Monthly Archives: October 2013

Squash and ricotta cannelloni

squash cannelloni 2

This is a lovely recipe based on one from Economy Gastronomy (yes, I know that I’ve been cooking a lot from this of late, but I really like it).  In the original recipe, they recommend using a massive pumpkin, cutting it into three 1kg segments, and using a segment for each recipe in this section of the book – one of which is this cannelloni.

Instead of buying a massive pumpkin, I used a butternut squash instead – one was just the right size.  Aside from that, I didn’t make many changes to the original recipe, except where I thought I could cut costs a little.  I used much less cheese, and just scattered it on the top (cheaper but also for health reasons), I used value dried lasagne instead of fresh (just cooking it in boiling water first so I could roll it – if you can’t be bothered, use fresh as they suggest or indeed dried cannelloni tubes), and I used dried sage instead of fresh too.

I’m not going to lie – it’s a bit of a faffy meal and does take a while to cook.  But I loved it and it made enough for two meals for the two of us (froze half of it in between heating it up again), so saved us cooking another night.  The portions weren’t enormous (the original recipe suggests it as a lunch recipe) and next time I’d probably do some garlic bread with it, or you could split it between three if you’re hungrier than us.  It’s not a super cheap recipe – £1 per portion when split into four or £1.33 when split into three – and you really do need to serve salad at least with it, which will add to the cost.  But it was so good that I’d definitely make it again.

squash cannelloni

Squash and Pumpkin Cannelloni (serves 3-4 with salad and/or garlic bread)

£1 per portion when split into four, not including garlic bread or salad

  • 1 butternut squash, cut into wedges 82p
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil 2p
  • One 250g tub of ricotta £1
  • Large pinch dried sage 2p
  • 8 dried lasagne sheets 19p
  • 1/2 250g pack mushrooms 38p
  • 200g fresh spinach, washed 85p
  • 500ml milk 25p
  • 40g butter 16p
  • 40g plain flour 2p
  • 50g cheddar cheese, grated 29p

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Toss the butternut squash in half of the oil, season well and arrange on a baking tray.  Roast for around 20-30 minutes, until soft.

Meanwhile, make the base for the cannelloni.  Heat the rest of the oil in a deep frying pan, add the mushrooms and fry for several minutes until soft.  Add the rinsed spinach, with most of the water shaken off, and add a lid or even cover with a clean tea towel for a minute.  Take off the lid, stir and the spinach should wilt down quickly.  Add to the bottom of the baking dish you’ll use for the cannelloni, discarding any extra water from the bottom of the pan.

Make the cheese sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan.  Remove from the heat, add the flour and mix to a paste.  Add the milk, whisk in and return to a medium heat.  Keep whisking for several minutes, until the sauce thickens up.  Set aside until needed.

Cook the lasagne sheets (if you aren’t using fresh ones, or dried cannelloni, both of which you can use as is) in a large pan of salted boiling water (add a few drops of vegetable oil to stop it sticking if you want).  Drain and make sure you peel apart any that are stuck straight away, as it gets harder the longer you leave them.

Once the squash is cooked through, remove from the oven.  Scrape the skins off (this is much easier to do when cooked) and discard.  Tip the squash into a large bowl and mash.  Allow to cool down a little, then add the ricotta and sage, and season well.

Preheat the oven to 180C (or just reduce it a little if it’s still on from cooking the squash).  Roll up the cannelloni by putting 1/8th of the squash mix on each lasagne sheet and rolling up into a tube.  Pack all the tubes into the baking dish over the spinach and mushroom base, then pour the white sauce over the top.  Scatter the cheese over and bake for 20-30 minutes, until browning on top.  Serve with a side salad.


Spicy chorizo pasta

chorizo pasta 2

If you’re just starting out in cooking from scratch, you might be wondering what the best recipes to learn first are.  When I was a teenager, probably the first thing I learned to make was a simple pasta sauce, so I’ll show you one variation below with lots of extras at the end – there’s just no reason to buy jars of sauce when it’s so easy to make them.

This is a quick and simple pasta recipe to serve 4-6 people.  I split it into six small portions and froze most of it – we weren’t very hungry the first night and we tend to serve salad and/or garlic bread with pasta most of the time anyway.  But if you’re a bit hungrier I’d split it into four.

chorizo pasta

Spicy chorizo pasta (serves 4-6)

  • 1 package cooking chorizo, papery skin peeled off and chopped into chunks
  • 3 small onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 peppers, sliced (I used yellow)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp vegetable or olive oil
  • Roughly 250ml beef stock (I used half a stock cube)
  • 75-100g pasta per person, depending on appetite

Put a deep-sided frying pan on to a medium heat and add the chopped chorizo.  Let it cook for a few minutes, until the orange oil seeps out, then put aside.

