Welcome to the first What’s Cooking Wednesday of 2014. It feels like ages since I posted one of these!
My aim this term is to eat more vegetable-based dishes, and try and cut down on my food bill as much as possible. I was lucky enough to be able to stock up on loads of dry foodie items at the start of term, so fingers crossed it’ll be just fresh things I need to buy.
Wednesday – Tomato Free Lasagne
I did a little bit of batch cooking at the weekend, and one of the things I made was some Tomato-Free Bolognese. Tonight I made it into a lasagne, which I had with a spinach salad – it made a nice change, although I can’t say I was too impressed with the quality of my ASDA cheese!
Thursday – Potato Bake with Bacon Spinach
I’ve put this into my meal plan to use up the leftover white sauce.
Friday – Mushroom & Sausage Pasta
This has a potential to change – any remaining white sauce will be used here, but if there’s none left I’ll be coming up with an alternative dinner!
Saturday – Mushroom Pasta Bake
I ended up making loads of sauce on Friday, so incorporated it into a pasta bake the next night. Four meals out of one batch of white sauce – bargain!
Sunday – Chicken & Ham Pie
It’s my turn to cook this coming weekend, so I thought I’d attempt to recreate a favourite. Wish me luck – I’ll be posting the recipe on here soon if it’s successful!
Monday – Chicken & Ham Savoury Crumble
An experiment which really, really worked well! I served this with bubble’n’squeak leftover from Sunday and it was a delicious and interesting dinner.
Tuesday – Toad in the Hole
Another of my favourite recipes – this time I adapted it to be milk-free and it was delicious. I always serve this with plenty of veg, and it definitely cheers up a wet and miserable evening.
Its a little bit late for Christmas leftovers I know, and I had originally planned to do a couple more posts (I made and devoured a fabulous goose stew, but it just wasn’t attractive to photograph so I didn’t dare post it!), but I couldn’t resist sharing this little recipe alteration to an existing recipe with you. It’s an adaption of my One Pan Mac’n’Cheese, which of course was based on The Londoner’s fantastic post.
My experiments for this post confirmed my suspicions – you could add a variety of things to the basic recipe. Its perfectly versatile, would take pretty much any cheese, as well as work with plenty of meats. I’m thinking of doing a lighter vegetable version in the summer, so watch this space!
You will need:
90g of pasta
1/2 a mug of vegetable stock
1/4 of a mug of milk/cream (I used soya cream – you could indeed use up scraps of ordinary cream here too)
Slice of leftover gammon (thrifty tip – the Aldi smoked gammon joint is one of the best I’ve ever bought/eaten, and a lot cheaper than anywhere else)
Any leftover cheeses, around a handful or so – here I used cheddar, red leicester, and some type of blue cheese that was stinking the fridge out
Now to turn these simple ingredients into a bowl of yumminess:
As in my original recipe, add the pasta to a saucepan with the milk/cream and stock, stir, cover with a lid, and put on the lowest heat possible. Remember to stir every now and then.
Meanwhile, cube/grate your cheeses, and chop the gammon into large-ish but bitesize chunks.
Resist giving scraps of cheese to any waiting soulful eyes.
After about 12-15 minutes or so (as I’ve said before, keep stirring every few minutes!) your pasta should be cooked to your liking, in a thick creamy sauce.
Add your cheese and your gammon. I would add that I’d like to try adding the gammon earlier, as I reckon it’d impart more of its flavour.
Allow the cheese to melt, stirring constantly, then tip into a bowl, curl up on the sofa, and enjoy.
As you might know from this post, my housemates and I decided to a do a Christmas dinner (on a “school” night no less!). None of us are particularly full in the bank department right now, so we had to do it on a tight budget. I think in the end we each spend under £5, and we had an amazing dinner. Here’s how to copy us and do it on a budget!
Note: we have moved our main shop to Aldi, so that’s where I’m pricing from today (due to having receipts) unless stated otherwise. For all of my other recipes I tend to price using ASDA online, disregarding special offers. That said, all of my costings are very rough (and generally rounded up) anyway!
What we bought (specially) for this dinner:
A stuffed chicken breast joint (£2.99 – you can get turkey versions too!)
