From the kitchen


Got to share tonight’s tea with you! I don’t usually go in for food sharing online, but this is one of the easiest, tastiest, inexpensive meals I’ve made for such a long time and it is definitely worth showing you.

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Baby potatoes with olive oil, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and chicken breasts bashed out flat with a dollop of garlic and herb cream cheese in the middles, rolled up and held in place by stretched out strips of smoked bacon.

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Chopped up green peppers, yellow peppers, red onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes tossed in olive oil with a hint of salt and a squeeze of lemon.

I sealed off the chicken bundles in the frying pan with some butter and sage leaves so the bacon started to go crispy then transferred them to the oven in a roasting tray.

The small potatoes went in another roasting tray, and the vegetables went in when the chicken and potatoes were partially done.

And this is the result:

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Washed down with a nice glass of red wine, this has got to be the best dinner we’ve had since Christmas. Estimated cost of each plate – £4.50. Miles better than a carvery dinner!

 

 

Pork and Peppers


Got to share this with you! We had this for tea tonight and it was gorgeous.

Literally. I could have gorged myself on it! Apologies for the messy plate but I was too keen to get stuck in.DSC_0583

Ingredients:

2 x pork loin steaks (£4 for 6 at Asda, cost for this meal approx £1.33)

1 each of red, yellow and greenpeppers (99p for 3 at Tesco and Asda)

200g mushrooms (£1.37 for 650g from Asda, cost for this meal approx 45p)

1 onion, sliced (approx 20p)

2 portions of fine egg noodles (Sharwoods used tonight, cost for this meal approx 50p)

1 chicken stockcube (I use Knorr stock pots, cost around 25p each)

Smoked paprika, olive oil, garlic powder and lemon juice (combined cost no more than approx 50p)

(TOTAL COST = £4.25 approx, giving 2 generous portions)

Method:

1. Slice peppers, onions, pork steaks and mushrooms into strips.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add a teaspoon of smoked paprika and about half a teaspoon of garlic powder (use fresh if you prefer).

3. Add the pork and after a couple of minutes add the onions, peppers and mushrooms. Stir it all round until all the paprika juices coat everything.

4. Make half a pint of chicken stock (I just put a stockpot into a mug and topped it up with boiling water). Add to the frying pan and give it a good stir.

5. It will need to simmer for about 15 minutes or so to give the stock chance to reduce slightly and for all the pork and peppers to soften and cook properly.

6. While that’s doing put a large pan of salted, boiling water on and cook the noodles according to the pack instructions. I used dried fine egg noodles and they only took 3 minutes to cook.

7. Taste the gravy round the pork and the peppers and add lemon juice, salt and pepper as required.

8. Drain the noodles and divide between two dishes. Add the pepper and pork mixture on top (share it if you must!) and dig in.

I was thinking as I cooked this one tonight that if I did it up to the adding the stock stage, this would do very nicely as a filling for tortilla wraps. Just add a bit of sour cream to the wrap and Bob’s your uncle, as they say. Nice!

 

 

Bulgar Wheat Salad and Chicken


I had a yearning for something fresh and tasty for tea tonight so I decided on making one of our family’s favourite summer dishes of bulgar wheat salad with chicken drumsticks.

If you fancy doing the same, here’s how:

Take a 500g pack of bulgar wheat (£1) and put it in a bowl. Mix up about half a pint of chicken stock (you could use vegetable stock or plain water if you prefer) and pour it over the bulgar wheat so that it covers it by about 1cm (don’t worry, it will all work out I promise!). Cover the bowl with a clean tea-towel and set it aside to absorb.

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While that is doing, chop up 300g cherry tomatoes (90p) and a cucumber (90p) into little diced pieces and add them to the bowl when most of the liquid has been absorbed by the bulgar wheat (about 10-15 minutes or so). Chop up a bunch of mint (85p) and add that too. If you can get hold of a bunch of coriander add that, but the supermarket didn’t have any today so I made do with a squeeze of “lazy coriander” out of a tube which did just as well as the fresh stuff would have done. You can leave it out if you don’t like it, but we like things a little earthy and spicy so I added some for my boys today.

DSC_0332Now comes the juicy bit! Slosh on a drizzle of olive oil and add plenty of lemon juice. I used the supermarket’s own brand bottled lemon juice (50p for a 250ml bottle, but will last for months) and season with salt.

Give it all a good mix and taste it to see if the lemon juice/salt needs adjusting. Set it aside to let all the juices and flavours develop while you cook the chicken.