Add the onions and peppers to the oil, adding the extra vegetable or olive oil if there isn’t enough from the chorizo.  Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally (you want the onions to be softened, translucent and maybe just starting to brown, but not burnt).

Add the garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes.  Some people add this with the onions, and you can if you want, but I think it’s too easy to burn finely crushed garlic.  Add the tomatoes, beef stock, oregano and paprika and leave to simmer away for around half an hour, until nicely reduced.  Taste and add a couple of pinches of sugar if needed, and season to taste.

Add the chorizo back in, cook for a couple of minutes until heated through, then serve over the pasta, with parmesan scattered over if you want and possibly a side salad.

Variations – you can substitute half the chorizo for a can of butter or cannelini beans – just drain and add in when you re-add in the chorizo at the end.  To make a vegetarian meal, use two cans of beans, no chorizo and use vegetable stock instead of beef – you might need to add extra paprika too.  You can also use other veg instead of peppers – courgette or aubergine might work well too.

Mealplan and Spending Update 27/10


We’ve gone for a really easy week this week – loads of stuff from the freezer and the only thing I’ll really need to make is the chilli.  That’s partly because Dave’s working one night this week and I have a few things on, and partly because we’re having a Hallowe’en party on Friday night and want to keep things simple to give us a chance to clean and decorate the flat (party decorations, crisps and sweets aren’t coming out of the grocery budget, in case you were wondering).

Oh and I am so pleased I scraped in last month at 21p under budget – because I paid for the 3 month delivery pass from Asda out of it, I didn’t think that I would.  New budget has been set at £175 – £5 more as it’s a five weekend month.  Normally I’d set it higher but judging by the last few months, I can get the budget just a wee bit lower.


Sun 27 – steak, chips (for Dave) and salad with a peppercorn sauce

Mon 28 – salmon, rice and stir-fried veg

Tues 29 – Dave’s working so I’ll probably make some kind of pasta

Wed 30 – beef pasta with salad

Thurs 31 – canneloni with salad

Fri 1 – pizza with salad

Sat 2 – veggie chilli with rice

October Spending Update (£169.79 / £170)

Loo blues £1
RTC sliced loaf 75p

November Spending Update (£33.44 / £175)

Fruit & veg £6.77
Salad x2 £2
Swede 500g 60p
Carrots 1.2kg £1
Organic garlic 3pk 70p
Bananas x6 70p
Frozen sweetcorn 1kg 98p
Mushrooms 250g 79p

Meat & fish £7
Sirloin steaks 243g x2 £7

Dairy & eggs £2.53
Single cream 150ml 55p
Smartprice butter 250g 98p
Medium free-range eggs 6pk £1

General £7.56
Walkers crinkle crisps 6pk £1
Smartprice tinned pineapple 33p
Smartprice crunchy peanut butter 62p
Albero Antico extra-virgin olive oil 750ml £2.50
Dried thyme 84p
Smartprice individual orange juice 3pk 45p
Smartprice bran flakes 750g 88p
Savers baked beans 25p
Potato scones 69p

Household £9.58
Smartprice kitchen roll 4pk £1.25
Dried cat food 950g £1.32
Cif floor cleaner 1ltr £1
Poly-lina bin bags 50pk £3.50
Smartprice baby wipes 80pk 51p
Asda bath soak £1
Lynx shower gel £1

Pressure cooker beef stew

I decided to give one of the ‘bedrocks’ recipes in Economy Gastronomy a go this week.  I really like this recipe book and think it’s got some great tips for making really good food a bit cheaper – not super budget, but a lot better than most cookbooks.

The recipe I chose was the ‘daube of beef’ and I did make quite a few changes.  Since you’re supposed to use 2.5kg of beef to make three meals for four people (you make pasta sauce then pasties with the leftovers), I halved the recipe – there’s only two of us and I only have so much room in the freezer!

I also used my pressure cooker to make the stew, because I wanted to see if I could make it really tender that way.  It worked really well (though there was too much liquid so I had to simmer for quite a long time after removing the lids to reduce down – but then I think that really helped tenderise it further), but I’ll also include rough timings for cooking in a casserole dish in the oven, too.

Oh and if you don’t want to simmer as long at the end, you can reduce the stock, but mine had a real richness of taste and tenderness in the meat that I’ve never achieved before in a casserole, so I think I’d continue to use just as much as allow to simmer down for a good while.  I used beer rather than the wine that the recipe recommends, purely as that’s what I had on hand, so do feel free to use wine if you prefer.

beef casserole 2

Pressure cooker beef stew (makes roughly 6-7 portions)

  • roughly 1.25kg diced stewing beef
  • 4 rashers bacon, chopped
  • 6 small onions, peeled and cut into halves
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can beer
  • 1 litre beef stock
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat the vegetable oil in the bottom of your pressure cooker, and add the onions and bacon.  Fry gently for around 10 minutes, until the bacon is starting to crisp and the onions are starting to become translucent, then add the garlic.  Fry for a further minute or two.

