Welcome to my blog!

Savvy shopping, seasonal eating and thrifty recipes. Spend less on groceries and enjoy better tasting, easy to prepare meals your friends and family will love – all on a budget.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Feed a Family of Five for £50 Vegetarian Meal Plan - Great for School Holidays

You may remember that we tried out the Sainsbury's Feed Your Family For Fifty Meal Plan and I blogged about it. I thought the plan was a tad austere, we did missed baked treats and didn't like the supermarket bread because I normally bake my own. However, that meal plan inspired me to compile this one. It is almost the same price but is a vegetarian plan and there are more elaborate lunch options, some baked treats, and enough supplies for 2 large rice puddings.

You could make this Meal Plan even cheaper by having just sandwiches instead of the more elaborate lunch options.  Also, please bear in mind, I am NOT a nutritionist.  Please seek advice from a dietitian if you need a totally balanced and nutritionally complete Meal Plan. 

I've devised this plan to feed my family of 5 for an entire week. My 11yo eats the same portion size my husband, despite being reed thin, so the plan could be for 3 adults and 2 children - or 2 adults and 2 older children. The lunches are either really tasty options or simple packed lunches of sandwiches, vegetable sticks and 1 or 2 pieces of fresh fruit. Adults can take leftover dinner for lunch the next day in order to stop food going to waste and save money. Sandwich fillings on this plan are cheese and chutney or egg salad.

The weeks dinner recipes use a total of 11 eggs so there is another 19 eggs reserved for sandwich fillings, breakfasts and baking. I've also included 6 x 2 litre bottles of milk in my plan, plenty for cereal and also to make a couple of batches of Rice Pudding (see recipe below) as a lunchbox treat or pudding.

Breakfasts are really simple: cereal/porridge and milk, or toast with spread. I've added some mixed fruit to the Meal Plan that can be added to breakfasts, lunchboxes or used to bake some flapjacks and muffins. There's also enough flour and eggs to make some Pancakes on the weekend and perhaps some Flapjacks or Fruit Muffins for lunchbox treats. See below for the recipes.

Dinners

Monday Night Frittata

1 pepper, diced

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

10 eggs

300g frozen mixed vegetables

500g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/ gas 6.

Simmer the potatoes and pumpkin in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain and leave to cool slightly before slicing thinly.

Meanwhile, put a 25cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan on the hob over a moderate heat. Saute the  onion, pepper and garlic in a little oil for about 5 minutes until the onion and pepper has softened.

Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and the softened onion, pepper and garlic. Carefully fold in the potatoes, pumpkin and frozen mixed vegetables. Pour the frittata mixture back into the frying pan and cook over a low-medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until it has cooked through and is set.

Family Sized Vegetable and Lentil Pastry Roll

This is a great low faff dinner or picnic lunch recipe that I make often as it uses ingredients that I normally have in the cupboard and freezer. It's really versatile and you can adapt the fillings to whatever you happen to have in your cupboards or fridge. Sun dried tomato, mozzarella, spinach and lentils works really well with some fresh or dried mixed herbs instead of the curry powder and mango chutney. Leftover cooked cubes of pumpkin and other leftover cooked mixed vegetables with the lentils, curry powder and mango chutney work well too.

1 Tblsp olive oil

300g mushrooms, sliced

120g (3 cups) spinach

1 finely chopped fresh pepper

2 x 400g cans of lentils, drained and rinsed

2 tsp mild curry powder

2 Tblsp mango chutney, plus extra to serve

375g block puff pastry, defrosted if frozen

60g (1/2 cup) finely grated cheddar

1 free range egg, beaten

Heat oil in a pan over a medium heat. Cook mushrooms and fresh pepper if you are using it, for a couple of minutes until they soften slightly. Add the spinach, roasted peppers (if you are using them), drained and rinsed lentils, curry powder and mango chutney. Season everything to taste and then cook for 2-3 minutes until everything is well combined and the spinach has started to wilt. Allow this mixture to cool completely.

Whilst the mixture is cooling, preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to form a 40cm x 30cm (12 inch x 16 inch) rectangle. Spread half the lentil mixture down the centre of the pastry, top with the grated cheese, then put the remaining lentil mix on top. Brush the pastry edges with water, and then fold it over to enclose filling. Press it well to seal it and put it on the baking tray seam-side down. Brush the with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little extra cheese if you like.

Bake the pastry roll for about 30 minutes or until its golden brown. Slice the pastry roll and serve it with some plain yoghurt, salad greens and extra mango chutney.

Vegetable Pie

I love making this for dinner, it's quick, easy and filling. Just what you need for a stormy weekday evening. You can use whatever vegetables that you have available, even leftovers work well. The cheese sauce is quick to make and you cover everything with tasty mash.

Creamy Sauce:

50g butter

2 tsp mustard powder

50g flour

600ml milk

200g grated mature cheddar

Vegetables, use what you have available

1 head of broccoli, cut into fairly small florets

400g frozen mixed vegetables

small bunch of chives, finely chopped

3 or 4 large potatoes or sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the flour and mustard powder and cook for 1 min. Gradually stir in the milk until smooth with no lumps, then keep stirring until the mixture begins to bubble and thickens to a creamy sauce. Remove from the heat, then stir in the grated cheese, leaving some aside to sprinkle on the top.

Heat your oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7 and bring a large pan of water to the boil. Cook the carrots for around 5 minutes then add the broccoli and cauliflower and boil for another 3 mins. Finally add the peas for 1 last minute of cooking. Drain all the vegetables well. Add the cooked vegetables to the creamy sauce with the chives. Cook and mash the sweet potatoes or potatoes and season to taste as this will cover the top of the finished pie.

Tip the mixed vegetables and sauce into a deep ovenproof dish, carefully cover with the mash and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 20-25 mins until the topping is golden and the cheese is bubbling, then serve.

Vegetable Curry

I love this curry, it's quick and warming, just perfect for a busy weeknight when you need a good curry. It seems a faff with the list of ingredients but isn't really as most of the spices are in jars and you just measure them in. You can use less of each of the spices if you want to make the curry a little milder, or add more yoghurt. Make sure you don't boil the curry too hard once you've added the yoghurt or it will curdle and look unappetising. I use full fat yoghurt as it is more stable under heat and less likely to split.

20g butter

2 onions, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 Tbsp finely grated ginger

1 Tbsp smoked paprika

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground cloves

4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 head of broccoli, cut into smallish florets

500g butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled, seeded, cut into 4cm pieces

1 cup (250ml) water

1 cup (250g) full fat natural yoghurt

1 large handful (150g) frozen peas or mixed vegetables

Cooked rice, to serve

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until lightly golden. Add the garlic, ginger, paprika, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, pepper and cloves and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until aromatic. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until tomatoes become pulpy.

Add the cauliflower, pumpkin, water and yoghurt and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until cauliflower and pumpkin are tender and sauce thickens slightly. Add the peas or mixed vegetables and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve the curry immediately with steamed rice.


Our Favourite Homemade Pizza Dough

My kids love making their own pizzas and we can vary the toppings according to taste, and what we have available. This dough takes no time at all to whip up in a mixer, or get the kids to knead it for you. You can use leftovers to make calzone with the dough, just roll out as if you are making pizza, put the filling on one side then fold over and crimp closed. Perfect for a Friday night dinner or weekend lunch, great if you have friends over after school too.

1 cup plain flour plus extra for kneading

1/2 cup wholemeal flour

1 sachet dried yeast

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs

about 2/3 cup lukewarm water

Place flours in a large bowl with yeast, salt and dried herbs. Make a well in the centre. Use a bread and butter knife or wooden spoon to mix in just enough water to bind the mixture and form a dough.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes to form a smooth (not sticky) ball of dough. Use a little extra flour if you need to.

Spray a bowl and cling film with a little oil spray. Put the dough in the bowl and cover with the cling film. Set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 30 minutes while you prepare the toppings.

We use a variety of toppings depending on what is available. Favourites in our house include: pepper, mushroom, and courgette with a tomato paste base.

Check the dough has risen – when a finger is gently pressed into the dough it will spring back a little bit.

Once the dough has risen, use your fist to punch down the dough gently. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until it's smooth.

