Monthly Archives: May 2013

Garlic Chilli Vegetable Curry

This is another curry inspired by The Takeaway Secret, but I’ve made quite a few changes to it.  I think it turned out pretty well – quite spicy, but not unbearably so.  Of course, you can add more or less chilli if you want.

I served with homemade naans (I’ll need to post the recipe for these soon, they are a bit faffy, but very good!), but you could equally serve with rice and/or other breads.

garlic chilli veg curry

Garlic Chilli Vegetable Curry (serves two, with leftovers – could stretch to three with the right side dishes)

  • 1 cans-worth chickpeas (I used 112g dried ones, pre-cooked)
  • 100g fresh spinach
  • 1/2 bag fresh coriander

For the basic sauce:-

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled chopped
  • Around 1/3 pack creamed coconut, cut into chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes

For the garlic chilli oil flavouring

  • 1 tsp Madras curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

Start by making the basic sauce – heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion and carrot for a few minutes until starting to brown.  Add the crushed garlic and ginger and cook for a minute further, then add all the other sauce ingredients and a splash of water.  Cook for 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are soft, then puree with a stick blender or in a jug blender.

Heat the rest of the oil in a small frying pan and cook the sliced garlic for a minute.  Add all the spices and fry for a further two minutes, until aromatic.  Pour over the curry sauce and mix in, then add the chickpeas and spinach.  Stir in until the spinach is wilted and everything has heated through.  Season with salt if desired and serve with rice or naans and yoghurt.


Tomato and mascarpone pasta

tomato and mascarpone pasta 2

Sometimes we find ourselves eating the same few meals most of the time, and this happens with pasta – we tend to make arrabiata and cheesy pasta all the time rather than anything new.  Dave doesn’t like creamy pasta sauces either, which doesn’t help.

After a bit of googling of different tomato-based pasta sauces, I decided to make this quick and easy tomato and mascarpone sauce to have with spaghetti.  I did plan to roast some peppers and maybe courgettes to toss into the sauce, but couldn’t be bothered to just tossed some spinach through instead, which was totally a good call.

This dish is a real comfort food dish and pretty cheap too.  If you don’t have or want spinach, feel free to try out different vegetables, or even skip and serve with a side salad.  You could also add in some cooked chicken to the sauce if you wanted a meat dish.

tomato and mascarpone pasta

Tomato and mascarpone pasta (serves 2, 89p per portion)

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes 31p (Tesco)
  • 85g mascarpone 50p (£1.50 / 250g, Tesco)
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced 3p (49p / kg, Morrisons)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed 4p (49p / 3 bulbs, Tesco)
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil 1p (£1.45 / litre, Tesco)
  • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano 6p (95p / 25g, Asda)
  • a few fresh basil leaves (free from windowsill)
  • 100g fresh spinach 50p (£1 / 200g, Tesco)
  • 150-200g dried spaghetti 7p (19p / 500g, Tesco)
  • Optional – 20g or so Grana Padano, parmesan or similar, finely shaved 25p (£2.50 /200g, Asda)

Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion until soft and translucent.  Add the garlic and fry for another minute, then add the tomatoes and oregano to the pan.

Simmer for around 20 minutes, until the tomato sauce is thick and reduced.  Put the pasta on to cook as per the packet directions, and stir the mascarpone, spinach and basil into the sauce.  It will look like way too much spinach, but as you cook it, it will wilt and cook down.

Season, keep warm and serve mixed through the cooked spaghetti, topped with parmesan or similar if desired.

tomato and mascarpone pasta 3

89p per portion including the parmesan, or 77p without.  If you’re wondering what to do with the leftover mascarpone, I’m planning on putting it on our pizzas on Friday.  You could also use it in dessert, or to swirl on soup.

Mid-week treat meal – steak with ratatouille and mustard potatoes

steak with ratatouille

To celebrate payday and the beginning of June’s budget, I wanted to make a couple of ‘treaty’ meals this week.  After flipping through my copy of Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals (a lovely Christmas present from my grandparents) I was inspired by his grilled steak, ratatouille and saffron rice recipe.

