Tag Archives: vegetarian

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 🙂

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.


Cauliflower Dhansak (sweet and sour lentil curry)

dhansak 3

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I really like making curry (see here and here).  I think that lots of people can be a bit scared of making it from scratch – in fact, when I first moved out as a student, I used to use jars of sauce (a flatmate and I always used to share a jar of korma sauce, cooked with tinned tuna and onions, and some bought naan breads – it was so good!).

When I was a vegetarian, I started with the various inauthentic dhals and curries you get in student cookbooks.  They were often either bland or tasted only of chilli, but even if they were quite nice I always wished they tasted like the curries from an Indian restaurant.

As a side note, the ‘student cookbook curries’, while inauthentic, can be really tasty –  my quick tip if making curry from a non-specialist cookbook is double up on all of the spices EXCEPT the chilli and you can also try a little lemon juice and/or sugar at the end to perk it up a bit.

Since my student days I’ve learned a lot about curry, both more authentically Indian recipes (with the help of a great cookbook called India’s Vegetarian Cooking which has recipes from the various regions) and some of the classics of British Indian restaurants, which is a very different thing.  This curry falls into the latter category and is one of my favourites on the rare occasions we get a takeaway (we got one on Saturday in fact, when visiting relatives, and it spurred me on to try making it!).

dhansak 4

Dhansak has a thick lentil sauce and is moderately hot, with lots of nice spices and it’s sort of subtly sweet and sour.  Obviously you can make it with any meat or vegetables of your choice – I used cauliflower, courgette and pepper, roasted.  I would have also added a few cashews for extra protein and crunch but we didn’t have any in and it was filling enough without it to be honest.

Vegetable Dhansak

dhansak 2

Dave dubbed this “the best homemade curry I’ve ever tasted” so it wasn’t just me that thought it turned out well!  I consulted The Takeaway Secret for inspiration but didn’t really follow the recipe (would still recommend it as it’s a great cookbook!)

  • 1 small onion, diced 3p
  • 2-3 small carrots (about 100g), peeled and chopped 7p
  • 1/2 green pepper, 1/2 diced small and half cut into larger pieces 24p
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed 9p
  • 3 tablespoons red lentils 2p
  • 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes 16p
  • 1/4 block creamed coconut 25p
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (I’d have used fresh if I had any in)
  • 1 tsp garam masala 4p
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric 3p
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper 6p
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 3p
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin 3p
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander 3p
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 3p
  • 1/2 cauliflower, cut into half florets 99p
  • 1/3 courgette, cut into small wedges 10p
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I used brown but you can use any really) 4p
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste, or juice of 1/2 lemon (I used tamarind as I had some in) 25p
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil 9p
  • small handful chopped fresh coriander (free from windowsill)

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Arrange the cauliflower, courgette and larger chunks of pepper on a baking tray, drizzle with half of the oil, and season.  Roast for around 25-30 minutes or until cooked through and slightly blackened on the edges.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a large pan.  Add the carrot, onion and diced pepper, and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.  When softened, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the spices, coconut, lentils, tomatoes and water and cover with boiling water.  Cook for 30 minutes or so, until the lentils and vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.

Blitz the sauce very well with a hand blender until there are no chunks of vegetables left.  Add the sugar and tamarind or lemon juice, tasting and adjusting as needed until you get a subtle sweet and sour taste.  Season with salt if desired and add in the roasted vegetables, reheating them if necessary.

£1.26 per portion for the curry, plus 9p per portion for boiled rice to serve with it.  We also had a couple of leftover wraps from last night which I haven’t costed yet.

dhansak 4

A quick and tasty stirfry

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When I was a student, I used to eat stirfries a lot, but I was always starving after an hour. That’s because, as a vegetarian, I made the classic mistake of not replacing the meat with anything – noodles and vegetables on their own just aren’t filling!

Now that I do a lot more exercise (it’s not hard to do more than absolutely nothing…) I’m way better at having some sort of protein with all my meals.  I still don’t eat much meat, so when I’m making a vegetarian meal I do always think “where’s the protein coming from?”.