Prepare the dough for your favourite toppings. Roll the dough out to make 1 large pizza, or 4 smaller pizzas.

Mixed Vegetable Pearl Barley Risotto

This is a really warming, filling dinner for when the weather is cold outside and you're in need of some comfort food. My daughters love this risotto and it's one of their favourite autumn/winter suppers. Use whatever vegetables you have available.

50g unsalted butter

500g pearl barley

1 vegetable stock cube

300g frozen mixed vegetables

250g mushrooms, sliced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 pepper, diced

Handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, tarragon or sage, chopped

150g grated mature Cheddar, or a vegetarian alternative

Melt a knob of the butter in a medium pan. Add the pearl barley, stir it around so it's coated with the butter, then cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Dissolve the stock cube in 600ml of boiling water, then pour over the pearl barley.

Simmer over a medium heat for 25-30 minutes until the pearl barley is tender. Keep topping it up with another 800ml hot water, ensuring the barley is covered. When the pearl barley is cooked, remove the saucepan from the heat, taste it and adjust the seasoning. Add the frozen mixed vegetables, then set aside with a lid on for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan and cook over a medium heat until it starts foaming. Add the mushrooms, onion and pepper then fry for 5-10 minutes until they're golden brown. Season to taste. We you're ready to serve, combine the pearl barley and vegetables with the mushrooms, herbs and cheese. Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, then spoon into bowls.


Ratatouille

I use this recipe when we have a glut of courgettes and tomatoes from our garden. I sometimes add a tin of chickpeas or haricot beans to make it in to a more substantial meal. We always serve it with some homemade crusty bread rolls to soak up all the lovely juices. You can sprinkle over some chopped fresh herbs just before serving, instead of using the dried herbs, if you want.

1 tbs olive oil

4 (about 500g) courgettes, halved lengthways, cut crossways into 2cm-thick slices

2 peppers (any colour), deseeded and cut into 2cm pieces

1 large (about 500g) aubergine, cut into 2cm pieces

2 onions, halved, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

2tsp dried mixed herbs (optional)

160ml (2/3 cup) water

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 tin of chickpeas, well drained and rinsed

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the courgettes, aubergine, onion and garlic then cook, stirring it occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the onion has softened.

Add the tinned tomatoes, dried herbs (if you're using them) and water to the pan and cover with a well fitting lid. Stir it occasionally and cook it for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. If you're adding tins of chickpeas or haricot beans, add them now with the tomato paste and cook, stirring well, for around 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with fresh herbs. Serve with bread or rolls to soak up the juices.

Lunches

Easy Falafels

I was given this recipe by one of the of the Mums at school and it's now a firm favourite in our house. The falafel can me eaten as a lunch in a wrap with salad, taken on a picnic or served as a weeknight dinner with couscous and salad leaves. The falafels are also freezable for up to 6 months in an airtight container. Great for make-ahead lunchbox treats or emergency dinners.

2 (400g) tins of chick peas

1 large onion, very finely chopped or grated

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

4-6 Tblsp plain flour

Salt and pepper

Oil for frying

Put the chickpeas in a bowl with the very finely chopped onion, crushed garlic gloves, cumin, ground coriander, salt and pepper. Use a potato masher or pestle and mortar to lightly mash the mixture until it begins to stick together. You can quickly pulse it in a food processor but don't be too over enthusiastic, you don't want a mushy puree.

Take walnut-sized blobs of mixture and and shape them into small flat rounds about 1/2 and inch thick. Roll the falafel in the flour ensuring they are well coated. Chill them for 15-30 minutes, this makes them much easier to work with. Heat some oil, about 1 inch deep, in a frying pan. When it's hot add a few falafels and cook over a medium heat for about 5-6 minutes, turning them frequently. Carefully take them out of the oil and drain well on kitchen paper.

To use the falafels from frozen: Put them on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and warm in the oven at 180°C/(350°F)/Gas Mark 4 for about 10 minutes or until piping hot.

Serve with a dip and crudités, in a wrap with salad leaves, or as a dinner/lunch with couscous salad.

Yoghurt Dip with Mint and Cucumber

150ml natural yoghurt

2 Tblsp mayonnaise

Juice of 1/2 a lime or lemon

1 small or 1/2 a large cucumber, thickly grated then drained on kitchen roll

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 Tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves

Pinch of salt

Put the yoghurt, mayonnaise and lime/lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together well with a fork. Add the drained cucumber, garlic and chopped fresh mint leaves. Mix together well and, if you think it needs it, add a pinch of salt.

Cover the dip with clingfilm and leave in it the fridge for at least 1 hour to allow the flavours to mingle before you serve it.

Vege Parcels

These are fab to keep in the freezer for weekend lunches, or after school snacks as well as lunchbox fillers. You can vary the fillings or use pumpkin instead of sweet potato. I have been known to add some curry powder to the mashed sweet potato for an extra kick, or pesto mixed in to the mashed sweet potato works well too.

1 small sweet potato, peeled and roughly diced

1 potato (Maris Piper is a good type to use), peeled and finely chopped

2 handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables

1 handful of grated Cheddar cheese

2 eggs, lightly whisked

3 sheets or 500g ready-rolled frozen puff pastry, just thawed

Preheat oven to 220°C. Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper. Cook the sweet potato in a medium saucepan of boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender and then drain it well. Transfer it to a heatproof bowl and use a fork to mash it smooth. Set it aside to cool in the bowl.

Meanwhile, cook the carrot and potato in a saucepan of boiling water for around 5 minutes or until they're tender. Make sure you drain them well and then set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Add the cooked potato and carrots, peas, corn, cheese and 1 egg to the mashed sweet potato and stir everything to combine it well. Season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Use a 12cm diameter pastry cutter to cut 12 circles from the pastry sheets. Spoon the vegetable mixture evenly amongst the circles of pastry. Brush the edges of the pastry circles lightly with the remaining egg.

Fold the pastry circles in half to enclose the filling and use your fingertips to gently press and crimp the edges together to seal them. Put the parcels on the lined baking tray and lightly brush them with the remaining egg.

Bake the parcels in the oven for 15 minutes or until they're golden brown and cooked through. Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool. Once they're completely cool, wrap them and put them in lunch boxes.

As an added bonus you can freeze these parcels unbaked. Just before you bake them, put in an airtight container in the freezer. When you're ready to defrost them, put them in the fridge for around 4 hours to defrost and then bake them for 15 - 20 minutes at 220°C.


Super Quick Couscous and Chickpea Salad

This is a fab salad to put in lunchboxes and can even be made in the morning before rushing off to work. It's also a quick fix salad if you're having a BBQ or picnic. It's a great midweek dinner side dish if we're having sausages (meat or vegetable) or grilled fish.

3/4 cup couscous

3/4 cup boiling water

1 tin of chickpeas, well drained

juice and zest of 1 lemon

small handful of toasted walnuts/hazelnuts, whole or roughly chopped

2 Tblsp chopped dried fruit (pears, apricots, dates, raisins)

(I used fruit and nut mix)

2 Tblsp olive oil

2 large handfuls of shredded salad greens or lettuce

Pour the boiling water over the couscous in a heatproof bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate or clingfilm and set aside for a 5 minutes while you chop up the other ingredients and open the tin of chickpeas.

After 5 minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork, add all the other ingredients and toss well to thoroughly combine. That's all there is to it! Pack it into lunchbox containers, refrigerate until needed or serve immediately.

Fruit Muffins

1 cup of any fruit (fresh, tinned, dried or frozen)

3/4 cup sugar

100g melted butter or 100ml oil

250ml milk

2 cups plain flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 egg

Mix all of the ingredients together gently but thoroughly until well combined. Spoon into lined muffin tins.

If you want to be fancy you can mix together 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 Tblsp sugar and sprinkle it over the top of the muffins.

Cook for 12 minutes or so at 180C, depending on the size of your muffins.


Flapjacks

225g butter

170g sugar

340g porridge oats

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp golden syrup

100g sultanas or mixed fruit

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 28cm x 18cm x 3cm or 11in x 7in x 1.2in baking tray with non-stick baking paper.

Gently heat the butter and golden syrup in a large saucepan on the hob until the butter has melted, stir well to mix. Don't let it boil!