Pigs in Blankets (£2.50 for 12, from Tesco)
We then added:
Potatoes (both mashed with black pepper, and roasted with garlic) – £1
Homemade Yorkshire puddings (see here for recipe) – £1
Gravy – 20p
Sweetcorn – 50p
Roasted carrots – 20p
Broccoli – £1
& whatever other veg people had lying around that they fancied (hence I added red cabbage, savoy cabbage and curly kale)- 50p
We even managed to find 8 crackers for a £1 in Poundland! Okay, they didn’t have exciting plastic gifts, but they did include some rather lame festive jokes, obligatory hat, and even some cute stickers!
We finished off the meal with syrup sponges (£3 for four) and gave out our Secret Santa presents (although that’s another post!).
This was a fabulously festive night with my girls, the best antidote to a horribly stressful week. I really do suggest all student houses give this a go, even if it is the only time they cook together.
What’s your tips for Christmas dinner on a budget?
This is a bit of a strange one. My recipe of these wasn’t entirely successful (though I think I did better than most of the guys on Professional Masterchef a few weeks back!), but it was certainly yummy, and certainly something I’d do again. Not sure I preferred it over Bubble & Squeak, but it made a nice change, and the very wet mash I was gifted by a housemate was far more suited to this! I think the next time I make this I will brown the gnocchi for longer, and then add the bits (bacon, cheese, sauce etc) as the texture might improve. I’d cut down the butter in the pan too, as it was very greasy! But none-the-less, here we go!
What do you need?
Flour – about half the amount of your potato, plus extra for rolling
Seasoning – I used garlic powder, and plenty of black pepper
What you want to serve it with – I went for sausage balls, bacon and cheese.
And what do you need to do?
Mix the flour, seasoning and potato together, quickly but gently, not overworking the mixture. Roll lightly into sausage shapes.
Cut into bite-sized pieces with a knife. Then drop into a pan of boiling salted water. Make sure you have a wide frying pan with your butter melted and hot on the heat too.
Once the gnocchi start to float, transfer them to the hot butter, and fry until the edges are slightly crisp. Add your toppings, and serve immediately. Here’s my attempt:
I made this only two hours ago, and I’m already writing a blog post about it. That says a lot about this recipe! It was just lovely, and so, so easy. I adapted The Londoner’s recipe, making it more student friendly (because to be honest, I really can’t afford loads of different cheeses – I stick to basic cheddar and the cheapest parmesan I can find!) and less irritating to my minor dairy intolerance.
If you want the best photos, and the actual method, do check out Rosie’s blog. I love all of her recipes, my version of her Banana Nutella muffins are a huge favourite amongst my friends, and I can’t wait to try out these.
I will add a point about the one-pan-ness. I chose to top mine with extra cheese and shove it in the oven briefly, so used an extra pan. To be honest, I wouldn’t bother with this step next time as it was cheesy enough, so it really is one-pan. I mean, just look at this fabulous (fail) photo of the stringy cheese!
What do you need to make this cheesy goodness? My amounts make one (BIG!) serving:
Bacon (1 rasher – 20p)
Some spices – I went with a Cajun mix, which I always find works great with cheese (prince negligible)
100g of pasta, any tube-type shape is good (10p)
1 vegetable stock cube (7p) – made up to 1/2 mug of stock
1/4 mug milk/soya cream (10p)
75-100g cheddar cheese (75p)
A sprinkling of parmesan, though I didn’t find I needed it (10p)
Total cost per serving is £1.32 – with salad you would have a great meal for under £1.50. And hardly any washing up to – win win!
Let’s get cooking!
Chop up your bacon into cubes, and fry in the pan you will be using. You want one with a lid! Once the bacon is browned, sprinkle in the spices, fry for a couple more minutes, then tip into the bowl you will be serving in, or the dish that you will grill the pasta in.
Tip your stock and milk/cream into the pan, add your pasta, stir well and cover.
Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring every few, until the pasta is cooked to your liking, and the sauce has thickened. Grate your cheese whilst this is cooking, or read some of your reading list. Or bloglovin‘…You should have something like this in your saucepan by the end:
Add your bacon back in, and stir in your cheese. If you want to grill it, keep some back.