With stirfry, I almost always go for an egg and nut combo.  You might not know this, but I have a weird hatred of egg in almost all its forms, which is why you won’t see it featured on this blog much.  I do however like egg-fried rice or the equivalent with noodles as long as they aren’t too eggy – it’s why I only use one egg between the two of us most of the time.  As for nuts, I used raw unsalted peanuts tonight, but cashews are really my favourite for this kind of thing.

When it comes to vegetables, I’m a newly converted fan of the value stirfry mix they sell in Morrisons – it costs 50p and contains four portions of veg, including beansprouts, which always get wasted if we buy a whole bag of them.  They don’t seem to sell an equivalent in Tesco or Asda and I don’t ever buy the more expensive stirfry mixes – I just cut up whatever veg I have in myself otherwise.  Carrots, peppers, mushrooms, mangetout, cabbage and onions all work well, along with others.

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Ginger, chilli and honey stirfry (serves two)

  • 1 bag value stirfry mix, or about 320g of any mix of veg finely sliced up 50p
  • 2 nests of egg noodles 43p
  • 40g raw unskinned peanuts, skinned and roughly chopped 15p
  • 1 egg, beaten 17p
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger, grated 6p
  • 1-2 red chillies, finely chopped 20p
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce 15p
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey 9p
  • 1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar 9p
  • Couple of tsp vegetable oil 4p

Cook the noodles as per the packet directions (mine took about 4 minutes) and drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large deep-sided frying pan or wok.  Add the veg and chilli and cook for a few minutes until done to your liking (Mr Chilli likes it quite well cooked and not too crunchy).  As it’s cooking, mix the honey, soy sauce and vinegar in a bowl or mug and taste, tweaking the proportions to suit your taste.  I tend to serve soy sauce at the table so go light on it here.

When the veg is nearly cooked to your liking, add the ginger and stir round for 30 seconds or so.  Push all the veg to the sides of the pan, leaving a gap in the middle, and add the beaten egg.  Leave for a few seconds or so, until it begins to set, and stir it to scramble.  It only takes a minute ir two to cook, then stir in the veg, noodles and sauce.

Serve in bowls topped with the chopped peanuts.

97p per portion

Wholewheat Calzones

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I decided to make calzones for dinner last and, after a bit of internal swithering, I thought I’d experiment with adding strong brown flour to the dough.  I was a little concerned because pizzas/calzones are a nice treaty weekend meal and one of Mr Chilli’s favourites so I really didn’t want to ruin them.

I decided that going for 100% wholewheat the very first time might be a bit of a shock to our systems, so I split it almost half and half, with slightly more brown flour.  Much to my surprise it was delicious! Mr Chilli noticed that something tasted different about the base, but couldn’t put his finger on it until I told him, and both of us are happy to make it that way again.  It is more expensive to use brown or wholewheat flour though – this is one area where trying to save money clashes with eating healthily (in fact this is true of brown rice and pasta too. I have no idea why brown flour is more expensive – I mean, it’s less refined so surely it should cost less??)

We did serve the calzones with an enormous side salad as well (the whole bag between us instead of our usual 1/2 to 2/3) on the premise that calzones, even wholewhat ones, do need extra help to be considered a balanced meal.

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Wholewheat calzones (makes two – mine was normal and Mr Chilli’s was enormous)

For the dough:

  • 100g strong brown flour 9p
  • 75g strong white flour 4p
  • 1 tsp easy-bake dried yeast 7p
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I put in a whole tsp and it was too salty, so I’d reduce next time) less than 1/2p
  • 1/2 tsp sugar less than 1/2p
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 10p

For the filling:

  • Whatever you want!  I used a tomato sauce (can use watered-down purée like I do for my pizzas but this was leftover chilli sauce from a meal earlier this week, so counting as free), a ball of mozzarella (83p), about 60g mature cheddar (43p), 1 small sliced onion (3p), three sliced mushrooms (12p), 40g sweetcorn (4p) and 40g pepperoni for Mr Chilli (50p) 
Mr Chilli's enormous calzone

Mr Chilli’s enormous calzone

Mix the dry ingredients for the dough and stir in the oil.  Add some slightly warm water, a bit at a time, to make a dough that sticks together without being sticky – if you do add a little too much, you can add a little flour to correct in.

Knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface and then set aside in a warm place, covered, to rise for about an hour or a bit more, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220C.  Knock back, split into two and roll each ball out as thin as you can. Layer the toppings on one half of each round, fold over and press the edges shut with a fork.  Make a couple of holes in the top to let the steam out.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until nicely browned and serve with a side salad.

15p per calzone base, and I spent £1.95 on toppings for the two – obviously your cost may vary – and about £1.15 on a massive salad for an overall cost of £1.70 per head.  Not the cheapest but cheaper than Dominoes!  Costs can be reduced by not adding meat, using cheaper cheese and by serving with a cheaper side dish.

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Lentil, spinach and mushroom lasagne (vegetarian)

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I meant to post this last night but ran out of time due to friends coming round – so here’s a wee morning post for you all instead.

I make lasagne quite a lot, but this is the first time I’ve ever made this particular recipe.  Normally I use roasted vegetables (carrots, peppers and courgette, with spinach stirred in as well) but Mr Chilli had suggested using these green-brown lentils for lasagne after I used them for vegetarian moussaka a few weeks ago.  His argument was that it’d make the lasagne more meaty-seeming and I have to agree with him.

I used to buy dried Puy lentils from the supermarkets but they seem impossible to find now except in pre-cooked packets, so these are the dried lentils you can buy from supermarkets called “lentilles verts” – I think they’re much the same thing anyway, just not grown in the specific region of France that you get Puy lentils from.  I only used one tin of chopped tomatoes, but it was a little dry, so I’d use two from now on.  Likewise, I ran out of white sauce at the end so the quantities in the recipe are increased slightly.

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I’d run out of bagged salad (!) so improvised a salad with roasted carrot, courgette and onion on a bed of spinach, dressed with a little oil and balsamic vinegar.

Lentil, mushroom and spinach lasagne (serves four)

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  • ½ pack lasagne sheets, soaked if needed
  • 20-30g parmesan or similar (can use cheddar instead for a different flavour)

For the tomato layer:

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 small onions or 1 medium one, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 125g green-brown lentils
  • ½ bag spinach, washed if necessary
  • 250g mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (can also add thyme or basil, or substitute for fresh herbs if you have any)
  • 1 glass red wine (optional; add some sugar to taste if you use this)

For the white layer:

  • 20g butter
  • 20g cornflour (I don’t usually weigh these but measure by eye as doesn’t need to be exact)
  • 225-250ml milk (again, just do this by eye)
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard

Pop the lentils on to boil (don’t salt the water) in a small saucepan, cooking according to packet directions (I think mine say 25 minutes or so).  Meanwhile, heat a little vegetable oil in a large high-sided frying pan and gently fry the onions for a few minutes.  Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until mostly wilted down.  For the last 30 seconds, add the garlic and mix round.

Add the red wine and sugar, if using, and the chopped tomatoes and oregano.  Allow to simmer away for 20 minutes or so to reduce down.  Season and taste – you might need to add more sugar or salt here.  Once the lentils are cooked, drain and add to the sauce, and then add the spinach and cook until wilted.

As the red layer simmers, make the white layer by melting the butter in a small pan, taking off the heat and mixing in the flour to a smooth paste, and adding the milk and whisking in.  Put back on to a medium heat and cook, whisking well, for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened.  Add the mustard and take off the heat. Preheat the oven to 200C.

lasagne 1

Layer the sauces and lasagne sheets in a baking dish – you might need more or less sheets depending on the size and shape of the dish and how you layer it.  I put half the red sauce in the bottom, follow by a layer of sheets, then a layer of shite sauce, then another layer of sheets, then the rest of the red sauce, then sheets, then the rest of the white sauce.  Top with cheese and oven cook for around 35 minutes.