Monthly Archives: July 2013

Summer Barbecue Recipes – Thai Turkey Burgers

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This is the first of a semi-regular series about making tasty, healthy and exciting recipes for the barbecue – on a budget.  The series will included lots of salads and sides, as well as meat and veggie recipes to get you cooking and eating some lovely outdoor food this summer.

The first recipe I’m going to share is something I’d never made before the barbecue on Saturday – turkey burgers.

I decided to make turkey burgers for a few reasons – they’re healthier and lower in fat than beef burgers, I’d heard good things about how tasty they are (they soak up spices and flavourings well), turkey mince is quite cheap – and also I don’t like beefburgers anyway so they were a good substitute.

In the interest of experimentation, I made two types of turkey burger – a hotter Thai spiced and a more mild Indian spiced one.  I’ll share the Thai recipe today as it was my favourite, really spicy and flavourful.

The recipe makes ten burgers but you can easily half it (I’d probably still use one egg).

turkey burger

Thai Spiced Turkey Burgers (makes 10 at 68p each)

  • 1kg turkey mince £5.98
  • 2 onions, chopped 12p
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed 12p
  • Large piece of ginger, about 40-50g, grated 11p
  • 1/2-1 tbsp dried crushed chillies (depending how spicy you want them) 2p
  • 1/2 stick lemongrass, soaked and very finely chopped 17p
  • 1 egg 24p
  • 75g porridge oats 6p

Like all burger recipes, this is pretty easy – mix all the ingredients together well (including a little salt if you want but I didn’t bother), first with a wooden spoon then gently with your hands, until well combined.

I used a cookie/pastry cutter (about 3 inches in diameter) to shape the burgers.  Put a sheet of cling film on your work surface with the pastry cutter on top, then press 1/10 of the mixture inside the cutter, pressing down with the back of a spoon.  Pull the cutter off gently and you should be left with an even, burger-shaped piece of mince that is soft but won’t fall apart too easily.

Cook on the barbecue until well cooked through and slightly charred on both sides, but try to rescue it before it gets completely burnt (be careful to check it has cooked through completely as food poisoning is very common with barbecues!).  OR if you aren’t actually having a barbecue, feel free to griddle for a few minutes on each side or even cook in the oven, like any burger.

Serve in a sesame-topped bun with ketchup or chutneys of your choice. 


Spiced lentil & sweet potato wraps


I had two sweet potatoes in the fridge that I’d bought last week to roast and never got round to using, so I wanted to think of something to do with them.

I had a warm lentil and sweet potato salad (there’s a nice looking one on BBC Good Food) in my mind but there’s really only one reaction you can expect from Dave if you suggest a lentil salad from dinner – actually I never have suggested it because I know exactly what he’d say!

I googled lentil and sweet potato recipes for a bit of inspiration and was intrigued by an Ethiopian curry recipe, mildly spiced with allspice, paprika, ginger, cumin and cinnamon, but I didn’t want a big heavy curry, so I decided a bit of a ‘mix and match’ approach was in order.

First I roasted some sweet potatoes and red pepper, while cooking the lentils with mushrooms, garlic, ginger and spices. I served the lentils and sweet potatoes with a side of iceberg lettuce (left from the barbecue) and wraps – basically I got my salad but because it was deconstructed and served in wraps, Dave was happy too.
I also had some salsa and tzaziki left from the barbecue so had some with my wraps (but I had the leftovers for lunch without this and found I actually preferred it without salsa).

Spiced Lentil & Roasted Sweet Potato Wraps (serves 3)

100g brown or green-brown/Puy lentils
175g mushrooms, very finely sliced
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
1/2 large sweet potato, cut into small cubes
1 red pepper, cut into medium pieces
2tsp paprika
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp allspice
1tsp cinnamon
2tsp red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 200C. Toss the sweet potato and red pepper in around a tablespoonful of oil, season and roast for around 25 minutes until tender but not mushy.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a pan and cook the mushrooms until wilted down and cooked through. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for another couple of minutes then add the lentils and well cover with water. Add the spices and vinegar.

Cook for around 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender, taste and season.
Add the roasted vegetables and allow to cook in for a few minutes, then serve with wraps and salad.


Mealplan and Spending Update 29/07


Sorry about the meal plan being a day late – but I did move it to make room for my Charcoal Challenge barbecue post, so it’s a good excuse!

Kept things quite easy this week as I was completely knackered after spending all of Friday night and Saturday morning in the kitchen getting ready for the barbecue.  We’re going to friends’ for dinner on Saturday and had barbecue leftovers on Sunday, so just five meals to plan this week, and I’m off to visit my mum for one night, so just four meals where we’re both here (Dave’s having one of the many burgers left in the freezer that night because we will be eating burgers for quite some time so he might as well get started!).

