Saturday, 29 June 2013

Chicken Caesar Salad

I was trying not to breathe at the hairdressers the other day after having this the evening before. I found the dressing really garlicky and would just use half a clove next time, as it overpowered the others flavours a little. I suppose it depends on the size of the garlic clove you use and I used a large one. Altogether though a really lovely salad, I do like a caesar salad, especially since this one is lighter in calories. 

Serves 2
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 romaine lettuce heart (I used little gem)
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 slices of ciabatta bread, each about 1.5cm thick (15g a slice)
flaked sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
- - -
2 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
15g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2½ tbsp cold water

To make the dressing, put the anchovy fillets in a pestle and mortar, add the chopped garlic clove and pound into a paste. Add the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Parmesan and water and stir well to make a pourable dressing
Place a chicken breast between 2 sheets of cling film and bash it with a rolling pin until the chicken is about 1cm thick. Bash the other chicken breast in the same way, then season the breasts on both sides with a little salt and plenty of black pepper.
Dip a pastry brush in the oil and brush over the base of a large nonstick frying pan. Place the pan over a medium heat, add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the breasts over and cook for 2–3 minutes on the other side until nicely browned and cooked through. Remove from the heat and leave the chicken in the warm pan to rest.
While the chicken is cooking, make the salad. Separate the lettuce leaves and wash and drain them well. Tear any large leaves into smaller pieces. Arrange the lettuce in a large serving dish and scatter over the tomatoes. Toast the slices of ciabatta and tear them into bite-sized pieces.
Put the cooked chicken breasts on a board and cut them into thick strips. Scatter these over the lettuce and tomatoes and toss everything together lightly. Spoon over half the dressing and serve while the chicken is warm. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Sausages with baked apples

Not the most summery of recipes, but then we are not having particularly sunny days at the moment. I just wanted something a little different from sausages and mash, and this recipe on the Good Food website hit the spot. 

Serves 4
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
8 quality pork sausages
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 red-skinned apples, each cut into 8 wedges

Heat oven to 220ºC.  Tie a piece of bacon around each sausage. Heat the oil in a flameproof roasting tin on the hob, then brown the sausages in the tin. Place in the oven and roast for 20 mins.
Toss in the apple wedges and roast everything for another 10 mins until the sausages are cooked and the apples are sticky and caramelised. Serve with mash.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Creamy chicken, bacon, and basil pasta

I found this recipe on the BBC Goodfood Website tonight. It makes a quick midweek supper. I added a squeeze of lemon juice and half fat creme fraiche instead of double cream. Since my children have realised that we now have a McDonalds not too far away they are demanding a McDonalds meal on a regular basis. I could give in for an easy life but I'm not about to. I don't mind getting them now and again, once in a while feels like a treat for them. I fear that Rachel will live off them when she is responsible for feeding herself. After all the moaning tonight they did seem to enjoy this meal and cleared their plates.

Serves 4
3 tbsp olive oil
3 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into strips (I used 2 chicken breasts)
5 rashers bacon, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
300ml double cream (I used half fat creme fraiche)
450g farfalle
handful fresh basil, torn, plus extra for garnish
200g cheddar or parmesan, grated, plus extra to garnish

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions in a pan of salted boiling water, then drain.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the chicken strips and bacon and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is golden-brown and cooked through.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper, add the cream and warm through.
Add the creamy sauce to the cooked, drained pasta and stir well.
To serve, stir in the basil and cheddar spoon onto serving plates. Garnish with extra grated cheese and basil leaves.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Double chocolate and fig cookies

This recipe comes from 'Elizabeth's kitchen' food blog, which inspires me on numerous occasions. I had to try this recipe, loving figs and chocolate as I do. I made some yesterday morning with half of the dough to take to a Charity coffee morning, they seemed to go down a treat. I have just made a second batch with the left over dough. We ate them warm from the oven, soft and chewy with gooey chocolate oozing from them, they were heavenly. My sister is calling for coffee in an hour or so, she'll be lucky if there's any left by then. The following link takes you to the recipe. DoubIe chocolate, fig and oatmeal cookies. I used plain flour instead of spelt flour (the same amount specified in the recipe).

