Monthly Archives: November 2013

Mealplan and Spending Update 26/11


I had a hectic weekend and decided to leave doing the shopping until Monday after work, which is why this is being posted a wee bit late. Plus I wasn’t that well and was extremely tired on Monday – didn’t sleep at all on Sunday night.

After a couple of weeks of having unexplained hives, rashes, itching and red skin, I went to the doctors today to be told I have cold urticaria. If you don’t want to click the link, it’s an allergic skin reaction triggered by the cold. Yes, that’s a thing. And yes, I live in Scotland.

Suffice to say I won’t be trying to save money on the heating bills this winter. In fact (and in contrast to my usual Scrooge-like ways when it comes to shopping), I’ve already ordered a pair of fluffy-lined leather gloves (I’ve never been able to wear the wool ones as I hate the feel of them) and have planned to fully stock up woolly socks and tights at the weekend.

This is a short spending update because we didn’t have much budget left and had loads of food in the freezer anyway.  It’s been a busy month and seems to be getting busier as we approach Christmas (I’m allowed to say that now it’s less than a month away!) so I’m trying to make meals as easy as possible right now.


Sun 24 – taken out for dinner by relatives

Mon 25 mac and cheese with broccoli (recycled from last week’s mealplan)

Tues 26 fish & veg pie

Wed 27 – homemade chicken kievs with mash and veg

Thurs 28 veg chilli with rice

Fri 29 – spag bol

Sat 30 – out for dinner

Spending Update (£170.70 / £175)

Fruit & veg £5.48
Bananas x5 62p
Fresh jalapeno chillies 140g £1.12
Four leaf salad £1.09
Red cabbage 64p
Cherry tomatoes £1
Rocha pears 7pk £1

Meat & fish £5.45
Whole chicken* £5.45

Dairy & eggs £6.24
Mature cheddar x2 £4
Savers feta 75p
Whole milk 4pints £1.49

Bread £1
Morning rolls 6pk x2 £1

General 58p
Passata 58p

Household £1.25
Savers kitchen towel £1.25

All-in-one fish and veg pie

fish pie

Dave doesn’t like fish pie, so I’ve actually never made it before.  I do love fish pie and had been dying to try making it at some point because I’d collected a few packets of fish from the “yellow sticker” or reduced section of the supermarket and bunged them in the freezer, and I felt like they’d really been in there long enough.  On Tuesday Dave had to work all night so I finally had the chance to try it out.

There was enough fish to make four portions, but luckily you can freeze it, so I now have three delicious portions of creamy, comforting fish pie for the next few times that Dave has to work late.

It’s called an “all-in-one” pie because it has the veggies (in the form of leeks, sweetcorn and peas) already in there (though feel free to serve with more veggies on the side if you want, the more the better really).  I did it like that because I wanted to make something that I could just take out and reheat in the oven or microwave for a quick dinner, without faffing about with extra pots and boiling veg.

All-in-one fish pie (serves 4)

For the filling:

  • 500g mixed fish (I used 200g diced cod, a 150g piece of salmon and 150g smoked haddock – try and get some smoked fish in there as it really makes it), cut into pieces if they aren’t already
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 200g peas (I used frozen)
  • 200g sweetcorn (frozen as well)
  • 400ml milk
  • heaped tablespoon cornflour
  • small knob of butter
  • bay leaf
  • a few black peppercorns

For the topping

  • 1kg potatoes, cut into chunks (I left the skins on – they’re good for you and tasty)
  • splash of milk
  • small knob of butter
  • 50g grated cheddar

Put the milk in a pan over a medium heat and add the peppercorns and bay leaf.

While it’s heating, add the potatoes to a large pan of salted water (I used water heated in the kettle) and bring to the boil.

When the first bubbles appear on the surface of the milk, add the diced fish.  Turn the heat down just a notch, as you want it to barely simmer, not boil.  Allow to cook for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked through.  Strain the fish out, discarding the peppercorns and bay leaf and keeping the milk separately.

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Add the butter for the filling to a small saucepan and place over a low heat.  Allow to melt, add the cornflour and mix through to make a yellow paste.  Add the milk used to cook the fish, turn the heat up to medium, and whisk for several minutes until thickened.  Set aside.

