As I write this, my husband and I are sharing a Fray Bentos pie, passing the tin (balanced on a plate) between us and sharing the same fork. I tell you this not because I’m proud of us – I’m really not – but just to demonstrate that I am both lazy and economical (he bought the pies upon finding them on sale at Morrison’s for a pound each, bearing them home in triumph. I let him enjoy it for approximately two seconds before observing that they are always available at Poundland). Anyway, this meal easy, inexpensive and gloriously delicious – it’s honestly once of the nicest dishes I can make. We made it recently for dining club with my siblings and my brother has asked me for the recipe almost daily ever since.
Posted in Budget, Celebration, Easy, Leftovers, Main course, Make ahead, Meat, Slow cooking, Sunday lunch
Tagged beef, food, French, recipes
Cost: £1 or so. Serves 6 as a side dish.
Ten years ago when I was in the Sixth Form, I remember looking in the common room fridge and being terribly impressed by our collective healthiness. It was filled with fruit, individually packaged salads, and low-fat yoghurt. I felt a few calories lighter from even looking inside. This lasted until I glanced at the bin, which contained only chocolate bar wrappers, crisp packets and fizzy drink cans.
Generally, I find it relatively easy to make good food choices in the supermarket. My husband is especially good at saying “no” to processed foods when standing in front of the chocolate aisle. I buy from the “bowl shops” at least twice a week – the temporary stands that sell fruit and vegetables in £1 bowls, the choice and quantities varying slightly according to whatever happens to be available at this time of year. It’s pretty good, because it sort-of encourages seasonal eating, and there are no non-fruit-or-vegetable items to provide temptation.
However, come the weekend, and the pantry/fridge is still full of vegetables, getting slightly past their best – and it’s a situation that does not tend to resolve itself with extended avoidance (my go-to method for problem solving). This happened the other day with some leeks which had been bought when they were squeaky-fresh, bursting with vitamins and flavour, and were languishing reproachfully on the vegetable shelf *cough* two *cough* weeks later.
Roasting is a great way of bringing out the flavour left in slightly tired vegetables. With leeks, they can easily dry out though, so they need a quick boil first before a blast in the oven to add a tinge of char and caramel, flavours brought out with olive oil, salt, balsamic vinegar and garlic.
Cost: about 80p, or £1.60 with mozzarella to serve. Serves 2 as a main course or more as a side dish.
A summery version of the Savoury Spring Tart – or really, for this almost-summer that we find ourselves in now, when we’re still willing the good weather to fully take hold, but meanwhile ingredients need a bit of helping along. We made two versions of this tomato tart, one with gorgeous, pungent vine cherry tomatoes (from Lidl!) and one with those watery supermarket tomatoes that cost almost nothing but taste of exactly nothing. For tomatoes like these, which don’t really stand up to eating on their own, the flavour is encouraged along with a slick of tomato puree and a tangle of caramelised onions, as well as a grinding of flaky Maldon salt before the heat and extra time in the oven reminds them of what tomatoes are supposed to taste like and burnishes the pastry to a deeper gold. The onions in this version also protect the pastry from sogginess, but with really good cherry tomatoes they aren’t really needed to help the flavours sing.
Pale Tomato Tart (good cherry tomatoes)
Golden Tomato Tart (with watery tomatoes that need a bit of help)
Both of these are very enjoyable – the paler tart with cherry tomatoes is more delicate and the tomatoes aren’t cooked as much as they are warmed, the oven heat just ripening them a little more, and the tart really just shows them off. The darker tart is more complex, with punchier flavours – more umami, salt and sugar, a symphony rather than a solo.
Posted in Baking, Budget, Healthy, Main course, Pastry, Side dish, Sunday lunch, Vegetarian
Tagged food, recipes, seasonal, summer, tart, tomato
Cost: £2, including the basil, but living basil is quite happy in a sunny spot indoors, so hopefully you would only need to buy this once!
Roasted aubergines, slightly charred without, silk and velvet within, are topped with a rough but fragrant pesto whizzed up in the food processor. This quick vegetarian side dish is nut-, gluten- and dairy-free. We served it as part of a buffet lunch on Easter Sunday, where everyone helped themselves – served alongside slow roast lamb, jewelled couscous, roasted sesame cauliflower, halloumi salad, garlic and coriander hearthbreads, homemade hummus and cherry tomato salsa. A few people very kindly and politely asked for the recipe – and I am delighted to give it out!