DSC_0334The chicken is really simple: Take a pack of chicken drumsticks (today I got 7 in a pack which cost me £1.98) and put in a bowl. Sprinkle over a sachet of Nando’s chicken rub (95p….and other chicken seasoning sachets are available!) and put them in the oven, approx 190/Gas 7 until the juices run clear when you pierce the thickest part – approx 25 mins.

Serve with crusty rolls if required – which I forgot because the smell of the chicken cooking was driving us all mad it was so nice! I just wanted to get it out on the plate and on my fork so forgot all about the bread rolls oops.

DSC_0335This amount of food served three of us easily. Half of the bulgar wheat salad is in the fridge for lunches tomorrow and we shared the drumsticks between us with no leftovers.

Total cost of all prepared food = approx £6

Cost of meal = approx £4 (with £2 left for tomorrow)

Cost per portion = approx £1.35

It is a low cost, healthy and tasty dinner that is really simple to make and can be adapted to suit your own tastes. Why not try it with chunks of Feta cheese and olives through it? Or serve the bulgar wheat with other meats, perhaps with a barbecue. You could even substitute the bulgar wheat for cous cous if you don’t like the slighty nutty taste. My preference for this flavour combinations is the bulgar wheat, but why not have a go yourself and let me know what you think? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

Budget Gourmet – Sausage Casserole


You know when you want something tasty and filling but there’s not a lot in the cupboard? Well, try this one for size. It will feed four healthy appetites, and can stretch easily:

  • 8 sausages, any flavour
  • a chopped onion
  • a tin of baked beans
  • a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tins of new potatoes
  • chicken stock cube
  • a little water
  • seasoning to your own taste (salt, pepper etc)
Nice portion of sausage casserole....delish!!
Nice portion of sausage casserole….delish!!

 

  1. Cut the sausages into bite-sized chunks; dice the onion.
  2. Fry the sausages in a bit of oil (or butter, or margarine) until browned a little, add the onion and fry til softened.
  3. Add the beans, tomatoes and potatoes.
  4. Add the chicken stock cube dissolved in a little water (I usually put the stock cube and water into the bean tin to rinse it out so I kill two birds with one stone).
  5. Season to taste – depending on the sausages you used and the saltiness of the beans you might not want to add any extra salt.
  6. Simmer until the sausage pieces are cooked through and the potatoes are hot in the middle (usually about another 10 or 15 minutes). The longer you let it simmer the thicker the sauce will become as the beans start to break down. You might want to add a little bit more water if it gets too stodgy for your taste.
  7. Serve with bread and butter.

Options:

  1. Flavour will change with whichever sausages you use. I used Italian ones tonight which have garlic and chilli in them already, but I’ve used plain pork before now and added garlic and chilli powder at the frying stage.
  2. This recipe easily stretches to feed more if you need to – just add more sausages, another tin of beans or tomatoes, or more potatoes if you have them.
  3. You can omit the tinned potatoes and serve the casserole instead with mashed potatoes or rice. I haven’t tried it with pasta shells yet but I probably will do as and when the need arises. You will need shells so as to catch all the juices.
  4. Optional extras: you could add chopped courgettes, mushrooms or chopped peppers to this, or use leeks instead of onions. It’s a lovely versatile recipe and is a winner with my hungry lot.

It is difficult to price this recipe because so many of the ingredients are variable, but as a guideline if you use “standard” ingredients you could make this for around a fiver if you use Richmond sausages and supermarket own brand beans, tomatoes and potatoes.

Enjoy!

 

 

Red Soup


Got to share this with you – we have just had the supper to die for!!

Red Soup:

4 over-ripe and otherwise non-usable red peppers

3 smallish red onions

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

1 litre of stock

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1. Chop the peppers into large chunks; cut the red onions into quarters and then each one into half. Place into a roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic granules (or the real deal if you have some).

2. Put into the oven at about 200 degrees C for 20 minutes until softened and the juices start to run.

3. Roughly cut up the softened peppers and place the whole lot (including juices in the pan) into a large pan. Add two tins of chopped tomatoes, 1 litre of stock made up with one vegetable stock cube and one chicken stock cube and season with salt and pepper to suit your own taste.

4. Bring it back to the boil and simmer gently for around 5 minutes then blend until extremely smooth. (I used my “wand” to do this).