When the potatoes are cooked through, drain and mash with the butter and just a splash of milk, seasoning well.

Mix the fish, white sauce, leeks, sweetcorn and peas together and pile into an appropriately-sized casserole dish, smoothing over.  Top with the mashed potato and then the grated cheese, then add a good couple of twists of black pepper.

Bake for around 30-40 minutes, until piping hot and golden-brown on top.

Sweetcorn salsa

sweetcorn salsa

This is a really simple and tasty side dish I came up with to go with my spicy chicken drumsticks on Sunday night.  I knew when I mixed the marinade (pretty much just what’s listed in the spicy chicken wings recipe but with more tabasco this time!) that they would be HOT, so I wanted to do something cooling to go alongside.

I think I saw a recipe for sweetcorn salsa on an American cooking blog but it has loads of stuff in it that Dave can’t eat – raw peppers, tomatoes and cucumber (all of which he’s allergic to uncooked).  So I just took the idea and made it as simple as I could – cooked sweetcorn (you could use tinned if you want to make it really easy), onion and lime.  I used both normal onion and spring onions, because I had them in, but you could use red or whatever you have.

I think this works really well with the spicy chicken but it’d also be nice as a cheap side dish for a barbecue (not that we’ll be having any of those for a while!), with burgers or maybe even in burritos with cooked meat or beans.  If you want, you can add in diced peppers or tomatoes as well, though to be honest I liked its simplicity.

Sweetcorn salsa (serves 2 as a side dish)

  • 160g frozen or tinned sweetcorn
  • 1/2 small onion, finely sliced
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • Dash of vegetable or olive oil

If using frozen sweetcorn, add to a pan of lightly salted boiling water and cook for a few minutes until done.  Drain and rinse under cold water to cool.

Add the chopped onion and spring onion, lime juice and a dash of oil.  Season and mix well.

Vegetarian ‘chicken’ pakora

cauliflower pakora header

This is the second part of my post on homemade pakoras made using The Takeaway Secret (a great cookbook that anyway who loves takeaway food should buy!).  The first post, on mixed vegetable pakora, is here.

I hesitated about the title of this post because I was a wee bit worried it sounded like I was using meat substitutes to make my pakora.  I’ve probably mentioned on here before that Quorn and the likes are so not my cup of tea because I have a personal rule about not eating fake food or food pretending to be something it’s not.  And if I want a veggie meal, I’d rather make something full of lovely veggies, beans, nuts or cheese rather than some fake soy product (I do eat tofu though, since I figure that anything people have been eating for centuries in China doesn’t count as a fake food).

Anyway, I used the chicken pakora batter recipe from The Takeaway Secret, with the actual chicken replaced by medium-sized florets of cauliflower and whole button mushrooms.  Obviously it didn’t taste like chicken but it was really, really delicious (if you’re not a regular reader – I do eat meat but not too often, and I was a vegetarian for four and a half years, so I have lots of veggie recipes under my sleeve now).

The flour you use in both pakora recipes in gram or besan flour, made with ground chickpeas, and it’s a little difficult to get hold of – I eventually got some in a local ethnic grocers, only to find that Morrison’s had started selling it just that week, for a better price.  For those without good independent shops nearby, try the kind of massive Tesco that has a big ethnic foods section if you have one close by.  I guess you could try subbing with normal flour, but it won’t be the same as a proper takeaway pakora, as gram flour does have a really distinctive taste and texture.

I could’ve done with the pakora being just a smidge hotter, so have reflected that in the recipe below.


Vegetarian ‘chicken’ pakora (serves 1-2)

  • about 1/4 of a large cauliflower, cut into medium-sized florets
  • 1/4 of a 250g pack of button mushrooms (or pick the button ones out of a mixed pack, like me)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp dried ginger (or use a small knob of fresh, grated)
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 125g gram/besan flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground fenugreek (optional)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • 120ml water
  • Oil, to deep-fry

Heat the oil for deep-frying to a medium heat in a large saucepan, ensuring the oil is deep enough to comfortable cover the pakora when they’re in there.

Put the cauliflower florets and the button mushrooms into a large bowl and add the tomato purée, garlic, ground or fresh ginger, vegetable oil and lemon juice.  Season well with salt.

