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Mejadra (Middle Eastern Spiced Lentils and Rice)

Friday 31 August 2018
I was having a chat with a few friends about their favourite tasty and thrifty recipes. We’re all from different cultures and it was fascinating to hear about their family favourites, and share ours. I love experimenting with new recipes, especially those from other cultures, there’s so many delicious dishes to discover. 

My friend Gila gave me this recipe, it’s a family favourite from the Middle East, in fact she makes it at least once a week for her household. I wrote the recipe down exactly as she told it to me and I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did. We had ours with steamed greens, yoghurt, and pita breads but it’s also delicious as a side dish served with cooked meat, fish, or vegetables. 


2 Tblsp oil 
1 tsp ground cumin 
1 ½ tsp ground coriander 
½ tsp ground turmeric 
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon 
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp black pepper 
300g/1½ cup basmati or long grain rice 
450ml/1¾ cups water 
400g tin green lentils, drained 
freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

Crispy Onions 

3 large or 4 small onions, very finely sliced 
1 cup/250 ml oil 

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot add about a tablespoon of the onions to test how long it will take to cook. If the oil isn’t hot enough it will take quite a while, and if the oil is too hot the onion will brown too quickly and be bitter. 

You’re aiming for it to take about 5 – 7 minutes for 1/3 of the chopped onions to become golden and crispy. It’s important to cook the onions in several batches so the pan is not overcrowded. If you put all of the chopped onion in the pan at once this will lower the temperature of the oil and you’ll end up with limp and greasy onions instead of crispy ones. 

Remove the onions from the oil using a slotted spoon and then drain well on paper towels. Repeat until all the onions are golden and crisp. These onions are fab for topping salads too so you could always make a double batch and use them on packed lunch salads or in wraps. 

Spiced Rice and Lentils 

Put the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Pour in the rice and stir to coat in the oil and spices. Add the water and the drained lentils. Bring to the boil then turn down to the lowest heat setting. Cover and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. 

Take off the heat and leave to stand so that any remaining liquid can be absorbed. Stir well, taste to check for seasoning. Stir through three quarters of the crispy onions, then sprinkle the rest on top of each serving with some chopped fresh coriander or parsley. 

Chana Masala

Wednesday 29 August 2018
This is such a quick and cheap dinner, using mostly store cupboard ingredients.  I tend to buy fresh ginger then finely chop/grate it and freeze it until I need it, the same with chilli.  There's usually some great yellow sticker bargains to be had on ginger and chilli if I'm at the supermarket at the right time or I buy them from our local ethnic supermarkets.  We're really fortunate to have several amazing shops within a two mile radius which stock a wide selection of herbs, spices, exotic vegetables and fruits, and international cooking ingredients, at prices much cheaper than our usual supermarkets.     

This is a brilliant dinner for a busy weeknight, very filling and with good strong flavours.  I blend the garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander mix then freeze it in batches because it saves time, and the mix can be used as a base for lots of different curries.

Chana Masala

2 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained
1 Tblsp vegetable oil 
1 tsp cumin seeds 
1 large onion, finely chopped 
6 garlic cloves 
25g root ginger 
30g fresh coriander 
2 or more green chillies, finely chopped  
1 Tblsp ground coriander 
1-2 tsp chilli powder (to taste) 
1 tsp ground turmeric 
400g tin chopped tomatoes 
550g tin potatoes, drained 
1 tsp garam masala  
1 tbsp lemon juice 

Put the drained chickpeas in a saucepan and add enough water to just cover them.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes then drain, keeping the cooking water.  

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat.  Once the pan is up to temperature, add the cumin seeds and cook for a minute or two until fragrant.  Add the onion and cook until softened and golden.  Don't rush this step, take your time cooking the onions for around 10 minutes, stirring regularly. 

Whilst the onions are cooking, either use a stick blender or food processor to make the garlic, ginger, fresh coriander and chillies into a paste. 

Once the onions are soft and golden, pour the spice paste into the pan and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the ground coriander, chilli power and turmeric and cooking for a further couple of minutes.  You may need to add a little more oil and stir the mixture constantly so it doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan.  

Stir in the chopped tomatoes, drained tinned potatoes, chickpeas, and the chickpea cooking water, then bring to boil.  Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the curry has thickened. 