Once the butter has melted take the saucepan off the heat and add the oats, sugar, sultanas and pinch of salt. Thorough mix everything until well combined and the oats are completely covered by the butter mixture.

Put the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth evenly into the corners. Bake in the oven for approximately 15minutes, turn the tin around and bake for another 5 minutes until golden brown.

Once cooked remove the baking tray from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. With a bread and butter knife lightly mark out about 16 pieces before the flapjack completely sets. Cut up into pieces when completely cold.


Rice Pudding (Lunchbox treat or pudding)

600ml whole milk

65g long grain white rice

pinch of salt

50g white sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

50g sultanas or mixed fruit (optional)

In a medium sized, heavy bottomed saucepan combine the milk and rice with a pinch of salt. Place saucepan over a fairly high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice is tender. This usually takes about 25 minutes. Stir the milk mixture frequently using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon to stop the rice from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.

When the rice is tender (al dente) take the saucepan off the heat and sugar, vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon. Mix well to combine. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook until the rice pudding thickens, this should take about 5 - 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the sultanas if you are using them. Spoon the pudding into a bowl to cool and cover with clingfilm to stop a skin forming. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. To make this into more of a Mullerice type treat add some jam or golden syrup to swirl through the rice pudding. You could also add dried apricots or dates instead of sultanas if you have some in your store cupboard.

I used My Supermarket to find out the cheapest supermarket to purchase all the items for this meal plan. The following shopping list cost a total of £49.94 at Asda on 31/12/11.

1x ASDA Smartprice Porridge Oats (1Kg) 75p

1x Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (1Kg) 92p

1x ASDA Wholemeal Plain Flour (1.5Kg) £1.10

1x ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg) 52p

1x ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg) 40p

1x Great Scot Pearl Barley (500g) 48p

1x ASDA Wholefoods Cous Cous (500g) 59p

2x ASDA Ready to Roll Puff Pastry (500g) £1.00

1x ASDA Fast Action Dried Yeast (42g) 58p

1x Sunnybisk Wheat Biscuits (48 per pack - 864g) £1.59

2x ASDA Freshly Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) £1.00

1x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) 38p

4x ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g) 39p

2x ASDA Green Lentils in Water (400g) 47p

6x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £1.18 any 2 FOR £2.00

1x ASDA Cooks Value Medium Eggs (30) £2.98

1x ASDA Natural Probiotic Yogurt (500g) £1.00

2x ASDA English Mature Cheddar (400g) £2.00 was £2.48

1x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Fruit (500g) 64p

1x ASDA Extra Juicy Oranges (10) £1.97

10 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) 10p

15 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) 6.8p

1x ASDA Lemons Loose 30p

8 ASDA Broccoli by Weight (100g) 19.7p

8 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) 8p

7 ASDA Courgettes by Weight (100g) 16p

1x ASDA Smartprice Mushrooms (750g) £1.35

10 ASDA Onions by Weight (100g) 7.6p

1x ASDA Aubergine Loose 75p

2x ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £1.25 2 FOR £2.00

5 ASDA Tomatoes by Weight (100g) 19.9p

10 ASDA Butternut Squash by Weight (100g) 9.7p

3 ASDA Sweet Potatoes by Weight (100g) 11.1p

2x ASDA Whole Cucumber 80p

2x ASDA Round Lettuce 57p

2x ASDA Garlic Loose 22p

2x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.48

1x ASDA Smartprice Fruit & Nut Mix (200g) 59p


If you're a longterm vegetarian or can offer some advice on how to improve the plan, please leave a comment and let me know. I could use, and would really value the help.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Family Weekly Meal Plan - £55

You may remember that we tried out the Sainsbury's Feed Your Family For Fifty Meal Plan and I blogged about it.  I thought the plan was a tad austere, we did missed baked treats and didn't like the supermarket bread because I normally bake my own.  However, that meal plan inspired me to compile this one. Admittedly it is £5 more expensive but there are more baked treats and a little more variety with breakfasts and lunches.

I've devised this plan to feed my family of 5 for an entire week. My 11yo eats the same portion size my husband, despite being reed thin, so the plan could be for 3 adults and 2 children - or 2 adults and 2 older children. The lunches are really simple packed lunches of sandwiches, vegetable sticks and 1 or 2 pieces of fresh fruit.  Adults take leftover dinner for lunch the next day in order to stop food going to waste and save money.  Sandwich fillings on this plan are cheese and chutney, leftover cooked meat, or egg salad.

The weeks dinner recipes use a total of 15 eggs so there is another 15 reserved for sandwich fillings, breakfasts and baking.  I've also included 6 x 2 litre bottles of milk in my plan, plenty for cereal and also to make a couple of batches of Rice Pudding (see recipe below) as a lunchbox treat or pudding.

Breakfasts are really simple: cereal or porridge and milk, or toast with spread.  I've added some sultanas to the Meal Plan that can be added to breakfasts, lunchboxes or used to bake some flapjacks and muffins. There's also enough flour and eggs to make some Pancakes on the weekend and perhaps some Versatile Savoury Scone Swirls, Apple and Sultana Scrolls, Flapjacks or Fruit Muffins for lunchbox treats.  See below for the recipes.

You could of course do a meal plan that costs more by having more elaborate lunchboxes and baking more snacks.  I haven't bought any loaves of bread or rolls. I prefer to make my own so I've included the cost of the wholemeal bread flour and yeast.

My Meal Plan also assumes that there are already some storecupboard items available like tea/coffee, herbs, spices, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, stock cubes, tomato ketchup, oil, cornflour and homemade or store bought relish/chutney and jam,peanut butter or honey.


Apple and Sultana Scrolls

Pikelets/Pancakes

300g self raising flour

2 eggs

50g sugar

375ml milk

Mix all the ingredients together well and then cook ladlefuls of mixture in a greased fryingpan over a moderate heat.  Serve with chopped bananas and drizzle with golden syrup, spread with jam or brushed with lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar.

Fruit Muffins

1 cup of any fruit (fresh, tinned, dried or frozen)

3/4 cup sugar

100g melted butter or 100ml oil

250ml milk

2 cups plain flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 egg

Mix all of the ingredients together gently but thoroughly until well combined. Spoon into lined muffin tins.

If you want to be fancy you can mix together 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 Tblsp sugar and sprinkle it over the top of the muffins.

Cook for 12 minutes or so at 180C, depending on the size of your muffins.

Flapjacks

225g butter

170g sugar

340g porridge oats

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp golden syrup

100g sultanas

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 28cm x 18cm x 3cm or 11in x 7in x 1.2in baking tray with non-stick baking paper.

Gently heat the butter and golden syrup in a large saucepan on the hob until the butter has melted, stir well to mix.  Don't let it boil!

Once the butter has melted take the saucepan off the heat and add the oats, sugar, sultanas and pinch of salt. Thorough mix everything until well combined and the oats are completely covered by the butter mixture.  

Put the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth evenly into the corners. Bake in the oven for approximatly 15minutes, turn the tin around and bake for another 5 minutes until golden brown.

Once cooked remove the baking tray from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  With a bread and butter knife lightly mark out about 16 pieces before the flapjack completely sets. Cut up into pieces when completely cold.

Rice Pudding (Lunchbox treat or pudding)

600ml whole milk

65g long grain white rice

pinch of salt

50g white sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

50g sultanas (optional)

In a medium sized, heavy bottomed saucepan combine the milk and rice with a pinch of salt. Place saucepan over a fairly high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice is tender.  This usually takes about 25 minutes.  Stir the milk mixture frequently using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon to stop the rice from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.

When the rice is tender (al dente) take the saucepan off the heat and sugar, vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon. Mix well to combine.  Return the saucepan to the heat and cook until the rice pudding thickens, this should take about 5 - 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the sultanas if you are using them.  Spoon the pudding into a bowl to cool and cover with clingfilm to stop a skin forming.  Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.  To make this into more of a Mullerice type treat add some jam or golden syrup to swirl through the rice pudding.  You could also add dried apricots or dates instead of sultanas if you have some in your store cupboard.


(Serves 7 - dinner for 5 plus 2 lunches)

I added a couple of blocks of frozen spinach for extra vegetable content and to make the dinner stretch further.  This risotto makes enough to feed the 5 of us generously and provide 2 large lunch servings for the next day.