In another bowl, combine all the rest of the ingredients except the water and oil for deep-frying.  Mix in, then add the water gradually, to make a smooth batter that’s not too thick.

Add the cauliflower and mushrooms and coat well.  Add the individual florets and mushrooms to the hot oil, cooking in a couple of batches, and fry for around 5-6 minutes (I tested one before removing the rest to make sure it was done).

Remove each piece with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on some kitchen roll before serving.  Nice hot or cold later on with the pakora sauce in my last post.  I also served with the mixed vegetable pakora (which you can see in the pictures as the darker, rounder pakoras), from the same post.

Mealplan and Spending Update 17/11


A small shop today (we got it delivered from Asda), leaving us with just a shade under £25 to do until the 25th – hopefully just enough for the next week’s shopping.  This week, the plan is to try and use up some stuff that’s been hanging around the freezer a while – the chicken drumsticks, a few bits of fish, the veggie chilli (which is already made up, the mince for the burgers.


Sun 17 – spicy chicken drumsticks with sweetcorn salsa, spicy wedges and salad

Mon 18 – vegetable curries with rice and naan

Tues 19 – fish pie

Wed 20 veggie chilli with baked potatoes and salad

Thurs 21 mac and cheese with broccoli

Fri 22 – having friends round so will just have pizza

Sat 23 – beefburger for Dave, turkey burger for me, with chips and salad

Spending Update (£150.70 / £175)

Fruit & veg £5.18
Baby leaf salad £1
Carrots 1.2kg £1
Trimmed leeks 500g £1
Smartprice onions 2kg 98p
Broccoli 335g 60p
Bananas x6 60p

Meat & fish £5
Smoked bacon 800g £5

Dairy & eggs £3.97
Pilgrims Choice mature cheddar 350g £2
Whole milk 4pints £1
Meadow park whole milk 97p

General £7.38
Smartprice tinned pineapple 33p
Allison easy-bake yeast 100g 98p
Smartprice crunchy peanut butter 62p
Carte noire instant coffee 100g £3
Smartprice chopped tomatoes 31p
Bay leaves 87p
Smartprice individual orange juices 3pk 45p
Smoked paprika 92p

Household £7.77
Asda complete dry cat food 950g £1.32
Smartprice wrapping film 60p
Smartprice cat litter £1.55
Asda cola 4pk x2 £4.30

Vegetable Pakora


We had a lovely dinner last night – homemade vegetable pakora from The Takeaway Secret (I’ve said this before, but it, and it’s successor More Takeaway Secrets are a brilliant cookbooks – if you like takeaway food, GO AND BUY THEM NOW!  And, no, I haven’t been paid to write this, sadly).

I made the traditional mixed vegetable pakora pretty much as in the book, subbing peas for potatoes because I wanted to keep it fairly light on carbs since it’s not a very healthy meal anyway.  For both the cauliflower and the mushrooms pakoras, I used the thinner, lighter batter from the chicken pakora recipe, dipping whole button mushrooms and medium-sized florets of cauliflower into it to make a veggie version instead.

We served the pakora with homemade pakora sauce and spiced onions (both again from The Takeaway Secret), along with shop bought naans and poppadoms.  I do feel a bit guilty buying naans because I know how to make them – but I didn’t have time this weekend to do it along with the pakoras and the naans and poppadoms were on offer.  So it’s totally OK.  One of these days I’ll post my naan recipe though, it’s WAY better than shop bought.

Here’s the recipe for the mixed veggie pakora as a wee taster of how good the recipes from the book are – I will try and blog my ‘fake chicken’ cauliflower and mushroom pakoras later on.  Oh and I had leftovers for lunch today and both types were so good cold the next day too!



Mixed Vegetable Pakora (serves 1-2)

  • 150g frozen peas
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • large handful fresh spinach, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds (used ground as that was all I had)
  • 1/2-1tsp chilli powder (used 1/2 but wasn’t spicy enough for me)
  • 1/2tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (didn’t have these so swapped for 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek)
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 2-3 tbsp water
  • 8-10 tbsp gram/besan (chickpea) flour
  • Oil, to deep fry

Mix everything together except the gram flour and water, then add the flour and water a little at a time, alternately, until the mix makes a thick paste.  Season with a large pinch of salt.

