Category Archives: Recipes

Lentil pate

140927-lentil-pate-cover-photo-1000x639Once again I’ve struggled to update lately – I really need to get some kind of routine back in because I’m really missing updating this blog!

Don’t worry though, I’ve still been¬†saving money, keeping grocery costs low and cooking as much as I can from scratch. This month I’ve split my grocery budget into separate amounts for food and toiletries so I can better track what’s going where, but I’ll do a proper round-up at the end of the month and set a target on here for October too.

I’m really looking forward to sharing some new recipes on here. Since I started my new job three months ago, I’ve gotten into a slightly different cooking and meal routine. This is partly because I’ve been exercising a lot more and trying to eat really healthily, and it means I’ve been really experimenting, especially with lunch and breakfast foods. These new recipes aren’t always the cheapest though (I don’t eat soup as much now and given my usual soup recipe was about 12p a portion I can’t get salad anywhere near as cheap!) so my next challenge is to ‘frugalise’ some of these new recipes up a bit more ūüôā

Today I’ve got a quick and easy recipe for a vegetarian lentil pate, perfect for an easy lunch with crackers or pitta bread, or even used as a sandwich spread. You could also serve it for a vegetarian starter or (as I did today) as part of a mezze platter for a main course. We had it along with hummous, garlic mayo, pittas, a bulghar wheat salad and roasted veg –¬†SO tasty.

The recipe was kindly shared on the MSE forums by another user a few years ago, though I’ve very slightly adapted it below. It doesn’t look the prettiest but it’s tasty and incredibly cheap – mostly because it has no expensive ingredients in it. However, to get it so cheap I’ve been really embracing buying in bulk lately – the 2kg bag of red lentils for ¬£2 is the one I actually have and I bought a similar 4kg bag of onions from Morrisons a few weeks ago. Even if you don’t want to invest in giant bags of these of these it’ll still be fairly cheap though.

Lentil pate (makes 4-6 lunch portions at 7-11p per portion)

  • 150g red lentils 15p (TRS, ¬£2 for 2kg)
  • 1 pint water, just boiled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil¬†4p (Asda, ¬£2.89 for 1ltr)
  • 2 medium onions, about 250g, finely chopped or grated 11p (¬£1.67 for 4 kilos)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed 6p (90p for 4 bulbs)
  • 2-3 tbsp dried mixed herbs (you can either use a generic mixed herbs or mix in whichever dried herbs you like – I used some mixed herbs then added extra basil, oregano and thyme) 5p (Smartprice, 25p for 18g)

Add the red lentils and water to a large saucepan, bring to the boil then turn the heat down to the lowest setting and put the lid on the pan. Leave to cook for around 12-15 minutes, checking on it and stirring occasionally: you’ll need to take it off the heat when it starts catching on the bottom, but you want most of the liquid to have gone. Stir well with a wooden spoon to mash slightly.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions gently for several minutes until starting to colour. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute or two. Remove from the heat and add to the lentils, along with the dried herbs.

At this point, you’ll need to season quite well with salt and pepper – lentils can be really bland unless you salt them well, so I used about half a teaspoon here. Leave to cool and serve with crackers, pittas or toast.

Variations¬†– try swapping the mixed herbs for curry powder or other spices. Or use different lentils or beans, though they’ll be a little more expensive. The original recipe also suggested adding a spoonful of vinegar at the end to season, which I think would be la nice touch but I totally forgot about when I made mine.

Prices checked using Asda online delivery service.

Lentil, sweet potato and coconut soup

I had some really tasty soup for lunch today out of a batch I made and froze last week, and belatedly thought that it’d make a good recipe to share, so here it is. It was far too hot for soup today really – I sat outside, which is why the pictures are so bright – but I enjoyed it anyway ūüôā

It’s got a lovely sweet, earthy, coconutty flavour plus a nice level of heat from the curry powder, without being too spicy. Interestingly, since I’ve been trying to have my lunchtime soup without bread I’ve paid a lot more attention to seasoning the soup and can really tell the difference. I think you can rely on buttered bread to ‘carry’ an underseasoned soup a bit¬†so I was being a bit lazy about tasting and seasoning before packing it up and freezing.