Did my shopping at Morrisons this week, though I did pick up a couple of things in Tesco when I bought the barbecue – these fell into last month’s spending and everything else fell into August (I set the target for £175 again as it seemed to work quite well last month).


Sun 28 – barbecue leftovers

Mon 29 – lentil & sweet potato wraps

Tues 30 – Dave’s having a burger

Wed 31 – spaghetti bolognaise and salad

Thurs 1 – homemade pizzas with salad

Fri 2 – some kind of vegetable curry with rice

Sat 3 – having dinner with friends

July Spending (£171.59 / £175)

Tampons £1
Whole milk 4pints £1
Daisy bathroom cleaner 48p
Kitchen roll £1.18

August Spending (£41.11 / £175)

Fruit & veg £6.27
Nectarine punnets x2 £1.50
Bananas x5 63p
Radishes 50p
Savers mushrooms 75p
Peppers 5pk £1.89
Spinach £1

Meat & fish £9.17
Bacon 16 rashers £3.58
Pepperoni £1.59
Beef mince 725g £4

Dairy & eggs £3.46
Baking fat 55p
Meadow park milk 2ltr 97p
Savers mozzarella 55p
Free range eggs 6pk £1.39

General £19.21
Savers cat litter £1.58
Cola x8 £4
Savers chopped tomatoes x4 £1.24
Savers honey 99p
Savers long grain rice 1kg 40p
Strong brown flour 1.5kg £1
Dried butter beans 500g £1.09
Savers spaghetti 19p
Wholegrain mustard 57p
Tinned mackerel in oil 89p
French mustard 57p
Tinned tuna in brine £1.78
Almonds £1.50
Savers individual orange juice 3pk 45p
Oxo beef stock cubes 12pk £1.19
Savers coco pops 83p
McCoys 6pk 94p

Household & Toiletries £3
Alberto Balsam shampoo & conditioner x4 £3

A Frugal Barbecue


I was really pleased this month to be invited to take part in ‘The Charcoal Challenge’ (one of a series of bloggers’ competitions run by, as I’ve never hosted my own barbecue before and have been dying to test out some frugal, healthy and also some veggie barbecue recipes.  Even better, we were each given £50 to make our ultimate barbecue a reality, and as if getting to throw a free barbecue isn’t exciting enough, one blogger will end up winning a £250 prize!

So I sat down with Dave to look at how to throw the most epic barbecue possible for £50 – complicated by the fact that we don’t have a barbecue (or even a private back garden, since we live in a block of flats – but we used our communal garden and as it wasn’t too sunny a day in the end, no-one else seemed to mind us taking it over!).

charcoal challenge 3

My lovely manager lent me her mini barbecue so that was problem number one solved.  Dave pointed out that if we only invited a few people, we would have a much bigger budget per person (bearing in mind we need to get charcoal for the barbecue as well as food) but I decided that it would be much more in keeping with the challenge to throw a bigger rather than smaller party so we ended up with a guest list of 11 friends (plus us), two of whom sadly had to cancel on the day, but I obviously didn’t know this in the planning stage so had to cater for 13.

When I was planning the food, I knew that I wanted to have lots of different options and loads of nice salads and things as well as meat.  It was also a priority to provide well for the one vegetarian guest, as I used to absolutely dread barbecues as a vegetarian.  Too often all I could eat was maybe a Quorn sausage or burger (and I hate fake meat), white processed bread and a few limp, neglected lettuce leaves.  Usually I would bring my own nice veggie option and then be annoyed by all the meat-eaters descending like a cloud of locusts and leaving hardly any for me.

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In the end, I went to Tesco and spent £49.83 – as follows:

5kg charcoal briquettes £5
Large instant BBQ £5

Pork ribs 850g x2 £6
Chicken drumsticks 9pk £4.32
Turkey mince 500g x3 £8.97

Garlic bulb 30p
Value small potatoes 1kg x3 £2.07
Value onions 1kg 63p
Corn on the cob 2pk x2 £3
RTC mini peppers 500g £1.62
Courgettes 940g £1.52
Limes x2 60p
Cucumber 65p
Salad tomatoes 6pk x2 £2
RTC spring onions
White cabbage 650g 52p
RTC living coriander 68p
Ginger 100g 22p
RTC iceberg lettuce 59p

Value ketchup 18p
Value mayonnaise 38p
White bread flour 1.5kg £1
Sliced gherkins £1.29
Value kidney beans 21p
Halloumi 225g £2.35
Value passata 29p

So what did I make with all this?