It’s very difficult for me to make a recipe without tweaking and changing it, and this was no exception.  I skipped the aubergine, parley, yoghurt (actually I just forgot this) and anchovies, used white instead of red onion, wholegrain instead of french mustard and vegetable instead of olive oil for the cooking.  Most notably, Dave isn’t mad keen on rice, and I try to only serve it once a week or so, so I replaced the saffron rice with boiled potatoes dressed in a little of the mustardy steak dressing. The recipe called for sirloin steak, which I duly ordered, but Tesco substituted it for a more expensive fillet steak (only charging me the original price) and it was lovely too.  In the recipe, I’ve indicated that you can use either.

It was the first time I’d made this and I’d definitely make it again.  It took me more than 15 minutes due to all the changes I made, but it was still quick and really, really good.  The mustardy potatoes were especially good and we both thought they were nicer with the meal than rice would have been.

steak and ratatouille

Steak with quick ratatouille and mustardy potatoes (serves 2 at £2.92 per portion)

  • 1 250g sirloin or fillet steak £4.50 (Tesco)
  • 1 tsp paprika 3p (58p / 46g, Asda)
  • 3 small potatoes, cut in half 24p (£2 / 2.5kg, Morrisons)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 6p (£1.99 / 500ml, Morrisons)
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard 3p (65p / jar, Asda)
  • juice of 1/2 small lemon or 1/4 a large one 5p (49p / 5, Tesco)

For the ratatouille:-

  • 1 courgette, cut in half lengthways 40p (£1.60 / 4, Tesco)
  • 1 pepper, cut into chunks 23p (£1.35 / 6, Tesco)
  • 1 small onion, chopped roughly 3p (49p / 1kg, Morrisons)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed 4p (49p / 3 bulbs, Tesco)
  • 1/3 tin chopped tomatoes 11p (Tesco)
  • 1 tsp harissa paste 8p (£1.37 / 90g, Asda)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil 1p (£1.45 / litre, Tesco)
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar 3p (£1 / 250ml, Asda)
  • handful fresh basil leaves (free from windowsill)

steak with ratatouille 2

Put the potatoes on to boil in a saucepan full of salted water.

Meanwhile, heat a griddle pan over a high heat, and when hot, arrange the courgette halves and chunks of pepper on the pan.  Turn once charred and when cooked on both sides, remove the vegetables.  Slice the courgette halves into half-rounds.

Heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat and add the onions.  Cook for a few minutes until starting to turn translucent, and add the peppers and courgettes, garlic and harissa paste to the pan.  Stir for a minute, then add the chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and a splash of water.  I tasted at this point and added a big pinch of sugar as well as a little salt and pepper.  Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally and adding a further splash of water if it dries out too much.

Rub the paprika into the steak, along with salt and pepper.  Bring the griddle pan back up to a high heat, and once it’s started to turn white, brush with a little bit of vegetable oil and add the steak to the pan.  Cook to desired rareness level – ours was a thick fillet steak, and I ended up cooking it for about 5 minutes on each side to get it on the rare side of medium (I like it rarer but Dave doesn’t).

Meanwhile, mix the lemon juice, mustard and olive oil to make the mustardy dressing, and season.  When the potatoes are done, drain them and toss in half the dressing.  When the steak is done, slice thinly, put half on each plate, and drizzle with the remaining dressing.  Serve with the ratatouille and scattered with basil leaves, if you have any growing.

At £2.92 per portion, this not cheap, maybe the most expensive meal I’ve blogged.  BUT it is miles cheaper and healthier than going out for dinner would have been.  By slicing the steak and splitting between the two of us (which Jamie seems to do in most of the 15 minute recipes), it also makes the meal much cheaper than having the usual steak each with salad and chips.

steak with ratatouille 3

Mealplan and Spending Update 27/05


I’ve linked up with Mrs M’s Mealplanning Monday

I got my Tesco delivery today instead of the usual Sunday, because we spent yesterday having a lovely afternoon with my parents, my sister and her fiancé.  I’m not that happy with our delivery actually – it was an hour late (to be fair, this is pretty unusual) and the 50g bag of cumin you’ll see below was advertised as being 100g (it says this on my receipt too so I am going to complain).