Now eat as it is (I personally will do next time), or transfer to a grill-proof dish, and top with more cheese.
Throw under the grill while you prepare a healthy accompaniment. I went with salad, but I think some cauliflower would work well.
Mmm salad! I was lazy and just ate my pasta out of the grilling dish. I won’t judge if you do the same!
Curl up in front of your favourite TV-show (I’m currently weeks behind watching Masterchef, but enjoying it immensely!) and enjoy this winter warmer, knowing you’ve hardly any washing up to do. Perfect for lazy days.
Have you tried any of the Londoner’s amazing recipes?
I must say, I think last week’s post went better that Week 5’s! This week I am attempting to use up all of my fresh food, so (1) we have a bit of a mish-mash, and (2) it is very likely to change!
This is also the last What’s Cooking post for a few weeks. Next week is the last week of term, so I’m planning out all meals til I go back, and then I’ll be at home (and so not having to meal plan too much). I’ll be back with this series in January!
Wednesday – Southern Fried Chicken, with Homemade Wedges & Coleslaw
I’ve had a craving for homemade coleslaw for weeks, I have red cabbage to use up, I had money off breaded chicken. Win win, craving = sorted. This dinner is the kind of dinner I really enjoy, but don’t let myself have too often. Homemade coleslaw = the best!
I’m afraid I didn’t get a picture of this – but my coleslaw was good!
Thursday – Christmas Dinner
As you know, my house does a Sunday dinner, and this weekend it was due to be our Christmas one. However I have an important event on Monday which I need to prepare for, so we’ve moved it to Thursday. I’m excited for all the trimmings!
Friday – Dinner In London: WAHACA Time!
I’m meeting my boyfriend in London (because, well, I miss him!) so its to our favourite restaurant. I need to email them tonight to re-check their menu for tomato-free ness!
Saturday – Sausage & Chicken Pie, Mash and 3 Types of Cabbage
Sunday – Mushroom Risotto, Salad, & Garlic Bread
Monday – Leftover Risotto
I possibly might do this in a bake-form, which a crunchy breadcrumb and cheese topping.
Tuesday – Sausage & Mash with Vegetables
Wednesday – Curry Night
It is a housemate’s birthday, so we’re ordering a take-away. Obviously I can’ risk ordered too much off-menu, so I’ll be cooking my own curry sauce and just buying rice and naan. This also marks the last day of proper lectures and assignments, so a bottle of cider may be in order!
Thursday – Home Time!
I’m hoping to be home by Thursday night, so that is the end of my ‘week’ – Merry Christmas meal planners!
What recipes do you have for using up ingredients?
I was shocked when I moved to university (apparently I’m seen as a Northener down here, despite only being from the Midlands!) as no-one, absolutely no-one, seemed to know what bubble-and-squeak is. To those who don’t know – it’s leftover mashed potatoes, mixed with leftover finely chopped green vegetables and bacon, fried until crispy, and you need to try it. For those who do know, it always seems to be a favourite. I know it is for me!
We have this quite often at home on a Monday (which reminds me – meatless Monday’s make no sense to me, as it’s the day you have meat leftover from a Sunday roast. I get the meatless thing, just not the Monday for sake of alliteration!), and it’s a Boxing Day staple in my house. It never fails to remind me of home, even the smell just seems so homey. It’s also a fab way of using up mashed potatoes and vegetables if you’ve cooked too much, or if you have vegetables going past their best, it’s great to cook them fresh and use them in this rather than chucking them away.
Granted, this isn’t a sophisticated dish (especially when serving the potato mixture on top of good crispy bread smothered in butter…) but it sure tastes good! Like this ‘leftovers’ post I won’t be writing a proper recipe, but here goes…
Take some leftover mashed poatoes, some leftover green vegetables (I have savoy cabbage and curly kale here), and some diced bacon.
Fry the bacon in a little oil until crisp.
Meanwhile mix the potato and greens together with a fork. When the bacon is done, add a small knob of butter to the pan to melt.
Tip the potato mixture into the bacon-y-butter-y pan, and mush together into a cake, making sure the bacon is distributed throughout.