Tuesday - Chicken Casserole (5 Servings)

1 onion, finely chopped

1 pepper, diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 Tblsp dried mixed herbs

100g diced bacon

1 Tblsp flour

2 chicken stock cubes dissolved in 1 Litre of boiling water

1 Tblsp mustard

8 chicken drumsticks

3 large potatoes, cooked and mashed

a couple of blocks of frozen spinach

300g frozen mixed vegetables

Preheat oven to 180C. In a casserole pot on the hob sauté the onion, pepper and garlic in a little oil for a couple of minutes, add the mixed herbs and bacon. Cook until pepper and onions are soft. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.  Take the pan off the heat and slowly mix in the stock and mustard.  Put back on the heat and make sure everything has dissolved and is well mixed.  Add chicken drumsticks then cook in the oven for 45 mins.  Remove from the oven and add the frozen mixed vegetables and spinach.  Let these heat through with the casserole on the hob for 5 minutes or so before serving.  Serve the chicken casserole with mashed potato.

Wednesday - Fish Pie
(Serves 7 - dinner for 5 plus 2 lunches)

1 onion, finely chopped

1 pepper, diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

600ml water

1 vegetable or fish stock cube

1 tsp mild curry powder

200g rice

2 large tins tuna or salmon in spring water (drained)

4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters

100g grated cheese

5 potatoes, cooked and mashed

400g mixed vegetables to serve

Preheat oven to 180C. Sauté onion, pepper and garlic in oil. Mix water, chicken stock and curry powder then add to onion, pepper and garlic mixture. Add rice, stirring occasionally until rice has cooked through. Season. Pour in fish and mix until combined. Put the mixture in a casserole dish. Cover with the egg quarters and spread over the mashed potato. Groove the mash with a fork. Sprinkle over the cheese and put in the oven for around 15 - 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the fie pie is piping hot.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Thursday - Spaghetti Bolognese
(Serves 7 - dinner for 5 plus 2 lunches)

500g mince

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed

1 pepper, diced

1 Tblsp mixed herbs

1 Tblsp mustard

1 Tblsp Worcester sauce

4 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

300g frozen mixed vegetables

1 Tblsp cornflour

1 Tblsp cold water

500g spaghetti

1 tsp oil

100g grated cheese

Brown the mince in a frying pan. In a separate large saucepan sauté the pepper, onion and garlic until softened. Add the mince, mixed herbs, mustard, Worcester sauce and tomatoes to the pepper, onion and garlic. Simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the frozen mixed vegetables and simmer for another 10 minutes whilst you cook the pasta according to packet instructions.  Once the mince has simmered for a total of 30 minutes, mix the cornflour and water together and add to the mince mixture to thicken it.  Serve bolognese on top of spaghetti and sprinkle cheese on top.

Friday - Bacon and Vegetable Frittata
(6 or 7 servings, depending on appetites)

1 pepper diced

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

100g bacon

9 eggs

200g frozen mixed vegetables

1/2 of a 750g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/ gas 6.

Simmer the potatoes and pumpkin in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain and leave to cool slightly before slicing thinly.

Meanwhile, put a 25cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan on the hob over a moderate heat.  Dry fry the bacon for 5 minutes or so until browned.  Remove then from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, pepper and garlic to the pan, and fry in the remaining bacon fat for about 5 minutes until the onion and pepper has softened.

Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and the softened onion, pepper and garlic.  Carefully fold in the potatoes, pumpkin and frozen mixed vegetables.  Pour the frittata mixture back into the frying pan and cook over a low-medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until it has cooked through and is set.  

Saturday - Macaroni Cheese (7 servings)

500g pasta shapes

1 onion – finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 pepper, diced

150g bacon

2 Tblsp butter

2 Tblsp flour

350ml hot milk

200g grated cheese

200g frozen mixed vegetables

a couple of chunks of frozen spinach

Preheat oven to 180C. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, adding the frozen mixed vegetables for the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking time.  Whilst the pasta is cooking, sauté the onion, pepper and garlic in a little oil. Add the bacon and seasoning. In a separate saucepan slowly cook the butter and flour stirring constantly. When mixture looks a bit like biscuit crumbs add the hot milk and whisk until the mixture thickens. Add 200g of grated cheese and simmer for 5 mins, stirring frequently. Add the softened onion, garlic and bacon mixture to the cheese sauce and mix well to combine.  Pour the cheese sauce mixture on to the drained pasta and mixed vegetables and stir through until combined.  Serve as is or with a side salad.

Sunday - Roast Chicken (5 servings)

4 potatoes, peeled and quartered

8 chicken drumsticks

100ml oil 

1 Tblsp chopped fresh rosemary and thyme

1 chicken stock cube

1 Tblsp mustard

125ml boiling water

400g frozen mixed vegetables, steamed or cooked in boiling water.

other 1/2 of Friday's 750g pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 180C. Place potatoes in cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 mins then drain. Put the potatoes, pumpkin and chicken in a roasting dish and brush over/lightly spray with a little oil. Use separate roasting dishes for the chicken and vegetables if you haven't got a roasting dish big enough to fit everything in.  Sprinkle over the fresh herbs.  Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes until the chicken and potatoes are golden brown and crunchy and the pumpkin is cooked and sweet.

To make gravy:

Mix cornflour, stock, mustard and water then add to the juice from the cooked chicken. Stir over a low heat until the mixture thickens.

Serve the chicken with roast potatoes and vegetables. Pour over some gravy if you like.

Shopping List

I used My Supermarket to find out the cheapest supermarket to purchase all the items for this meal plan.  The following shopping list cost a total of £54.87 at Asda on 30/12/11.

1x Smartprice Porridge Oats (1Kg) 75p

1x Smartprice Spaghetti (500g) 25p

1x Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (1Kg) 92p

1x Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg) 52p

1x Smartprice Golden Syrup (680g) 77p

1x Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg) 40p

1x Smartprice Pasta Shapes (500g) 41p

1x ASDA Fast Action Dried Yeast (42g) 58p

1x ASDA Wholefoods Bread Brown Flour (1.5Kg) £1.10

1x Sunnybisk Wheat Biscuits (48 per pack - 864g) £1.59

1x ASDA Wild Pacific Pink Salmon (418g) £1.57

1x Napolina Chopped Tomatoes in Tomato Juice (4x400g) £2.00

1x ASDA Good for you! Mayonnaise (500ml) 79p

1x ASDA Chopped Spinach Leaves (1Kg) £1.00

2x ASDA Freshly Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) £1.00

6x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £1.18 any 2 FOR £2.00

1x ASDA Cooks Value Medium Eggs (30) £2.98

2x Smartprice Salted Butter (250g) £1.19

2x ASDA English Mature Cheddar (400g) £2.00 was £2.48

1x Smartprice Sultanas (500g) 84p

1x Extra Juicy Oranges (10) £1.97

3 Mushrooms by Weight (100g) 28.9p

10 Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) 10p

15 Bananas by Weight (100g) 6.8p

5 Carrots by Weight (100g) 8p

10 Onions by Weight (100g) 7.6p

2x White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £1.25 2 FOR £2.00

10 Tomatoes by Weight (100g) 19.9p

8 Butternut Squash by Weight (100g) 9.7p

2x Whole Cucumber 80p

2x Round Lettuce 57p

1x Celery 83p

1x Garlic Loose 22p

1x Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.48

1x Smartprice Unsmoked Middle Bacon (350g) £1.68

1x British Beef Mince (500g) £2.40

2x Chicken Drumsticks (1Kg) £3.89 2 FOR £7.00

Do you Meal Plan? Have you got any tips or tricks for how to save money on grocery bills? How low can you get your weekly grocery bill?  Please leave a comment and let me know. 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

School Holiday Week Meal Plan - £70

I've made a meal plan for a week during the school holidays, taking into account the fact that three hungry children will be at home 24/7.  My 11yo eats the same portion size my husband, despite being reed thin, so the plan could be for 3 adults and 2 children - or 2 adults and 2 older children.  The lunches are deliberately substantial to cut down on snacking, and most of them are also readily transportable if we go out for the day and need to take a packed lunch. 

