Monday, 28 November 2011

You better watch Butternut cry!!

The weather today has been horrible, I have spent the whole day Christmas shopping and I am now beat. So I wanted something yummy, cockle warming and thrifty to cook for dinner tonight.
In my fridge I had some Carmelised Onion Sausages and a Butternut squash. After a spot of googling I came across a delicious sounding recipe on the Food Network.

Here is the amended version:

Butternut Squash and Italian Sausage Soup

1 large butternut squash, halved and seeds scraped out
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
300g sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings (to make this extra thrifty I used 4 caramelised onion pork sausages instead (or you could use pork and apple) as they are lovely and sweet
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic,crushed
1tbsp of dried mixed herbs (if you have any Marjoram then add an extra tsp of this)
500ml - 1000ml of chicken stock (depends how thick thin you like it, use at least 2 stock cubes)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
100ml double cream (I used full fat milk as don't like too much cream)
2 tablespoons butter

- Preheat the oven to 200degrees
- Put some greaseproof paper in a baking tin and then drizzle over some of the vegetable oil to lightly coat the squash halves, season the inside with salt and pepper and place cut side down on baking paper. Bake for around 45 mins until the flesh is soft.
- When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out all of the flesh and discard the skin. Put the cooked squash to one side.
- Heat your remaining veg oil and add the sausage (make sure they are out of their skins) use a spatula or wooden spoon to break it up into pieces, cook until golden brown.
- Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and mixed herbs and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the cooked squash and chicken stock, stir and bring to the boil, once it reaches that point turn it down low and simmer for 30 mins
- use a blender or hand-held blender to blitz the soup until smooth (I like it slightly rustic so leave it a little lumpy. If you want it extra fine use a sieve to get rid of any of the last lumps. 
- Add the cider vinegar and stir and then add the cream (or milk) if you want it creamy
- Serve with hot buttery rolls..........yummy!!

I honestly have to say this was absolutely delicious! Myself and my daughter both really enjoyed it and will enjoy it again tomorrow too for our lunch!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Thanksgiving y'all!!

Never one to shy away from cooking for friends, laying on a big feast and drinking copious amounts of wine; I decided to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.
I invited my best girl friends around and decided on the menu..........against my better judgement I decided to follow most of the recipes to the letter....including the ones I thought sounded horrific!!
This is the menu I decided on:

Starters :
Stuffed Mushrooms on Balsamic Leaves

Mains and Sides:
Roast Chicken (No roast turkey.....thrifty remember! plus its Crimbo soon and we'll be overstuffed with Turkey)
Mac N Cheese
Candied Yams
Mashed Potato
Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream


Stuffed Mushrooms

One large field mushroom per person
Sweet Sausage (I use pork and apple or pork and carmelised onion...or just normal sausage and grate in half an apple) I'd say one sausage per mushroom. If small sausages use more.
1dsp worcestershire sauce
2tbsps Marsala wine or sherry
1 garlic clove crushed
a good handful of breadcrumbs
1 tbsp Parsley
Salad leaves
1 part olive oil
2 parts balsamic
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
-  Preheat oven to 180degrees
-  Take off stalks of mushrooms and chop into small pieces, add this to all other ingredients. Use your hands to combine together.
- Place Mushrooms on baking try and fill hollow with sausage mixture
- Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes until sausage mixture is golden and sizzling, if smaller mushrooms it may only take 20-25
- mix dressing ingredients together and dress your salad leaves with it. Arrange mushrooms on top of leaves and serve.


5tbsps of unsalted butter
115g Cornmeal or Polenta
115g Plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
230ml Buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 210degrees
- Melt the butter in the microwave for 15 second intervals until liquid and then leave to cool
- Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl
- Whisk the eggs and buttermilk together and add the melted butter
- Add to the dry mixture and stir to combine. Don't overmix.
- You can cook this in a loaf tin or square baking tin. However I decided to make Cornbread muffins so I popped the mixture into 12 muffin cases in a muffin tray and baked for around 15-20mins until golden.
- After trying the first batch they tasted a little 'bland' to me so I added chopped Jalapeño chilli's to the second batch. It was a slight improvement but I just don't think Cornbread is too my taste, but it was still nice to make!

Candied Yams

I must admit I was really worried about making this dish.....I just couldn't see how a high sugar dish could fit on a table of savoury products.....but I needn'tve! It was very strange but absolutely delish! Me and my friends couldn't stop ourselves mixing the savoury and sweet together. Really really nice!!
- 1 Yam (You can find these in African food shops or Asian Food Speciality Supermarkets) Peeled and sliced into rounds a few cms thick
- 200g Brown sugar
- 225g Melted butter
- A good handful of chopped up marshmallows...........yes marshmallows!!!
- Steam Yams for 20 mins until soft.
- Preheat oven to 200degrees
- Arrange yams in a greased baking dish
- mix together melted butter and sugar until combined and then pour all over the yams, use your hands to make sure everything is evenly coated. Top with the chopped up marshmallows
- Bake until yams are golden and marshmallows are melted

Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic
250g Green Beans
1 clove of garlic minced
1 lemon juiced
1tbsp Olive oil
- Cook Green Beans however you wish, I steamed mine until tender, around 8 mins.
- Pour over olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and mix and serve immediately whilst still warm. (although I still like it cold the next day in a salad!)