I’ve always said that soup’s the best way to get in a healthy lunch as cheap as possible and this one’s only 38p per portion when you split the batch into five (if you’re the hungry sort you may want to have bigger portions or have some bread with it too, but it’ll still be pretty cheap).

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Lentil, sweet potato and coconut soup (serves 5 for lunch at 38p per portion)NutritionLabel

  • 1/2 tbsp cooking fat (free* – I used homemade lard, vegetable oil is fine too)
  • 2 small onions, peeled and chopped 10p, (Asda smartprice ¬£1.06 for 2kg)
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes 50p (Asda ¬£1 per kilo)
  • 2 tbsp curry powder (I used Madras) 4p (Rajah Madras curry powder 61p per 100g in Asda)
  • 150g red lentils¬†27p (East End, ¬£3.50 per 2kg in Asda)
  • stock to well cover (free* as I used homemade ham stock but vegetable or chicken stock is fine too)
  • 1 can coconut milk¬†95p (Rajah brand, Asda)

Heat the fat or oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onions. Gently fry for several minutes until starting to colour, then add the sweet potatoes, curry powder, lentils and enough ham or vegetable stock to well cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are mushy and the sweet potato is cooked through.

Remove from the heat, blitz with a hand blender (or use a jug blender, but let it cool a bit first) and add the coconut milk. Reheat gently, taste and season as required.

Makes five lunch portions at 38p per portion. *If you use Asda own-brand vegetable oil it’ll add less than a penny to the¬†overall¬†price and Asda own-brand stock cubes are 40p for 12 or 6p to use two in your soup.

Credit Crunch Munch

I’m entering this into¬†Credit Crunch Munch¬†hosted by Sarah at Maison Cupcake, but set up by Helen over¬†Fuss Free Flavours¬†and Camilla over at¬†Fab Food 4 All.

Chickpea and Squash Tagine

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You might notice the new blog design – I’ve been meaning to change it up for a while! ¬†Hope you like it ūüôā

I was first introduced to a¬†squash & chickpea¬†tagine by a friend, who made it for me for dinner one night using a simple but tasty recipe she’d found on BBC Good Food. ¬†After she sent me a link to the recipe, I literally made it all the time for ages and ages, before for some inexplicable reason I stopped making it and kind of forgot about it.

Last week I remembered the recipe when I was pondering what to do with the chickpea hoard (seriously – I have three cans-worth in the freezer and one and a half kilos of the dried stuff in the cupboard) and I tried to look it up. ¬†Imagine my outrage when I discovered that the BBC’s license for the recipe had expired! ¬†This recipe is my attempt to recreate it from memory and I think it’s reasonably close.

The fresh coriander, while not really frugal, totally makes this dish by the way – try and use it if you can. ¬†Growing your own is the best way to get fresh herbs cheap, but I’ve never had any luck with coriander for some reason – any tips welcome!

Chickpea and Squash Tagine, serves 4

  • 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, halved, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pepper (I used orange), diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small butternut squash (I used 3/4 of a larger one), peeled and cut into small chunks
  • Vegetable stock, to cover
  • 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tin chickpeas (I used dried ones I’d cooked from scratch)
  • Small handful dried apricots, finely sliced
  • Large handful fresh coriander

squash and chickpea tagineHeat the oil over a medium heat in a deep-sided frying pan.  Add the sliced onions and the pepper and gently fry for a few minutes, until tender.  Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Add the butternut squash and cover with vegetable stock (I used a cube), adding in all the spices.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is tender.  Add the chickpeas (drained if using canned) and dried apricots and cook for another few minutes, until everything is heated through, adding a little more water if the sauce starts to dry out.