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Salmon and asparagus bake

To me this was summer on plate. Inspired by the beautiful weather and one of Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals. The original recipe used raw prawns in their shells which I didn't have and new potatoes that were cooked separately. I adapted the meal to include roast new potatoes which meant it became a one pot meal and I had more time to sit in the garden while it was cooking. It was gorgeous, really lovely flavours and so easy to prepare and cook. I wouldn't hesitate to cook this at a dinner party. It may be better appreciated by my friends than by my children. I bought all the ingredients from Aldi which made it slightly more reasonable in cost too, although not a cheap meal.

Serves 4
As many new potatoes as you require for 4, halved
Olive oil
4 salmon fillets (skin on)
a bunch of asparagus, snap the woody part off
Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes
Garlic, how ever much you fancy
1 tin of anchovies and the oil they came in
1 lemon quartered
4 slices of prosciutto ham

Heat the oven to 200ºC. Coat the new potatoes in olive oil, season and place in the oven for about 20 minutes until they are starting to cook and turn golden. After 20 minutes add all the other ingredients, salmon skin side up and pour the oil from the anchovies in the roasting dish too. Place in the oven until the salmon is cooked through, probably about 20 minutes. Serve with a nice green salad.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Pasta Peperonata

It's the first time I have made this sauce from 'Jamie Oliver's Dinners' recipe book. It isn't the quickest sauce to make as the vegetables are fried slowly to retain the flavours, but the result is worth the wait. It has plenty of flavour, the sweetness of the caramelised onions and the gusty flavours of the peppers, balsamic vinegar and garlic really compliment each other. 

Serves 4

2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
2 yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped, stalks reserved
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 handfuls Parmesan cheese, grated
2 heaped tablespoons mascarpone cheese or crème fraîche, optional
455 g rigatoni, penne or spaghetti

Put all the peppers in a large frying pan over a medium heat with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place a lid on, and cook slowly for 15 minutes until softened. Don't rush this too much, as cooking the peppers slowly like this really helps to bring out the flavour. Add the onion and cook for a further 20 minutes. Then add the garlic and parsley stalks and toss around, keeping everything moving in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes most. Have a little taste, and season with a bit more salt and pepper. Add the vinegar - it will sizzle away, so give everything a good toss. Then add one handful of the grated Parmesan and the mascarpone or crème fraîche if you are using it and turn the heat down to minimum while you cook the pasta.
Meanwhile put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions. When cooked, drain in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water. Put the peppers, pasta and parsley leaves into a large warmed bowl. Give them a good toss together, then add a little of the pasta cooking water and a few good lugs of extra virgin olive oil to coat the pasta nicely. Serve straight away sprinkled with the rest of the Parmesan.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Salmon fillets roasted with red pesto

I had this incredibly tasty meal at a friends house recently and pinched the idea. Very simply spread some jarred red pesto on top of the salmon fillets and roast in the oven for 15-20 mins on 190ºC. I also came away with the idea of roasting the potatoes in discs instead of wedges. They become lovely and golden with a crispy bite due to being cut quite thin. 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Day seven of frugal challenge

I have lasted a week on just less than £42, although I did have to buy some more milk as we ran out yesterday. Breakfast this morning stretched to two bacon rolls for the lucky ones. We were invited out for lunch, but had we not been out I would have made brunch with more pancakes, beans and the four rashers of bacon that were left. Tea was beef casserole with cheddar cheese dumplings in the absence of potatoes and accompanied with some frozen peas. The kids have been very negative about the food this week, they will hopefully realise how lucky they are in future. In my opinion we ate really well, and had I not raised the issue of what I was trying to achieve they would have been none the wiser at the quality of the meals. I did have to use some store cupboard/fridge ingredients, but the total of the extras wouldn't raise the cost much more. I will list the  ingredients not included in my weekly shop below. What I realise is how lucky I am never to have to consider the cost of food. I've just had one week of watching the pennies, this week I can go back to normal. This is not the case for a huge number of people.