Apart from this I had a good day, taking advantage of the bank holiday and getting organised for the week:

chicken stock

1 1/2 litres chicken stock…

cooked chicken

…and 220g cooked chicken.

split pea soup

Curried split pea and coriander soup

brown bread

A loaf of brown bread

ham sandwiches

Two days of ham and pickle sandwiches for Dave

garlic chilli veg curry

Garlic chilli veg curry (recipe coming soon)

Looking at my mealplan below for this week, it’s obvious that it’s just post-payday – all the meals will work out quite pricey, with main ingredients like halloumi, steak and free-range chicken.  I think we were both in need of some treats though after eating out of the cupboards and freezers all of last week!


Sun 26 – dinner at my parents’ house

Mon 27 – garlic chilli vegetable curry with homemade naans and riata

Tues 28 – sliced griddled steak, ratatouille and potatoes

Wed 29 – halloumi and vegetable kebabs with salad and rice salad

Thurs 30 – tomato and mascarpone pasta with roasted vegetables

Fri 31pizzas with salad

Sat 1 – southern fried chicken with corn on the cob, chips and salad

May Spending (£177.92 / £185)

Whole milk 2ltr 97p
Salad leaves 80p
Whiskas cat treats £1
RTC toastie sliced loaf 15p

June Spending (£55.88 / £185)

Delivery £3.50

Fruit & veg £11.80
Fresh spinach 200g £1
Salad leaves x2 £2.50
Closed cup mushrooms x6 48p
Fresh coriander 31g 80p
E'day value peppers 6pk £1.35
E'day value lemons 5pk 49p
E'day value carrots 1.5kg (30pk) 92p
E'day value garlic 3pk 49p
E'day value courgettes 1kg (4pk) £1.60
Fun sized apples 9pk £1.40
Bananas x6 77p

Meat & fish £7.14
Fillet steak 250g £4.50 (subbed for a sirloin)
E'day value ham 400g £1.65
Pepperoni 150g 99p

Dairy & eggs £10.53
Mozzarella 150g - free in cheese 3 for 2 offer
Mascarpone 250g £1.50
Cathedral city mature cheddar 350g £2.25
E'day value natural yoghurt 45p
Tesco spreadable butter 500g £1.69
Halloumi 250g £2.25
Creamfields whole milk 4 pints £1
Free range eggs x6 £1.39

General £16.40
E'day value spaghetti 19p
E'day value tinned tuna x2 £1.60
Yellow split peas 500g 49p
Cannellini beans 500g £1.09
E'day value chopped tomatoes x4 £1.24
Tesco cola x8 £4
E'day value coco snaps 83p
McCoys 6pk x2 £1.88
Pistachio nuts in shell 250g £2.40
Ocean spray dried cranberries 150g £1
Bevelini passata 50p
Indus ground cumin 50g 59p
Indus madras curry powder 100g 59p

Household/Other £6.51
Dried cat food 2.25kg £2.79
E'day value cat litter £1.58
E'day value hair gel 15p
Spring force toilet roll 9pk £1.99

Chickpea burgers (a work in progress)

*We were invited to my mum’s for dinner today and spent the whole afternoon there, so our shopping is being delivered tomorrow instead of today as usual. Because of this, the usual Sunday afternoon mealplan/spending post is being postponed until then.  Here’s a quick recipe post instead, to keep you all going.

chickpea burger

On Friday we had burger night – one of our favourites.  I wanted a change from my usual mushroom and pinto bean burgers this week, and we have loads of chickpeas in the freezer just now, so I decided to make some falafel-inspired spiced chickpea burgers instead.

