Monthly Archives: June 2013

New kitchen toys!

I’m postponing my usual ‘Sunday Spending’ post until tomorrow, because my Asda delivery driver didn’t give us a receipt today and I’m waiting to get one sent over before I can write the post.  Quite annoyed by this!  Instead, here’s a post about some great new kitchen goodies I got this weekend.  Please note, this is not a sponsored post and I bought and paid for this stuff myself.

Following on from my post a few weeks ago about some of my favourite kitchen gadgets and tools, I started thinking about doing a list of things I really wanted.  I’ll post that in a week or two, but meanwhile, I actually picked up a few things on my list this weekend (and quite cheaply too), so wanted to share them with you.

First of all, I ordered a new digital scale from Amazon last week.  I had one already, but it stopped working properly and the readings weren’t accurate, so I had to get a new one.  I bake a lot so it’s really an essential, and it was only about a tenner and had free delivery.


I went to visit my grandparents in Aberdeen this weekend and we went into Dunelm Mill, which I’ve never been to before.  It”s basically a homeware shop filled with all sorts of cheap stuff, and I managed to get a few of the things on my list:

New loaf tin – my old one is still fine but I’ve started making the bread for Dave’s sandwiches as well as my own lunches, so need to make two loaves a week.  Cost – £1.99.

loaf tin

Tiny tupperwares.  Dave can’t eat fresh fruit but he can eat tinned.  I didn’t want to buy the little tins that cost more, so there small tubs are for decanting big value tins into, again for his lunches.  Think they were 50p each.


Deep muffin tin.  I only had a shallow one before.  cost about £5, and the only thing I didn’t have in mind before I walked into the shop – but it will be handy.

muffin tin

Pie dish.  This was only £1.99 and means I can stop making pies in my sandwich tins.

pie dish

But the best bargain of the weekend didn’t come from Dunelm Mills – it came from my grandparents’ cupboards.  My Nana’s not really into cooking (in fact they eat out a lot as they have a more active social life than I do!), so she’s got some kitchen stuff she’s collected over the years that she hasn’t got a use for any more.  An electric slicer has been at the very top of my wishlist for a while. so I was delighted when she unearthed an electric knife for me to take away.


I’ve tried it out already (we had roast gammon tonight and I also baked two loaves of bread) and it’s great for making much thinner slices that I could make by hand.  A sneaky way of stretching meat is slice it more thinly, especially if you’re going to use it for sandwiches, so I’m  really happy with my free new toy!

What’s your favourite thing you’ve got for your kitchen recently?  Where do you go to get stuff like this cheap?  Have you ever had an especially good hand-me-down?


Tarka dal (47p per portion)

tarka dal 2

This is a fairly easy, slightly sweet and spicy – but not too hot – curry recipe that manages to be super healthy, tasty and easy all at the same time.  It’s a poshed-up version of the ‘lentil dal’ I used to make constantly as a student, which is a great comfort food.

It’s also a great storecupboard meal and you can replace the spinach with frozen peas if that’s all you have in (this will also be cheaper, though not quite as nice).  You could make it with red lentils if you prefer, but I’ve slightly fallen in love with the flavour of channa dal, which is a type of split, hulled chickpea (from what I’ve read, it’s a smaller kind of chickpea native to India, so not identical to its larger cousin of hummous and falafel fame).

tarka dal 3

The curry is fairly low in fat and the salt level is entirely in your control.  We served with basmati rice and the two wholemeal wraps leftover from last night’s meal, but you could make it even healthier (though not cheaper, sadly) by serving with brown rice.

Tarka dal (serves 3) 47p per portion

  • 125g channa dal, rinsed 25p
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric 1p
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger (or dried if that’s all you have) 5p
  • 1 small onion, chopped 3p
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed 3p
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil 2p
  • 1 fresh green chilli 13p (optional, just adjust dried chilli accordingly)
  • 1 tsp curry powder (I used Madras) 1p
  • 1 tsp ground cumin 5p
  • 1 tsp ground coriander 4p
  • 1/8 pack creamed coconut 13p
  • 1 tbsp mango chutney (mine was homemade, a similar amount bought would cost about 15p)
  • 150g fresh spinach 45p
  • 1/2 tsp dried crushed chilli 5p
  • salt, to taste (less than 1p)

Put the channa dal on to boil with around double the volume of water, for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.  Keep an eye on it and add a little more water if it needs it.  You’ll end up with a thick, soup-like mixture.  Add the creamed coconut and mango chutney and allow to melt in (NOTE – I mean creamed coconut, which is solid, NOT coconut cream).  Add salt here – you need it with dried pulses, which literally taste of nothing before you salt them.

tarka dal

About 30 minutes in, heat the oil in a frying pan to a medium heat and add the onions.  Fry for a few minutes until starting to colour, then add the ginger, garlic and fresh chilli.  Cook for a further minute.  Add the rest of the spices, mix into the oil, then pour over the cooked channa dal.  Add the spinach and cook for several minutes more, until the spinach has all wilted and everything is cooked in together.  Serve with rice, flatbreads, yoghurt and/or stir-fried vegetables.