Add the bay leaves, beer, beef stock and beef.  Put the lid on the pressure cooker, bring to pressure, then cook for 30 minutes under pressure.  Use the quick release method (running cold water over the lid for mine) to open and check the beef by smushing between a wooden spoon and a fork.  If it’s starting to fall apart, move on to the next step, but if not, put the lid back on, bring back up to pressure then cook for a further 10-15 minutes until starting to fall apart.

At this point, there will be a lot of liquid in the pan.  With the lid off, bring to a heavy simmer and allow to reduce for at least half an hour or longer (I ended up leaving mine nearly an hour while I made everything else), until the sauce has thickened up to your taste.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, use a hob-safe casserole dish and, when all the ingredients are in, put into an oven preheated to 170C.  It’ll take somewhere between 2 1/2- 3 1/2 hours – just keep checking every twenty minutes after 1 1/2 hours, then remove the lid for the last 30-45 minutes of cooking, to let the sauce reduce down.

Serve with potatoes (I also had Yorkshires, recipe here) and plenty of veg (I had roast parsnips and cabbage).  You can either have leftovers as stew (will freeze well) or do as Economy Gastronomy  does and make pasties and/or pasta sauce out of it.

My kitchen


Emma, who blogs over at Supper in the Suburbs, has had the lovely idea for a bunch of food bloggers to write a post about their kitchen and link up over at her blog, so we can all have a wee nosy behind the scenes at each others’ kitchens.  So the picture above is mine – sorry about the light (I ended up taking the picture at night, so it’s a bit yellow)!

As you can see, my kitchen is TINY.  I have to say, I’m used to the small space after four years of living in this flat and do just about managed to cram everything in, so it’ll be a shock one day when I (hopefully) move somewhere bigger.  My one main regret is not being able to fit a table of any kind in the kitchen – it’s just way too narrow and to be honest, it feels a wee bit crowded if both of us are in there.

I like to keep the surfaces quite bare and minimalist to make them feel a bit bigger, so all I have out just now is the coffea, tea and sugar canisters, along with the kettle next to the fridge, and on the other side I have some fancy oils and vinegars I got as a gift, the fruit bowl and the radio.


Here’s my sink and window.  On the sill at the moment, I’ve got: a sadly empty but decorative vodka bottle, a pot of thyme (mostly dead now though), my beloved blue Ikea cast iron casserole dish, a blue tagine my sister gave me as a gift (are you getting that my favourite colour’s blue?), a pot of basil and a fancy tea cup and saucer set a friend gave me for Christmas.  You can also see a closer view of the radio, which I keep tuned into Kerrang for those cooking marathons when I need a bit of hard rock to keep me going!

kitchen 2

Here’s another view of the sink – you can see that we keep our utensils here, in a big glass pitcher.  Not the prettiest of solutions, and no-one’s going to be pinning it any time soon, but it does the trick and meant we didn’t have to buy anything since we already had the pitcher.  You can also see the edge of my shelves.  I keep my mixing bowls, digital scales (probably my most-useful piece of equipment, after my sharp knife), ramekins, measuring jug and mortar and pestle in the bottom shelf, glasses on the second, cups on the first and my food processor, blender and hand blender on the top.

On the wall across from the cooker and worktops, I have a brilliant spice rack made by Dave when I moved in (before that, I’d lived in shared student flats and kept my spices in a giant shoebox, so this was a real step up!).  This is a picture I took for a post a wee while back, but it’s not too different now.


To finish, here’s a look at my favourite bit of the kitchen – my freezer.  It’s totally packed just now with things like spinach and coconut dal, chorizo pasta sauce, soup, cannelloni, homemade stock, bread, blueberries and lots more.  Seriously, I could not feed us like I do on our budget without some freezer space – or if I tried, we’d end up eating the same thing for days on end.



Well, that’s me done! Hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of my kitchen today and I’ll be back with some frugal recipes later on this week.

Mealplan and Spending Update 20/10


It’s been a busy week this week!  We more or less stuck to the mealplan, except last night, when Dave had to work and I went out for dinner with friends.  It should be a bit less hectic this week, and I’m excited about some of the new things we’ll be getting to try out for dinner.