They were pretty good – not the best veggie burgers I’ve ever had, but very tasty.  The main problem with them was the fact that they were very crumbly and didn’t stick together well.  After a bit of googling, I’ve determined that adding more oil, a spoonful of flour and mixing them for longer in the food processor all could have helped with the texture, so I’ve upped the oil and added the flour as an optional ingredient below (though I haven’t tested this, so can’t be 100% sure).  You could also add egg but I wanted to keep them vegan friendly, like real falafels.

It was hard to get them to brown without burning the bottoms and I think next time I’d add more oil to the pan when cooking, so have added that to the recipe below as well.

chickpea burger 2

Chickpea Burgers (makes two burgers, 26p each)

  • 1 cans-worth of cooked chickpeas (I used 112g dried ones that had been pre-soaked and cooked) 22p (95p/500g, Asda)
  • 1 small onion, cut into quarters 3p (49p / kilo, Morrisons)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed 3p (£1 / 4 bulbs, Morrisons)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander 4p (71p / 34g, Asda)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin 3p (57p / 41g Asda)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 12p
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil 5p
  • optional – 1 tbsp plain flour – see note above.

Add the chickpeas to the food processor and blitz briefly.  Add the other ingredients, except the vegetable oil and process for a few minutes until starting to turn paste-like, scraping down the sides occasionally.

chickpea burger 3

Shape the mix into two patties with wet hands, squeezing them together to stop them falling apart.  Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan to a medium heat, and add the two burgers.  Cook for several minutes on each side, until browned.  Serve in buns with salad and a little garlic mayo, hummous or tzaziki.  I also had chips and salad on the side.

26p per burger.  I served with a large white bun, 9p (50p / 6 buns, Morrisons), half a sliced onion (2p) and some garlic mayo dip (roughly 10p – 2 tbsp value mayo, a clove of crushed garlic, a tiny drizzle of olive oil, some water, a pinch of dried parsley) – 47p.  Even with a small side salad and a handful of home-made oven chips, this is a cheap meal.  

Using up leftovers – butternut squash and feta pasta

butternut squash and feta spaghetti

Though we generally stick pretty well to the mealplans I post on Sundays, sometimes our plans change and we end up rearranging the order of meals or changing the meal altogether.  For example, one night a couple of weeks ago, Dave got invited out at the last minute so I decided to leave the planned red kidney bean stew in the freezer for another night and make something quick and tasty from the leftovers in the fridge – squash and feta from my butternut squash, feta and caramelised onion tart.

When I buy whole butternut squashes, I like to roast the whole thing in wedges, with the skin still on (a tip from Jules at the excellent Stonesoup blog, by the way, though I do prefer to remove the seeds, which she doesn’t do).  When roasted, the skin is edible and tasty and it saves the painstaking work of peeling the raw squash.  Once roasted, you can keep the squash in the fridge over the week and add to various meals (particularly good in curries, salads, soups and pasta dishes).

I end up making pasta an awful lot when I’m alone, not out of laziness – well, maybe a little – but because I love big plates of comforting carbs.  Dave tends to stick to tomato-based pasta sauces but I like to toss pasta in butter or oil, maybe some lemon juice, and add just a couple of vegetables, nuts, cheeses and herbs/spices for a really simple meal.  Roasted squash and feta just seemed like the perfect ingredients to use in this way, so I went for it.

In the recipe below, I’ve doubled the butter I actually used, because i didn’t think it was buttery enough.  But feel free to cut it back if you’re on a diet or avoiding fats.  You could also use olive oil rather than the butter.  Other variations include swapping the walnuts for pine nuts, adding frozen peas to the pasta water near the end of cooking, and throwing in any other roasted veg you have handy.  Generally I would prefer to serve this with two types of veg but I’d had a veg-heavy lunch and two portions of fruit that day so wasn’t too fussed.

butternut squash and feta spaghetti 2

Butternut squash, feta and walnut spaghetti (serves one)

  • 80g roasted butternut squash, cut into small chunks
  • 50g feta cheese, diced
  • 75-100g dried spaghetti
  • 30g walnuts, chopped into small pieces
  • 50g butter
  • juice of 1/4 lemon

Put the spaghetti on to cook as per packet directions/personal preference.  Once it’s cooked, drain in a colander.  Leave the pasta in the colander to drain thoroughly while you return the pan to a low heat.

