Monthly Archives: April 2013

Top tips for avoiding food waste

Kelsie Learney takes kitchen waste out of her bin

(This is a stock image, and isn’t me by the way!)

Just a quick post tonight as I was out at a tasting with a wedding caterer (very exciting!).  Wasting food is one of my pet hates and I’ve been trying to think of some of the ways I avoid it.  Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are my thoughts below:

  1. Don’t buy too much.  Obvious really, but if your fridge is crammed you lose track of what needs using up.
  2. Make good use of your freezer to store leftovers.  I’ve talked about this in detail before.
  3. Store food properly.  I’ve noticed that when keeping carrots on a shelf in my warm, they go disgustingly soft and mushy within a fortnight, while in the fridge they last weeks.  Even more important for meat and fish – don’t leave them sitting out.
  4. Have leftovers for lunch.  This can be good even if it’s not enough for a full meal on it’s own (bolognaise sandwich, anyone?) and you can always bulk out a little leftover meat or cheese in a salad, for example.
  5. Cook proper portion sizes.  I never have leftover pasta or rice, because I weigh or measure before cooking rather than trying to measure by eye.  Think about how much you’re cooking and try to have just enough rather than too much.
  6. Keep older items at the front of the fridge where they’ll be seen first.  Whether that makes you want to use them up is another matter!
  7. Experiment with leftovers.  The best way to avoid getting sick of a particular food and having to bin the rest is to know lots of different things to do with it.  For example, roasting a butternut squash will give us enough for the whole week, so it’s useful to know we can put it in a curry, use it to top a salad or blitz to make soup.  It’s also good to turn leftovers into something different by jazzing them up with new flavourings.
  8. Be flexible.  Don’t run out to buy soured cream to have with your fajitas if you already have an opened carton of Greek yoghurt in.  By knowing what can be substituted for other things, you can more easily use up what you have rather than buying something else.
  9. Tailor meals around what you’ve got in.  Likewise, when meal planning, plan to use up what you already have first. It can help to literally pull the old food out of the fridge when making your meal plan so you can visualise how you’ll use it.
  10. Check out for more tips – this is a really useful resource with tips on portion sizes and ‘use-it-up’ recipes.

I’m sure there are loads more tips out there, but that’s all I can think of right now – what are your top tips for avoiding food waste?


Roasted tomato & goats cheese quiche


Really wanted some quiche and salads on Sunday as it’s been quite spring-like lately.  Also thought it’d be a good way to use up some of the leftovers we had from the weekend – braised red cabbage and coleslaw.

I split the quiche into six since it’s not very healthy and this was fine for me – however Dave didn’t want any of the cabbage and ended up having two slices of quiche instead, so have a think about hunger levels and what kind of sides you have.  Wedges or some nice bread on the side would make it a bit more filling.


Disclaimer- While most things are cheaper when made yourself, I just checked on Asda’s website and it’s much cheaper to buy a ready-made quiche than it is to make this – assuming you split the ready-made one into at least four (I have to say I used to eat them in only two sittings when I bought them as a student).

I’d still make it again because it was really lovely and I don’t like buying ready-made things (at least I know what’s in this one!) but if you’re on a very tight budget you may decide differently.  To make the recipe cheaper, you could try switching the cheese to something like value cheddar and I think you can also use milk instead of cream – I’ve never done this but might give it a go next time as it’d be healthier, too.

Roasted tomato and goats cheese quiche (serves 6)


  • 5 tomatoes, cut into quarters 83p
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 10p
  • 150g soft goats cheese £1.60
  • 2 eggs, beaten 50p
  • 300ml pot single cream 95p
  • a few basil leaves, cut up (optional) free from windowsill

For the pastry:

  • 200g plain flour 6p
  • 100g baking fat, cubed 22p


Make the pastry by rubbing the baking fat into the flour in a big mixing bowl.  Add water, a spoonful at a time, mixing first with the blade of a knife then lightly with your fingers, until the dough just holds together.  It doesn’t take much water, and often at the end, I’ll just knead it very slightly with wet hands and that’s enough to make it hold together.  Cover in clingfilm and chill for 20 minutes or so.