Beef casserole
Serves 4
oil for frying
500g casserole steak, diced
3 carrots, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon of flour
1 onion or 2 small onions
500ml oxo stock
a pinch of chilli flakes
salt and pepper
a dollop of tomato puree

Cheddar Dumplings;
150g self raising flour
60g chilled butter, cut into small pieces
60g mature cheddar, grated
1 egg beaten
1-2 tbsp milk

Heat the oil in a casserole dish and fry the beef in batches until browned. Remove the  beef from the pan and fry the onions and garlic until soft. Add the beef to the onion mixture along with the carrots, leeks and a pinch of chilli flakes. Add the flour and stir well then pour in the stock and tomato puree. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer then cook in the oven covered for 3 hours at 160ºC. 
Put the dumpling ingredients together in a bowl and stir to a soft dough. Be careful not to overmix, so just bring it together. (At this point I used my hands to rub in the butter slightly before adding the milk and egg, although this was not specified) Add the dumplings at the end of the cooking time, leave the lid off and cook until golden and crusty for about 20 minutes.

Extras to shopping list 
Store cupboard
1 tin of peaches
1 tube of tomato puree
1 oxo cube
vegetable stock
chilli flakes

3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon of jalapenos
1 fresh red chilli
a dollop of green pesto
a dollop of creme fraiche
frozen peas
sweet chilli sauce
soft cheese (for packed lunch sandwiches)

1 orange
potatoes which would have normally been thrown away

Day six of frugal challenge

I used one of the remaining eggs to make American breakfast pancakes with lemon and sugar and some maple syrup from my cupboard. Lunch was carrot soup , flavoured with a left over orange (instead of ginger) from the fruit bowl, which gave the soup a more summery flavour. I traded my one bottle of white wine for a pack of casserole steak from the freezer. I figured as it was only me who would get the pleasure out of the wine, it wasn't really fair to drink it. For those who know me going five days without a glass of wine is a challenge itself. I made a beef casserole with some carrots and leeks for the evening meal. We were then invited out to friends for a BBQ and happily accepted. I'll keep the casserole for tomorrow evening. I still have the ingredients for kidney bean burgers and could carry on into Monday to make up for the meal out without a further shop.

Pancakes, Jamie Oliver recipe
Serves 4
1 cup of self raising flour
1 cup of milk
1 egg
pinch of salt
butter for frying

Mix the flour, milk, egg and a pinch of salt together. Heat the butter in a frying pan and cook the small pancakes in batches of 3 or 4 until browned on both sides. 

Friday, 7 June 2013

Day five of frugal challenge

I was ever so pleased with myself tonight when I realised that I could make gnocchi out of the leftover mashed potato. I've never made gnocchi before and found it quite straightforward and quite amazing to make a dough out of cold potato. I have only ever eaten the shop bought variety, so I am not sure if it tasted as it should. However I was the only one who liked it and I really did like it. Steve ate it but refused seconds, which is very unlike him. James wasn't here for tea. If the sun is out, then he is out playing. I used some sage leaves from my neighbours garden, which I fried in butter. I then added some more butter and lemon juice which made a lovely sauce to drizzle on the gnocchi. The meal was finished off nicely with parmesan and black pepper. I felt my efforts were somewhat wasted, as I had to then make Rachel an alternative tea of pasta mixed with some pesto (which I had open in the fridge). Rather than post the whole recipe I've put a link to the Good Food website. I used the following amount of ingredients to serve 2-3.

300g mashed potatoes
1 egg
100g strong white flour

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Day four of frugal challenge

There are people in this house complaining about the food. When I said we were having  jacket potatoes and baked beans for tea there was almost a revolt going on. The kids insisted on having beans on toast, they both declared a dislike of jacket potatoes. Thankfully I had a loaf in the freezer as I forgot to order a fresh one this week. I scraped out the inside of the potato from the two now spare in the oven and gave the crispy skins to Steve to eat. Being too eager to eat, I forgot to photograph the meal, so I could only photgraph what was left.  I'll find a use for the mashed potato tomorrow night. I enjoy jacket potatoes, as I don't have them very often. I always oil and salt the skins, which I think are the best part. I didn't scrimp on the baked beans and bought Heinz and sprinkled grated cheddar on top. If I'd known the weather was going to be as good this week I would have planned meals that were perhaps more summery. Somehow I don"t think I can face lentil and tomato soup this week which was on the menu. I'll need to have a rethink.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Day three of frugal challenge