Heat enough oil to deep dry the pakora in a decent-sized saucepan (a few inches deep anyway) on a medium heat – not too hot, or it burns before it cooks through.  Drop small balls (I used a spoon to scoop them out) of batter into the oil and fry for around 5 minutes, or until browned and cooked through (I took one out and tested it).  You’ll probably need to cook in batches – I did it in two.

Remove using a slotted spoon, pop onto some kitchen roll, and let the oil drain off a little.  Serve with pakora sauce (recipe below) or any other goodies you want.

Pakora Sauce

  • 120ml natural yoghurt
  • 2tsp mint sauce
  • 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • Couple of large pinches chilli powder (again wasn’t spicy enough with just one pinch)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • A little milk, to dilute

Pretty easy this one – mix everything except the milk well, dilute with milk until thin enough for your liking (mixing well between each addition of milk), then season with salt as desired.  This is exactly like takeaway sauce (a friend who worked in an Indian restaurant did tell me once about it being yoghurt and ketchup mixed together) and in spite of sounding like a really disgusting mixture, it’s delicious.

Mealplan and Spending Update 10/11


I was thinking about all the different strategies for saving money on groceries today, and it occurred to me that the one that I’m worst at is shopping around – I just can’t muster up any enthusiasm for it.

In my defence, we haven’t got a car, so it’s tough to shop around.  The last thing I want to do on a Sunday is traipse around three or four shops to get the best price on something.  The truth is, I hate shopping and hate running errands (I’ve been trying to make myself replace my trainers and buy a sports bra since I started running seven whole weeks ago, but haven’t been able to face spending a Saturday morning shopping yet).

The point is that some people would enjoy spending a weekend morning wandering through markets, ethnic grocers and bargain supermarkets, but while I do occasional trips to these places when I’m not rushed, on a normal Sunday all I want to do is get the shopping over and done with as soon as possible (it’s why I like ordering online – I can get the whole thing done without leaving the sofa).  But for other people, making their own bread or saving chicken carcasses might be their worst nightmare.  So if you’re trying to join in and save some money on your shopping – pick and choose what works for you and you’re more likely to stick to it.

By the way – I did go to an African grocers this week to pick up some gram flour (chickpea flour) to make the pakoras I’ve been trying to make for weeks, as haven’t found it in any local supermarkets – only to later discover that since last week our local Morrisons has started stocking it and is 70p cheaper per 1kg bag.  So maybe that’s why I’m feeling even less enthusiastic about shopping around this week!


Sun 10 – vegetable pakoras with spiced onions, naans and poppadoms

Mon 11 – goats cheese spaghetti with salad

Tues 12 – veggie curries with rice

Wed 13 – veg chilli with baked potatoes and salad

Thurs 14 – meat lasagne with salad

Fri 15 – pizzas with salad

Sat 16 – roasted chicken drumsticks with veg, potatoes and stuffing

Spending Update (£121.40 / £175)

Fruit & veg £6.33
Courgette 44p
Savers mushrooms 75p
RTC watermelon portion 80p
Salad x2 £2
Spinach £1.49
Bananas x6 75p

Meat £1.50
Square sausage £1.50

Dairy & eggs £6
Savers natural yoghurt 59p
Soft goats cheese £1.89
Spreadable butter £2
Savers mozzarella 55p
Meadow park milk 2ltr 97p

Bread £3.60
Bread loaf 60p
Poppadoms £1
Naan breads 3pk x2 £2
General £16.38
Savers cocoa pops 88p
Strong white flour 1.5kg 80p
Strong brown flour £1.27
Mixed spice 55p
Oxo veg stock cubes £1
Oxo beef stock cubes £1
Savers mint sauce 27p
Savers bran flakes 83p
Ice cream £1.50
Instant coffee £2.50
Walkers crisps 6pk x2 £2
Gram/besan flour £1.79
Dried red kidney beans 500g 89p
Dried black eye beans 500g 99p

Household £11.44
Savers kitchen roll £1.11
Sure mens deodorant £1.44
Morrisons womens deodorant 92p
Alberto balsam shampoo £1
Alberto balsam conditioner £1
Shower gel 89p
Gillette disposable razors £3.99
Savers handwash 39p
Scourers 70p