Remove from the heat, stir  through the garam masala and lemon juice.  Leave to cool for a few minutes then serve with a garnish of chopped fresh coriander.


Monday 27 August 2018

This is definitely a Mother Hubbard week for us. We’ve had eye tests for all of the children and of course new glasses were needed, a couple of new bicycle tyres were needed, the last of school uniform shopping, school shoe shopping, and my husband needed new shoes too as when it belted with rain he discovered his were holey. This means that payday on Friday cannot come soon enough.

We’ll be using up what we have in the cupboards, and buying the bare minimum, to get us through the last full week of school holidays. We’ve got more blackberries, foraged from the local common, and our apple tree is still laden with fruit. Our back garden still has fresh herbs, raspberries, rhubarb, chard and rocket. Thank goodness for free foraged and homegrown food!

I walked up to the local butcher and got six chicken frames for free. They were from free range chickens, and there’s still quite a bit of meat left on them. I’ll get as much of the meat off them as I can then make stock. The meat will go into a stir fry, and the rice will be cooked in the stock. That will be one tasty and very cheap dinner. I’ll also be making chicken soup from the stock.

I'll be adding cooked pearl barley to our soups, especially the blended ones, because it bulks out the soups and adds more protein and minerals for a very low cost.  Once blended you can't tell the barley is in there, perfect for picky eaters.  I've added tinned beans in the past for this reason too, cannellini beans and haricot beans are easiest to disguise.  There's a handy guide to cooking pearl barley here.

Breakfasts will be porridge or overnight oats with apple and blackberry or apple and rhubarb compote. Weekend breakfasts will be pancakes and bacon butties.

Snacks will be popcorn, homemade rice pudding pots, homemade yoghurt with fruit compote, scone swirls and flapjacks.

Lunches will be soups as the weather has turned cooler. We’ll have homemade wholemeal bread rolls with the soups to help fill us up. We’ll be having Slow Cooker French Onion Soup, Mixed Vegetable Soup, Tomato and Basil Soup, Spicy Roast Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup, and Basic Vegetable Soup.  Weekend lunches will be Twice Baked Potatoes and Caramelised Onion Swirls both with salad greens from the garden.


Bean and Rice Burritos 

1 Tblsp oil 
1 onion, finely chopped 
4 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tsp paprika 
400g tin chilli beans 
400g tin black beans, drained 
400g tin chopped tomatoes 
1 carrot, grated 
300g frozen spinach, defrosted with the water squeezed out or finely shredded fresh chard
1 tsp dried mixed herbs 
½ tsp chilli (to taste) 
3 cups cooked rice, I used brown 
10-12 tortillas 
1 cup grated cheese« 

Heat oil in a large frying pan or pot over a medium heat and cook the onion until softened, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika and fry for a further couple of two minutes. Mix in the chilli beans and black beans, chopped tomatoes, carrots, spinach, mixed herbs, chilli powder and rice. Simmer the mixture uncovered for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until it has thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

To assemble the burritos, heat the tortillas according to the package instructions. Spoon a little of the bean and rice mixture in the centre of each tortilla. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Fold the edges and roll up to make the burrito.

Macaroni Cheese - I make my own cheese sauce using a roux base and add frozen mixed vegetables to the pasta during the last few minutes of cooking time. Our Macaroni Cheese usually has plenty of vegetables with the pasta in a rich cheddar cheese sauce.

Chicken Fried Rice 

2 cups long grain rice
600ml stock or water
6 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tblsp/30ml oil 
1 onion, finely diced
1kg mixed frozen vegetables
300g leftover cooked chicken, shredded
45ml soy sauce, salt reduced (use more or less, to taste) 

Rinse the rice under cold running water until the water is clear then put the rice and stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil with the lid on.  Reduce heat to the lowest setting and cook for 20 minutes or until the stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  

Heat a wok or large frying pan with half of the oil.  Add the beaten eggs and cook until lightly scrambled. Remove eggs and roughly chop.  Add the rest of the oil to the wok and add the onion and vegetables. Stir-fry until nearly cooked.   Add cooked rice and chicken and cook until piping hot and heated through.  Add eggs back to the wok with soy sauce and mix thoroughly, making sure every thing is piping hot, leave to cool a little then serve. 