Roll out to a round a bit bigger than your tart tin (if you have a loose-bottomed one, it’ll help you out at the end) and transfer onto it.  Push in to the edges and trim the pastry at the top, but not too close as it will shrink a bit as it cooks.  Chill again for 20 minutes if you have time.


Preheat the oven to 200C.  Pop the tomato quarters onto a baking tray, drizzle in the olive oil and season.  Cover the pastry case with tin foil and then baking beans or rice and put both the tomatoes and the pastry into the oven.  After 20 minutes, remove the beans/rice and the tin foil and bake for ten further minutes, or until nicely browned.  Take the tomatoes out once they are roasted and before they char too much.

Once the pastry case is done, remove from the oven and arrange the tomato quarters all over it.  Beat the eggs, cream and basil together, season, and pour over the tomatoes.  Crumble or slice the cheese all over the top and put the quiche back into the oven to cook for a further 20 minutes.  You want the middle to be browned slightly and set.


£4.26 for the whole quiche or 71p per slice when sliced into six.  Serve with salad, homemade coleslaw, roasted veg, wedges, bread or anything else you like.    The remaining three helpings have been boxed up for my lunches at the start of this week – cold quiche makes a great lunch with carrot sticks or salad.

Spending update 28/04

Well it’s been a busy week, and I’ve spent quite a bit out of the new budget already!  We had some friends over for dinner on Friday night and had to get loads of things in to make a feast of pittas, hummous, tandoori chicken, roasted veg, salad, coleslaw and more.  Was worth all the effort – we had a lovely night and have been snacking on the leftovers all weekend.  I did make profiteroles for the first time for dessert, but have to say these didn’t rise properly – they were delicious though so will definitely try them again.


photo (61)

Sun 28 – roasted tomato & goats cheese quiche with leftover salady bits

Mon 29th – Dave having pizza; I’m out

Tues 30th – we have a wedding caterer tasting so are out in the evening again

Wed 1st – mac & cheese with broccoli and salad

Thurs 2nd – chilli con carne with rice

Fri 3rd – spicy chicken wings with corn on the cob and salad

Sat 4th – penne arrabiata

April Spending (184.11/£185)

Finished off April on the 24th with a couple of spends but came in a sliver under budget.

£1.74 2kg sugar
£1.98 Morrisons instant coffee

May Spending (£70.17/£185)

Got this in a couple of trips, mostly from Morrisons, but also went to an Indian & an African grocers for the spices/chana dal and a greengrocers for the cheap peppers, lemons and limes.  Still need to get corn on the cobs for Friday’s dinner.

Fruit & veg £15.22 
Courgettes x2 77p
Peppers x3 £2.37
Garlic x4 £1.00
1/2 white cabbage 55p
Red onions x2 27p
Salad x4 £3.60
Fresh olives in herbs 73p
Lemon 35p
Savers onions 1kg 49p
Carrots 720g 65p
Bananas x6 77p
Broccoli £1.11
Peppers x3 99p
Lemons x5 99p
Limes x2 58p

Meat & fish £9.65
Free range chicken breasts x4 £8.52
RTC Lorne sausage 13p
Honey roast ham £1.00

Dairy & eggs £12.59
Milk 2pints 89p
Milk 4 pints £1.49
Double cream 600ml £1.65
Savers butter 99p
Greek yoghurt £1.00
Pilgrims choice cheddar 350g £1.99
Single cream 300ml 95p
Goats cheese £1.60
Baking fat 55p
Free range eggs x6 £1.48