I actually made this the night before, since I was going to an exercise class straight after work today, and like all curries it was nicer the next day.  We had a portion leftover, so the cost was a tiny 47p per head, and we served with rice (around 9p per portion) and a couple of leftover homemade wraps.  If you’re hungrier, you can split between two and it’s still only about 80p per head including the rice. 

tarka dal 4

Making It Yourself – Seeded Brown Bread

This is part of a semi-regular series of posts tackling how to make some of the things that we often end up buying pre-made.  Things that we think of as basic ingredients, that aren’t ‘ingredients’ at all but are actually processed in some way for us.  Things like bread, jam, butter, ketchup, baked beans and pickled ginger. Not everything is cheaper to make than buy, yet when you make it yourself, you know what’s in it.

Though I’ve been making my own bread for a while, I’ve only just cracked making bread that’s light enough to be used for sandwiches.  While my bread has always been really tasty and perfect for soups, I’ve really struggled with getting it to rise enough, so it’s often been a little on the dense side.

Turns out that when they say ‘knead for ten minutes’ in recipes, they actually mean that.  Woops.

seeded bread 3

The first time I set a timer and kneaded for the full ten minutes (result pictured above), I was amazed by a) how long ten minutes is (seriously, I must have been kneading for about three previously) and b) what a difference it made to my bread.  It rose about twice as high as previous attempts and was so light on the inside.  This seeded bread contains a higher proportion of brown flour, so is very slightly denser than that loaf, but still light enough to slice and make sandwiches out of.  As in, I made Dave’s sandwiches out of it twice this week and he loved them (he is seriously fussy about homemade bread)!

So make sure you time yourself and actually knead for ten minutes – I can’t stress this enough.  Most reasonably up to date  phones even have a timer function (well my iPhone does – and yes, I know that an iPhone is not the most frugal phone choice), so you don’t need to buy a timer.

seeded bread 4

Use the seeds of your choice in this recipe.  In the spirit of ‘using what I have in’, I used sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, but poppy seeds. pumpkin seeds and linseeds are all nice too.

Seeded Brown Bread (makes one loaf)

  • 400g strong brown flour
  • 50g strong white flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp mixed seeds (I used half sunflower and half sesame)
  • 1 tbsp seeds for the top (I used all sesame here)

Mix the yeast, sugar and salt with the flours in a large mixing bowl.  Add slightly warm water (I used around 300ml), mixing in with a wooden spoon and then with your hands, until everything is combined into an unsticky dough.

Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes (use a timer!), until the dough feels smooth and elastic.  if it starts to stick on the surface, add a little more flour, but try not to add loads unless you need to.  I added the seeds near the end of the kneading time, because I thought they’d be a bit sharp when kneading but it might be easier to incorporate them if you add them at the start.

seeded bread

Pop into a clean bowl and cover.  Leave to rise for a couple of hours, or until doubled in size.

Knock back (that means punch it down slightly, don’t batter it though) and shape into a rough rectangle with your hands.  Roll tightly into a sausage shape and put into your loaf tin, with the join at the bottom.  Top with the rest fo the seeds and leave to rise until doubled again, maybe an hour and a half or so.

Preheat the oven to 220C and, once heated, bake the loaf for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200C and bake for a further 15-10 minutes.  If you remember, you can put a tray with a half cup or so of water in the bottom of the oven when you put the bread in, as the steam helps give a better rise and crust.

seeded bread 2

When done, remove from the loaf tin and cool on a cooling rack.  Try to avoid cutting into it when it’s still warm (this is very difficult admittedly) as it apparently affects the texture of the loaf and it’s also harder for your body to digest before it’s cooled.

So what’s your favourite kind of bread to make yourself?  Do you knead properly, or do you prefer no-knead recipes? Or do you use mixers or bread makers to do your kneading for you (I do have a breadmaker but tend to only use it if I’m in a rush, because I really like making bread by hand).