Slow Cooker Veggie Bolognese (Vegan) served with pasta and mixed vegetables

Chicken Soup

Leftover cooked chicken
1 Tblsp oil 
2 onions, diced
2 large carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1.5 litres chicken stock
1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 Tblsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the onion softens. Add stock and bring to the boil. Add barley the reduce the heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, skimming any foam from the surface, for 25 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables and barley are tender. Add cooked chicken and simmer for a further 10 minutes until the chicken is heated through. Stir in parsley. Season to taste then serve.

Shopping List

37 items: £42.93

3x   ASDA Frozen for Freshness Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)                          £2.85

Tins, Jars and Cooking
5x   ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes in Tomato Juice (400g)             £1.45
1x   ASDA Smartprice Red Kidney Beans in Water (400g)                          30p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn in Water (326g)                                      35p
2x   ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g)                                                      66p
1x   ASDA Stock Cubes - Vegetable (12x10g)                                            39p
1x   ASDA Black Beans in Water (400g)                                                    65p
1x   ASDA Chilli Beans in Chilli Sauce (390g)                                            65p

Dairy and Eggs
1x   ASDA Semi Skimmed Milk 6 Pints (3.41L)                                           £1.48
2x   ASDA British Whole Milk 6 Pints (3.41L)                                             £2.96
1x   ASDA Free Range Large Eggs (12)                                                    £1.85
1x   ASDA Best for Baking Cakes Spread (500g)                                       85p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g)                                 45p
1x   ASDA Butter - Unsalted (250g)                                                           £1.49
1x   ASDA Smartprice Mature White Cheddar (830g)                                  £3.69

Packets and Cereals
1x   Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (1Kg)                                                  65p
1x   ASDA Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                                             69p
1x   ASDA Wholemeal Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                                                69p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg)                                        45p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg)                                       45p
1x   ASDA Easy Cook Long Grain Brown Rice (1Kg)                                  £1.09
1x   ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg)                                            45p
2x   ASDA Smartprice Pasta Shapes (500g)                                              60p
1x   ASDA Good and Balanced Pearl Barley (500g)                                    55p
1x   ASDA Dried Red Lentils (500g)                                                           £1.15
1x   Tropical Sun Popcorn (500g)                                                              79p
2x   ASDA Scottish Porridge Oats (1Kg)                                                    £1.78

Meat, Fish and Poultry
2x   ASDA Farm Stores Cooking Bacon (500g)                                          £1.14

Fruit and Vegetables
25   ASDA Grower's Selection Bananas by Weight (200g)                          £3.00
2x   ASDA Grower's Selection Carrots (1Kg)                                              £1.30
1     ASDA Grower's Selection Butternut Squash                                        98p
1x   ASDA Grower's Selection Celery                                                        52p
1x   ASDA Grower's Selection Garlic Loose                                               20p
2x   ASDA Grower's Selection Swede                                                        £1.00
2x   ASDA Farm Stores Brown Onions (1Kg)                                             £1.10
2x   ASDA Farm Stores White Potatoes (2.5Kg)                                         £2.30
4x     ASDA Grower's Selection Sweet Potatoes by Weight (Approx 663g)    £1.99

We purchased our shopping online from Asda, via My Supermarket and the cost of our groceries was £42.93. Had we shopped elsewhere our shopping list would've cost:

£46.91 from Tesco
£49.83 from Sainsburys
£59.34 from Ocado
£64.60 from Waitrose

My lovely blogging buddy Ciara from My Fussy Eater has created a fab Meal Planning Facebook Group so we can inspire each other. She also has a book out which you can order here

And Katykicker, and Naomi from The Organised Life Project have a Meal Planning Linky full of fabulous Meal Planning posts with lots of tasty ideas.


Monday 20 August 2018

Apologies for the lack of Meal Plan on the blog last week, I totally ran out of weekend, and by the time I'd written it up it was Wednesday and I thought it would be too far into the week to publish it.

It's the fifth week of the school holidays, only a couple of weeks left. We've been on outings locally, taking our own lunch and snacks to save money.  My middle two daughters had a two hour pottery class recently and thoroughly enjoyed it so we'll try and sort some more sessions later in the year, they've also been to some cheap sessions at the movies - taking their own snacks of course.  We've also visited some of the local museums for free and low cost workshops.