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  • Hot Thai-spiced turkey burgers x10
  • Mild curried turkey burgers x5
  • Kidney bean & courgette burgers x3
  • All the ribs were slow cooked in the oven in homemade barbecue sauce, then finished on the barbecue (they were definitely my favourite thing!)
  • The chicken drumsticks were marinaded in 5-spice, soy sauce and some other Chinese flavours
  • Chicken & veg kebabs x6
  • Halloumi & veg kebabs x5
  • Lots of veg-only kebabs
  • Traditional mayonnaise-y potato salad
  • Honey mustard potato salad
  • White sesame-topped burger buns x24
  • Mexican-inspired tomato, cucumber and coriander salad
  • Homemade coleslaw
  • Corn on the cob

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Did we manage to feed everyone for £50 – well yes!  Actually it was only £40 as we had to buy the charcoal and instant barbecue.  I’d better confess that I did use some things I had in already, mostly herbs and spices, but also two chicken breasts from the freezer, yeast, honey, mustard, eggs, carrots and a few other bits and bobs.  Hopefully this is still in the spirit of the challenge as we’ve got plenty of leftovers so probably didn’t use more than £50 worth of stuff on the day overall.  Our friends did also bring things with them – lots of booze, dessert and some beef burgers and I also got some ready-made kebabs from my manager at work.

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Not only did I manage to feed 11 of us well for the £40 I had to spend on food, we had tons left over – tonight Dave and I are having all the leftover kebabs with leftover corn on the cob, Mexican salad and potato salad to use up what we couldn’t freeze (there’s loads so it might be Monday’s lunch too).  We also have about 8 burgers, 12 rolls and 2 chicken drumsticks I’ve stashed in the freezer for future meals.  I reckon we could have easily fed 15-16 people or more with what we had (though we’d have needed a bigger barbecue as the instant one was just rubbish).

We had a fantastic time and amazingly the weather held – it was scheduled to rain but we never saw a drop!  We live on the ground floor so Dave was able to prop a speaker up against the open kitchen window and we even had music.  After it started getting chilly, we retired into the flat and enjoyed the rest of the alcohol (actually we have lots of beer left as well, bonus!) maybe just a little too enthusiastically.  All in all, a great night in and thank you,, for giving me the chance to host my first-ever barbecue!

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I will be blogging the recipes for everything I made in the coming weeks – so keep checking back for posts in my new barbecue recipes series!

This is my entry into ‘The Charcoal Challenge’ – use the hashtag #TheCharcoalChallenge on Twitter to see what other bloggers managed to do with their £50.

Really cheap and simple mushroom spaghetti

mushroom and tomato spaghetti 2

I’d intended to do a mushroom and tomato pasta bake this week, but I got home so late from the supermarket (shopping for our barbecue on Saturday!) that there was no way I was waiting for a bake to be ready.  Dave had to work late as well, so it was just me, so I decided on a really simple mushroom and tomato spaghetti dish that used up the ingredients I had in but was loads quicker.

Although there was only me in, I made enough for two and kept back a portion for lunch tomorrow – I’m so glad as it was really tasty!

mushroom and tomato spaghetti header

Serves 2 at 46p per head

  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil (1p, Tesco)
  • 1 small onion, chopped (3p, Morrisons savers)
  • 2 cloves garlic (6p, Tesco)
  • 200g mushrooms, finely sliced (40p, Morrisons savers)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (31p, Morrisons savers)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme (2p, Asda)
  • 1/2-1tsp sugar (less than 1p, Morrisons)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (2p, Asda Blue Dragon)
  • 150-200g spaghetti (7p, Morrisons savers)

Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onions for a few minutes until soft.  Add the mushrooms and top up with a little splash of oil if it’s looking dry in the pan.

Cook for another few minutes until the mushrooms have wilted and add the garlic.  After another minutes, pour in the tomatoes and thyme.  Allow to simmer for around 20 minutes to thicken, adding the soy sauce and sugar near the end to taste.  Season with black pepper to taste.

mushroom and tomato spaghetti 3

While the sauce is simmering, cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water as per packet instructions.  Mix a little of the sauce through the pasta then top with the rest of the sauce when plated.

Served with 10g parmesan for the dinner portion (didn’t bother for the lunch one), which cost 13p.  Also served with a small side salad at dinner time, around 25-30p or so).

Thoughts on banning packed lunches in England

I’ve just been having a chat with a work acquaintance at a training event and he told me something that made me angry and I wanted to share my views on.

Apparently, there’s a move in England to ban packed lunches/going home for lunch, and force every child to have a school lunch, in an effort to reduce childhood obesity and improve overall public health.

While I do think that these are worthy aims… I am completely appalled by this recommendation by a government-commissioned school food review.