Mediterranean Black-eye Beans with Spinach

black eye beans 2

The name of this dish does so not convey just how tasty it is.  Even Dave really likes it, which is a minor miracle for a dish that’s more soup than stew and mostly consists of beans and spinach.

It’s one of the simplest things you can make, with just a handful of ingredients, and it’s really cheap, too.  One thing you might be tempted to do is reduce the olive oil to lower the fat, but please don’t do this.  You really, really need the oil for the taste to be right, it’s really not that much and it’s actually a very healthy dish overall.  I only added a half tablespoon to the top of each bowl this time but I think it;s better with more, which I’ve reflected in the recipe below.

black eye beans 4

As for side dishes, you need some nice, preferably homemade, bread to mop up all the juices (the crusty bread I made a few weeks ago would have been fantastic – recipe here) and you could also have some kind of salad on the side.  I served with a green salad but to be honest there were too many greens going on, what with the spinach in the stew, so a tomato-based salad or a proper Greek salad with feta would be better.

Though I had this first of all in a Greek restaurant, Madhur Jaffrey lists a very similar  recipe as being from Cyprus in her World Vegetarian.  I used her recipe as a starting point when I tried to recreate the dish myself, but made a few changes, adding onion, using tinned beans and using spinach rather than Swiss chard.

Black-eye Beans with Spinach (serves 2) 68p per portion

  • 1 tin black-eye beans, drained and rinsed, or the equivalent amount of cooked dried beans 25p
  • 150g spinach, washed 68p
  • 2 small onions, sliced into half moons 6p
  • vegetable stock, to cover 5p
  • juice of 1/2 lemon 13p
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 18p

black eye beans 5

Gently heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep-sided frying pan, and add the onion slices.  Cook over a low heat for a few minutes, until softened and starting to turn golden at the edges.  Try not to burn the onions, as you don’t want them to taste bitter.

Well cover with hot vegetable stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the onions are well-cooked.  Add the spinach and beans and cook for a few minutes until everything is heated through and the spinach has completely wilted.  Take from the heat, add the lemon juice and serve in wide bowls.  Drizzle 1/2 or 1 tbsp of olive oil over the top of each bowl, and serve with breads and a tomato or feta salad.

black eye beans 3

Cost – £1.35 or 68p per person.  Served with two slices homemade bread each (around 10p per person) and a side salad (23p each for the salad leaves, 3p each for the olive oil and 1p for the balsamic vinegar), so £1.05 for the whole meal.

black eye beans 6

Tomato & goats cheese tart

tomato tart

This is a really easy, summery meal you can make for either lunch or dinner – it’d also make a great picnic food if sliced up and eaten cold.  We weren’t that hungry the night we had this, so just had a big side salad with it, but if you’ve got more of an appetite, I’d serve with some crusty bread or even some spicy wedges on the side.

It’s nice warm but I had the leftovers for lunch the next two days (with carrot sticks instead of salad) and it was actually even better cold.  So I’d just go for that unless I was in a rush to eat it straight out of the oven.

I got the recipe originally from Delia’s Vegetarian Collection, a cookbook that I love and would recommend for any time you have guests and want to make something very tasty.  I didn’t make too many changes to the recipe, except for using homemade rough puff pastry and skipping the olive oil drizzled over the top.  I’d like to say this was for healthiness, but I actually just forgot – however the result as nice as all the other times I’ve made it, so I won’t bother with the oil in future.

tomato tart 3

I also bought normal goats cheese instead of soft, because I ordered online and sometimes it’s hard to be sure you have the right thing.  It worked but was harder to spread, so go for soft if you can get it.

Tomato and goats cheese tart (serves four) 65p per portion

  • 5 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced 84p
  • 120g soft goats cheese, or normal if that’s all you have £1.28
  • 350g-375g puff pastry, (mine was homemade) 39p
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, or use fresh if you have it growing 3p
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 6p

Preheat your oven to 200C.  Mix the garlic, thyme and goats cheese, mashing the cheese well with a fork if it’s not the soft kind.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roll the pastry out to a rectangle just a tiny bit bigger than your baking tray (I just used a standard rectangular shallow tray that you’d cook chips or whatever on), so that when you transfer to the baking tray, some goes up the sides and an edge is created (hopefully you get what I mean from the pictures!)

tomato tart 2

Spread the goats cheese evenly on the pastry up the way the edges go up.  Arrange the tomatoes in overlapping layers all the down the tart, until it’s all covered.  I found I needed the five, but you might need more or less depending on the shape and size of your baking tray.