Pumpkin Pie

I wasn't sure whether to include this recipe.....the truth is....I HATE pumpking pie. None of the girls liked it either, its such a strange texture and taste and in my opinion not a pleasant culinary experience. However I will include it as no thanksgiving is complete without a pumpkin pie!
- 1 readymade sweet pastry case (You could make it yourself...however with all the other prep I had to do I went the lazy route!) ;)
- 150ml Maple syrup
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 3tbsp golden rum (optional)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 150ml evaporated milk
- Preheat oven to 200degrees
- Mix all ingredients together and pour into the case
- Cook for 30-40 mins until the pumpkin mixture is set but still wobbly in the middle
- serve warm with whipped cream.

So the night was a success, great company, great wine and lots of food! I love making a big deal out of things, even making Turkey Hats for us all, and a tree of thanks! It was meant to be cheesy but after finishing it i'm glad we did it. We are going to add to it each year to see how our thanks have changed!

Here are a few more photos from the night! 

My Table Setting:
 Tree of thanks:

 The feast:

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Homemade Christmas Decorations: Candles

I have spent a few hours today 'crafting'. A few things have been made for tomorrow (I'm hosting a thanksgiving dinner for some close friends and a few things for Crimbo.
I love homemade gifts and decorations, it makes Christmas seem more magical to me! So here are some things I made today!

You will need:

Candles of varying sizes (Poundshops, supermarkets, charity shops usually have church candles at low prices)
Pipe cleaners (festive colours)
Spices/dried fruit (I used Star Anise, Cloves and Cinnamon sticks)
Old Christmas Decorations

-I started with my Spice Candles. Put elastic bands around your candle where you want the spices to 'sit'.
Then arrange the spices making sure they are as 'flush' as they can be against the candle. Add more elastic bands if you need it to be tighter to ensure contact is made.
- Then pop the candle in the microwave for 15 seconds. Take out and press the spices against the candle.
Heat for another 15 seconds and then press again. Then leave the candle to cool. Once cool cut the elastic bands off and the spices should be stuck against the candle. If any fall off or are loose, use a lighter or a match to heat the surface and then press in spice again.

- Next I tore apart old Christmas decorations, little foliage things and arrangements and used pipe cleaners to secure them in varying patterns against the candles.

- For some smaller items like the vine candle, I scored lines where I wanted the leaves to go and then heated with a lighter to make soft. I then pressed the leave stems into the scored line until the candle had cooled down. The berries were easier to do as they were on wire stems. So taking care not to burn myself! I heated the end of the wire and pushed it into the candle easily.

And there we go! A cheap alternative to the foil rubbish you seem to find in many Christmas shops or supermarkets! And it will make a lovely table decoration or centrepiece amongst your other decorations in this festive period.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Cluckynut Cornflakes!!

I was going through my storecupboard inventory to see what I had lurking before I do a big shop; and I realised that a half packet of cornflakes was feeling very sorry for itself at the back of the cupboard. Still within its use by date and seemingly losing that essential 'crunch' I thought I should throw it away.
But then I remembered I had chicken and thinking back to a recipe I saw a while ago I thought i'd make Cornflake Chicken.
The recipe I had seen was a bog standard, dunk in flour, egg and cornflakes but I wanted more flavour than that.
I decided to marinate the chicken in Buttermilk. Buttermilk tenderises the meat so beautifully and leaves the chicken gorgeously moist..........I had no Buttermilk in BUT its so easy to make! You just add one tablespoon of vinegar to 240mls of Milk. Leave to stand for 5 mins and voila! You have Buttermilk. It may curdle slightly but this is normal!!
I also decided to serve this with rice as I had potatoes last night. I also wanted a sauce so I made up an apricot one which was simply yummy! It would also go really well with a hot sticky sauce or a bbq sauce. Improvise! Tis the best part of cooking! The result is a heavenly mix of moist chicken, crunchy shell and sweet and sour sauce. without further ado here is my recipe:

Buttermilk Chicken in a Coconut Cornflake Shell.

For the chicken -
Chicken Breasts (If you want to be thriftier use thighs or drumsticks)
A good few tbsps of crushed cornflakes
A good few tbsps of dessicated coconut
1tsp Garlic powder
1tsp Paprika

240ml Buttermilk

For the Sauce -
3tbsps of apricot jam
1tbsp vinegar
1tbsp soy sauce
splash of white wine

- Put the Buttermilk in a bowl or ziplock style freezer bag along with the garlic powder and paprika. Add your chicken, shake/stir to coat and refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins, maximum of 3hours.
- Once marinated preheat oven to 180degrees. On a plate mix together the dessicated coconut and crushed cornflakes.
- Take out a piece of chicken at a time, shake off excess liquid and then roll in the crispy mixture. Make sure its evenly coated and then shake off any excess.
- arrange on a non-stick baking tray. Put into oven for 20-25mins until chicken is cooked through and cornflake mixture is golden brown.
- Make your rice during this time.
- To make the sauce add all ingredients to a pan and simmer gently to combined, the sugar in the apricot jam will start to caramelise and you'll have a wonderful sticky sweet/sour sauce! Make this last minute and just spoon over your rice and chicken.

You could marinate the chicken in lime instead of buttermilk as lime and coconut complement each other  fantastically.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Do it your'shelf'!!