Serve with rice or couscous, garnished with lots of chopped coriander.

Lime drizzle cake

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Decided to take a wee break from the “What I Ate Wednesday” post this week – mostly because I forgot to take a breakfast pic on Monday (it was a banana & summer fruit milkshake if you’re interested) then went out for lunch¬†and again only got a quick and badly-lit snap before we got started wolfing it down.

Instead I have a nice wee cake recipe for you. ¬†You know I don’t make cakes often because of the unhealthiness, but I was roasting some tofu in the oven (more on that tomorrow) instead of stir-frying it and felt like it was a bit of a waste to turn the oven on just for a wee bit of tofu… so you see, I HAD to make the cake to save on energy. ¬†Ahem.

Drizzle cakes are possibly my favourite type of cake. ¬† The usual lemon is always acceptable, but I’ve found mixing it up with lime or orange both works really well too and are a really easy way to make the cake sound fancier and more impressive. ¬†Lime is my favourite but Dave prefers orange, even though it lacks the tang of the lemon or lime versions. ¬†In fact he LOVES orange cake so much that that’s what we had as the middle tier of our wedding cake (iced with chocolate buttercream… the other tiers were a plain chocolate and a pistachio cake. ¬†All made by my baking genius of a sister. ¬†The memory even now makes me drool).

Anyway, lime drizzle cake is seriously tasty and sounds much more impressive than it is to make. ¬†You can of course use lemon when following the recipe – you’ll only need one or one and a half, depending on size. ¬†For orange cake, use one big orange or a couple of wee tangerine/satsuma type ones. ¬†I daresay you could even make it with grapefruit if you’re the type of person who likes grapefruit (which, urgh, I am not).

lime drizzle

Lime drizzle cake (makes 10-12 slices)

  • 4 eggs, weighed in their shell (I used medium ones and got 254g)
  • Self-raising flour, same weight as eggs
  • Caster sugar, same weight as eggs + 85g kept separate (I used granulated this time because I was out of caster and got a good result so you can try that too)
  • Baking fat or butter, same weight as eggs (used own brand baking fat)
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes (or 1-2 lemons/oranges)

Well-grease a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180C.  Cream the butter and sugar together (I used my fancy new KitchenAid mixer we got as a wedding present, but you can do it by hand too), then beat in the eggs.  Sift in the flour and then fold in gently, along with the zest.  Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean (note РI burnt the one in the picture slightly.  You want to take it out just before it looks like that at the edges!).

While the cake is baking, mix the remaining 85g of sugar with the lime juice and set aside.  Once baked, keep the cake in the tin and stab all over with a skewer (I used a chopstick) and then slowly pour the drizzle topping all over, allowing it to soak into the cake.  Use all your willpower and let the cake cool in the tin before removing and slicing.  Freezes well if needed.

Spinach, walnut and pumpkin seed pasta

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We ended up having to change the mealplan a bit this week, having the spag bol yesterday and not doing the dhal at all – it’s because Dave ended up having an unplanned driving lesson tonight and as I was at the gym, there was no-one in to cook!

Dave was in before me and got a chippy (paid for by himself so not affecting the budget) so when I came in, I only had to feed myself.  No chippy for me Рfeel like it negates the point of the gym really, and I always feel so greasy afterwards!

Any long-time reader will know that my go-to quick meal is some kind of pasta dressed in oil and tonight was no exception.  But somehow the random selection of ingredients I ended up putting together just tasted amazing so i wanted to share the recipe with you all.  Of course, you could adapt it a bit depending what you have in, and if you wanted you could serve with some grilled chicken strips on top and/or any extra veg.

Speaking of veg, I used frozen spinach as I had some in and it’s a nice cheap way to get some greens in. ¬†But you could use most greens I think, sliced and added to the cooking water at the appropriate time – was thinking kale or chard could be nice. ¬†Or even fresh spinach if you have some around.

