Friday, 28 September 2012

Sorry - will a cake make it right?

Looks like I need to get a bit more focussed if this blogging lark is going to go to plan. A+ for effort, scheduling the blog posts in advance, big fat F for execution forgetting to finish them before they went live. They have now been fully updated, and I urge you to give them another read - the mushroom tart especially is so simple and tasty, quicker to stick in the oven from frozen after a long day at work than a chilled ready meal, you really can't go wrong.

Normal blogging service will resume on Monday, we're just getting over a few days in hospital for Pea, and I'm lousy with a cold myself at the moment, no interest in food unless it is of the ice-cream variety.

Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Mushroom & borlotti bean stew

He who must be fed has very traditional tastes, he would describe his preferred diet as very Irish, favouring meat and spuds soaked in an indeterminate brown. Vegetables should come from a hole deep underground never any kind of bush or overground situation, that's just wrong. He'd never eaten a mushroom when I met him at the ripe old age of 22. This recipe is a combination of the traditional stews he loves for our current budget and waistlines, more veg, more nutrients, no meat. I'm happy to say his palate loved mushrooms.


1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
3 leeks, sliced
4 celery sticks, sliced
300g chestnut or button mushrooms
30g dried mushrooms, soaked for 30mins in warm water
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 x 400g tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp plain flour
small glass red wine
600ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp soy sauce
100g kale

Serves: 4 generously
Cost per portion: £1.34
Nutrition: 363 calories, 35g carbs, 14g protein

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, carrots, leeks, celery and fresh fresh mushrooms, cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Add to the pan the garlic, a generous spring (or about a teaspoon of dried) of thyme, stir, then add the borlotti beans. Take the dried mushrooms from their water (do not throw away - this stuff is gold for flavour), tear any that are too large and add to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes.

Sprinkle over the flour, stir through, then add the wine and soy sauce. Pour in the reserved mushroom water making sure not to add the gritty bits in the bottom of the bowl. Bring to the boil and add the stock.

Leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes, then add the kale. Stir through and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve, I like it with crusty bread but He Who Must Be Fed has infinitely more experience of stews than me and he declared this mash-worthy. That's me told.

This is another one which freezes well and is packed with flavour. A gorgeous combination of comfort food and health food in one bowl.

Garlic mushroom tart

This is my version of fast food - easy to prepare in advance and just thrown in the oven from frozen when required - the ideal on a Friday night after a long week at work. I absolutely love garlic mushrooms, this is a fab way of making them into a main course. Lovely with a rocket salad.


375g block puff pastry
flour, for dusting
25g butter
300g mixed wild mushrooms or mix of wild and chestnut, cleaned and sliced
25g Parmesan (or vegetarian alternative), finely grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 egg , beaten

Serves: 4
Cost per portion: £0.78
Nutrition: 473 calories, 39g carbs, 12g protein

Roll the pastry out on a floured surface and cut out 4 circles, a saucer is about the right size. Leave to chill on a lined baking tray in the fridge.

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

Heat a large frying pan until hot, then add the butter and a dribble of oil and fry the mushrooms for 5 mins until there is no liquid left in the pan.

Season, then take off the heat and mix mushrooms with the Parmesan and garlic.

Score a 1cm border around the edge of each tart, then place in the oven for 8 minutes to blind bake.

Remove from the oven and spoon the mushrooms into the centre circle. Tarts can be frozen at this point for cooking later if required.

Brush the edge with beaten egg or milk, then bake the tarts for 8-12 mins until puffed up and golden. Serve immediately.

To cook from frozen these take around 12 minutes but do not gain as much puff.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Parmesan, bacon, leek and potato gratin

This recipe is adapted from Rose Elliot's latest Vegetarian cookbook 30-Minute Vegetarian. I can't say I'd used any of her books before so I was interested to see what she came up with. The recipes I've tried have all been very easy to follow, inexpensive and quick as the title suggests. However I have found a few of them lacking in flavour and in need of some herbs at the least. So in this I've added some garlic and thyme (I used lemon thyme but any you have around will do the job), and then I also completely destroyed the vegetarian aspect by throwing in some bacon that was nearing it's expiry date and I hate waste. It would have been lovely without, but with it felt like the decadence of a carbonara muddled in with the comfort factor of mashed potato. Bliss!

I know it's not the best in terms of calories, but it's not bad to be honest, and some days I watch what I eat a little too closely and come in a few hundred short, so I figure a nice filling meal is better than sneeking in a glass of vino or (even more) dark chocolate.

I used a dish that was too big here, a large roasting dish. Something more like a casserole pot or very deep brownie tin would be much better. Reheats well, freezes well, batch cooks well, prepares in advance for sticking in the oven when needed.... can't really go wrong.

1.5 kg peeled potatoes cut into 1cm deep slices
400g trimmed leeks, sliced
100g parmesan or grana padano
200ml double cream
4 rashers bacon (optional)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt & pepper
Fresh or frozen thyme, around 1tsp

Serves: 4
Cost per portion: £0.98(excluding bacon, £0.25 more per portion including bacon)
Nutrition: 576 calories, 27g carbs, 16g protein

Put the potatoes on to boil for 15 minutes.