I am a huge fan of Ikea.....I could spend hours wandering around aimlessly buying yet more candles and  kitchenware, but my absolute favourite part; is going to the Cafe on site and ordering Swedish Meatballs with gravy and lingonberry sauce.
So tonight I am making my very own thrifty version of that Ikea classic.
When I say 'thrifty version'....I mean its technically cheaper than me going to Ikea spending money on homewares and then buying meatballs. The cost of this dish would actually work out the same price as a pack of meatballs from the freezer section!! ;)


250g extra lean beef mince
250g lean pork mince
one onion grated
One egg beaten
Couple of slices of stale white bread turned into breadcrumbs
one tsp ground allspice
1/2tsp ground nutmeg
Fresh herbs...dill parsley and chives roughly chopped...I very rarely have fresh herbs though so I just use dried parsley!

Swedish Gravy:
1tbsp lemon juice
300ml beef stock (I try to use the low salt ones when I can find them!)
1tbsp plain flour
60ml double cream (I don't use double cream as too fatty so use semi-skimmed milk instead...not as creamy but still pretty nice!)
1dessertspoon of redcurrant or cranberry sauce
Splash of worcestershire sauce

- Mix all meatball ingredients together in a bowl and then roll into a sausage shape
- cut into equal size pieces and with wet hands shape into small balls
- put onto plate and then put into fridge to firm up for a bit, 1/2hour-1hour should do it!
- You're supposed to fry these off but I prefer to oven bake mine to keep it as healthy as possible! I cook them in a 180degree oven for around 20mins...they don't need long due to size
- just before they are ready spoon out a small amount of the fat from the roasting tin from the meatballs and add to sauce pan with the lemon juice
- add the flour and stir to make a roux, heat on a low heat.
- then add the beef stock, cream, redcurrant/cranberry sauce, and worcestershire sauce and bring to the boil. Once its reached boiling point reduce heat to a simmer and reduce until the sauce thickens,usually 5 odd mins.
- to serve I always serve with either Mash or homemade chips made in the actifry and green veg. You can add the meatballs to the saucepan and stir to coat them all and then just serve up.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard.........

My freezer is almost empty. My cupboards are almost bare.....its time to go shopping tomorrow methinks!!
So tonight I had what I call a 'potluck' dinner.
I had leeks and potatoes....but didn't fancy leek and potato soup.
I had frozen white fish with parsley sauce.....but didn't fancy that either.
I had sausages! Mmmm sausages I could eat....I had I could do mash. But I fancied something a bit different. So made this concoction below. And lovely it was too!!

Sausages with leek mash and balsamic onion gravy


One red onion sliced into rings
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
1tsp sugar
1dsp dijon mustard
1 veg or chicken stock cube dissolved in 250ml water
cornflour to thicken
One leek sliced
Butter and milk for the mash

- peel the potatoes and cube and boil for 15 minutes until soft
- in the meantime grill the sausages or pop in the oven until cooked
- put some oil in a pan and add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes until beginning to go soft.
- add balsamic vinegar, mustard and sugar and cook for another 5, until it starts to look sticky and gooey and caramel goodness!
- at this point add the stock and cornflour and simmer for a few mins until it thickens.
- In a separate pan sweat the leeks until soft, whilst this is happening mash your potatoes with butter and milk and a handful of grated cheddar if you like cheesy mash!
- add the leeks to the mash, leaving a tbsp of the leeks behind to cook for a few more minutes until they're crispy.
- Dollop mash in the middle of your plate, tower up those sausages, drizzle over your onion gravy and sprinkle the crispy voila! Yummy Yums!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Homemade Christmas Decorations: Orange Pomanders

Chrismas is a'coming! Only a few weeks to go to that magical time of the year! I am a big fan of Christmas. I love all the little traditions and making new ones. As well as seeing everyone's faces on Christmas Day light up with all the presents and food. Just Perfect!
I also love making homemade decorations and presents. Today's homemade decoration is an Orange Pomander. The original use of a Pomander was to mask bad odours and ward against infection. A modern day version is a clove studded orange.

You will need:
Upto Three Oranges
Masking Tape or Elastic Bands
Orris Root Powder (4tbsps) - I had no Orris Root Powder so had to do without (orris is a preservative....I will just keep checking on them and hope they don't go mouldy! You can buy Orris Root powder relatively cheaply on the web though.)
Ground Cinnamon (2tbsps)
Ground Nutmeg (1tbsps)
Ground Allspice (1tbsps)
A skewer or thick needle

- Roll the orange in your hands to warm it, this will make it easier to push the cloves in.
- You will eventually tie ribbon around the oranges to decorate and also make it easier to hang. So use the masking tape to mark where you want the ribbons to go.
- Using a skewer, poke holes in the orange, this will make it easier to push the cloves into the orange skin. You could end up with quite sore thumbs if the holes aren't already there as cloves are very tough and hard.
- Push a clove into each hole. You can make any design you want; swirls, lines, random patterns, initials etc! I decided on lines.
- Do this all the way around the Orange until you've finished your sections.

- Next, mix all the powders together on a plate or in a bowl. Then use your fingers and sprinkle the mixture all over your orange. Rolling it around and pressing the powder as much as you can into the orange skin. Shake off the excess and repeat.

- I then found an old shoe box and made holes in the bottom of it to allow air in. I then lined it with tissue paper and placed the plate into the box. I then covered the orange with another layer of tissue paper and placed the lid on top. I have now stored this in a warm dry place (airing cupboard) and will check on it every few days to resprinkle powder on and also make sure it doesnt go mouldy! If it does I will have to give in and buy Orris Root.

