemon juice you have to hand. Vinegar works better, I've used plain malt and red wine, and some weird posh tarragon one which was lying around, it's all good.

Add some sweetcorn, tinned or frozen, and mix up well. Grind black pepper in. Simmer until thick. Serve.

week plan 23rd May - 29th May

Saturday - lambs' liver quick biryani + veg

Sunday - slowcooked whole chicken, sauteed potato cubes, greens

Monday - (Bank Holiday, Daddy's B'day) cauliflower, courgette and potato curry with chapatis and rice, followed by double choc brownies as b'day cake, candle and all!

Tuesday - slow cooked beans and bacon on toast (away to Warwick Castle for the day)

Wednesday - beetroot keftedes in pitta bread (recipe from review of the Modern Vegetable in Good Food mag)

Thursday - final episode ever of ER, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches!!!! Probably a salad...

Friday - Fishfingers, mash, some veg from box

Monday 18 May 2009

crispy prawns are only crispy briefly

those prawns on Friday were yummy, but Godpapa complained that the ones we left for him to try were not really crispy anymore. It's such an easy recipe I could easily make it in seconds again, it's originally a Nigella Express recipe with calamari! Just mix 4 tbs semolina with 2 tbs cornflour and 1tsp salt and 1 tsp paprika, in a plastic food bag, and put prawns/calamari/chicken chunks etc in and shake to coat.
I fried them in batches in a karahi, uses less oil than a pan or even a wok, or fryer raw prawns will take a minute, cooked prawns very few seconds, just enough to crisp up.

Meantime I boiled noodles and rinsed with cold water then added them to a wok full of the stir fry pack I cheatedly got in the Big Bad T---- shop. Added rice wine vinegar, soya sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil. Served the prawns separately to keep them crisp.

Saturday afternoon I was really chuffed to be able to use my beloved electric hand mixer to whizz together a banana bread and put it in the oven in the 10 minutes it took Godpapa to get Littl'un ready for her nap. It made the house smell heavenly and she had a good chunk for her post-nap snack. Later we did go to the Crepe Cafe,, it was fab, filling and yum. Staff were excellent and the kids loved watching it all being made fresh in front of us! Daddy and Big'un met us there after their cultural weekend, and it was nice to be all together again.

Sunday morning I was really rather show-off super mummy. I put the lamb and stuff in the slowcooker, had some time over, so whipped up some mini banana muffins (the muffins were mini, not the bananas) to take to share at the Confirmation class after Mass. I forgot the brand new mini muffins can be quite hard to give up their paper cases, and the ones done in the silicon cases were much nicer, I'm thinking I'll get a couple more boxes of the silicon ones and use them to line the muffin tin instead of paper ones. More washing up I guess, but worth it not to waste half the muffin!

I had a bad headache so Godfather No1 made the cous cous and I intercommed him at the wrong moment, so there weren't enough raisins in the couscous, but the finely chopped courgettes were accepted and the pine nuts added a lovely crunchy texture which Littl'un especially adored.

Today I made the left-over baguette bake. Basically I saved the dry hard baguette ends from a couple of lunches, and tried to smash them to small bits and spread them in a baking dish. Then I made a very basic tomato sauce with some finely chopped hidden veg (courgette & carrots in this case) tin of tomatoes, some of a bottle of passata, couple of capsful of red wine vinegar, then poured over the bread and left to soak.
Finally slice and scatter a ball of basics mozzarella, and some nice bouncy spring onions.
Bake til hot, sizzly and bubbly. I served up a grated kohlrabi remolade, basically mixed together a tablespoon of mayo with a couple of teaspoons of mustard and a capful of redwine vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix the grated kohl rabi in well, and enjoy. I love Kohlrabi. This is a nice salad with a change for coleslaw lovers...

Only downside was it was a tad protein low, and early evening, so I got hungry before writing this blog, and Mum-in-law had sent a loaf of seeded homemade breadmaker brownish rye-ish bread home with Big'un, and so I had to have a slice of that just now... Its another vote in the direction of breadmaker buying, if I hadn't just had to spend housekeeping money on new clothes for sudden growth spurt Big'un! *Sigh* start saving up again...

Thursday 14 May 2009

what's on the menu next week?

It is a bit of a complicated menu plan this week, but hold on to your hat and we'll get there..