Our back garden is still going strong supplying us with salad greens, fresh herbs, raspberries, and loads of apples.  We went foraging on the local common last weekend and picked 4.5kg of blackberries, making sure we left plenty behind for other foragers to pick.  I've frozen 2kg, made jam with 1.5kg, and made batches of muffins and crumble with the rest, combined with apples from our tree.  We ate some and some are stashed in the freezer for this week and next.

Breakfasts will be cereal and milk or toast and spread, both with a piece of fruit for afters.  On the weekend we'll probably have pancakes and bacon sandwiches.

Lunches will be pasta salad, twice baked potatoes, mini frittatas, quesadillas, baked beans on toast, noodle bowls, and a fridge clear out crustless quiche.


Speedy Vegetable Curry

300g quinoa
140g curry paste
3 peppers, diced
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
400ml tin coconut milk
500g frozen mixed vegetables

Cook quinoa according to packet instructions.  Put a large saute pan over a medium heat.  Add the curry paste and cook for a minute or two until fragrant.  Add the peppers and sweet potatoes, stirring to coat them in the curry paste.  Pour in the tinned tomatoes and coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.  

Uncover the pan, stir through the mixed vegetables, and simmer uncovered for around 10 - 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly.  

Spring Rolls

12 sheets filo pastry
sesame oil, for brushing
6 spring onions, thinly sliced
3 carrots, grated or very thinly sliced
2 peppers, very thinly sliced
300g spring greens, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 or 2 tsp Chinese 5 spice
1 Tblsp soy sauce, or more to taste

Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas Mark 5 and line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl until well combined.  Unwrap the filo and cover with a damp tea towel to stop them drying out.  Take two of the sheets, brush them with sesame oil and lay one on top of the other.  

Put 1/6 of the filling in a line down the centre of the pastry.  Bring the bottom edges up over the filling then roll the rest of the pasty over the filling, a bit like making a burrito.  Put the spring roll on your prepared tray.  Repeat the process with the rest of the pasty and filling.  

Bake in the oven for around 25 - 30 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.  Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving, and take care as the filling will be rather hot.

Creamy Bacon and Butterbean Bake

2 x 400g cans butterbeans, drained
300g bacon, diced and cooked
2 cloves garlic, minced
180ml whipping cream
100g hard cheese, finely grated
2 tsp dried mixed herbs

Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas Mark 5.

Reserve a handful of cheese for topping.  Combine all the other ingredients in an ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle over the reserved cheese and then bake for 25 minutes.  Cool a little before serving.  We'll be having ours with steamed greens and mixed vegetables.

Crispy Curry Chicken

1 cup wholemeal flour
3 Tbsp curry powder
2 free range eggs
¼ cup milk
10 - 12 chicken drumsticks, skin removed

Preheat your oven to 200C and line a baking tray with foil or baking paper.  On a large plate, mix together the flour and curry powder.  On a plate or in a shallow bowl, beat together the egg and milk. 

Coat the chicken in the flour mixture, then dip the chicken into the egg mixture allowing the excess to drip off.  Dip the chicken in the flour mixture for a second time and gently shake off the excess.

Place the chicken on the prepared tray, cover and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.  Take the chicken out of the fridge and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  We'll be serving ours with homemade coleslaw and oven baked sweet potato wedges.

Mini Meatloaves

500g sausage meat
500g lean mince
1 onion, diced
3 Tblsp tomato sauce/ketchup, or sweet chilli sauce
1 free range egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 Tblsp low-salt soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1/2 cup frozen sweetcorn
1/2 cup frozen peas
250ml/1 cup tomato-based pasta sauce

Preheat your oven to 180C.  With slightly wet hands mix together all of the ingredients except the pasta sauce.  If the mixture seems too wet, add some more rolled oats to help hold it together.

Spray muffin tins with a little cooking oil.  Spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins. Once the mixture has all been used, gently press down the tops of the meatloaves with the back of a spoon.  This helps press them into the tins, and also ensures even cooking.

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle.  As soon as the meatloaves are out of the oven, top each of them with a spoonful of pasta sauce.  Leave to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Chickpea and Chorizo Stew

200g chorizo, diced
2 onions, diced
2 peppers, diced
2 celery sticks, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 x 400g chickpeas, drained
2 x 400g tinned tomatoes
2 tsp paprika

Put the chorizo into a large saute pan over a medium heat.  Cook, stirring until the chorizo starts to get crispy and the delicious oil runs from it.  Add the onions, peppers, celery, and carrot to the pan with a little extra oil if necessary.  Stir frequently until the vegetables start to soften.  Add the chickpeas, tomato and paprika stirring to combine everything.  Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender.  Add a little water if necessary, and keep an eye on the pan and stir every so often.  I'll serve this with cooked rice and steamed greens.