It should be fine as long as I keep it dry though. I will post pictures of the final result in a few weeks when it is all ribboned up. The smell of these Pomanders is true Christmas itself. My house smells amazing just from making them. I cannot wait until they are finished!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sloppy Joes and Cupcakes!!

Brrrrr today has been berluddy freezing!!! Doesn't help that I haven't got a winter coat yet.....think my eBay selling profits will have to go towards a new one! So I fancied a few hours in the kitchen to warm our cockles!
In the end I made a few vanilla cupcakes and practised my buttercream roses....difficult but a few more days practice and I reckon i'll get them exactly how I want! Here are today's creations:

After baking I wanted something hearty, yummy and cockle-warming to take the chill out of our bones for tea! I had some mince in the freezer and was going to make a Spaghetti Bolognaise but I fancied something different so I decided to make a kind of 'Sloppy Joe' (American dish)

Sloppy Joe bake 
(Adapted from BBC good food)

500g Lean Beef Mince
One carrot grated
One onion finely chopped
One celery stick finely diced
1 tin of tomatoes
1 beef stock cube
1 garlic clove crushed
1/2tsp cumin
1/2tsp coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
4 tbsp's BBQ sauce
1tbsp tomato sauce
1 tin of kidney beans
- Preheat oven to 200degrees. Fry Onion, Garlic, Carrot, Celery until soft, then add the beef mince and cook until brown all over.
- add cumin, coriander and chilli powder and stir then crumble in the stock cube.
- add tinned tomatoes, bbq sauce and kidney beans. Simmer for 5 minutes
- add mince mixture to ovenproof dish and top with slices of garlic bread, then bake for 10minutes until garlic bread is golden brown.

Traditionally the Mince mixture is served in white baps and topped with coleslaw and grated cheddar.
I have had both and I must admit the garlic bread/mince mixture was a winner for me. It was so delicious and even my picky daughter asked for seconds!
The leftover mince will be fab on Jacket Potatoes tomorrow for lunch. I think this recipe will feature a few times during this winter!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Gamm'on and give it a try!!!

I had an old friend visiting me this weekend so the thriftiness kind of went out of the window, lunches out, takeaways, booze etc!! So this week I have to really tighten my purse strings!
I have found an old mobile (under my sofa....I thought I lost it....oops!!) and have sent this off to a mobile recycling site, but first off I checked this website to see who would pay me the most I ended up going with cash4phones who offered me £24! A nice little bonus before Christmas!
I have also taken advantage of another free eBay listing weekend, lots of my daughters clothes have gone on so i'm hoping to make a few pounds on that too.

I did however do lots of baking this weekend. I am practising my icing and sugarcraft skills as i'm hoping to sell a few Crimbo cupcakes in this festive period. Here are the first 'draft', got lots more to practice on before i'm fully happy with the results!

I also made my favourite Gammon in coke yesterday. Slow cooked for 8hours and then served with Chilli and Turmeric Roast potatoes, Leeks in white sauce and roast parsnips & carrots. It was delicious, especially the Roast potatoes. It was something I saw on Gordon Ramseys Christmas last year and he literally just sprinkled chilli flakes and turmeric powder on his potatoes, drizzled in oil and shook around to coat and then roasted as normal. Delish!!
I only bought a small gammon joint so there wasn't a lot of leftovers. I would've liked to have made a pie. I saw a recipe for Gammon, Leek and Cider pie which I will try next time I have leftover ham. but I have enough for sandwiches for tomorrow's lunch and we had it for tonights tea. I used up the leftover Roast veggies and made a bubble and squeak (Just cubed all the veg, added mushrooms and cherry tomatoes and fried until hot), served with leftover gammon, lots of pickle and half a roll of my homemade bread (which I took out of the freezer and defrosted and then served warm with lots of buttery goodness on!)

If you have lots of leftover veggies you could make a nice soup, put the leftover veg (parnsips, carrots, potatoes, broccoli etc etc) in a pan, add a few cms of boiling hot chicken stock and boil until heated through. Liquidise using a handheld blender and add lots and lots of pepper, if it needs more liquid add more stock. This is yummy with grated cheese on top and a crusty buttery roll to dunk!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Thrifty Websites to make your lives easier....and cheaper!

In my quest for thriftiness I have come across many websites which I couldn't do without. I need to share these with you as they have helped me save alot over the last year!
For example, at the moment I am completing a L'oreal Hair Trial. I got sent a huge bottle of shampoo and conditioner and all I have to do is use it for two weeks and then fill in a survey afterwards! This'll save me around £8 in haircare this month.
I am also completing a 'food diary' for a marketing company for two weeks and then I get sent a capital bonds voucher for £20 which can be used in most high street shops. I am going to put it towards my Christmas shopping (probably stocking fillers from boots I should imagine!)
The above things are what I have found through trawling through sites.
1) My all-time favourite website! You may have seen Martin Lewis on Lorraine (GMTV) talking about certain money issues? Well this is his website. Its brilliant. Sign up for his newsletters, he has brilliant tools on savings/investments/credit cards/bank accounts. As well as the latest sales/vouchers/deals etc. The forums are also invaluable. I have found many a thrifty idea on there. Whether it be a topic on reducing your bills, cleaning for less or better yet all the thrifty recipes!
2) a brilliant resource on how to use up all those leftovers and stretch out your food even further!
3) get cashback for everything you buy online!!! If you buy a lot of stuff online then use this site, you can earn £1 upto £300+ for large items! It has a good reputation and can really help boost your income in the run up to Christmas

any thriftygod or goddess knows that potatoes are a brilliant ingredient! This website has some fantastic potato recipes as well as a budget meal planner section!
5) another good tool for menu planning and budget meals.