5. Serve and enjoy.

We had a cheese topped roll with this tonight and it was absolutely gorgeous. Nicely filling without being overly stuffy and very, VERY tasty.

This amount served three of us with a decent sized bowlful, and there was enough left over to freeze another couple of portions. Well, there would have been had the boys not leaped up and helped themselves to seconds!!

Please try my soup for yourselves – please let me know how you get on.

 

Sunday Satisfyer


I bet that’s got you thinking hasn’t it?! Haha!!

What I want to share with you today is the meal we had tonight after a superb afternoon making music in Todmorden Park.

As you might already know I am the conductor of Todmorden Community Band, and we were playing in Todmorden Park this afternoon. We had a great time and the audience seemed to enjoy listening to our music as much as we enjoyed playing it for them.

We played from 3pm until about 5pm, so by the time we got home (after a journey of about three quarters of an hour) we were all hungry monkeys and were needing our tea. We didn’t have much in so I pulled out one of my store-cupboard favourites.

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It doesn’t have a name but we know it as “that cheesy, bacon-y, pasta-y thing”, and it’s a doddle to make.

Take a pack of smoked bacon from the freezer and set to defrost in the microwave (or, as in my case, defrost it and then let half of it partially cook on the outside and leave the centre frozen solid). Boil up a huge pan of salted water for about 400g of pasta shells to feed 5 with a generous portion (or, as in my case, half a 1kg bag of pasta because I forgot it was twice the usual size and tipped far too much into the pan).

When the bacon has defrosted/partially cooked/stayed frozen in the centre cut it up into bite size pieces and fry up with the remains of a bag of mushrooms that you’ve found in the bottom of the fridge and forgotten about all week.

Bear with me, it’s far more tasty than it seems!

Leave it in the pan while you make up a pan of cheese sauce. Dead easy, especially if you follow my fail-safe method.

Ad a big slice of butter into a saucepan (the chefs will tell you 1oz of butter to 1oz of flour, but my method is far more reliable….trust me). When it has melted gently, add a tablespoon of plain flour and whisk it together. This next bit is vital – if it’s too runny or sloppy add a bit more flour, if it’s like biscuit crumbs add a bit more butter and let it melt in.

When you’re happy with the texture (it should look a bit like a dry cake batter), leave it to cook a bit until it smells like biscuits. Add milk a little at a time, whisking in between and leaving it to come back to heat. When you’ve got it to the consistency of single cream let it come fully back to heat and whisk it now and again so you can judge whether it’s thickening up or not.

Add a bowlful of grated cheese – I used Cheddar and a bit of Red Leicester today because…well you can guess can’t you?! Stir it in and season to taste.

It will need at least salt and pepper (careful with the salt depending on how salty your cheese and your bacon is) and I always add about a teaspoon of dried mustard powder for a bit of a kick.

Drain your pasta, put it into an oven proof dish with the bacon and mushrooms and mix it up gently with a couple of spoons. Pour your cheese sauce over the top and mix it again to make sure all the pasta is coated.

This is the tasty bit – add a crunchy topping to suit whatever you’ve got in the cupboard and fridge. Sometimes I’ll slice a couple of tomatoes and place those on top and then add a bit more grated cheese, and other times I’ll grate some Parmesan cheese and mix it with some breadcrumbs to sprinkle over the top. Tonight’s topping was a cracker – two packets of cheese and onion crisps, crushed and mixed with half a bowlful of Red Leicester. Tasty!!

Put the whole thing in the oven until your sauce is bubbling up again and the topping is either melted or crispy to your liking. I left mine in for 12 minutes tonight and it was superb. It might take longer if your pasta has gone cold while you make your sauce so keep an eye out. Just make sure that the sauce is bubbling up the sides and you won’t go wrong.

It took me about 45 minutes or so tonight, but I was chatting to Emma and Sam as I was cooking and Emma helped by grating me the cheese as I did the bacon and mushrooms. It took about 45 seconds to demolish the lot though!!

If you try my recipe please let me know. And if you can think of a suitable title for this dish I’d love to hear from you too.

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Just the thing for a post-concert rainy Sunday evening.

Bon appetit!

 

 

Winter Warmer


Here’s my recipe for my bacon and lentil broth that we had for our tea tonight. It’s a real winter warmer and is a firm family favourite in this house!