Daddy and Big'un are going off to Grandma's house on Friday afternoon, Grandma and Grandad are taking Big'un to here on Saturday, so Godpapa and Littl'un and I are going to spend the day together, and we thought we'd head to a tiny place we discovered this week - for an early evening meal for the 3 of us, and if Daddy and Big'un get back in time they can join us too.

If it ends up not possible we'll find food for Littl'un and I'll cook my wonderful quick baked gnocchi standby dish, using a Sainsbury's basics pasta sauce, vacu-pak gnocchi and some blitzed veg and a basics mozzarella ball. No need to boil the gnocchi, just pour sauce into a dish with the gnocchi and bake for about 20-30 mins. I have it booked in later in the week if I don't make it on Saturday. With me so far? Good.

If I've already made it on Saturday, I'll make a Nigella minestrone in minutes (using fresh Nigella, actually nigella is a seed one can cook with, so that's even funnier than I first thought!) Or I'd fry up a bunch of chopped up leftover meat and mix with noodles. Eating with chopsticks is always so much more filling... So here goes:

Saturday: crepe from Crepe Cafe, or gnocchi bake.
Sunday: slow cooked lamb with olives and whatever veg box veg I can hide in there* Served with cous cous
Monday: left over stale baguette ends soaked in tinned tomatoes and baked with cheese and maybe a tin of beans.
kids free-from meal is lamb mince and rice pilaff with veg. Pudding of pink wafer bix and fruit.
Tuesday: pan baked chicken thighs/drums with Frank's Red Hot sauce, potato wedges and roast cherry tomatoes, and whatever green veg replaces chard (shudder) in my box.
Wednesday: Bacon sour, possibly my signature dish, with Ebly (yay!)
Thursday: this is the night for the gnocchi if I didn't make it or minestrone if I did or leftover noodly thingy.
Friday: Thai red salmon curry and rice, maybe brown rice if I can summon up the courage to try again!

Somewhere in there I'm also going to bake at least a banana bread as I bought a reduced bag of basics bananas and 2 were a bit bruised which just screams out banana bread. I also want to fiddle around with the naan recipe to make some sweet fruit flatbreads (yeasted) as I was thinking the naan dough is so nutritious with all the yoghurt and milk etc. I'll probably also whip up a batch of cookies or similar too if I can. Let's see how it goes....

Oh and let's have some more comments here, I wanna hear what you think and what you are all eating!

*veg box this week has the double whammy of aubergines and courgettes which are great for bulking meals but hated by Godpapa. I have to hide them unless he's working the late shift. The kids eat them fine...

the defiant meatball and other suppers

I had a bogof pack of decent sausages in the freezer, so I slit and discarded the skins and rolled each sausage into 3 meatballs, all were beautifully round and it was quite therapeutic to do. However, when I fried them they all sprang back to slightly oval/oblongy clearly a divided third of a sausage! Oh well. Took them out once fried and made a nice quick tomatoey sauce in the pan - fried some chopped onion (from the packet in the freezer) then poured in a tetra of chopped tomatoes with olives from Sainsburys. Added the usuals, splash of already opened wine, green tabasco, etc. Served up with the rest of a packet of linguine, very yum, if more rugby ball than round meatball, oh the defiance of the wretched sausage!

Today I used Vicky Bhogal's wonderful and largely unsung book "Cooking Like Mummyji" to make dry chickpea curry, and I used an amalgam of various different recipes to make naan bread. From scratch! Wonderful. Big'un was off school today, and we did an lil maths lesson weighing out the ingredients, and it was science to explain how the yeast made the bread rise. And utterly divine to eat, and I had some fun on my own experimenting with methods of cooking it. I tried oven on a high heat with a preheated baking tray, and both tawa and grill and tawa and held upside down over flame (I have a special thingy to do this, it's designed for chapatis). I think tawa and grill worked best, but my oven doesn't have a grill inside it, which would have made a difference. I'm sorely tempted by one of these:
but don't think naan would work in it.

Just made my next grocery order and managedto get it £40.25 plus delivery! Very pleased with myself.

Oh and toying with the idea of getting a breadmaker, doing tons of research towards it...