Fry on a medium heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring up to get lots of crispy bits.
When done, it should look something like this:
I served mine with sausages and sweet chilli sauce (I loved ketchup with this dish, but that’s a no-no now!). It’s also good with pickles, and good cheese and bread, with leftover cold meat (my Boxing Day meal!) or grilled gammon. Yum yum!
You might be able to tell from last week’s post that I didn’t keep it updated very well! Here’s my excuses – firstly, the ‘beginning’ of the week was busy for me, as I was trying to get uni work done so I could enjoy my weekend at home. Once home I didn’t really want to start taking photos of all my meals, as I just wanted to dive in. Readers, chipotle ribs are amazing! Then, arriving at my birthday meal on Monday, my housemates surprised me hugely. They’d arranged for my boyfriend to travel down and stay for a few days. They’d been planning it for weeks, I knew nothing about it, and so had no food in. I pulled together a pretty decent meal though, cooking some of the pies I’d frozen a few weeks ago.
Hopefully this week’s post gets updated more successfully!
Boyfriend went home today, but took a late train, so I needed something quick for when I got back in – relying on my freezer again I pulled out a serving of Tomato-Free Bolognese, served with spaghetti, stirred through some fresh spinach, and added a bit of garlic bread too. I really enjoyed the addition of the spinach!
Thursday – Something with Leftover Mash
A housemate gifted me some leftover mashed potatoes, and I’m not too sure what to go with. I quite fancy being inventive, so may give gnocchi a try!
I did end up giving gnocchi a try, and I think it turned out quite well, although it was a little too greasy. It definitely wasn’t perfect, but I think I did better than most of the professional chefs on Masterchef a few weeks ago! I served it with bacon and sausage balls, and plenty of cheese – I think it would have been better with the addition of some wilted spinach too!
Friday – Cottage Pie
I ended up moving this from Saturday – and making six meals! I will be posting a recipe shortly!
Saturday – Mac’n’Cheese
I tried a new recipe, and it was amazingly good. There is already a blog post scheduled!
Sunday – House Dinner
It’s K’s turn to cook, and I think we are getting Toad in the Hole. It’s one of my favourite meals, so really looking forward to it!
Monday – Sausage Casserole Cottage Pie
Due to an emergency doctor’s appointment I didn’t have time to make my casserole (moving it to tomorrow instead!) so reheated a cottage pie, and served with; curly kale, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, and broccoli. With the veg already in the pie too, it felt like a very healthy dinner!
Tuesday – Sausage Casserole
I didn’t take a photo of this, nor did I photograph the lovely Pear & Raspberry Hazelnut crumble I made. I think that’s an excuse to make another just so I can share it with you!
How do you cope with cooking when circumstances unexpectedly change?
If you made my Chicken & Sausage Pie recipe, or indeed any pie recipe, you might find yourself with some spare pastry hanging around. I certainly did! Rather than throw it away (I have a ‘thing’ about throwing perfectly edible things away) I decided to make something, and raided my fridge/freezer for other things to use up. I have to admit though, I was very, very tempted to just make some Cinnamon Swirls…
I found some Pesto (from my Tomato-free Bolognese recipe), chorizo, and cheese, and so some version of Pizza was going to be born. I also decided I wanted something portable, so I could use it for lunch the next day, so had a little google and found this recipe…and improvised. Here’s my very quick version, which taste delicious. They are easily adaptable for your own tastes, and whatever you have in too!
I’m not going to write this properly, with a full ingredients list, because it depends on what you want to include, but I’ll outline what I did and the basic method – the rest is up to you!
Take your strip of leftover pastry, and roll in out a little, so it’s long and thinner. Spread with the pesto.
Sprinkle with grated cheese, and top with the chorizo slices. This did make it quite greasy, so next time I’m going to try ham instead.
Roll up tightly – a bit like this:
Then cut into slices – mine worked well at around 1 cm width. Place on a foil covered baking tray.
Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, the cheese should be bubbly, the pastry golden and crisp. All totally yummy!