Ingredients:

  • 250g red lentils
  • 6 thick rashers of smoked back bacon (or 8 rashers if you can’t get thick sliced)
  • An onion
  • 2 or 3 sticks of celery
  • 2 or 3 carrots
  • 3 pints of chicken stock (made up with stock cube/bullion cube of your choice)
  • a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Smoked paprika (or just normal paprika if you can’t get it)

Method:

  1. Put the lentils into a jug or a bowl and cover them with cold water. Leave them to soak for about an hour. You can leave them for longer than that, but the longer you leave them, the more mushier they’ll be in the broth.
  2. Chop the bacon, onion, celery and carrots into small pieces. I’m sure there’s a cheffy term for it, but have a look at my photo for the size I mean!
  3. Heat a little oil in a big pot. Don’t get it too hot, you don’t want your veggies to burn.
  4. Put the onion, celery and carrot into the warmed oil and let them sweat for about 5 mins. Again, you can do it longer if you want but bear in mind that you are going to simmer your soup for an hour or so and if you let them go too soft at this stage you’ll have less texture in your finished soup.
  5. Add the bacon and let it it cook for 4 or 5 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle paprika into the pot – I don’t know how much I use, I just cover the top of the veggies until it looks enough. Have a look at the picture to see how much I use.
  7. Stir everything round so the flavoured juices are covering all of the veggies and the bacon.
  8. Drain the lentils and add them to the pot.
  9. Stir them right in, covering them all in the flavoured juice.
  10. Add the stock and the tomatoes – gently – and make sure everything is well mixed in.
  11. Leave it to simmer for 45 mins or so. Check the seasoning (the bacon can vary hugely in how salty it is, and the paprika will add its own flavour too). If you need to, add a little salt and some pepper. Test how done the veggies are, simmer for a little longer if needed, and when you’re happy with the texture of them you can serve it.
  12. Enjoy it with a couple of slices of crusty bread or a crusty roll and a glass of something warming.

 

 

Monday curiosity


I borrowed this from Curious as a Cat (see my blogroll for the link). A bit different for a Monday morning.

1) Do you know any recipes by heart? If so, write one down off the top of your head.
I know how to make plenty of “family dishes” but until I came across this question I hadn’t really thought of them as recipes.  I guess my favourite at the minute is Cauliflower Cheese so I will share it with you here: Take off the outer leaves from the cauliflower head and break it up into florets (or buy a pack of cauliflower florets already prepared). Put them in a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender. I prefer my cauliflower to be slightly firm so it breaks up nice in my mouth. I don’t like it to be too mushy (yuk!). When it’s ready drain the pan and leave the cauliflower in it whilst you make the sauce (as it stands it will lose steam and therefore dry out a bit).  Take a knob of butter (approx 1oz but I never measure it), melt it in a saucepan and add a tablespoon of plain flour (again, probably about an ounce but I don’t measure it). Stir it in quickly so the melted butter absorbs the flour. Mash it round the pan a bit to cook it and when it starts to smell like biscuits add a splash of milk. Mix and mix until it’s smooth and add more milk. Repeat the mix and milk stage until you’ve used about half a pint of milk and mix it til there are no more lumps (I sometimes use a whisk depending how impatient I am). Let it simmer for a couple of minutes and it should be the consistency of thick cream. Season it with salt, pepper, mustard powder (if you wish) and thrown in a handful (or two) of grated cheese. Check the seasoning and taste and adjust it as necessary. You can use any cheese – cheddar is good because it melts easily, but you can use any old bits of cheese sitting in the fridge to use them up. Put the cauliflower in a shallow dish, cover with the cheese sauce, sprinkle the top with a bit more grated cheese if you wish and put it under the grill to finish off. I like the bits of stringy cheese on top when it’s melted again and gone brown. We have it as a side dish with a roast dinner, or with fish, or sausages, or with a jacket potato…..delish!!!

2) Of the people you know, who has the best style? My sister-in-law Debbie. She always looks elegant and comfortable no matter what she wears. She has lovely hair, wears lovely clothes, keeps a beautiful home and is so cool and laid back she’s an inspiration.

3) If you could be any book character, who would it be? I would be one of Temperence Brennan’s lab assistants. I love archaeology and am fascinated with the way humans have evolved so to work with her would be fantastic.
4) Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.

This reminds me of Oxford for some reason. It looks nothing like any of the spires of Oxford at all, but it does bring to mind its skyline. It also looks like the top of a fairytale carriage – Prince Charming would look fantastic sat underneath this roof!

 

If you use this post as a basis for your own please link back to mine and leave a comment so I can read/compare your answers. Thanks!!