Tuesday 12 May 2009

so the week so far

Well, it's been a revelation! My beautiful nephew's birthday was on Saturday, and we wanted to go spend the day with him in Warwick. In the past we would have got home too close to the kids' bedtimes, they'd be hungry, not want to eat any of the quick things to hand, or we'd have to stop to feed them on the motorway, then get home and put them to bed and then order takeout, and end up eating really late and real rubbish, and spending LOTS of money. THIS time, I put a gammon joint, decent quality, in the slow cooker in the morning, while everyone was getting ready, plonked on top of some carrots, celery, potatoes and onions. Poured a little cider over the veg before adding the gammon and rubbed wholegrain mustard on the top of the gammon and drizzled a little honey over.
By the time we came home it was tender and juicy and could be flaked up with 2 forks, with no effort, utterly delicious. The girls even had big portions, we all stuffed ourselves, and there was still about half the joint left. Had some in sandwiches today, and it was GOOD. Perhaps could have done with soaking the gammon overnight to remove some of the salt tho.

On Sunday I had some reduced price nice mince I'd bought up and frozen, which I made into freefrom Shepherd's Pie for the girls for Monday, as well as a big one for us for that evening, tho I did adulterate the mash for ours once I'd made the little ones... It was great, and left a portion which I can have for lunch tomorrow.

Monday, the girls had the aforementioned pies, I've been informed they are called "Binky Pie" in a certain household as a certain girlie loves Shepherd's Pie so much. Or was is Cottage Pie, I'm never sure... I did a coconutty free-from Apple Crumble for the kids too, note to self, Binky doesn't like apples, especially cooked... But they all loved the crumble, so not a disaster.
However, our supper, the brown rice, was really not at all how I wanted it to go!! I wanted to pressure cook, and I've done brown rice pilaf in the pressure cooker before, and I followed the instructions that were in the book that came with the cooker, and it came out like a sludgey stewey thing, though very tasty! Far too much water, and far too much food in fact! I packed 2 big food tubs to give away to people I knew would enjoy it, and still had more left. No idea what happened, especially since it worked fine the last time... You'd be surprised how hard it is to find instructions on cooking brown rice in a pressure cooker, you'd think it'd be the ideal method, so much quicker...?

Today's risotto, much much more of a success. Got the recipe from the Credit Crunch Cookbook, worked really well. The chicken had frozen and defrosted pleasingly, I'm wary of chicken. I used the other half of the cauliflower I used in the brown rice yesterday, as well as some mixed veg from the freezer, and some cooked peas that were in the fridge too. It was a bit use-up and a bit add new ingredients, and it worked brilliantly and was really quite quick. The girls kept busy while I attended to the risotto with a fab Disney Princess cupcake decorating set, with no nasty colours or sweeteners or preservatives, yet met the standard for girly pinkness required for this kind of activity. They loved it, tho Littl'un initially only ate icing off 2 cakes, but did eventually eat cake once her Dad fed it to her, while she was looking at her fave book of the day - a photo album of her family! Big'un had no difficulty polishing off a cup cake and picked - yes, you got it - Princess Jasmine. They come with a tube of icing to squiggle with, some confetti icing hearts and some rice paper printed placards. Plenty fun, creativity and mess, rang all their bells. And Daddy supervised, and that was MY fave part of it! LOL.

Has anyone else discovered Sainsbury's clotted cream scones? We accidentally bought some (not even "whoopsed"!) and used half each as a base for some rhubarb and strawberry icecream, and Daddy came up with the idea of drizzling double cream on top so it goes hard and "crackable", very very very delicious and very very sinful. Where's that priest gone....?

Oh, I must post about the day out in Warwick, but will do so as a comment later, as it's not strictly budgety, but VERY foodie, and I know some of you are waiting to hear all about it...

busy busy busy sorry!

Hello! Gotta do a quick catch up, and give the info on this week's menu and shopping costs!

So Friday we had our version of a ready meal, because I had myself an evening of fundraising indulgence booked, and food needed to be quick and easy, and perhaps even not made by me, in order to preserve the "mum's having a break" feeling...
We had pre-flavoured salmon fillets (coriander and lime) from the Morrison's fish counter, ready to bake, cooked in my silicon "papillote" dish, and served with new potatoes and purple sprouting brocolli. Very yum. And cooked by Godfather 1. Heh heh. AND I didn't clear up either! The pampering evening was cool, if rather painful in places. Threading of eyebrows? NEVER AGAIN! I'd rather go through childbirth again...