Bake for around 45 minutes, or until it’s all cooked and the pastry has risen and turned golden brown at the edges.  Serve with a big side salad and maybe some crusty bread.

£2.60 for the tart or 65p per portion.  Probably cost about 30p each for the salad, so under £1 per head, or not far over even if you do wedges or bread.

Mealplan and Spending Update 24/06


As usual I’ve linked up with Mrs M’s Mealplanning Monday.

Store-cupboard week went well!  So well that I decided to do an inventory of what we had left in before I made the meal plan this week (inspired by Frugal Queen who’s done so lately).  The new budget starts on Tuesday, when I’ll pick up a few bits to do the week, but as we’re going away for the weekend, I’m not going to stock up again until we get a delivery next Sunday.

I really don’t stock up too much since the flat’s so small but doing the inventory made me aware of some things that have been hanging around for ages that I want to try and use up this month.


(You can read the inventory by clicking on the picture above to enlarge it)

As well as what’s listed above, I have almost every spice you can imagine.  Obviously there’s not enough food to live off but I’m going to try and use up some of the stuff before the end of July – this will make space in the cupboards and hopefully save us a bit of cash as well.  Obviously some of the stuff will be replaced when it’s used up, but better to use it up before it needs thrown out and then rotate it with new ingredients as needed.

Since I’m not going shopping until Tuesday, I made my mealplan to reflect that.  The stirfry I made tonight was so good and used the chicken thighs from the freezer.  I also made a summery soup of cannelini beans, courgette, the homemade pizza sauce (it’s just passata with dried herbs really) and frozen peas, along with a loaf of seedy wholemeal bread, both for my lunches this week.


Sun 23 – Szechuan-inspired chicken stir-fry with noodles and vegetables

Mon 24mac and cheese with roasted peppers and peas

Tues 25 – Greek spinach and black eye bean stew with homemade bread and salad

Wed 26chilli con carne with wraps and cheese

Thurs 27 – channa dal curry with rice and broccoli

Fri 28 – AWAY

Sat 29 – AWAY

Spending Update (£184.21 / £185)

Whole milk 4 pints £1.49
Tampons £1
Bananas x4 48p
Alberto Balsam conditioner £1
Bulb of garlic 30p

Individual baked syrup sponge puddings

syrup puds

It’s not often I make dessert, but we had Dave’s mum come to stay at the start of this week, so I wanted to make something nice to follow dinner on Sunday.

I know she’s a fan of traditional ‘puddingy’ desserts and isn’t too keen on chocolatey puds, so was on the hunt for something that fit those parameters, that I could mostly make with what we had in, and that wasn’t too difficult or faffy to make, since I’d be making it after a busy day in the kitchen.

The idea of a syrup sponge pudding really appealed, but I had no desire to make something I had to steam for a few hours. Luckily, a quick google search turned up loads of recipes for baked puddings, which confirming that they all seemed to bake easily in around 30 minutes, and I decided to make a plain sponge mix to top the golden syrup with.  You can add all sorts of extras – lemon zest, fancier sugars – but I wanted to keep the puddings simple.

syrup puds 2

Everyone loved them!  They’re so sweet that I couldn’t finish mine, but I still enjoyed it.  We served with icecream, but I think custard would have been better, so I’ll try that next time.  I’m already thinking about variations – you could probably top with jam or lemon curd rather than syrup, or use honey for a more sophisticated taste.

Individual baked syrup sponge puddings (serves 4) 33p each

  • 2 eggs 47p (6 medium free range eggs £1.39, Morrisons)
  • 100g butter, at room temperature and cubed 40p (99p / 250g, Morrisons)
  • 100g caster sugar 15p (£1.49 / 1kg, Asda)
  • 100g self-raising flour 3p (45p / 1.5kg, Asda)
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup 24p (£1.06 / 454g, Asda)

You need four oven-safe ramekins to make this.  Preheat the oven to 180, then dollop a tablespoon of golden syrup into each ramekin.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar (I used an electric whisk, but you can use a wooden spoon, just make sure it’s well combined into a fluffy pale yellow mass before moving on).

sponge puds 3

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.  Sift the flour in and gently fold in, until combined.

Spoon the sponge mix over the syrup and smooth the top.  Bake for 30 minutes until risen and golden.

Tip out of the ramekins and serve upside down, with the syrup-y bit on top, and lots of custard or ice-cream.