I find it completely patronising to suggest that nobody out there is capable of feeding their own children. Apparently some ‘celebrity chef’ (not sure which one as it’s not in the article I read – so apologies if this isn’t accurate!) was quoted as saying even he couldn’t give his child a more nutritious lunch than a school meal – sorry, but what a load of bollocks (although given that most ‘celebrity chef’ recipes are way too high on salt, fat, butter etc… maybe they aren’t the best resource for people looking to eat healthily!).

Yes, there ARE children who aren’t getting the right diet, and we need to do lots more food education work to teach parents how to afford and make healthy food. I’d also support schools who ban crisps, fizzy drinks and other unhealthy foods at lunchtime. It does makes me so sad and angry that children are growing up fed on crisps and chocolate and chips and ready meals and that it’s setting them up for a lifetime of health problems.

But I don’t think the answer is to take away every parent’s right to feed their children. What’s next – all adults being force-fed in work canteens morning and night because we can’t be trusted to make the right choices and have never learned to do it ourselves anyway?

When I was in secondary school (and possibly younger) I made my own packed lunches, which were really my first solo forays into the kitchen. In fact it set me up for learning how to make packed lunches as an adult. To my mind, banning packed lunches at school sends the message that food prepared at home isn’t as good as that prepared commercially and that your own health is outside your control. People in general eat way too little home cooking as it is and I don’t think it’s a good idea to encourage people to abdicate responsibility for their own families’ health and leave it to the schools to sort out.

In fact I’d argue that one of the roots of the obesity crisis (and other public health problems) is that society in general has lost the confidence, skills and knowledge to cook fresh, healthy food, so many people end up relying on processed alternatives, partly for convenience but often because they think they’re better than what they can make. In a world where too many people think making a lasagne from scratch is using a jar of red and a jar of white sauce, do we really want to encourage people to become even less responsible for their own nutrition?

In my mind, the key to improving public health is giving the tools and confidence to families so they can feed their children healthily, not actually banning them from even trying.

What do you think? Do you think banning packed lunches would help improve public health? Or do you agree that it’s a step too far?

I just wanted to say I’m certainly not having a go at anyone who makes use of school meals – but I think that it should be your choice, not dictated by the state. I also do agree with making sure that school meals are as healthy as possible for those who choose to use them.

BBC article about the recommendations here:

Caramelised onion tartlets

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I made these little individual tartlets for a light dinner the other day, and we had them with some leftover roasted veggies and some lovely homemade bread and butter.

They were absolutely delicious.  I will put my hands up and admit it wasn’t Dave’s favourite kind of dinner – he’s not a fan of tarts, quiches or this kind of salad-y meal in general, but with the bread it was actually filling enough for him (and definitely more filling than it looks in the picture!).  He did say he’d be happy to have it as a nice lunch or starter with some salad though.

I absolutely loved it and if you’re hungrier or don’t want bread, you could double it, have two and still have a really cheap dinner!  I made a massive amount of pastry – using about 200g flour – and only ended up using about 1/4 of it (I froze the rest), so you don’t need a lot of pastry here.  Though I did roll it out a bit thin, so have specified a bit more in the ingredients so you can roll it out thicker.

The recipe was inspired by reading the onion tart tatin recipe on Cheap Family Recipes, but since I didn’t really have a suitable hob-to-oven dish I decided not to make it tart tatin style.

onion tartlet 4

Caramelised onion tartlets (makes two individual tarts at 17p each)

  • 4 small onions, finely sliced 12p
  • 1 tsp sugar (less than 1p)
  • 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar 3p
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil 2p

For the pastry

  • About 75g plain flour 3p
  • Pinch of salt (less than 1p)
  • 35g butter 14p

First make the pastry but rubbing the cold butter into the flour and salt until the mix resembles breadcrumbs, then add a very little cold water, a spoonful at a time, mixing in with a knife then with your hands, until the dough sticks together.  Gently press into a ball, roll in cling film and then pop in the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the onion mix.  Heat the oil gently in a large frying pan and add the sliced onions.  Cook over a medium-low heat for ten minutes, stirring, until completely softened, golden and slightly sticky.  Be really careful not to burn them though, which will make them bitter.  Add the vinegar and sugar and cook for a further ten or fifteen minutes, until caramelised and lovely.

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Roll out the pastry and use a pastry cutter or similar to cut out two circles just a bit bigger than the holes on your Yorkshire pudding tin.  Line the holes with the pastry and fill with the onion mixture.

Bake for around 20 minutes, or until golden and cooked through, and serve with salad or roasted vegetables and bread.

I served with 2 carrots (16p) and 1 1/2 parsnips (27p), roasted in a tablespoon of oil (2p) with a half teaspoon of ground coriander (2p), and four slices homemade bread (20p), making the sides 34p each, and the whole meal 51p per head.  Variations – you could top with some oats or crumbled feta cheese (yum!) or use a shallow muffin tray to make four teeny ones for snacks.