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Spinach, walnut and pumpkin seed pasta (serves 1)

  • 75-100g pasta (I used penne, but spaghetti would be even nicer, I think)
  • 1 1/2¬†tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 big clove garlic or else two smaller cloves, finely sliced into slivers
  • 1 fresh chilli, finely sliced, or a couple of pinches of dried chilli flakes
  • 20g walnuts, chopped
  • 20g small handful pumpkin seeds
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 80g frozen spinach (or other greens)

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to packet directions РI do mine for about 10 minutes.  a few minutes in, add the frozen spinach lumps.

Meanwhile, heat 1tbsp of the olive oil in a small frying pan and add the walnuts, chilli and pumpkin seeds.  Cook over a medium-low heat for a few minutes, allowing to toast.  With a 2-3 minutes to go until the pasta is ready, add the garlic slivers and allow to cook until golden. Remove the pan from the heat.

When the pasta and spinach is cooked, tip into a sieve.  The spinach holds quite a lot of water, so I kind of smooshed it against the sieve to squeeze as much out as possible.

Toss the pasta and spinach in the remaining 1/2 tbsp of olive oil and the lemon juice.  Serve in a bowl topped with the walnut, pumpkin seed, garlic and chilli mix, and drizzled with the oil used to cook them.  Season as desired.

Carrot & cashew nut cutlets/burgers

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This recipe was from a cookbook called¬†The New Vegetarian Kitchen, which I think I’ve mentioned before – I really recommend it, though the recipes aren’t that frugal. ¬†I did play about with the recipe a bit though. ¬†You should know my feelings about vegetables by now: as many as I can possibly fit on the plate please! So I added some chopped yellow pepper to the mix. ¬†I changed the spices, keeping cumin but swapping fenugreek for a hot chilli powder, because I wanted something spicy.

I was out of pistachios so also didn’t serve with the intriguing-sounding pistachio salsa, though i’m so making that another day. ¬†Instead of serving wrapped in a naan bread, like a burger, I used mine as veggie ‘cutlets’ (as a student, I used to buy this type of thing from the frozen section in the supermarket; I assume you can still get them) and served with salad, yoghurt (with finely chopped onion and a little mint sauce added to make raita) and couscous for a light but filling summery meal. ¬†Monday was the first warm, sunny spring day around here so it felt like the right sort of food ūüôā

These are easy to make completely by hand, but would be even easier with a food processor – I annoyingly broke my a couple of weeks ago and haven’t quite got round to replacing it yet. ¬†I miss it so much! Oh and if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can crush the cashews¬†by placing in a food bag and bashing with a rolling pin, though you won’t get them as fine.

Carrot and cashew nut cutlets (serves 2)

  • 75g cashew nuts
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 30g breadcrumbs (1 small slice of homemade bread – I toasted then used a grater as I couldn’t do them¬†in the food processor)

Preheat your grill. ¬†Toast the cashews on a baking tray under the hot grill for a few minutes, keeping an eye on them and shaking occasionally to prevent burning (they will toast a lot faster under the grill than in the oven, so be careful). ¬†Once golden, remove and grind well, either in a food processor, coffee grinder (one you don’t use to grind coffee, obviously), in a mortar and pestle or even by putting in a food bag and bashing with a rolling pin. ¬†You want it reasonably finely ground, but a bit of texture is OK.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onions and pepper until soft.  Add the crushed garlic and fry for a further minute before removing from the heat.

Mix the ground nuts, cooked vegetables, grated carrots, breadcrumbs and spices.  Beat the egg well into the mix and use your hands to separate into two balls and press into a rough burger shape.  Place on a baking tray and grill for around 8 minutes, turning once.

Serve as a burger, or with couscous and salad, or potatoes and veg – however you want really!