Homemade Fish and Chips

Shopping List

48 items: £72.77

Packets & Cereals
2x   ASDA Smartprice Wheat Bisks (24x18g)                                 £1.48
1x   ASDA Wholemeal Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                                    69p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg)                                45p
1x   ASDA Egg Noodles Medium (250g)                                         59p
1x   ASDA Wholewheat Penne (500g)                                            45p
1x   Oz-Yufka Flat Type Filo Pastry (500g)                                    £1.95
1x   ASDA Quinoa (300g)                                                              £1.19
1x   ASDA Corn Flakes (790g)                                                       £1.34

Tins, Jars & Cooking
1x   ASDA Smartprice Bolognese Sauce (440g)                             39p
1x   ASDA Baked Beans, Reduced Sugar & Salt (4x410g)              98p
3x   ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)                          87p
2x   ASDA Butter Beans in Water (400g)                                        78p
2x   ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g)                                          66p
1x   Caribbean Choice Coconut Milk (400ml)                                  50p
1x   ASDA Curry Paste - Balti (200g)                                             £1.19

1x   ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)                              99p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn (1Kg)                                         94p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Peas (1Kg)                                                 85p
1x   ASDA White Fish Fillets (540g)                                               £3.00

Dairy & Eggs
1x   ASDA British Single Cream (300ml)                                        99p
3x   ASDA British Whole Milk 6 Pints (3.41L)                                 £4.44
1x   ASDA Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs (15)                            £2.00
1x   ASDA Smartprice Mature White Cheddar (830g)                      £3.69
1x   ASDA Smartprice Hard Cheese Wedge (170g)                        £1.60

Fruit & Vegetables
2x   ASDA Grower's Selection Salad Tomatoes (750g)                   £2.30
27   ASDA Grower's Selection Bananas by Weight (200g)              £3.00
1x   ASDA Grower's Selection Watermelon                                    £2.50
2x   ASDA Grower's Selection Carrots (1Kg)                                  £1.30
3x   ASDA Grower's Selection Whole Cucumber                             £1.50
1x   ASDA Grower's Selection Celery                                             52p
2x   ASDA Grower's Selection Spring Onions                                 £1.00
2x   ASDA Grower's Selection Apricots (320g)                               £2.00
1x   ASDA Grower's Selection Sweetclem (600g)                           £1.39
2x   ASDA Farm Stores Pears (500g)                                            £2.00
3x   ASDA Grower's Selection Sweet Potatoes (2)                          £1.95
1x   ASDA Farm Stores Brown Onions (1Kg)                                  55p
2x   ASDA Farm Stores White Potatoes (2.5Kg)                             £2.30
2x   ASDA Farm Stores Plums (400g)                                            £1.58
2x   ASDA Grower's Selection Cooking Peppers (700g)                  £2.70
1     ASDA Grower's Selection Red Cabbage by Weight                  72p
1     ASDA Grower's Selection White Cabbage                               78p
2x   ASDA Grower's Selection Nectarines (6)                                 £2.18

Meat, Fish & Poultry
2x   ASDA Farm Stores Cooking Bacon (500g)                              £1.14
1x   ASDA Butcher's Selection Beef Mince - 12% Fat (500g)           £2.16
1x   ASDA Extra Special Chorizo Casero Sausage (225g)              £1.85
1x   ASDA Butcher's Selection Chicken Drumsticks (1.1Kg)           £2.20
1x   ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 400g)          £2.25

1x   ASDA Wholemeal Tortilla Wraps (8)                                        89p

We purchased our shopping online from Asda, via My Supermarket and the cost of our groceries was £72.77.  Had we shopped elsewhere our shopping list would've cost:

£73.52 from Tesco
£81.63 from Sainsburys
£101.44 from Ocado
£101.98 from Waitrose

My lovely blogging buddy Ciara from My Fussy Eater has created a fab Meal Planning Facebook Group so we can inspire each other. She also has a book out which you can order here

And Katykicker, and Naomi from The Organised Life Project have a Meal Planning Linky full of fabulous Meal Planning posts with lots of tasty ideas.

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