Posted in Budget, Healthy, Make ahead, Side dish, Sunday lunch, Vegetarian
Tagged aubergine, basil, food, garlic, pesto, recipes, summer, vegetarian
Cost: about £1.50 – £2, but really it’s a tart to make out of the bits and pieces left in the fridge by the weekend. Serves 4 as a main course or 6-12 as a side dish.
This tart was an unexpected delight – eaten in warm crumbly wedges outside for lunch on the lawn, and then leftovers enjoyed on the sofa the following evening. The pastry is from Nigella Lawson’s luscious How to be a Domestic Goddess, and it is my favourite for any savoury tart. She says that it is too friable for a large tart and makes little individual ones, but I’ve had reliably good experiences with making a 23cm fluted tart – it is golden, and as short and crumbly as a shortbread biscuit, very slightly flaky and with an almost-sweet edge from the semolina. Whilst it has elements in common with a quiche, the ratios of the filling are reversed to give a healthier, more flavourful tart – rather than ingredients fossilised in waxy dairy, here the pastry is generously heaped with a ribbony tangle of soft, sweet leeks, with nuggets of bacon and little juicy peas nestled within. The filling – eggs, cheese and milk (no cream) is lighter than for a quiche, and just keeps everything moist and in shape.
Posted in Baking, Budget, Healthy, Leftovers, Make ahead, Pastry, Pie, Side dish, Sunday lunch
Tagged bacon, baking, leeks, pastry, peas, pie, quiche, seasonal, spring, storecupboard, tart, vegetables
Cost: Oh my. One of the cheapest meats per kilo – £4.60 for a 1.6kg thigh-and-drumstick at Morrisons. Substantially cheaper, and healthier, than red meat and easier I think to carve than chicken. Per portion – this made two helpings for a main meal (with a starch and vegetables), two pies which fed two couples for 2 meals each, and I reserved a small portion of the meat to brown in a frying pan and top the turkey soup made with the bones and served with noodles and pak choi (leftover soup became the base for a stew with butter beans and bacon…you get the idea). So average cost per meal per person would have been something like 60p for the meat, plus pennies for vegetables, pastry ingredients, noodles and so on.
It’s March, and therefore the season for turkey! By which I mean, it is not Christmas or pre-Christmas, when turkey is expensive and often out of stock at the local supermarket(s). Until this winter, I’d only ever experienced turkey in the context of institutional Christmas dinner – it’s not a feature of our festivities at home (goose and beef…I’m not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed that the “and” is not an “or”). My impression of turkey was that it was dry, pallid and (ironically) joyless, more fuel than food, for exercise-lovers rather than food-lovers. My best friend had the same idea…but after tasting this she exclaimed, “I didn’t realise turkey could be this tasty! You made turkey taste like…chicken!” I’d be lying if I claimed that had been the plan all along.
Posted in Budget, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy, Main course, Make ahead, Mass catering (party!), Meat, Poultry, Slow cooking, Sunday lunch
Tagged budget, dinner, make ahead, meat, party, pastry, stock, turkey
Cost: minimal, really – about £2 and it serves 6-10, more if you are serving it as a side to something like Slow Roasted Lamb alongside maybe some baby spinach, grilled aubergine slices, fried halloumi with mint and lime, cucumber-yoghurt salad, and/or garlic flatbreads.
A lovely friend asked for this recipe earlier this week – which was pretty surprising, since it’s from a lunch we held about two years ago! Well, Wikipedia informs me that the first written references to couscous date from the 13th century so I suppose some things never get old. Anyway, this isn’t so much a recipe as a shortcut to an extra side dish for a non-traditional roast lunch – particularly nice in summer, I think. I always like couscous because it’s quick, easy and satisfying in a way that warm carbohydrates are, and here we combine it with a colourful confetti of roasted and fresh vegetables.
[No photo as it wouldn’t have occurred to us to take one at the time…but I bet that 13th century recipe doesn’t have one either]