Summery lemony couscous salad

  • 100g plain dried couscous
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • handful fresh coriander, chopped
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 6 dried apricot halves, sliced

Make up the couscous using packet directions РI pour over an equal volume of salted boiling water to couscous, then add an extra splash to be on the safe side, drizzle with olive oil then cover with a tea towel for 10-15 minutes.  Once the couscous has absorbed all the water, fluff up with a fork and add all the other ingredients, stirring well.  Serve on the side of the nut cutlets or with other summery dishes (would be especially nice with griddled chicken or a veggie tagine).

Spinach pesto

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I totally forgot about What I Ate Wednesday until today – which means I didn’t take any pictures of my food on Monday or any other day for that matter! ¬†Slightly annoyed with myself¬†so I’ve put a reminder in my phone to do it next week ūüôā

To make it up to you, I have a nice and¬†recipe for spinach pesto below, plus some ideas of how to use it. ¬†Yes, I know it’s not on the mealplan. ¬†I forgot to defrost the cod for tonight, so swapped the meals round, but then decided I’d be better for leaving the soup in the freezer for another time and making something for the spinach, which I bought reduced and was in need of being used.

Because I used reduced to clear/”yellow sticker” spinach (25p for the bag) and¬†the¬†ingredients I already had in, this ended up pretty cheap. ¬†But you can jazz it up in various ways so I’ve noted some variations below.

If you’ve never had spinach pesto before, it’s got a milder taste than the usual basil kind¬†but otherwise can be used in much the same ways. ¬†Tonight I stirred it through some pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, toasted cashews and some fried onions, but it’d also be nice with chicken or as a sandwich spread.

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Spinach Pesto (serves 3/4)

This will be much easier for you if you have a food processor, or at least a jug blender.  If not, you can pound the nuts and garlic in a mortar and pestle then add finely shredded spinach leaves and bash again before adding oil.

  • 200g bag fresh spinach leaves
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 50g cashew nuts, pine nuts or walnuts (I used cashews)
  • handful finely grated parmesan or similar cheese
  • vegetable or olive oil (I used vegetable because I was running out of olive oil, but olive would be nicer)

Pulse the cashew nuts in the food processor, and once finely chopped (but not totally ground) add the spinach and garlic.  Pulse again until the spinach is all chopped and reduced down.

Add a good glug of oil, stir in, season well with salt and pepper, and pulse again for a second to combine. ¬†Use your judgement to see how much more oil you need – I don’t like it too oily, but you want to be able to stir it easily.

Once you’ve got the right consistency, add the parmesan to taste and stir in. ¬†Serve mixed through pasta, on pizza or chicken, or any way you like.

Variations –¬†as noted in the recipe, you can change the oil or nuts you use. ¬†You can also swap some of the spinach for the more traditional basil (you’ll want to use fresh, not dried, though). ¬†I’m not sure what it’d be like with defrosted frozen spinach, but¬†will definitely have to give that one a go at some point.

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Pasta with Spinach Pesto, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Cashews (serves 2)

  • 150-200g dried pasta (I used penne)
  • 1/2 or 1/3 quantity of the spinach pesto recipe above (I¬†only made a 3/4 batch and used all of it, but it was ¬†a very generous portion)
  • 30g sundried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water
  • 30g cashew nuts
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 small onions, or one medium one, finely sliced
  • handful parmesan, grated

Cook the pasta as per packet directions.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep-sided frying pan and add the onions and cashews.  Cook on a medium heat for a few minutes until the onions are soft and the cashews have turned golden.

Slice the sun-dried tomatoes into strips and throw them in with the onions and cashews.  I also added the water used to soak the tomatoes and reduced it down slightly so it would thin the pesto (be warned this makes it saltier though Рyou can add a splash of water instead if you want).

Drain the pasta once cooked and add, along with the pesto, to the pan with the other ingredients.  Toss through and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan on each portion.

So what’s your favourite thing to do with pesto? ¬†Have you ever made it yourself?