7) Great for when you fancy something different! Fab recipes!

It's not 'offal'.....its yummy! (and thrifty!!)

Firstly.....excuse the bad pun! Secondly.....why do people turn their noses up at offal? Back in the day no part of the animal was wasted; but the truth is not only is it a cheap way to feed your family, if its cooked correctly it can be absolutely delicious!!
I have tried a few offal dishes, my favourites are black pudding, liver, faggots etc but there are lots more I haven't tried. So in the interest of thriftiness in the run up to Christmas i'm going to cook one offal dish per week. This post will list some recipes that i'm interested in doing in the following weeks:

Griddled Black Pudding, Chimichurri mash and caramelised apples

4 thick slices of black pudding
2 apples 
1 lemon 
900g potatoes 
5 cloves garlic 
40g fresh parsley 
2 teaspoons dried oregano 
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
30ml red wine vinegar 
80ml olive oil 
2 tablespoons brown sugar 
1 tablespoon butter

- in a food processer add 5 cloves of garlic, the fresh parsley (hold back a little for garnish at the end), 80ml of olive oil, 30ml of red wine vinegar, the juice of one lemon, 2 teaspoons of oregano, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a really good twist of black pepper and a little salt. Whizz it all together to create a nice thick green sauce. Set to one side as i'll add this to the mash later.
- Peel and cube the potatoes and boil for 15-20mins until cooked. Then mash into a smooth consistency (with a little seasoning) and add the chimichurri sauce. Cover with foil and keep warm whilst you cook the apples and black pudding.
- Peel and core the apples and cut into eighths. Add a good knob of butter to the frying pan and then the apples. Cook for around 5 minutes until slightly soft and then add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a dash of water. Keep the heat on high as you want them to caramelise. Once the sauce starts to turn brown and caramelise take off the heat and keep warm with the mash.
- Heat a frying pan and rub a little olive oil and salt and pepper onto the black pudding, and then fry for around 2 mins  on each side.
- To serve, place some mash in the middle of the plate, then a spoonful of the caramelised apples on the mash, and finally a slice of black pudding on top and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. 
I cannot wait to try this one! It sounds amazing! Yummers!
Oxtail Stew (Hairy Bikers Recipe)

1lb oxtail, cut into chunky pieces (ask your butcher to do this for you)
3 tbsp plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3–4 tbsp sunflower oil 
2 medium onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4–5 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
2 bay leaves
300ml/½pint red wine
500ml/18fl oz beef stock 
2 tbsp tomato purée
- Wash the oxtail pieces and pat dry with kitchen paper. Trim off as much excess fat as possible. Put the flour in a freezer bag and season well with salt and pepper. Put half the oxtail pieces into the seasoned flour, toss well to coat then put aside on a plate. Repeat with the remaining oxtail pieces
- Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Brown the oxtail over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning every now and then, until dark brown all over. You may need to add extra oil if the pan looks dry at any point during the browning step. Put the browned oxtail into the slowcooker. 
- Return the frying pan to a low heat and add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Add a little extra oil if necessary. Cook gently for 10 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
- Tip the vegetables on top of the beef and add the thyme and bay leaves. Stir in the wine, beef stock and tomato purée. Season with salt and pepper, put the slowcooker on low and cook for at least 6 hours.
I am going to cook this for a man tomorrow.........they say the way to a mans' heart is through his stomach....i'm going to try out that theory! ;)

Liver, Bacon and Mushroom Pie (

400g lamb's liver 
2 tbsp plain flour 
100g unsmoked back bacon 
2 tbsp olive oil 
150g shallots, peeled and cut into wedges 
200g carrots, peeled and diced 
150g button chestnut mushrooms 
1 garlic clove, crushed 
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary 
300ml lamb or vegetable stock, hot 
2 tbsp dry sherry 
100g self-raising flour 
75g fresh white breadcrumbs 
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary 
50g ‘light’ shredded vegetable suet

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Cut the liver into strips about 1cm thick. Toss in the flour and a little seasoning to lightly coat. Cut the bacon into strips the same size as the liver. Heat the oil in a heavy, deep frying pan, then quickly stir-fry the liver and bacon until lightly browned. Remove from the pan to a plate and set aside.
- Add the shallots and carrots to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly coloured. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic, herbs, stock and sherry. Bring to the boil, stirring.
- Return the liver and bacon to the pan and stir together. Transfer to a 1 litre pie dish, mounding the filling in the centre, and leave to cool while making the pastry.
-Combine the flour, breadcrumbs, rosemary, suet and a little seasoning in a mixing bowl. Stir in enough cold water, about 5 tbsp, to make a soft but not sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently roll out to an oval slightly larger than the pie dish.
- Dampen the rim of the dish, then gently lift the pastry over the filling and press the pastry to the rim to seal. Trim off any excess pastry with a sharp knife, make a steam hole in the middle and press the back of a fork onto the pastry rim to decorate. Bake for 30–35 minutes until golden brown, then serve hot.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Requested Recipe's

I have a friend in America who used to live in the good 'ol UK and sampled lots of our food but misses a good curry so this Tikka Masala Recipe is for her!