OK, so the menu plan. Shopping was online again, and was around £40 before the delivery charge. We're now getting the Abel and Cole mixed veg box on a Friday, no fruits, so I picked up fruits in Sainsbury's which added about another £7, but I'm just not that keen on the fruit picked by the in-store shoppers, and I prefer Sainsbury's quality, and I'd had to get Tesco grocery delivery due to the time-slot I'd needed for the delivery.

Saturday - Slow cooker gammon with veg
Sunday - Shepherd's Pie
Monday - Brown Rice veg and lentil stew
Tuesday - risotto made with left over chicken frozen from last week.
Wednesday - sausage meatballs with spaghetti and tomato sauce
Thursday -channa (chickpea) curry and naan
Friday - crispy prawn noodle stir-fry

Thursday 7 May 2009

chicken casserole and pizza fun

I sorta slow cooked the chicken in the end cos my naughty priest buddy came over for a cuppa so I quickly fried the seasoned chicken and veg in the pan then sloshed in some Marigold stock and some cider that was lying about and shoved the pan in the oven. Oh I love that pan, from Ikea, non-stick with a glass lid that doubles as an extra dish if I need it to. When I use the oven to slow cook, I seal the meat and then rest it in the lid while I fry the veggies, so all that juice drips straight back into the pan while it cooks. Great!

I put in the Jerusalem artichokes from the box and they went down fine apart from fussy J, tho he did try one. Both girls liked them, and Mr Fussy didn't even notice them!

I did then have to run off into central London to shop for my gorgeous nephew's birthday, so I didn't sit and savour this meal, but it was yum.

Pizza was excellent. I grabbed the recipe from this month's Good Food mag, it was a recipe meant to go with the free veg seeds on the cover, but of course, being me, I adapted it for our tastes and time constraints.

Big'un had lots of fun with making the dough, and arranging the pepperoni, tho she found it actually a bit too spicy for her liking when she came to eat it. On the way home from school she'd asked me what she was having for dinner, so I said "Oh how kind of you to offer to cook dinner" and the game went on from there. At least it wasn't Littl'un's famous dish of "shuga pasta"... Anyway, we did maths with the weighing, and the measuring, and then with dividing the dough, she "helped" me work out how to make 4 pieces easily, and BOY did she get stuck into the kneading and rolling out. These were thin and crispy, and were garlic bread style, rather than with a tomato base. Basically, garlic butter spread onto the base once it's rolled out and then the cheese and meat went onto that. I could have just opened a tin or tetra of tomatoes, I even have one with olives already in it, but I wanted to try it the way the recipe did it, and Big'un is a garlic bread fan, and not so much with the tomato sauce anyway.

I baked 2 at once then the 3rd with the 4th piece turned into dough balls. Fun. And delish. Easy and so hands on, and Big'un ate it even tho she wasn't that into it. Next time I'll prep up some other toppings and let the kids top the pizzas themselves before baking.

Littl'un still not really into her food right now, tho still good with the fruit, so not really worried, think the next canine tooth is shoving its way through and that can't be easy.

Anyway, it was the best bread dough recipe I've done, silky smooth dough and no proving, will be doing it again. Here is the basic dough recipe:

500g strong white flour
7g instant yeast packet
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
Tip these into a bowl.
Add 300ml warm water and stir firmly with a spoon til it comes together.
Knead on a floured surface 2-3 times til it is in a bowl and divide. The recipe suggested dividing into 8, tho I did 4 as I didn't want tiny ones.
Roll out til as thin as you can get, for 8 pieces they suggested each being around 15cm across.

Spread garlic butter on as you like (they made it by adding crushed fresh garlic to soft butter, I used the end of a packet of Lurpak garlic butter.)
Shred some mozzarella and spread over, bake for 12-15 mins and then pile chopped seasoned tomato and basil on top. Or do what I did and have a small person arrange cold meat on top and grate some cheddar or whatever cheese you have lying about on the top and then bake.

We were eye-glintingly naughty and split and buttered our dough balls, tho you could just use them to mop up your lovely fat-free salad dressing...
Either way, enjoy!

Tuesday 5 May 2009

quick beans and speedy mushroom sauce

I knew it had to happen as I'm not always the world's most organised person, and I can be really forgetful too, but my plan to slow cook some beans, ended up going from the ridiculous to the sublime, and I pressure cooked them! So I went from beans that were going to take all day plus overnight (soaking) to cook, to beans that took 25 mins + 1 hr soaking to cook, from dried in both cases so still frugal!