You could of course do a meal plan that cost less by having simpler lunches and breakfasts.  I figured that in the holidays breakfasts and lunches tend to be slightly more leisurely and substantial.  I also haven't bought any loaves of bread or rolls.  I prefer to make my own so included the cost of the flour and yeast.  I did however include the cost of pitta bread and tortillas/wraps, again I would normally make my own, but not everyone does so I added in the extra cost of bought ones.

My Meal Plan also assumes that there are already some storecupboard items available like tea/coffee, herbs, spices, Worcestershire sauce, tomato ketchup, oil, butter and homemade or store bought relish/chutney and jam or honey.

I used My Supermarket to compare the cost of the shopping list and Asda came out the cheapest, so the total shown is the cost of all the items at Asda on 29/12/11.

Shopping List

2x Scottish Porridge Oats (500g) 55p
1x Smartprice Swiss Style Muesli (1Kg) 98p
1x Smartprice Spaghetti (500g) 25p
1x Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (1Kg) 92p
1x Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg) 40p
1x Smartprice Pasta Shapes (500g) 41p
1x Fast Action Dried Yeast (42g) 58p
1x Wholefoods Bread Brown Flour (1.5Kg) £1.10
1x Wild Pacific Pink Salmon (418g) £1.57
2x Chopped Tomatoes in Tomato Juice Thick Cut (400g) 64p
2x Chilli Beans (290g) 68p
1x Sweetcorn (326g) 43p
1x Hellmann's Extra Light Mayonnaise (400g) £1.87
1x Amoy Soy Sauce Reduced Salt (150ml) £1.14
1x Double Concentrated Tomato Puree (200g) 48p
1x Heinz Baked Beanz in Tomato Sauce (6x415g) £3.00 was £3.14
2x Mexican Style Bean Mix in Water (400g) 53p
1x Passata (500g) 38p
1x Peach Halves in Juice (411g) 45p
1x The Reel Fish Co Pole and Line Tuna Chunks in Spring Water (3x185g) £4.29
1x Soured Cream (300ml) £1.13
4x British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £1.18 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x Cooks Value Medium Eggs (30) £2.98
1x Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk (397g) £1.00
2x English Mature Cheddar (400g) £2.00
1x Natural Yogurt Fat Free (500g) £1.00
600g Deli Carved Ham by Weight £3.00
1x British Beef Mince (500g) £2.40
1x Whole Chicken (1.45Kg) £4.77 any 2 FOR £7.00
1x Smartprice Sultanas (500g) 84p
1x Extra Juicy Oranges (10) £1.97
1x Salad Tomatoes (750g) £1.57
10 Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) £1.00
1 White Cabbage by Weight (500g) 45p
1x Smartprice Mushrooms (750g) £1.35
Onions by Weight (400g) 40p
2x White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £1.12 2 FOR £2.00
2x Whole Cucumber 80p
2x Round Lettuce 57p
1x Celery 83p
1x Garlic Loose 22p
1x Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.48
1 Spring Onions 70p
1x Smartprice Bananas (1.5Kg) £1.15
1x Spinach (350g) £1.37
1x Carrots (1.2Kg) £1.00
2x Wholemeal Pitta Breads (6) 55p any 2 FOR £1.00
2x Mexican Wholewheat Tortillas (8) 82p

TOTAL: £69.75

Breakfasts

Porridge

2 cups rolled oats

250ml milk

For added flavour: Tinned fruit, dried fruit, fresh fruit or spoon of honey/jam

Cook oats with milk in a saucepan on the hob or in a microwave and serve topped with the tinned/dried/fresh fruit or with homey or jam stirred in to give it more flavour.

Homemade Muesli

Make normal muesli go further by bulking it out with rolled oats and extra dried fruit.

500g muesli

500g rolled oats

300g sultanas or dried apricots

Mix together and store in an airtight container.  Serve with milk or yoghurt.

Scrambled Eggs on Wholegrain Toast

8 eggs

2 Tblsp milk

Whisk eggs together with milk. Heat a little oil in a pan and add the eggs. Let set then stir to scramble. Serve on top of buttered toast.

Boiled eggs with Toast

Toast topped with your favourite spread or grated cheese


Lunches

Potato and Egg Salad

6 hard-boiled eggs

4 potatoes cut into chunks and boiled

2 spring onions (green and white parts) sliced

handful of shredded lettuce leaves

3 tomatoes chopped into chunks or sliced

4 Tblsp mayonnaise

Chop the eggs and potatoes into bite sized pieces. Mix in the spring onion and mayonnaise and shredded lettuce. Serve with chopped tomato on the side. You could also add some carrot or celery sticks on the side if you want a more substantial meal.

Chicken Salad Wraps

5 flat bread wraps

leftover shredded roasted chicken

2 carrots grated

lettuce leaves shredded

1 sliced spring onion.

Lay out bread, top with shredded chicken and salad, then drizzle mayonnaise and roll up.

Mini Pizzas

6 pitta breads

1 Tblsp tomato paste mixed with 1Tblsp boiling water

300g chopped ham

a few mushrooms sliced

1 pepper diced

1 cup (120g) grated cheese.

Spread tomato paste mixed with boiling water over the pitta breads. Top with shaved ham, sliced mushrooms, and chopped pepper. Top with grated cheese and grill/bake in the oven to melt the cheese. Eat hot or cold.

Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad

400g dried pasta

1 tin sweetcorn

2 tomatoes chopped into chunks

diced cucumber

300g diced ham

1 cup (120g) grated cheese

4 Tblsp mayonnaise mixed with 1 Tblsp chopped fresh herbs (basil works well as does flat leaf parsley)

Cook pasta shapes. Let cool and add drained corn kernels, tomatoes, cucumber, ham, and cheese. Mix together with dressing.

Tuna Salad Sandwiches (using 1 tin of tuna left over from the Tuna Pasta Bake)

Egg Salad Sandwiches (boiled egg mixed with a little mayonnaise & fresh herbs or spring onion)

Baked Beans on Baked Potatoes


Snacks

Oranges, bananas, apples, vegetable sticks (celery, carrot, cucumber, pepper).

Homemade Muesli Bars

1 x 397g tin of condensed milk

500g muesli or 250g rolled oats, 200g mixed seeds, 50g chopped almonds

100g sultanas or dried apricots

Preheat your oven to 130C/Gas Mark 1/2 and lightly oil a large baking tin.  Mine measures 23cm x 33cm x 4cm. 

Mix the dry ingredients and fruit together until well combined.  Warm the condensed milk in a pan then mix with all the other ingredients and use a spatula to make sure everything is well coated. 

Press the mixture into the tin and level the surface.  The mixture is really sticky so you might want to wet your hands or lightly oil them so that you don't end up a sticky mess.

Bake the muesli bars for 1 hour then set aside for 15 minutes to cool slightly.  Cut into bars and store in an airtight container.

Fruit Muffins

1 cup of any fruit (fresh, tinned, dried or frozen)

3/4 cup sugar

100g melted butter or 100ml oil

250ml milk

2 cups plain flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 egg

Mix all of the ingredients together gently but thoroughly until well combined.  Spoon into lined muffin tins.

If you want to be fancy you can mix together 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 Tblsp sugar and sprinkle it over the top of the muffins.

Cook for 12 minutes or so at 180C, depending on the size of your muffins.


Dinners

Bean Burritos

8 tortillas/flat breads

2 cans chilli beans

3 tomatoes chopped

diced cucumber

lettuce leaves

small pot of low fat sour cream

1 cup (120g) grated cheese

Heat chilli beans in a pot whilst tortillas are warming in the oven. Put chilli beans onto tortillas and top with tomato, cucumber, lettuce, a little sour cream and a sprinkling of cheese. Fold up and serve.

Tuna and Tomato Pasta

500g pack dried spaghetti

400g tin tuna spring water

400g tin chopped tomatoes

500g passata

1 diced onion

1 diced pepper

2 chopped garlic cloves

1 teaspoon mixed herbs

1/2 tsp of chilli powder (optional).

Boil spaghetti until just cooked. While spaghetti is cooking, lightly sauté onion, pepper and garlic in a pan. Add chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Flake tuna and mix into sauce. Add herbs and chilli, powder to taste. Serve on top of cooked spaghetti. Add a light sprinkling of cheddar cheese if you want.