Melt the butter in the pan and toss in the walnuts and squash to warm through.  Add the spaghetti and toss through the butter to coat.  Season generously with black pepper, serve the pasta in a shallow bowl or plate, top with the cubed feta and squeeze over the lemon juice.

What;s your favourite quick and easy meal?  How do you use up leftovers later on in the week?

A guide to supermarkets’ value ranges

One of the flats I shared with friends while at uni was close to a Sainsburys, and my four flatmates all lived on that supermarket’s ‘Basics’ range for the year – the Basics rose wine even made a few appearances at parties, as I remember.

I was a bit of a foodie and way too snobby to buy the value range so generally used to trek the extra few minutes to get my shopping in the local Morrisons, complaining at how expensive Sainsbury’s was.  It’s still not my supermarket of choice but had I been willing to downgrade a brand I wonder if I’d have found it comparable to Morrisons – maybe I should test it out at some point to find out.

Putting aside Sainsbury’s, I’ve now tried out various ‘value’ products from Morrisons (Savers range, think this used to be called Value), Asda (Smartprice) and Tesco (now Everyday Value).  There are many, many things that I’m willing to buy, that are just the same and are a fraction of the price of the expensive brand – but there are a few areas where I won’t go, so I decided to summarise these below.

Things I always buy from the value range

  • Chopped tomatoes and passata
  • Butter – Tesco is my favourite as you can get value unsalted butter there
  • Plain and self-raising flours
  • Mayonnaise – buy from Morrisons, as this uses free range eggs
  • Ketchup – when I buy from Asda, which is in glass bottles, I decant into the previous batch’s cleaned squeezy bottle
  • Onions and garlic
  • Peppers – sometimes the green/red & yellow pepper ratio is disappointing with these
  • Courgettes, carrots, cabbage and any other veg they do!
  • Tinned kidney beans – works out the same price as dried
  • Ice cream – not for eating on its own but a good standby for serving with desserts
  • Cereal – bran flakes and cocoa pops.  The value wheatabix are no good as they are ridiculously small and cardboardy
  • Dried pasta (penne in Asda and Tesco, fusilli in Morrisons), spaghetti and lasagne sheets
  • Food bags, tin foil and cling film
  • Bio laundry liquid and washing up liquid
  • Vegetable oil
  • Feta cheese and mozzarella (but will upgrade for guests or special meals)
  • Tinned tuna (dolphin friendly in Morrisons)
  • Apples usually, but I like to get fancier ones every so often
  • Biscuits, like bourbons and jaffa cake
  • Frozen peas and sweetcorn
  • Morrisons stirfry mix
  • Lemons & limes
  • Cat litter

Things I don’t buy

  • Meat.  I’ve spoken about this before but I only eat free range poultry and pork, so value range meat is a total no-go.  Plus the idea of value mince just freaks me a out a bit.
  • Stock cubes.  Bought some of the Tesco vegetables ones last week and have to say I am not a fan.  Once I’ve used the pack I have, I won’t be buying more.
  • Value cheddar just tastes weird, though I will buy it upon occasion when the budget is running low.
  • Salad leaves.  I don’t know about anywhere else, but the Morrisons ones have way too much cabbage in them rather than lettuce.
  • Bread (though pittas/wraps are fine) – I much prefer homemade anyway.  Occasionally I buy a value loaf for Dave’s lunches but he’s not keen either.
  • Eggs – only free range ‘happy’ eggs for me!
  • Toilet roll – we used to use this as students, but needless to say I’m quite happy to have upgraded since.
  • Bin bags – the value ones tend to split too easily,

As you can see, there are more products that I do buy than ones I don’t!  I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten, too.  What value products do you buy?  Is there anything you wouldn’t buy?