Well the beans were yummy, tho I might use slightly less sugar next time, but the kids loved them too, altho Littl'un seemed to prefer sitting on her Godpapa's lap and eating his beans off his toast with her spoon, rather than eating her own beans with or without her toast!! Ah well, it's better for his waistline I guess...

Big'un vanished her plateful with great enthusiasm, so a hit there too. We had it with a very simple salad, and all felt pretty full and satisfied. Until I mentioned I was intending to use up the 2 stale croissants sitting in their tray in the kitchen by making Nigella Lawson's gorgeous but sinful recipe in Nigella Express. Suddenly everyone had room for pudding. Or found their "pudding tummy" as Big'un refers to it...

The beans recipe is really easy, its from my Prestige pressure cooker book, so can't be reproduced here, but it's a chuck it all in the pot and cook thing, and then I just thickened it by open boiling for a fwe minutes when reheating.

Today we had jacket potatoes with garlicky mushroom sauce and cheese. Godfather No 2 doesn't eat cooked mushrooms, but often used to refer to a mushroom sauce he used to enjoy with jacket spuds (or squds as his sis once texted me, and I love, so I'm keeping) and I'd never had any experience of mushroom sauce so I googled it, and then made one up from the rough idea. He loved it, hubby loved it, (also another mushroom phobic) so I made it again today. It was only after I made it the first time and asked if it was anything like the sauce he'd used to have, that he told me that he wasn't sure cos that one was from a packet!!!

Anyway, here's how I did it:

Roughly break up half a punnet of chestnut mushrooms into a small food processor bowl, pop in a couple of peeled garlic cloves and blitz to a paste, shaking down regularly to make all the bigger bits get whizzed up.

Heat a small saucepan with an ounce of butter and scrape mushroom/garlic mix in and start to fry. Add some freeze dried tarragon and black pepper. Stir and fry and when it smells cooked, no longer that punchy raw garlic smell, take off heat and rapidly stir in a tablespoon of flour.

Slowly add milk, probably about half a pint, a little at a time, beating well between addings, and then return to heat. Add salt and maybe more pepper, and my fave ingredient, green tabasco if liked. Stir well til it thickens. Add a dollop of cream at the end if you fancy.

OK, so it's a white sauce with a pureed mushroom base, but it's good!! And its pretty cheap, an quick and easy, and great with your jacket squd!

Sunday 3 May 2009

lamb carved with a spoon

I didn't chart yesterday's food partly because it's my Mum's complicated recipe for black urad daal with kidney beans, and those recipes are available on the net if people wanna search, and also because I didn't cook it! Godfather No 1 pressure cooked it pretty quickly while I went out shopping with my 7yr old daughter. We all met up at a playground after shopping, and then went home and everyone enjoyed daal, rice and naan breads, even 2yr old littl'un who enjoyed dipping bread in "gravy" or "soup" til we taught her "daal", and she also loved picking out and chomping the kidney beans. Oh and plain white rice with butter. Tons of it.

So today I sprang out of bed and zipped downstairs before getting ready for church. I browned my half shoulder of lamb, which cost under £4, and then plomped it into the slow cooker. Then I added some ground and whole cumin seeds, about a teaspoon of each, about half a teaspoon of garlic granules along with a few peeled but whole garlic cloves, a tin of basics chopped tomatoes, some salt and cracked black pepper, about a third of a tinful of redwine and most of a small tin of pitted black olives. (The rest of the olives got halved and popped in a small tub for a snack for littl'un at church!) Then I covered it, switched it on, and got on with the rest of my day.

10 minutes before serving, oh about 6 or 7 hours later, with a heady lamby savoury aroma in the house, I heated up the fat that had rendered off the shoulder earlier, and added a little more from the slow cooker. Fried up a handful of chopped onion (I used the end of a bag of frozen that I keep there for emergencies) and another teaspoon each of cumin seeds and ground cumin. Then a little shake of dried mint, tho I could have used some shredded fresh mint at the end if I could have been bothered! Next a handful of raisins, and a handful of pine nuts went in, then in with some couscous, 9oz suited us fine, stir it around til all coated, sprinkle of my ubiquitous Marigold powder and pour on 9fl oz water. Switch off and cover. Leave for 5 minutes and fluff up. Served it with the lamb, the juices were gorgeous and delicious, and the meat was so tender I "carved" it with a spoon! Little'un tried the meat, but not mad for it, but I knew she was getting a lot of the goodness of the meat in the gravy and she ate tons of that with her couscous, and she really enjoyed the olives, pine nuts and raisins. The whole table was having to donate raisins from our own plates, and her Godfather was happy to donate most of his olives as he's not a huge fan of that fruit. Big'un loved the meat, gravy, all of it, and she's not the biggest meat eater usually. Clean plates, and contented tummies, so definitely a success and something to make again.