Roast chicken with homemade coleslaw and potato wedges

I large chicken, roasted.

A large bowl of shredded cabbage

2 grated carrots

4 potatoes, washed

Mix cabbage and carrot together with mayonnaise to make the coleslaw.

Cut the unpeeled potatoes into wedges, mix with a little oil and then bake until cooked.  Serve roast chicken and wedges with chopped cucumber, sliced tomatoes and the coleslaw.

Homemade Hamburgers

5 homemade burger buns

500g mince

1 onion finely chopped

1 egg lightly beaten

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp paprika

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

lettuce leaves

sliced tomato

mayonnaise and tomato ketchup

Mix mince, onion, egg, coriander, paprika and breadcrumbs together and shape into 5 large patties. Lightly fry or grill until cooked. Fill buns with patties, top with salad, slices of tomato, a drizzle of mayonnaise, and a dollop of tomato ketchup.

Chicken and Vegetable Stir-fry with Rice

Leftover shredded roast chicken

3 cups cooked rice

juice of 1 orange

60ml soy sauce

2 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce

2 cloves garlic crushed

1 onion cut into slices

1 head of broccoli, 1 carrot , handful of mushrooms, 2 celery sticks, rest of cabbage, and a pepper all sliced finely.

Mix orange juice, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl.  Heat a large pan or wok over a moderate to high heat.  Put a little oil in the pan and add the garlic, onion, celery and pepper then cook until softened. Add the cabbage and cook whilst steaming the broccoli and carrot in a microwave or separate pan. Mix the steamed vegetables with the vegetables in the wok, pour over the sauce, cook for a couple of minutes and then serve over rice.

Salmon and Potato Cakes 

415g tin salmon (or tuna)

3-4 potatoes (or sweet potatoes) cooked and mashed

1 onion diced

1 egg

¼ cup flour

1 tsp dried mixed herbs or 1 Tblsp fresh herbs

Flake salmon into a large bowl and mix with mashed potato and onion. Add egg and herbs, mixing well. Shape into patties, coating in flour or breadcrumbs. Bake or lightly fry and serve with some tomato ketchup or relish and a large salad.

Spicy Bean and Vegetable Soup

2 tins mixed beans

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 onion chopped

1 pepper diced

1 clove garlic crushed

1 celery stick diced

2 carrots diced

a large handful of spinach leaves

2 cubes vegetable stock

1 Tblsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground coriander

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add pepper, onion, garlic and spices. When onion and pepper has softened add the drained mixed beans and chopped tomatoes. Mix stock cubes in 750ml boiling water to dissolve, then add with carrot and celery to the bean and tomato mix. Simmer for 20 minutes then add spinach to wilt. Serve crusty bread rolls.


What are your favourite recipes when you are trying to save a few pennies? What are your top tips for Meal Planning?

Simmered Mince Many Ways

This is my basic simmered mince recipe that I can transform into loads of different meals and can feed us well for several dinners and a lunch or two.  It makes 1kg of mince stretch a long way and is great if you are counting pennies after an expensive Chrismtas or are starting to use Meal Plans to cut your household spending.  Give it a whirl!

3 tbsp vegetable oil

3 red onions, peeled and finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into smallish chunks

3 celery sticks, finely sliced

1 pepper, chopped into smallish chunks

2 tsp dried mixed herbs

1 kg beef mince

2 400g tins chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

3 beef stock cubes dissolved in 1 litre of boiling water

Heat half of the vegetable oil in a large pan over a high heat. Add the onions, garlic, herbs, carrot, celery and pepper.  Sweat until softened.  Put into your slow cooker.  If you're not using a slow cooker, just take the pan off the heat and set it aside.

Brown the mince in a large pan over a medium heat, about a third at a time.  Fry until there are no pink bits left.  Don't brown all the mince at once or you will crowd the pan and it will take longer to brown.  Put the browned mince in your slow cooker.  If you aren't using a slow cooker, add the vegetables you sweated off earlier to the mince at this point.
Add the tinned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and stock to the mince and vegetable mixture, either in your slow cooker or in a large saucepan on the hob, mix until well combined.

Either simmer uncovered on the hob for one hour until the volume of liquid has reduced slightly and the sauce has thickened or cook in your slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low.  You can thicken the sauce with a little cornflour mixed with cold water then stirred into the sauce.

Cottage Pie

Spoon about a third of the above mince mixture into a baking dish, top with about 750g mashed potato and bake at 190C/375F/Gas 5 for 30 minutes, until bubbling and golden-brown on top.

Chilli Con Carne

Use 1/3 of the simmered mince mixture and stir a tin of kidney beans in chilli sauce, or a tin of kidney beans and enough chilli powder to suit your taste, into a third of the mince mixture and warm through. Serve with rice or tortillas topped with little soured cream.

What else?

The remaining third of the mince can be frozen or kept in the fridge for up to three days.  It's fab as a topping for baked potatoes, or you can even have it on toast.

You could make some dumplings to have with the remaining mince or make Spaghetti Bolognese (recipes below).

250g self-raising flour, plus extra for rolling

125g shredded suet

½ tsp salt

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Put the flour in a bowl and stir in the suet, salt and parsley. Make a well in the centre and add enough cold water to make a soft dough.  It normally takes approximately 200ml.  Lightly flour your hands and roll the dough into 12 small balls.

Heat up the mince to a simmer in a large saucepan.  Carefully put the dumplings on top of the mince, cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and cook over a medium heat for about 18-20 minutes, or until the dumplings are cooked through and well risen.

Spaghetti Bolognese

1 pack bacon lardons

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

300ml red wine

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

1 beef stock cube

300ml boiling water

1/3 batch of simmered mince (recipe above)

350g dried spaghetti

Heat a saucepan and add the lardons, let the fat run out and then saute the garlic for a couple of minutes.  Drain off as much oil as you can and then add the red wine.  Boil the wine until it has reduced to about 2 Tblsp of liquid and then add the tinned tomatoes, braised mince and stock. 

Simmer for 45 minutes - 1 hour or until the mince has thickened to bolognese sauce consistency.  Whilst the mince is thickening, cook your spaghetti according to the instructions on the pack.  Check the mince mixture for seasoning then serve over cooked spaghetti.  Top with grated parmesan if you want.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Pizza Rolls

I made these for lunch today when I realised there was only some pepper, tomatoes, and needing to be used up ham in the fridge.  If we'd had eggs I would of course have made omelettes or a frittata but I used all the eggs in the Christmas baking frenzy. LOL

You could make these using puff pastry instead of pizza dough, just bake them join side up instead of join side down and brush with milk to glaze instead of olive oil. 

I've made savoury pizza scroll type things before but decided to make these more like small rolls with an enclosed filling rather than scrolls or calzone. Variety is the spice of life, apparently!

To make the dough you will need:

2 cups plain flour

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1 tsp instant yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp oil (any oil will do)

250ml lukewarm water

I used the following for the filling:

a handful of mushrooms, cut into smallish pieces (optional)

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pepper, deseeded and chopped into small chunksm ( I used a yellow one)

3 or 4 tomatoes chopped into chunks ( or 12 cherry tomatoes halved or quartered)

1 tsp dried Italian herbs

50g cheese, cut into small chunks 

To make dough I combined the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and oil in a bowl.  Then stirred in the lukewarm water to form a dough which I kneaded for around 7 - 10 minutes in my stand mixer.  You could also make the dough by hand.   Once the dough has been kneaded enough it will be smooth and springy, and spring back if you lightly press it. 

Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover with clingfilm.  Leave the bowl in a warm place for about 45 minutes until the dough had doubled in size. If you are impatient, or there are hungry hoards demanding sustenance, microwave the dough on low power for 1 minute and allow to rest for 10 minutes, then repeat. This will dramatically speed up the rising process.

While the dough is rising make the filling.  Cook the onion, pepper and garlic in a pan until the pepper and onion have softened.  Add the tomatoes and herbs. Simmer until thickened.  Add the ham and this point and mix it into the mixture. Take the mixture off the heat and leave it to cool.

Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back and roll it out to a large rectangle shape.  Cut the dough into 24 squares.  Put a spoonful of the tomato mixture and a cheese cube into the centre of each square.  Join opposite corners to enclose the filling.  Twist the dough to securely seal in the filling.