Bread products £1.00
Soft white rolls x12 £1.00

General £24.53
Hot chilli powder 95p
Cayenne pepper 95p
Pistachio kernals £2.09
Chickpeas x2 £1.40
Savers mayonnaise 42p
Basmati rice 500g £1.09
Dark chocolate 200g £1.15
Black mustard seeds 100g 69p
Chana dal 500g 99p
Amchoor powder 100g £1.29
Morrisons cola x6 £3.00
Almonds £1.50
Savers tuna x4 £2.36
Savers kidney beans 27p
Savers tomatoes 31p
Savers peaches 29p
Savers frozen peas 89p
Savers pasta 30p
Extra virgin olive oil 500ml £1.99
Cannelini beans 50p
Black eye beans 50p
Savers cocoa pops 83p
Dr Oetker pizza £1.29
Passata 44p
Wheat crunchies x6 94p

Household & toiletries £7.18
Savers kitchen roll £1.23
Cat litter £1.58
Savers foil 72p
Savers washing liquid £1.60
Dried cat food £1.05
Toothbrushes x2 50p
Toothpaste 50p

Spanish Vegetable Stew


I have a meal I make when I’ve got loads of veg in the fridge to use up – I call it Spanish Vegetable Stew, after some long-forgotten recipe that inspired it years ago.  In no way does it resemble anything authentically Spanish, by the way.  It’s just my name for a quick stew made with all the veg in the fridge and vaguely Spanish flavourings.  Feel free to adjust and adapt this recipe any way you want!

I served it with couscous tonight as it’s quick, but it’s not really my favourite – I prefer it with rice, mashed sweet potatoes or some homebaked rustic bread.  The portions vary each time depending on what I put in, and this made three generous portions, but I split it into four smaller ones and served with braised red cabbage as that really needed used up.

 Spanish Vegetable Stew (serves three big portions, or four smaller ones)


  • Tin butter beans (or cannelini, or pinto, or chickpeas or even green-brown lentils) 70p
  • 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes (or lots of tomato purée) 16p
  • 1/2 small swede, peeled and diced 7p
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped 15p
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped 42p
  • 2 small onions, peeled and chopped 6p
  • 1/2 red chilli, finely sliced 10p
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed 9p
  • Vegetable stock, to cover 9p
  • 2 tsp dried oregano 12p (or a mixture of herbs, such as basil and thyme)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin 6p
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika 9p
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 10p


Heat the olive oil in a deep-sided frying pan and cook the onions, carrots and peppers until softened.  Add the chilli and garlic and cook for a minute, before adding all the other ingredients except the beans.  Let it simmer away until all the vegetables are cooked, stirring occasionally.

Add the beans, season well, and cook until the beans are warmed through.  £1.04 when split between three people.

Variations – you can really add any veg – courgette, spinach, sweetcorn, green beans, celery all work well here.


Fudgey chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream


I’m not well today!  I have a sore throat and am cuddled up on the sofa under a duvet, having just enjoyed some comfort food in the form of a bolognaise pasta bake cooked by my lovely fiancé.  Since I haven’t made anything today, I wanted to share with you this recipe for a foolproof chocolate cake.

I know, I know, I said that I don’t bake many cakes and then bake three in three weeks.  In fairness, most of the mincemeat apple cake is still in the freezer, and the other two cakes were for birthdays!

This cake was baked for Dave’s brother and sister’s birthday but I’ve made it loads before.  It’s originally a BBC recipe and the only change I make is to skip the vanilla extract.  I also like to ice it with chocolate buttercream because I’m not keen on ganache.

Chocolate cake (serves 12 big slices or 16 smaller ones)

cake 2

  • 225g plain flour 7p
  • 350g caster sugar 37p
  • 85g cocoa powder 78p
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 7p
  • 1 1/2tsp bicarb of soda 5p
  • 2 free-range eggs 48p
  • 250ml milk 17p
  • 125ml vegetable oil 37p

For the icing:

  • 110g butter, softened 36p
  • about 150-185g icing sugar, sifted 34p
  • 50g cocoa powder or so 46p

Preheat the oven to 180C and well-grease two sandwich tins.  the next bit is easy – put all the ingredients for the cake into a big bowl and whisk (which is much easier if you use an electric whisk).