I won't mention the pudding as it was a bought reduced item, and it was scrummy, and I figured out I may well have still been able to make it cheaper, but it was a nice break that way and it was SCRUMMY... But a very frugal, thrifty, delicious dinner it was for us all.

Friday 1 May 2009

salmon cauliflower gratin

Now, I know I'm not alone in not particularly being keen on cooked cauliflower. So getting one in my box usually means eating it raw with dips, or cauliflower cheese.
Today being Friday, we usually eat fish (how very catholic) mainly to help me plan the week's meals. Similarly we eat vegetarian on Mondays, echoing my Hindu father, and this common Hindu practice. Anyway.
I'm not going to explain how to make a white sauce, there are plenty of sites around that will tell and show much better than I could. So I made a white sauce, and as usual I used bits of different types of milk, so that I didn't use any one type up for the morning. Including soya milk. It works very well in cooking, in my opinion.
I pulled apart the cauliflower, and microwaved the florets in a little water. I asked a kind friend to open and sort through a can of pink salmon, the tall size can, not the little one, and he took away the skin and some of the bigger bones. Dog was pretty happy with this, as they went in his bowl.

Right, to assemble. Spread the cauli into a pyrex baking dish. Sprinkle and spread evenly the samlon onto and around the cauli. Shake some tarragon generously onto the top, and since I had it in the fridge to use up, drop dollops of creme fraiche onto these. Season with black pepper if there isn't already plenty in the sauce, but don't use salt as the sauce should have enough, and adding more will make the sauce separate and become watery.

Finally, in whichever order you prefer, top with grated cheese and breadcrumbs.

Place in hot oven (200 deg) til the topping is brown, about half an hour.

I served this with a BIG portion of purple sprouting brocolli, again microwave steamed.
One went back for more, one was full and found it very rich.

Thursday 30 April 2009

melty leeks

I often find I have a lot of leeks in the veg box, and I do throw them into stews, but the kids find them a bit stringy to manage like that, so I like to indulge in the following sometimes as it uses up lots of leeks but cooks down to small portions.

Depending on the size of the leeks, trim the ends off 2-3 leeks, run a slit down the length and chop into discs about half a centimetre thick.

Chuck into a lidded saute pan with a good generous ounce of butter, a spritz of olive oil and a very light sprinkling of salt. You do need the salt even if you don't normally add salt or the leeks don't break down properly. Stir around until the leeks are evenly coated and the butter is melted and cover, turn low, and leave it alone for 20 mins. At least. In my case I went to feed the smallest person and put her to bed. Come back and stir it about a bit and if you want to, add a little more butter. I know, it's decadent, but it's not every day, and it's worth it!
Cover again and leave, again on as low as possible, but keeping an eye on it not to blow out if it's gas. Leave for maybe another 15 mins, or as long as it takes to griddle some gammon, or grill a pork chop, or fry some bacon, or whatever you're having with this.

I also quickly scrubbed and diced a few potatoes, no peeling required, and microwaved them for 5 mins, then tossed in olive oil and a little salt, spread on a baking tray and bunged in a hot (220 deg) oven for the 20-30 mins the leeks took.

The leeks won't hurt being left longer as long as they don't burn, so keep the flame low, and remember you want the skin of the potato cubes to be crispy in places too.