Put the dough balls, twisted side down, onto baking tray lined with baking paper.  I you want you can mix 1 Tblsp olive oil with 1 tsp dried Italian herbs and brush a little on top of each dough ball.  Leave the dough balls to rest for 15-20 minutes until rounded and plump.

Bake the pizza rolls in an oven preheated to 190°C for about 15 minutes, or until they are light golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

These also freeze well and you can keep some for the next day if you put them in an airtight container.  That's if the hungry hoards don't devour them all!


Monday, 26 December 2011

Leftover Roast Lamb Shepherds Pie

This is a fab recipe for leftover roast lamb, or roast beef (just use beef stock instead of lamb stock).  If I can't be bothered making mash then we serve the lamb/beef sauce over baked potatoes instead.  It's a delicious, tasty and fairly low faff dish - and you can freeze the leftovers, if there are any.

1/2 cup green lentils

250ml lamb stock

250ml water

400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp Worcester sauce

60ml red wine

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

Handful or two of frozen peas

500g or more leftover roast lamb, chopped into smallish chunks

3 or 4 large floury potatoes

Grated cheese to mix in with the mash

Heat a little olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and sweat off the onion, garlic, celery and carrot until they start to soften but not brown.

Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, water, lentils, soy sauce and Worcester sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for around 30 minutes.  Add the red wine and simmer for a further half an hour.  You should end up with a rich, flavoursome sauce without too much liquid.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Add the leftover lamb to the sauce, along with the frozen peas and let everything warm through on a low heat whilst you cook the potatoes.  Peel and chop potatoes into even-sized pieces, cover with cold water and bring to the boil in a large pot. Cook the potatoes until they are tender, then drain, mash and season to taste.  Mix a good handful of cheese into the mash, beat it in with a fork so it's evenly distributed through the mash.

Spread the meat mixture in the bottom of a large casserole dish and spread the potato mash over the top.  Sprinkle over some grated cheese.  Put in oven and cook until the top has crisped up, browned slightly, and everything is well heated through.  This usually takes about 20 minutes.  Take your shepherds pie out of the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes, and then serve it with a side salad.  



Leftover Turkey or Chicken Curry

We don't eat turkey in our house, we don't like it LOL However, we do like a roast chicken.  This recipe works with leftovers from either a roast chicken or turkey (friends have used turkey and assure me it's delicious).  I also make it with fresh chicken breasts as a low faff weeknight dinner.  Give it a whirl with your leftover turkey or chicken and vegetables from yesterday's Christmas Dinner.

1 clove of garlic, crushed

2 onions, diced

leftover roast vegetables, or vegetables that need using up cut into chunks

1 Tbsp curry powder or curry paste (use more or less to suit your taste)

1 large eating apple, peeled and diced

1 Tbsp sweet mango chutney, or more according to taste

1 or 2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

500g leftover chicken or turkey, cut into cubes or 500g chicken breasts, cut into cubes

Fry the garlic, onions and leftover vegetables over a medium heat in a large pan until the onions soften.

Then add the leftover chicken/turkey and curry powder/paste then cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the diced apple, mango chutney and one tin of chopped tomatoes.

Simmer for 1-2 hours. Keep an eye on the curry to make sure it's not drying out too much and add the second tin of tomatoes if it is.

Alternatively put everything in the slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low or 6 hours on medium.

Here's how I usually make this curry in the slow cooker with fresh chicken:

I don't always have time to sweat down/brown everything, and this was one of those times, so I just bunged ecerything in my slow cooker. 


I realised that I had forgotten to add the onion so added that once I'd stirred everything together.


I put the slow cooker on medium for 6 hours and kept an eye on it every so often to make sure it wasn't drying out. 


After 3 hours I added another tin of chopped tomatoes.  With an hour to go I added a tin of chickpeas, some sweetcorn and some broadbeans.

I did stir in a couple more tablespoons of Mango Chutney just before I served it.  Here's the finished curry, served with brown rice:


This curry is tasty and not too spicy, great for all the family.  I would add some chilli to the adult portions though if you prefer some extra kick and heat.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Our Christmas Day Menu

We had a really relaxed Christmas Day this year.  In previous years we have invited others who would normally be alone at Christmas to join us for a shared Christmas Dinner. This year however we decided to just keep things low key and have the day solely for my husband, myself, and our three daughters.

Here's our Christmas Dinner Menu:

Roast Leg of Lamb

Our leg of lamb was 2.1kg in weight and put it in a cooking bag and roasted it for 2 hours at 180C. 

I removed the lamb from the oven and left it to rest for about 30 minutes whilst I cooked the other vegetables.


We also had steamed cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts and crispy roast potatoes. 

I also made some Mint Sauce to accompany the roast lamb using:

1 small handful mint leaves

1 Tbsp sugar

4 Tblsp boiling water

4 Tbsp white wine vinegar

Finely chop the mint leaves into a heatproof jug and pour over the boiling water.  Stir in the sugar and leave to stand for 10 minutes or so.  Add the vinegar and check the taste.  You can sharpen the tang by adding a little more vinegar if you want.

There is enough leftover lamb to make a shepherds pie our moussaka for dinner tomorrow night and also have on sandwiches for lunch.

For pudding we had the following:

Mini Pavlovas

2 egg whites, at room temperature

100g (1 cup) caster sugar

150ml double cream

160g (1 cup) lemon curd (recipe below)

Pure icing sugar, to dust

Preheat oven to 120°C. Line 3 baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Use an electric beater to beat the egg white in a clean, dry bowl until firm peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is thick and glossy.

Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm star nozzle. Pipe 5cm-round nests, about 5cm apart, on the paper.

Reduce oven to 100°C. Bake for 1 hour or until crisp and dry. Turn oven off. Leave mini pavlovas the in oven, with the door closed, to cool completely.

Lemon Curd

2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks

3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar

1/3 cup (80g) chilled unsalted butter

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

Whisk the whole eggs, yolks and sugar in a saucepan until smooth, then put the saucepan over a low heat. Add the butter, lemon juice and zest then whisk continuously until the mixture has thickened. Strain through a sieve into a sterilised jar. Lemon curd keeps, covered, in the fridge for 2 weeks. If you have leftover lemon curd you can use it the next day to spread on toast, pancakes, or even give someone a jar of lemon curd as a gift as part of a homemade hamper.


What did you cook for your Christmas Dinner? What are your favourite, must have dishes, to enjoy on Christmas Day?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

My family and I would like to wish all my blog readers their families a very Merry Christmas and say a HUGE thank you so much for reading and supporting my blog. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Day and a great start to the New Year.

Special thoughts, big hugs and hopes for peace to all those for whom Christmas is painful, because they will be missing loved ones, and/or will be alone this Christmas.

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Friday, 23 December 2011

Marshmallow or Cherry Truffles

These lovely treats can be made very quickly can be decorated many different ways.  You can roll them in coconut, chopped nuts or chocolate hail, you can even dip them in melted chocolate.

Once you've made them they can be stored in an airtight container or they can be frozen for later on, but not if you've covered them in melted chocolate.

1 to 1 1/2 packets plain biscuits (can use gluten free biscuits)

1 tin condensed milk

75g butter

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 packet mini marshmallows (vegetarian ones) or natural glace cherries rinsed and chopped in half.

1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the condensed milk, butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract in a saucepan, stirring continuously until it's all nicely combined.

Crush the biscuits finely.  Mix the crushed biscuits into the melted mixture and let it cool slightly.

Roll the biscuit mixture into balls, putting a mini marshmallow or rinsed glace cherry half into the middle of each ball taking care to wrap the mixture around it.

Roll in your chosen decoration and then refirgerate the balls until they are firm.

Handy hints: I always make a double batch of these and freeze some for when I need a quick gift or if unexpected visitors turn up over the festive season.

Adding spash of Baileys, or other liquer, to the mixture is a great way to make a more adult version of these treats - just leave out the vanilla extract.

I dipped these truffles in melted chocolate. NOM, NOM, NOM!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Help is at hand if your edible Christmas gifts are a disaster!