Add 250ml of boiling water slowly, and mix in well.  Divide between the two tins and bake for around 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Let cool for a few minutes then remove (carefully) from the tin and cook on a wire rack.

To make the icing, cut the butter up into small cubes.  Add in about 110g of the sugar, mix well, then add a bit more at a time until it’s the consistency you like.  Sift in the cocoa powder, again a bit at a time, until it tastes chocolatey enough (this isn’t really a scientific process as you can see).

Ice one of the cakes, pop the other one on top, then cover that in icing too.  I decorated with hundreds and thousands and sugar stars.

£2.36 for the cake and £1.16 for the icing or 30p per slice when sliced into 12.

Cauliflower Dhansak (sweet and sour lentil curry)

dhansak 3

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I really like making curry (see here and here).  I think that lots of people can be a bit scared of making it from scratch – in fact, when I first moved out as a student, I used to use jars of sauce (a flatmate and I always used to share a jar of korma sauce, cooked with tinned tuna and onions, and some bought naan breads – it was so good!).

When I was a vegetarian, I started with the various inauthentic dhals and curries you get in student cookbooks.  They were often either bland or tasted only of chilli, but even if they were quite nice I always wished they tasted like the curries from an Indian restaurant.

As a side note, the ‘student cookbook curries’, while inauthentic, can be really tasty –  my quick tip if making curry from a non-specialist cookbook is double up on all of the spices EXCEPT the chilli and you can also try a little lemon juice and/or sugar at the end to perk it up a bit.

Since my student days I’ve learned a lot about curry, both more authentically Indian recipes (with the help of a great cookbook called India’s Vegetarian Cooking which has recipes from the various regions) and some of the classics of British Indian restaurants, which is a very different thing.  This curry falls into the latter category and is one of my favourites on the rare occasions we get a takeaway (we got one on Saturday in fact, when visiting relatives, and it spurred me on to try making it!).

dhansak 4

Dhansak has a thick lentil sauce and is moderately hot, with lots of nice spices and it’s sort of subtly sweet and sour.  Obviously you can make it with any meat or vegetables of your choice – I used cauliflower, courgette and pepper, roasted.  I would have also added a few cashews for extra protein and crunch but we didn’t have any in and it was filling enough without it to be honest.

Vegetable Dhansak

dhansak 2

Dave dubbed this “the best homemade curry I’ve ever tasted” so it wasn’t just me that thought it turned out well!  I consulted The Takeaway Secret for inspiration but didn’t really follow the recipe (would still recommend it as it’s a great cookbook!)

  • 1 small onion, diced 3p
  • 2-3 small carrots (about 100g), peeled and chopped 7p
  • 1/2 green pepper, 1/2 diced small and half cut into larger pieces 24p
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed 9p
  • 3 tablespoons red lentils 2p
  • 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes 16p
  • 1/4 block creamed coconut 25p
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (I’d have used fresh if I had any in)
  • 1 tsp garam masala 4p
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric 3p
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper 6p
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 3p
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin 3p
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander 3p
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 3p
  • 1/2 cauliflower, cut into half florets 99p
  • 1/3 courgette, cut into small wedges 10p
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I used brown but you can use any really) 4p
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste, or juice of 1/2 lemon (I used tamarind as I had some in) 25p
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil 9p
  • small handful chopped fresh coriander (free from windowsill)

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Arrange the cauliflower, courgette and larger chunks of pepper on a baking tray, drizzle with half of the oil, and season.  Roast for around 25-30 minutes or until cooked through and slightly blackened on the edges.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a large pan.  Add the carrot, onion and diced pepper, and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.  When softened, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the spices, coconut, lentils, tomatoes and water and cover with boiling water.  Cook for 30 minutes or so, until the lentils and vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.