No gravy needed, the leeks are so soft, they are like a sauce.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

broad beans, hooray. A word on lunch.

now those of you reading closely might be wondering what happened to the overlooked broad beans from Monday 27th. Well, here's the answer: lunch!
I tweaked a Sainsbury's feed your family for a fiver recipe card that I'd used in the past, halved the quantities and made a really simple and scrummy broad bean and smoked salmon risotto. It was nowhere near as poncy or expensive as it sounds. I still had some chicken stock in the fridge from what I made from the pot roast carcass, so I used that. The 2 yr old likes smoked salmon so I often buy the Basics pack of trimmings which costs 88p and keep it in the fridge and she has a few spoons for a snack as and when. I used about half a pack, with the broad beans, and yes I had made the offender pod them, and then I made him "de-jacket" them too! A bit of lemon and and handful of the ever ready frozen diced onions and a few minutes of patient stirring, and lunch was gorgeous, filling and yet light and summery too. And certainly a change from reheating last night's dinner. Lunch has been my budgeting downfall for the past 3 years ish. For some reason during my pregnancy I found myself unable to eat left-overs at all. I've never been a fan of sandwiches, so I found I had to find something altoether different to eat at lunchtime. Add to that the fact I couldn't even vaguely cook or prepare food for about 8 months due to violent pregnancy sickness, and we're looking at take aways, rice pouches, packets of noodles, and lots of scrambles on toast.
Lunches must be budgeted for. Be realistic about what you will or won't eat. My hubby has never liked eating left overs. Taking left over soup or stew to work in a tiffin box is never going to be his thing, but many years ago I used to pack him a lunch box and he was happy with that, he's quite a breadaholic anyway. As I said earlier, I get very anti-sandwich, so I'm normally the one zapping the pasta or stew in the microwave and scarffing it down in delight. If we have people over for dinner, I often don't eat much, so then I do like to have my portion the next day at lunch. When I was a teenager I was also well known for having my portion the next day for BREAKFAST. Especially my mum's kofta curry and spiced basmati rice, both Madhur Jaffrey recipes. These days I stick to no added sugar/salt muesli, but I will do a breakfast post at some point. The point is don't just menu plan the evening meals, or you will go hungry and you will snack/buy junk/be tempted to eat out or order it, but be realistic with what you plan.

next week

I've just done my shopping online and it came to just under £49 including the delivery!! Well done me!! Our box delivery company is leaving us a bit in the lurch this week as they are changing our delivery day, so we'll go a slightly longer time between deliveries.

I'm just gonna blog the menu plan for the week right now, and I'll try and post recipes on the day of cooking, or soon after.

Saturday 2nd May: black daal - Panjabi style with kidney beans, served with rice and naans.

Sunday 3rd May: slowcooker day -lamb with olives and tinned tomatoes served with pine nut and raisin cous cous and some veg, perhaps a purple sprouting broc.

May the Fourth Be With You: gonna pop some soaked haricot beans in the slow cooker in the morning with some tinned toms and other good stuff and have home made beans on toast in the evening. With some salad.

Tuesday 5th May: jacket potatoes with mushroom sauce. My housemate doesn't eat mushrooms but he always said he loved mushroom sauce. I decided to make it a couple of weeks ago, with no real idea of what I was aiming for, showed him the finished product and asked naively "how do you usually make it?" His reply: "Dunno, it's out of a packet.". He LOVED my homemade version. Will probably use some of the previously mentioned red cabbage left with some of the endless carrots and make a slaw. Heck I might even make the mayo for the slaw!

Wednesday 6th May: chicken thighs stewed (maybe acutally on the hob this time) with sweet potoatoes, non-sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and some more of those carrots. Maybe some of the dry cider we don't like drinking.

Thursday 7th May: saw a recipe in Good Food magazine for quick to make garlicky pizza breads, with tomato sauce. Felt I wanted to add a little meat so bought a pack of pepperoni. M 7yr old adores garlic bread, so should love this. Might even get them both making the bread. I just love the smell of garlic and butter on a toddler. She had spring onion breath yesterday!

Friday 8th May: something quick and easy as there's a Ladies Indulgence Evening at school and I HAVE to go... some pre-flavoured salmon fillets which are on offer with some boiled new pots and something from the veg box that should arrive in the day. Bit of a cheat this one with regard to the shopping bill, as one pack of salmon is in the freezer, and housemate is a fishmonger so will pick up another pack in the week.

this week

my week runs from Saturday to Friday, I often cook something more time consuming on the weekend and use left overs in the week, so I tend to shop on the weekend too.
Here's the plan for the week we're in currently.

Sat 25th April: pot roast chicken using leeks, carrots and potatoes from veg box, Sainsbury's basics whole fresh chicken. Use chicken carcass to make stock and keep left over meat and veg for later in the week.