I've you've burnt cake, cut off the burnt bits and mix the rest with buttercream icing (homemade or store bought) and make cake pops then dip them in chocolate.  They don't have to be on sticks either. You can make them cake balls and put them in mini muffin paper cases and they will look gorgeous.

Dipping things in chocolate covers a multitude of sins. Either half or fully dip your wonky biscuits, fudge, peppermint creams or other slightly dodgy looking creations.  Cover your mistakes in chocolate, nobody will notice and tis the season of decadence after all!

If your biscuits are rock hard or slightly over cooked, crumb them in a food processor or put them in a bag and bash with a rolling rolling pin. Use them to roll truffles in or mix with chocolate ganache for cookie crumb truffles. You could also mix the crumbs with melted butter, use them as a base, and top with ganache or your favourite cheesecake topping for a quick and decadent dessert solution on Christmas day.

Savoury gifts are fab for those who don't have a sweet tooth. Some port and a hunk of cheese packaged well can be a real treat for someone who is tortured by endless cakes, chocolate and cookies.  Cheese straws, homemade crackers and/or booze is always a hit! Just make sure you pack things well and label carefully and clearly if things need to be kept in the fridge.

If all else fails tell people that your kids made whichever tasty treats that turned into disasters. Nobody will moan at your angelic children and shatter their self esteem because their rock hard biscuits could build a road, would they?! ;oP

If you haven't made enough of something, make it stretch. If you are short of biscuits, wrap them in cellophane and put them in an attractive coffee mug or tea cup. Add a pack of hot chocolate, coffee or tea and you've got a gift that should please even the pickiest person.

If you don't, can't or won't bake then gifts in a jar are perfect. Give people the ingredients and instructions and let them do the baking. LOL You could even include a wooden mixing spoon and a cake tin so they really get the hint.

Make sure you find out if people have food allergies or intolerances before you give them edible gifts.  Nothing spoils festivities like a trip to the Emergency Department due to an allergic/adverse reaction. 

If all else fails then go to the supermarket and find the most "rustic" looking mince pies, biscuits or other tasty treats that kinda look homemade and pass them off as your own. You won't be the only one pulling off this trick, especially when everyone is really busy at this time of year.  Either that or buy some biscuits or Christmas cakes and decorate them yourself.  Still has the homemade touch without as much faff.

Hit up a friendly baker to bake your treats for you to decorate.  Yes, I am a soft touch and have been baking for all and sundry the past couple of weeks. Some I do it out of the goodness of my heart (to the detriment of my bank account and frustration of my husband), but most at least give me the ingredients so I am not that out of pocket.

There is SO much food around at this time of year, you could always make up some vouchers people can use for early in the New Year.  Make your own vouchers for afternoon tea at yours, baking someone a cake, some muffins, or batch of biscuits (state which flavour on the voucher) and include them with some small baked treats, a lovely cup/mug and pack of their favourite hot beverage.

Lastly, be proud of what you have made! Package your creations well and make them look fab! If you've spent time slaving away to make gifts, make them look really special and show off your creations as best you can.  Make sure you put "Homemade with love" on the gift tag too so everyone knows you've made an effort and created something for them, so they'd better be grateful! LOL

Christmas icons chocolate mould (with instruction card)
Homemade chocolates
What are your top tips for saving the day if gift making/baking goes pear shaped?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

BakingMad.com Little Baker of the Year Competition 2011/2012

I had the pleasure of helping to judge the BakingMad.com Little Baker of the Year Competition 2011/2012 in London last Saturday.  The judging panel was Ruth Clemens - runner up on 2010’s Great British Bake Off, Baking Mad’s home-baking expert Mitzie Wilson and a slightly starstruck me.

I was completely blown away by the confidence, technical skills and creativity shown by all the enthusiastic young bakers. It was such a great day and I thoroughly enjoyed it - not just because there was lots of cake to eat either.

After a long and tense bake off the winner that we chose was Abbie Perkins, from Wrexham who baked a light and totally delicious Rudolph Sponge Cake.

Abbie Perkins Baking Mad Little Baker of the Year

As the competition winner, Abbie will become the face of the kids section on Baking Mad.com, have her recipes published on the website, and will also win a year’s supply of baking ingredients courtesy of The Silver Spoon Company.

Here are details of the finalists and their delicious baking:

Erinn

Errin made a gorgeous Frosty Christmas Scene out of cupcakes.  She used Oreos for the snowman hats, sugarpaste decorations she made herself, and desiccated coconut for snow.  We couldn't bear to eat one of the cute snowmen so we tasted one of the delicious Christmas tree cupcakes instead.

Baking Mad Little Baker of the Year Competition

India

India made a Christmas Cranberry Snowball.  She showed loads of technical skill by making Italian Meringue and chocolate leaves to use in her recipe, along with oat and cranberry biscuits for the base.  Very impressive baking indeed!

Baking Mad Little Baker of the Year Competition

Fidelma

Three different flavoured cupcakes made up Fidelma’s gorgeous Christmas Cupcake Wreath.  Each was decorated differently according to the flavour of the cupcake. Great idea making three different flavours of cupcake as it means that everyone is happy no matter what their tastes.  Very festive!

Baking Mad Little Baker of the Year

Abbie

This is our winner Abbie's fabulous festive Rudolph Sponge which was light as a feather, filled with a delicate buttercream and topped with delicious chocolate.  We took a slice out of the side so we didn't ruin Rudolph's smile.  It most definitely tasted as good as it looked!

Baking Mad Little Baker of the Year

During the course of the day Baking Mad’s home-baking expert Mitzie Wilson showed our young bakers how to make Christmas Pudding Cake Pops.  They had a great time decorating them and eating them after lunch.
 

I had a brilliant day, thanks to Baking Mad, Ruth, Mitzie and of course the fab young bakers who were so inspirational and amazed us with their skill.

Don't forget to check out Baking Mad for a wealth of baking recipes.  You can also find Baking Mad on FacebookTwitter and You Tube.

Last minute edible Christsmas gifts

These three recipes are my savior in moments of panic when I've forgotten to get someone a gift. Great for friends, neighbours, teachers or anyone else that you need to whip up a quick pressie for.  I've been known to combine all three in a hamper with some Lightly Spiced Christmas Cookies as a low faff last minute gift solution.

Russian Fudge

This is a favourite in our house, I normally make several batches so that there is some left to give away, so we don't eat it all.  Easy to package up in gift boxes or cellophane with pretty ribbon.

3 1/2 cups white sugar

125g butter

3 Tblsp golden syrup

125ml milk

1/2 tsp salt

200g or 1/2 tin sweetened condensed milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

Put all the ingredients, apart from the vanilla extract, into a heavy based saucepan (I use my preserving pan). Warm the ingredients over a gentle heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a soft-ball stage.

Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer until the fudge is thick, creamy, and is no longer glossy. Pour into a greased, 20cm cake tin. Cool for 10 mins, then score the top with a sharp knife.  Break into pieces when completely cooled.


Apricot Balls

These are vegan, vegetarian, dairyfree and should also be gluten free (if you buy the right dried apricots and coconut) so are great for those with special dietary needs.

250g dried apricots (I use organic ones)

1/4 cup white sugar

finely grated zest of an orange

2 Tbsp orange juice (freshly squeezed from the zested orange)

1/2 cup dessicated coconut, and some extra for rolling the balls in

Chop the apricots roughly, then put them in a food processor with the sugar, orange zest and orange juice. Process until chopped really finely. Then add the coconut and process until mixture starts to firm up.  Roll into small balls then roll in the extra coconut. Refridgerate them until they're firm.


Chocolate Brownies in a Jar

You can use any jar you may have handy. This is a fab pressie for someone that perhaps needs a gentle introduction to baking.  These are really easy to make and the cooked chocolate brownies taste delicious!

Layer the following ingredients in a jar:

1 ½ cups plain flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

½ cup good quality cocoa powder

2/3 cup caster sugar

½ cup chocolate chips or chunks

2/3 cup light soft brown sugar

Write on the gift tag, or label attached to the neck of the jar:

Add the following ingredients:

1/2 cup cooking oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 free range eggs

125ml milk

Pour all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix the above wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until well combined. Pour into a greased 20cm round cake tin. Bake at 180C for approximately half an hour.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before you cut them into squares.