In a frying pan fry the leeks and bacon in a little oil over a medium-low heat. When leeks are softened and bacon is cooked through add the garlic and stir. Remove from the heat and add the cream, thyme, half the parmesan and salt & pepper. Set aside.

Turn grill to a high heat if cooking immediately. Heat oven to 180C if cooking from chilled.

When potatoes are cooked layer half in the base of a large casserole dish (at least 4" deep).

Pour over the leek and bacon mixture.

Layer the remaining potatoes on top. Sprinkle over the remaining parmesan.

If making ahead: chill until required then bake at 180C for 20-25mins.

If making for immediate consumption: Place under the grill for 10-12minutes until parmesan is golden and the edges of the potatoes are slightly crisp.

Serve with vegetables (I liked it with kale) and enjoy.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Monday, 17 September 2012

Roasted sweet potato couscous with lime & coriander

'Oooh, is that pudding?' was not quite the reaction I expected when he who must be fed spied this dish simmering away. After carefully explaining the name, he pondered for a moment before declaring 'nope, it has limes in, it must be pudding'. I despair sometimes.

We both really enjoyed this meal, a great summer to autumn transition. The sweet potatoes add some bite and variety, while the lime and coriander keep it feeling remarkably light. It's incredibly quick and easy, and at under 300 calories for substantial portion you can't really complain. It heats from chilled in the microwave in 2 minutes, and can be frozen too, so makes a good batch cook packed lunch meal. The biggest single cost really was the coriander, if you have some growing already or get a plant and pot it outside to use again that will cut down considerably each time you remake.


600g sweet potatoes, washed and chopped into 2cm chunks
1 tbsp olive oil
500ml bouillon or vegetable stock
250g couscous
1 lime, finely zested and juiced
1 large or 2 small red onions, finely chopped
10g fresh coriander, finely chopped (most of a small plant)

Serves: 4
Cost per portion: £0.73
Nutrition: 278 calories, 51g carbs, 7g protein, 5g fat

Toss the sweet potatoes in the olive oil, tip onto a roasting tray and bake for 30mins at 200C, giving a turn or good shake halfway through.

Bring stock to the boil, and after the shake of the potatoes pour over the couscous. Leave to stand for 15minutes.

Very finely chop the onions, and fry over a low heat for around 5 minutes until soft.

Grate and juice the lime into a large bowl. Add the chopped coriander.

When ready tip the sweet potatoes into the lime and coriander mix, shake well to coat. Add the couscous and onion to the bowl, stir well and plate up to serve.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Week 1 shopping list & menu plan

2 Borlotti Beans In Water £0.78
1 Brown Basmati Rice £1.68
1 Cabbage Sliced Curly Kale £0.94
1.0 kg Carrots £0.78
1 Celery £0.89
1 Chicken Breast Fillets Skinless £3.70
1 50% Fruit High Juice No Added Sugar Citrus Mint £1.49
1 Fresh Cream Double £1.50
2 Fresh Milk Semi Skimmed £2.00
1 Great Stuff Apple & Apricot Snack Pack £0.50
1 Great Stuff Pineapple Lolly £0.50
1 Great Stuff Snack Pack Apple & Grapes £0.44
1 Great Stuff Snack Pack Apple & Pear £0.50
1 Growing Coriander £0.76
1 High Juice Citrus (No Added Sugar) £1.49
1 High Juice Florida Orange (No Added Sugar) £1.49
1 Leeks Trimmed £1.00
1 Lime £0.27
1 Mushrooms Chestnut £0.98
0.1 kg Onions £0.09
2 Pineapple Chunks In Juice £0.86
0.2 kg Root Ginger Piece £0.42
1 Smartprice Natural Yogurt Low Fat £0.55
1 Smartprice Onions £1.17
1 Smartprice Peppers £1.37
1 Strawberries £1.50
0.6 kg Sweet Potatoes £0.77
2 White Potatoes £2.00
1 Wholefoods Cous Cous £1.35
1 Easy Bakery White Part Baked Baguette £0.78
1 Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder £1.78
1 Scotty Brand Strawberries £1.50

Total = £35.83

I'm quite pleased to be honest, I have some fruit for snacks and treats, I've got a few store cupboard staples, and stocked up on squash. I know for most people the 50p snack packs of fruit aren't great value, however I think 5 packs for £1.50 is good value given I could only get a bag of apples or a pineapple or grapes for that, this way I get a bit of variety.

Now, the important bit - what are all these things making?

Roasted sweet potato couscous with lime and coriander
Chicken korma
Sweet and sour chicken
Potato leek gratin
Pasta with lentil bolognaise
Egyptian rice
Borlotti Bean and mushroom stew

If a recipe isn't much cop, I'll let you know, if it's worth making I'll post it in detail. All these recipes make 4+ portions, leaving plenty leftover to freeze for lunches another day. All the meals are planned to be under 500 calories, making shifting a few pounds hopefully effortless. The curry and Chinese are also a punt at a low fat low calorie version of favourites, so we'll see how they turn out compared to the real deal.