Sun 26th April: use up 2 small pots of leftover sauce, cook one big pan of Basics penne pasta. Also use very tired looking lettuce from veg box and a serving of frozen peas and 3 left over rashers of Basics middle bacon to make a braised lettuce and pea with bacon "sauce" so that we have a choice of 3 pasta toppings.

Monday 27th April: broad bean and pea creamy wholewheat pasta from the Tesco Healthy Living booklet. Except housemate can't find broad beans and uses frozen sliced beans instead. I wasn't cooking cos I was helping out at Brownies having already fed my 7yr old and her multi-allergic best friend before hand. That's a WHOLE other blog! Anyway, it still tastes fine, but I have to find something else to do with those broad beans now...

Tuesday 28th April: chicken noodle soup. Using that stock made on the weekend, and yes, I did save carrot peel and celery tops to put in with the carcass. Also diced up all the leftover pot roast veg, some more veg and about half of the left over chicken. Freeze rest of chicken to use in a couple of weeks' time. Very amusing watching a 2 yr old eat noodles.

Wednesday 29th April: Basics pork chops which I saw reduced a couple of weeks ago and grabbed to shove in freezer. Defrosted overnight and then put in slowcooker along with half a red cabbage from veg box, half a pear 2yr old didn't eat, a couple of somewhat manky apples no one would otherwise eat, some wrinkly potatoes with their sprouts rubbed off, a teaspoon or so of brown sugar, a mugful of dry cider (it was the one on offer) and some salt.

Thursday 30th April (ok, so I haven't cooked these yet from here) : gammon steaks from the freezer which I bought a few weeks ago, got 2 packets of 2 on a BOGOF. Cooked 1 pack the same week I bought them and put this 1 in freezer. Gonna just pan fry or griddle it with some slowly cooked in butter leeks. No more no less, simple but yum.

Friday 1st May : cauliflower (from veg box) cheese with tinned salmon flaked through. With purple sprouting broccoli on the side, again from veg box.

a weekly challenge

like many people, I recently realised I had to get my weekly shop down in price, and when I looked around for advice and tips on how to achieve this, I found most of the usual suggestions were for things I already did. I've planned my weekly menu since I first started cooking for myself at uni, and I still have all the books of weekly plans since then! I've always aimed for at least one veggie meal a week, and one fish meal a week, and tried to mix and match the meats and carbs and accompaniments the rest of the time, and I've always been careful with BOGOFs and known to look in the reduced fridge at the end of the shopping day.
I've always made a list and stuck relatively strictly to it, and I've always read cookery books and magazines looking for more ways to save, and for inspiring ideas.
I've recently discovered the slow-cooker, and I've always used a pressure cooker and microwave, as these save time and money also. We've had a veg box delivered for a number of years now, and I've learned lots of ways to use up stuff at the bottom of the crisper.
So I wanted to get MORE ideas, and a few months ago I sent an email to some of my friends asking them to give me a sample week's menu to see if it would inspire or help me. Almost everyone replied, and I was delighted by the quick and happy responses. Most of them felt the way I did, and everyone was keen to share recipes and suggestions. I picked up quite a few tips and it occurred to me that maybe my friends would benefit from each others tips as well as my own, so I forwarded each email to the other people I'd asked if they were interested and some people were intrigued.
So it turned out I'd been menu planning long before some of my friends but had fallen into a bit of a rut, perhaps because some of the adults in my house are fussy eaters (the kids eat fabulously unfussily!) so I decided I'd blog my menus and share them. Anyone who knows me will understand why I didn't start the blog then and there, but now I've set myself a budget challenge and I have to stick to it, I've got the motivation I need to blog it too.
For the past few weeks I've aimed to spend under £50 on the weekly supermarket shop, bearing in mind its not all food, and I'm feeding 3 adults and 2 children each day, plus an extra adult most weekends, plus lunches for 2-3 adults and one of the children too!
I'm delighted to say I've managed it almost every week since I started and I thought it about time I started sharing the love!!! I must add the caveat that I do have a veg box delivered too, and that's roughly another tenner, and I'm a bit spoilt as one of the girls' Godparents pays for that, to benefit her, and as a contribution as he spends a lot of days and mealtimes with us, and he's generally sweet and likes to help out. I still think it's a pretty good budget, but getting it even lower is the next challenge!
Please feel free to comment and share budgeting cooking tips with me too!