Chicken Tikka Masala (this is a variation of a Jamie Oliver recipe/BBC recipe I have used and its definitely my fave!)
For the paste:
4 Garlic Cloves
1 inch piece of fresh ginger peeled
1 red chilli deseeded
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
and 4 cardamon pods
- Put all these ingredients in a food processor with a little oil and blend until its a smooth paste.
- Then you'll need 3 Chicken Breasts, Diced into 3cm cubes. In a glass bowl mix the chicken cubes and 1-2tbsp of paste until chicken is completely covered. Then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours. Preferably overnight. Keep the remaining paste in a bowl and refrigerate too.

Other ingredients:
1tbsp butter
1tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions diced finely
1 red pepper cut into chunks or strips....whatever your preference!
2tbsp of tomato puree
2xtinned tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
150ml double cream
150ml Natural or Greek Yogurt (I use greek but if you can't get it natural is fine too)
- Heat oil and butter in a pan and add onions and cook on a low heat for 15 mins until they are soft and translucent.
- Add the rest of the paste and the peppers and cook for 5 mins so the spices lose their bitter (raw) taste.
- Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the tinned tomatoes and puree, add some water if it looks too thick.
- Cook this for around 15-20minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
- If you have mango chutney then add 1tbsp and stir through. If not then add 1tsp of sugar.
- Stir in cream and yogurt and heat to warm through. Dont boil as the yogurt may split. And voila! Its done!
This also freezes well and will keep for 3months in the freezer.

Sarah's Simple Stew and Dumplings

Stewing Beef (500g approx.....more if you have more mouths to feed! But I find with the veg 500g easily feeds four)
One onion roughly chopped
One garlic clove crushed
1tbsp mixed herbs
1 bayleaf
3 carrots chopped
1/2 swede chopped
2-4 potatoes chopped
1 pint of beef stock made with two cubes
1 dessertspoon tom puree
2 tsps worcestershire sauce
For the dumplings (original Atora recipe) :
100g Self Raising Flour
50g Atora original suet
pinch of salt
1dessertspoon of dried parsley
cold water (around 5 tbsp's .... or until the dough is firm but pliable)
- Put everything in the slow cooker except the dumplings and cook on low for 6 hours.
- Make up the dumpling mixture and divide into 8 dumplings
- add them to the stew and cook for a further hour

I 'heart' my slow cooker Part Two!

I just realised that I had left out some of my favourite recipes from my previous post!! So here are some more yummy recipes which I have tried and tested over the years!

Persian Chicken

Chicken Thighs (a lot cheaper than breast and in my opinion a whole lot tastier!!)
a couple of tbsps of seasoned flour
2 tbsp oil
1 large onion diced
2 garlic cloves crushed
Half a tin of tomatoes. Or around 4 ripe tomatoes chopped. (In the art of thrift just use what you have available!)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 dates halved and pitted. (I have also used figs in the past...both yum!) You could even use prunes if you like.
2 tbsps Currants (again I have used Sultanas before as they were in my cupboard!)
500ml chicken stock (either use your own from the freezer or dissolve two stock cubes in 500ml boiling water)
2 tsp lemon zest
2tbsp of chopped parsley (I use dried as never seem to have fresh herbs for long in my house!)
- Put the seasoned flour in a freezer/sandwich bag and add chicken thighs. Hold it shut and shake the bag until all the chicken pieces are coated.
- Take the chicken out and heat oil in a frying pan. Brown the chicken on all sides and then place them into the slow cooker.
- Add the onion to the frying pan and cook for two mins, then add the garlic and ground cinnamon and cook on low for 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, dates, currants and stock and bring to the boil. When it is boiling add the sauce to the slow cooker pouring over all of the chicken.
- Cook on low for at least 5 hours. In the last hour open the lid and in the lemon zest.
I usually serve this with rice, but its also nice with mash.

Beef in Red Wine Stew OR substitute Wine for Guiness or real Ale. They all work perfectly!!

Diced Beef (1kg will serve about 4. If you're on a budget use brisket or cheaper cuts and bulk out with more veg....just as yummy!!)
3tbsp seasoned flour
1tbsp oil
150g smoky bacon diced (or use lardons....sometimes they're cheaper)
8 peeled shallots halved or the white ends of 8 spring onions (trim off the beardy root bits!)
200g button mushrooms
500ml red wine. Or one/two cans of guinness or one big bottle of real ale.
2tbsp tomato puree
500ml of beef stock (using two stock cubes)
1 bayleaf
1tbsp mixed herbs
- Toss the beef in the flour (use same method as persian chicken). Shake off excess and brown off in the oil (cook in batches so it frys rather than stews!) Then put in slow cooker
- add bacon and cook until browned. Add to the beef in the slow cooker
- add spring onions and mushrooms to the pan (add more oil if needed) until the onions are browned. Remove and add to slow cooker.
- Slowly pour red wine or whatever booze you decide to use into the pan using a wooden spoon to scrape up all the yummy bits in the pan from your meat and veg frying.
- Stir in tom puree and stock and add the bayleaf and herbs. Then add the liquid into the slow cooker over the meat and veg.
- Cook on low for 6-8hours. The beef will be mouthwateringly tender.
Sometimes when i'm on a big budget drive I will only use 250g of beef and bulk out with root veg. Things like swede, turnip and butternut squash and of course carrots all go perfectly with this.
Serve with buttery mash, or any kind of veg. Or just a big chunk of bread!