Try to resist eating, if you can. These would be great served with a salad as a main meal, but I’m going to enjoy them instead of a sandwich in my lunch box. This is definitely an idea I’ll be trying again, with lots of possible variations!
This seems like a bit of a strange recipe to write on a student blog, as it seems so expensive – and I must admit the price did make me wince slightly when buying ingredients. But actually it makes a huge amount, and the cost spreads out. Each portion of pie is roughly £1.50, and whilst that’s not the cheapest meal around, its far cheaper than buying a ready meal.
Pies are so fun to make too! There’s so many different stages, but none are complicated (unless you are attempting to make your own pastry, with a cling-film roll instead of a proper rolling pin), and you can tailor the flavours to your own tastes completely. They are perfect for crowds – I made this when it was my turn to cook the house Sunday dinner and it was very well received. Not only did I make enough to feed four hungry girls, I made four individual pies for my freezer too – 2 hours work (and a lot of washing up) but I filled my freezer, relaxed from revision, and generally made a mess in the kitchen. Something I recommend!
And who wouldn’t want a dinner like that?! Served with plenty of mash and veg, this would have actually served at least another person, so I got at minimum nine servings out of this recipe, and I can’t wait to eat some of the ones I have stashed away in the freezer! I originally made a similar recipe from a Times magazine – I no longer have that recipe, so improvised with what was in my cupboard and what I remembered!
Four chicken breast (£7 from Tesco)
6 sausages (I bought 16 for £5, also in Tesco, working out at £1.88)
1 slice of bread, this recipe is perfect for using the ‘end bit no-one wants’ (5p)
Two regular onions (40p)
A large knob of butter (20p)
A handful of the cheapest mushrooms, optional (20p)
2 chicken stock cubes (10p)
Two tablespoons of flour (5p)
Some herbs and seasoning (5p)
1-2 packs of ready-rolled puff pastry (£2 from Sainsburys)
Splitting the recipe into eight servings, this works out at £1.49 per serving.
Let’s make pie!
First of all, cook your chicken – preheat the oven to 200C, and get four large squares of tin foil ready. Spread each with a little oil, place a chicken breast in the centre, and season with salt and pepper (I also added a bit of thyme). Wrap the foil into a parcel, it should look a little like a Cornish pasty in shape. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then leave to cool.
Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, and sweat down with the butter until soft.
And while that is going on (see, we’re multi-tasking here!) remove the sausages from their skins. Pulse the bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs, and mix this into the sausage meat – a kneading movement works well here. If you want, add a bit of lemon juice to this mixture – but don’t worry as it’s far from essential. Shape the mixture into balls – it makes lots, the picture below shows half of mine…
By now your onions should have sweated down. Make the stock up (you need 1.5-2 litres). Add the flour to the onions and stir to make a roux, then slowly add the stock whilst stirring. Once it’s all in the pan, add some herbs, salt and plenty of pepper, and your mushrooms (if using). You could also add vegetables at this point, I imagine some chopped carrot would work well.
Leave your sauce to simmer on a low heat for a bit, whilst you brown the sausage balls in a little oil. Make sure the pan is hot when they go in, or the bread will absorb oil and the final result will be greasy.
Back to the chicken. Remove it from it’s foil parcels, and drain any grease on a piece of kitchen towel. Cut up into bite sized pieces.
Once all of your elements are prepared, put some chicken and sausage in the bottom of your chosen dish.
Ladle in the sauce until it is roughly this full…
And bake for around 30-45 mins at 160C. If you are making a day in advance, keep the filling in the fridge, top with pastry when ready to cook, and bake covered with foil for 30 minutes, and then uncovered for 30 minutes. If freezing, use pastry that has NOT already been frozen (I made my own for my individual ones), defrost fully before cooking, cover and bake for 40 minutes, and then uncovered for 30 minutes. Remember to only use my timings as a guide – everything should be fully cooked and piping hot.
If you want, you could get fancy with your pastry and make some pretty shapes on top…mine was a little rough looking though! Serve with plenty of green vegetables and mash, and you have a filling dinner for under £2.
Having made this, I’ve been inspired to make more pies – I’m planning on making some steak ones over my Christmas holidays! Does anyone else make double portions and freeze meals to save time?