Blitz the sauce very well with a hand blender until there are no chunks of vegetables left.  Add the sugar and tamarind or lemon juice, tasting and adjusting as needed until you get a subtle sweet and sour taste.  Season with salt if desired and add in the roasted vegetables, reheating them if necessary.

£1.26 per portion for the curry, plus 9p per portion for boiled rice to serve with it.  We also had a couple of leftover wraps from last night which I haven’t costed yet.

dhansak 4

Vegetable Fajitas

photo 1

All vegetarians know that there are some veggie foods guaranteed to cause a meat-eater to grimace when mentioned (nut roasts and tofu spring to mind pretty much instantly).

Equally, there are a small stock of meals that it’s almost always safe to serve to a mixed gathering of carnivores and veggies.  Lasagne and chilli being the two biggies, but I’d also add these lovely fajitas to the mix.  OK, they might feel a bit of a pang at the lack of meat, but no-one’s going to actually dislike them.

Another advantage of fajitas is that they’re incredibly quick to make, apart from the wraps, and obviously you can make those in advance or just buy them if you want.  I can make everything else in 15-20 minutes, but to make it even quicker, I cut up and marinaded the veg last night so just had to cook it tonight.  Mondays are busy for us and we both get in around 7, so we really need a quick meal!

photo 2

I don’t usually measure the spices but instead just upturn random spice bottles over the bowl and judge by eye – I only measured it this time because I didn’t feel that “add any spices you want, in any quantities” made for a helpful recipe.  There is, therefore, loads of room for improvisation in these recipes so you can, if you want, make the spice mix subtly different every time.

With regards to accompaniments, I follow a similarly relaxed approach.  There is always either yoghurt or soured cream (crème fraîche would also work in a pinch), and I only didn’t have any this time because I discovered my opened tub of yoghurt had gone off just as I was making it.  I also serve cheese, generally some kind of salad (usually leaves but leftover coleslaw this time) and salsa and/or jalapeños.   I like homemade salsa best, but since Dave’s allergic to fresh tomatoes (and all uncooked fruit, sadly) I use cheapy bought stuff if I’m cooking for him.

Tortilla Wraps (makes 8)

photo (98)

My recipe comes originally from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘World Vegetarian’, which I’ve mentioned before – I love it!

  • 125g plain flour
  • 125g strong white flour
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Rub the oil into the salt and flour in a large bowl, and add very hot water, a little at a time, mixing in with a wooden spoon.  I think I used about 300ml to get it to a ball of dough that stuck together.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead very well for several minutes.

Cut into eight equal pieces and leave, covered, to rest for 30 minutes or so.

Heat a large frying pan to medium.  Roll the first ball into a very thin round, about 7 inches or so in diameter.  Shake off any excess flour and pop it on the pan, leaving for 20-30 seconds (air bubbles will start to appear in the dough) while you begin to roll out the next ball.  Stop rolling briefly to turn the wrap over and cook for another 30 seconds.  I find the middle burns before the edges cook, so I then pull one edge to the middle of the pan, hold down for ten seconds, and do the same to each section of edge until the whole thing is cooked.  It’s very easy to burn so keep an eye on them!

Before cooking the second one, wipe down the pan to remove any burnt flour.  Keep cooking and rolling out til they’re all done.  Once cooked, they last a couple of days or can be frozen.

Vegetable fajitas (serves two)

photo (97)

  • 2 peppers (I used one red and one green), sliced
  • 2/3 courgette, cut into thin strips
  • 2 small onions, sliced
  • 2 big cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chilli
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.  You can cook it straight away, or leave it covered in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Fry everything on a medium-high heat for a few minutes, stirring – add a splash of water now and then to stop burning, though allowing a  little charring adds an authentically smoky flavour.  As Dave likes his veg quite well cooked, I tend to add a little water at the start and cover with a tea towel to let it steam for a few minutes before frying off the excess moisture.

Serve with wraps (I had 2, he had 3), 150g or so grated cheese and any other accompaniments you’d like – we had coleslaw, salsa and jalapeños.

photo (99)