I always enjoy this meal of Pasta with a chilli and bacon sauce. For this I used value pasta and tomatoes, onions and value bacon. I would say the only difference in the bacon was the fact the rashers were very thinly sliced. I used half the pack of bacon and have saved half for some soup later on in the week. I didn't use any sundried tomatoes in the sauce but sprinkled on some parmesan which wasn't included in the weeks shop, but it's something I usually have in the fridge. At the end of the challenge I will list any ingredients used which weren't included in the £41 shop. 
The one bottle of wine remains unopenend. I love wine especially around meal times, and especially when the sun in shining. So far I have resisted and have found it easier than I thought. I'll try not to open it until I make my cheddar cheese risotto, which may be Friday, then I'll really enjoy and appreciate a glass. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Day two of frugal challenge

Assume that lunches and breakfasts are much the same each day unless stated otherwise. I did make porridge with half milk and half water as I am not sure that I can make the milk last all week. Tea tonight was tuna fishcakes with broccoli. Using leftover potaotes, 3 very old spring onions and a pinch of dried chilli flakes added to one tin of value tuna, they were pleasant though not that filling. I didn't coat them in breadcrumbs this time and didn't use an egg, they held together, but stuck to the pan slightly. I also used the juice of  half a lemon instead of a lime and forgot to put sweet chilli sauce in the mix, but served it on the side.  As Steve was still a bit hungry, I chopped him up a banana and served it with some out of date natural yoghurt (which tasted perfectly fine) and a ready made meringue which has been hanging around a while. If he is hungry later there is always porridge. The kids are eating the fruit and bourbon biscuits rather too quickly. I've warned them once they've gone that's it, I'm not buying any more this week. I made ice lollies from the value orange juice, so at least they have something treaty when they come in from school. 

Monday, 3 June 2013

Day one of frugal challenge

The day started with porridge for breakfast. I bought value porridge oats and I couldn't have differentiated between those and Quaker Oats which I normally buy. The kids had their usual cereals from the cupboard and packed lunches with crisps, ham buns and carrot sticks. For lunch I made another Spanish tortilla (see previous post) and served it with some leftover salad leaves, as a friend was popping by. The potatoes I used were looking a bit sorry for themselves in the bottom of the cupboard. I'll use the rest of them for tuna fishcakes tomorrow night. Another time there may have been a tendency to just chuck them away, but not this week. I also used a red chilli and some garlic which I had in the fridge. I ordered tesco value pizza bases by mistake on my shop, just as well, as the pitta breads that I was going to use to make pizzas were way too small. Using store cupboard ingredients of a tube of tomato purée and a few jalapeño peppers I made the two pizzas. This stretched to feed a friend of James and a small slither each to Rachel's friends who also popped by. For these, I used half a block of value mature cheddar cheese and a few slices of value ham. Not sure I like the look or the taste of the ham, but figured it was probably what you got on the majority of ready made pizzas. 
I found the pizza incredibly tasty, I love jalapeños on pizza, I love the kick they give. A small amount of fruit and a value bourbon biscuit for dessert was ample for day one.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Spanish Tortilla

My economical weekly shop arrived today, so tomorrow will be the start of my frugal meals. Today I was eating up bits and pieces from the fridge, but used some of the value eggs which arrived with my shop. As a rule I buy free range eggs, but not this week. Another wonderfully sunny day and a Spanish Tortilla for lunch. I would consider this a fairly frugal meal especially as I missed out the bacon. I did add a chopped red chilli, 1 garlic clove and some paprika. Frugal maybe, but utterly delicious. We ate it cold with a glass of red wine, I felt like I was in Spain. The recipe is from the Good Food Website.


4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
350g new potatoes, sliced
4 rashers rindless smoked back bacon, chopped
6 large eggs
85g mature cheddar, grated

Heat the olive oil in a small non-stick frying pan, add the onion and potatoes and fry for 8 minutes, turning the veg frequently until tender but not browned. Add the bacon and fry for a further 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large bowl with plenty of salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese.
Remove the potato mixture with a slotted spoon and stir into the eggs. Reserve most of the excess oil, leaving a little in the pan. Pour in the egg mixture and leave to cook undisturbed over a gentle heat for 8 minutes until firmly set underneath but not set on top.
Invert the tortilla on to a plate and return the pan to the heat with a bit more of the reserved oil. Slide the tortilla back into the pan, uncooked side down, and cook for 5 minutes until set all through. Pack for a picnic or serve in wedges with salad and bread for an easy supper.