Minty lamb stew
This is the ultimate quick fix!! So quick and easy!

Lamb (chops....scrag end of neck, shoulder etc etc....use what's cheapest. I find when slowcooked you don't need the expensive cuts)
1-2tbsps of Mint Sauce
1 Pint of gravy
1 onion diced
3 carrots chopped
splash of wine (red or white....I have tried both and they both taste good!)
Bung everything in!! No Precooking is needed as it all tastes fab! Cook on low for 6-8hours
Serve with swede mash. Or roast potatoes or butternut squash or boiled potatoes. Whatever takes your fancy or is in your cupboards!

Pulled Pork

I mentioned this in a previous post. Its ridiculously easy and oh so yummy.
Pork Ribs (After trial and error I find these the best to use)
300ml beef stock
1 jar of bbq sauce (You could make your own, but for this I prefer the american style bbq sauce....they are readily available in all supermarkets) I've even used a heinz bbq squeezy sauce before and it was yummy yums!
- put all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours
- use a fork to shred the meat off of the bones(discard the bones)
This is an american recipe traditionally served in big white baps and served with coleslaw and crisps.
I usually serve it in baps and serve it with skinny fries and corn on the cob and coleslaw! Its also lovely as a jacket potato filling and will last a couple of days in the fridge.

Easy Lancashire Hotpot

Lamb (again use whatever cuts you like. I usually use shoulder steaks)
4 potatoes, peeled and sliced thickly
6 shallots or baby onions peeled and left whole
1tbsp mixed herbs
2tbsp worcestershire sauce
125ml beef stock
- layer potatoes, herbs and onions at base of slowcooker. Add lamb and pour over stock and worcestershire sauce.
- Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8hours

I 'Heart' my slow cooker!

Now these Winter nights are drawing in there's nothing better than coming home to the cooking smells of heartwarming Winter recipes. Imagine this; you've been out all day, your hands are cold, your trousers are soggy from yet even more rain! Your nose is sniffly and you're starving. You walk in your front door and smell beautiful aroma's, knowing that you don't have to cook your dinner.........its already done! All you have to do is get changed into warm dry clothes and serve up!!
I use my slow cooker a ridiculous amount......I love the thing. Its economical, it costs 1p per hour to run opposed to the 35p per hour it costs to run my oven! And more than that, its easy!!! Bung it in in the morning and hours later you have meat that is so tender it falls apart and melts on your tongue. Heaven.
In ode to my slow cooker I am dedicating this post to all things slow cooked! I hope you enjoy! Please feel free to add your own recipes, I love collecting new ones!!

Mixed Bean and Chorizo Stew
Mixed Beans - butterbean, kidney etc etc (use whatever you like....thats the fun of cooking!)
1tbsp olive oil
200g bacon lardons (or just cut up streaky bacon into small pieces)
2 packs of mini cooking chorizo sausages
1 onion diced
3 tins of tomatoes
1tsp sugar
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 carrot diced
1 celery stick finely diced
1 bay leaf
2 chicken stock cubes
1tbsp mixed herbs
- cook bacon and chorizo in the olive oil for around 8mins until golden brown, add the onion, tomatoes,
garlic, sugar, carrot, celery, bayleaf and herbs and cook for a few mins then crumble in the chicken stock cubes. At this point bung the entire mixture into the slow cooker and cook on low for 6hours. I would serve this with crusty bread, just dunk it in to soak up all those lovely juices!!

Morocan Lamb Tagine
Diced Lamb (trim off all visible fat)
One onion diced
One garlic clove crushed
Two carrots chopped into chunks
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp coriander
1tbsp tomato puree
1pint of hot chicken stock (or less, depends on how much lamb you have)
1tbsp Honey
a big handful of chopped apricots
half a handful of chopped prunes
- cook onions until soft, add garlic and cook for a few mins, then bung that plus all other ingredients into slow cooker and cook on low for at least 6hrs.
I serve this with couscous and squeeze over some lemon juice afterwards
Lasagna (Yes lasagna in the slow cooker.............its lush!!)  
1 x 500g pack of lean beef mince......use a bigger pack if you have more mouths to feed.
6-8 sausages skinned
1 grated apple
1 onion chopped finely
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 tins of tomatoes
1tbsp mixed herbs
1tsp cumin
1tsp coriander
2 pots of cottage cheese
3 eggs
1 small pot of ricotta
one ball of mozzarella grated
3 tbsp grated parmasan (I use the tub stuff…not fresh …I am thrifty after all!!)

- Spray fry light inside your slow cooker, or rub oil all over the bottom and sides
- Put a layer of dried lasagne sheets inside the slow cooker
- Break up sausages with a spoon and add grated apple and beef mince. Mix together so its one big pork/beef mush! J
- Fry off onion with a tsp of sugar until they caramelise beautifully and then add the meat mixture. Stir until brown.
- Add garlic, tomatoes, mixed herbs, cumin and coriander and cook for a few mins. Take off heat.
- Mix together the eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan.
- Alternate layers of lasagna sheets and cheese and meat sauce until all used. Top the last lasagna layer with the rest of the cheese mixture and sprinkle over extra parmesan.
- Cook on low for 6 hours
- Serve with garlic bread and a nice crisp salad with a balsamic dressing. My favourite balsamic dressing is:
1 part olive oil to two parts balsamic vinegar. 1tsp of sugar, 1tsp of salt and pepper. Mix until combined and spoon over your salad. Delicious!