I really like the ‘bedrocks’ section in Economy Gastronomy, where they show how to make 3-4 meals out of one main ingredient, hopefully making for less money spent and certainly less time spent in the kitchen.  The main ingredients range from a ham to a whole salmon to a big batch of chickpeas and after some deliberation, I decided to test out the braising beef section.  The basic idea is to make a massive beef casserole, split the leftovers in two and turn one batch into pasties and the other into a pasta sauce.  I won’t be exactly following their recipes but will actually be seeing if there are any tricks I can employ to make the recipes even cheaper.

As a sneak preview, here’s a picture of the beef casserole from tonight – recipe to follow this week:

beef casserole 2


Sun 20 – daube of beef (from ‘Economy Gastronomy’) with mash, parnsips, Yorkshire pudding and cabbage

Mon 21pittas, hummous and salads

Tues 22 – veggie pakoras with dips, spiced onions and salad

Wed 23 – beef and mushroom pasta (leftovers from the daube; again from ‘Economy Gastronomy’)

Thurs 24 – squash and ricotta cannelloni with salad (leftover from last week)

Fri 25 – griddled salmon in a sticky Asian sauce with rice and stirfried veg

Sat 26 veggie chilli with wraps

Spending Update (£168.04 / £170)

Fruit & veg £10.48
Smartprice peppers 7pk £1.68
Bananas x6 68p
Tenderheart cabbage 60p
Frozen blueberries £1.98
Mushrooms 250g 79p
Rocket salad £1
Lemons 6pk £1
Courgettes x3 £1
Limes 3pk 75p
Salad £1

Meat & fish £10
Diced casserole beef 454g x3 £10

Dairy & eggs £2.56
Whole milk 4pints £1
Meadow Park milk 2lt 97p
Smartprice natural yoghurt 500g 59p

General £13.45
Smartprice tinned mandarins 23p
Smartprice tinned pineapple 33p
Shelled pistachios 150g £2.81
Strong white bread flour 1.5kg 80p
Smartprice honey £1.24
Great Scot chickpeas 500g 95p
French coarse-grain mustard 180g 58p
Waitrose black turtle beans 500g £1.09
Waitrose pinto beans 500g £1.09
Douwe Egberts coffee 200g £3.50
Savers cocoa pops 83p

Household £1.79
Shower gel 79p
Alberto Balsam hair gel £1



If you don’t know, ratatouille is a really healthy and tasty French side dish made up of roasted veg, garlic and basil.

You can make it into a vegetarian main by having a bigger portion with some crusty bread on the side (and maybe some white beans thrown in at the end of cooking), but this time I served it on the side of some smoked mackerel and homemade oven chips.

The flavours of the veg went so well with the salty, smoky fish and it was a fantastic meal – even the chips turned out perfect.  Dave’s not really keen on fish, but he’s trying to eat more of it so we’ve agreed to eat it for dinner once a week (he has tuna sandwiches for lunch a couple of days too).  It’s win win for me because a) I love fish and would totally eat it more if Dave was up for it and b) it means I can blog more fish recipes too.

While he thought the fish was OK, he wasn’t THAT keen, so I’m glad the ratatouille turned out so well because it made me feel better about him not really liking the fish.

If you want to make the same meal, just peel and cut up around 450g potatoes (I like to keep the chips quite chunky as you can see in the picture), toss with vegetable oil and salt and put in the oven on a baking tray at the same time as the ratatouille.  The smoked mackerel was ready-cooked, so I just put into the oven ten minutes before the end to let it warm through.  Easy!

smoked mackerel ratatouille 2

Oh and it’s best to make this meal when you have some basil growing on your windowsill, as it really does make a difference.  Next best thing is to buy one of the little tubs rather than cut basil, as, if you keep it well watered and don’t strip too many of the leaves at once, it should last a good few meals.

Ratatouille (serves two as a side or one as a main meal)

  • Three medium tomatoes, cut into eight pieces
  • 1 1/2 peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 aubergine, cut into smallish chunks, or else 1 small courgette
  • 2 small onions, peeled and cut into chunks (red would be even nicer)
  • 4 cloves garlic, skin on
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • big handful fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Mix the tomatoes, peppers, aubergine (or courgette), onion and whole garlic cloves, drizzle in the oil and oregano, and season well.  Pack into a roasting tin and put into the oven.

Cook for around 35-40 minutes, or until the veg is all cooked through and starting to char on the edges.  Pick out the garlic, cut the bottom edge off (the one with a flat edge, not the point at the top) and squeeze the cooked close out of the skin.  Add each one back into the vegetable mix.  Don’t worry – garlic has a mild and lovely flavour when roasted.

Mix everything well, slightly mashing the tomatoes, and toss the fresh basil through.  Serve with crusty bread or use as a side dish.