Chinese Chicken Wings 
Chicken wings
1 can of diet coke
1tbsp hoi sin sauce (1.5syns)
1tbsp soy sauce
4tbsp tom ketchup
1 clove garlic crushed
1tbsp brown sugar
1tbsp vinegar
- mix together all ingredients and add to slow cooker with chicken wings, cook on low for 4-6hrs
Pork and Butterbean stew
Diced pork
1 onion chopped
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tin of tomatoes
1 dessertspoon mustard
1 tbsp black treacle
1 dessertspoon tom puree
2tsp mixed herbs
Method: Bung all in slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8hours, you could cook off the onions first and the garlic but don't think it really makes a difference!
Slow Cooker Veggie Chilli:

2 tins of tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic crushed
2tsp chilli powder (or more if you like it spicier)
1 tin chickpeas
1 onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 stick of celery diced
1 red pepper
2tsp cumin
1tsp coriander
2tsp mixed herbs
Bung it all in slow cooker(easy as!) cook on low for 6-8hours
Slow cooker curried sausage and beans
8 sausages(or less if you have a smaller family)
1 onion chopped
2tsp curry powder
2tsp turmeric
veg stock cube in 250ml boiling water
garlic clove crushed
Can of baked beans (or butterbeans)
- Brown off sausages and chop into pieces and fry onions at same time, add garlic, curry powder and turmeric and cook for 2mins. Put into slow cooker
- dissolve stock cube in water and add to the onion, pour in the beans and give it a good stir and then cook on low for between 4-6hrs
Pork in Cider 
Pork (whatever you have! Whether it be chops, fillet or belly)
One onion sliced into rings
One apple; peeled, cored and sliced into rings
One can or bottle of cider. Two if you have a lot of pork
One chicken stock cube and a dessert spoon of chicken gravy granules
Put the apples and onions at the bottom of the slow cooker, put pork on top, warm up the cider and add the stock cube and gravy granules then add to the slow cooker pouring over the pork and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve with Mash and greens! If the sauce needs thickening when the pork is ready then pour the liquid into a saucepan and stir in either some cornflour mixed with water or some more gravy granules and simmer for a few minutes. This is lovely served with buttery mustard mash!

Nigella's Gammon in Coke (this is my favourite slow cooker recipe ever!)

One joint of gamon (I use unsmoked)
One 2 litre bottle of Coca Cola (Since I like to be thrifty I have tried this
with cheaper brands and unfortunately it doesn't taste the same, so Coca Cola it is!)
Black Treacle
Mustard Powder
Brown Sugar
-Put Gammon in slow cooker, pour over Coke. Don't worry if it doesn't cover the gammon completely, you could always turn it halfway.
Cook on low for at least 6hours. More if its a big piece of meat.
-When its cooked turn off slow cooker and preheat oven to 180degrees.
- Take out gammon (be careful as it may fall apart. I use two big spatulas to take mine out. Then put into a foil lined tray (make sure you put foil in as the sugar and treacle burn on the tin otherwise) If Gammon doesn't want to stand up on its side, I scrunch up two big balls of foil and place either side as you need the fat to be on top.
- Slice off the rind so you're just left with the fat underneath and score diamonds into it.
- Put 1tbsp of Black treacle over the fat. Use your spoon to cover all the fat and even the rest of the gammon if you like.
Dont worry if it drips all down the sides, the gammon is warm so it will do that.
- Sprinkle over 1tbsp of mustard powder and 1tbsp of brown sugar.
- place into oven until fat is crispy. (usually about half an hour)
You will have the most succulent gammon with a beautiful salty, caramely taste that is just stunning.
Its very difficult to slice the gammon as its so tender. Your end result will more resemble pulled pork.
Its even better the next day as leftovers. Gorgeous in sandwiches with relish, pickle or chutney. Yummy in a ham pie too! Or even Ham and Pea Soup!

I have lots more recipes but I will share these with you on a cooking basis so you can see the end result! Plus I will be experimenting and making my own recipes in the coming weeks. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Selling your soul.......or just your belongings!

Today is the 1st of one months time it will be the 1st of December......which can only mean one thing; CHRISTMAS!!
As much as my thrifty measures have helped me; I have had lovely nights out, weekends away etc etc I still have the worry of Christmas finances to contend with.
So as well as making the most of my menu planning and batch cooking I have also been selling everything I could! It is true what they say; One Man's rubbish is another Man's treasure. I have decluttered my house and found lots of things to sell online. Old DVD boxsets I never watch, dresses that have never been worn, shoes that are still in their boxes unloved and unused!
First I tried to sell these items on the various selling pages on Facebook (it is free so naturally it should be anyone's first port of call!) I managed to sell one item on there but the rest wasn't receiving enough interest.
I filed an email from eBay into my 'thrifty' folder regarding free listing days; so on my plethora of random items went on said days. They have all now sold and in one week i've made £100!!! This will certainly help the Christmas fund and has been put safely away not to be touched until December!
If you have lots of unused items in your house why not dig them out, dust them off and try to flog them. If you are highly organised how about a car boot? Or the free-ads, gumtree etc. Facebook is also a brilliant source for selling items. There are lots of selling pages for various towns on there and of course its free! Then you have auction sites, eBay being the most well known. Take advantage of the free listing days as those eBay fees soon start mounting up!! You could earn yourself a nice little bonus just before Crimbo! Lovely!