First impressions are terribly important, but then so is not judging a book by its cover. This may look, on first glance, like a bowl of indistinct yellow mush but trust me, don’t judge this bowl of incredible-ness by its ‘rustic’ appearance. When I have a bowl of dahl it has to be three things: comforting, frugal and full of garlic. My Yellow Split Pea Dahl, which I have been trying and testing for some time now, fulfils all of my dahl needs and wants. Absolutely dahl-icious.
Can you eat organic while also making sure you don’t break the bank? I think you can. And not only that I think you can make some really delicious and different meals too. The answer to eating organic on a budget is about sourcing the ingredients cost effectively and a good meal plan. I wanted to put it to the test and see what I could make with one week’s worth of organic meat and veg. One way to make things easier is to use a veg box company; the time you save needing to go to the shops can be spent planning what you’re going to cook up.
(The Abel & Cole boxes were gifted).
Abel & Cole kindly sent me the ingredients for this post and below is what I got for the week. I had one Keen Cooks Box (£14.25) and one Marvellous Meat Box (£14) so all I needed to do was work out how to use these ingredients to feed two of us for a whole week. The veg box came with a sprig or two of mint which was very handy for my tabbouleh! The meat was actually not organic, but it was high welfare which is what I would normally buy if I couldn’t get my hands on organic.
Chicken Legs (2)
Lamb Steaks (4)
Purple Spouting Broccoli
Baby Plum Tomatoes
Sweet Mix Salad
The meals we had are listed below, we had these in the evenings. For breakfast we had porridge or homemade granola and lunch was either sandwiches or salad with fruit. I had to buy a few extra ingredients on top of the two boxes (bread, milk, a few bits of extra fruit, potatoes, cheese and the like) and the rest of the ingredients were already in my fridge and cupboards. I spent around £17 on a top up shop which meant the total cost for two people for the week was £45 (roughly).
- Chicken Minestrone
- Harissa Lamb and Tabbouleh
- Lamb and Lentil Salad
- Broccoli Macaroni Cheese
- Gammon Hash and Salad
- Mozzarella Mushrooms and Spinach Mash
- Fennel Risotto
Chicken legs are not something that I would usually buy so it was great to have a different cut in the house. I’d had some orzo hanging around for a little while so a lovely green minestrone seemed like a great idea. I browned then removed the chicken, added leeks and fried gently. Popped chicken back in with some stock and simmered then added the orzo, a few minutes later I added some chopped courgette and broccoli. I added some parsley right at the end.
As I had four lamb steaks I wanted to stretch them for two meals rather than one. First up was Harissa Lamb and Tabbouleh which was a great way to use various bits from the veg box and fridge along with some leftover harissa paste.
The other lamb dish I made was my Lamb, Lentils and Flatbreads. I used lentils to bulk this dish out as I used the two smaller lamb steaks. Delicious with the ripe tomatoes and fresh salad.
On a rainy day we made a Broccoli Macaroni Cheese using up the rest of the broccoli and one tomato I had saved just to put on the top!
The other half of the salad needed to be used up so was perfect alongside some Gammon Hash. Really easy to make this used the gammon, an onion, some potatoes and sweetcorn.
My Mozzarella Mushrooms were a great success. Baked in the oven with plenty of garlic then covered with mozzarella for the last few minutes, served up alongside some mashed potatoes which were mixed with blended spinach.
Lastly we had Fennel Risotto. Made with a normal plain risotto base I baked the fennel slowly until it was soft and gently caramelised, I threw some peppers in there for good measure too, then simply topped the risotto with the veg and a good handful of parmsesan.
If we assume that your fridge contents aren’t exactly the same as mine so you might need to pick up a few extra bits (the harissa paste, a tin of sweetcorn and some mozzarella for example) I think you could easily feed two people, organic, for around £50 a week. And that includes breakfast and lunch. And you don’t (necessarily) need to go to a big shop to pick up the extra bits and bobs; you could use a little local one. Meal planning is key to sticking to a budget; I have a previous post with some tips for doing your own meal planning if it’s something you’re new to.
When you’re working through your meal plan and your getting to the end, sometimes you can be faced with some strange combinations, but that’s the beauty of saving time at the shops. You can have a think, a ponder and a look through some books to choose exactly what you want to do with some mushrooms and a few potatoes or decide how you can make a fennel bulb the star of your meal. Veg boxes do make you think outside the box (pun intended) to try a new recipe or two which can only be a good thing.
Thank you to Abel & Cole for the boxes. I wanted to have a go at eating organic on a budget and all opinions expressed and words are my own.
I love paneer. If I see a menu and it has paneer on it, I will order it without a doubt, preferably alongside a thick, garlicky daal of some description. As the cheese itself is quite flavourless it lends itself to being mixed with punchy flavours and spices. This Tikka Paneer and Pilaf is one of those meals which you start in the morning before work (mixing the marinade) and then finish off in the evening. And, as usual, it’s ready in around 30 minutes and won’t break the bank; a perfect vegetarian midweek meal.
You will need (for four):
- 225g paneer cheese, cut into cubes £1.50
- 3-4 medium tomatoes, quartered £0.40
- 2 tbsp tikka paste £0.15
- 2 tbsp plain yoghurt £0.15
Wholesome food always makes you feel good; it’s made from humble ingredients and is full of good things like beans, vegetables and whole grains. I normally eat slow cooked, what I would describe as wholesome, meals in the autumn and winter but this easy white bean stew with purple sprouting broccoli is the perfect dish for this time of year. It’s quick and easy to make, is full of seasonal vegetables and is absolutely delicious. Using seasonal veg not only makes the best of what’s around but means it’s super cheap to cook up too, feeding four people for around £4.50 (most of what I used was organic too!).
You will need (for two hearty bowls):
- 1 large leek, sliced £0.40
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced £0.10
- Olive oil for cooking £0.10
- 2 carrots, diced £0.10
- 2 bay leaves £0.05
- 2 cans cannellini beans, drained £1.30
- 500ml vegetable stock £0.30
- Handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped £0.20
- Purple sprouting broccoli, woody ends removed (4-5 stems each) £1.75
- 1 lemon £0.30
- Salt and pepper £0.05
Total price £4.65
Get a casserole pan on a medium heat and add a little oil. Stir the garlic in and stir briefly before adding the carrots, leek and bay leaves. Add a dash of water (2-3 tbsp is all) then leave everything to soften for around 10 minutes.
Add the beans and stock and then simmer everything for 10-15 minutes with a lid half on.
Fill a pan with a steamer with a little water then get it on to boil.
Check the stew, it should be like a thick soup, you can add a little water if you need to thin it out then season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Stir through the parsley.
When the water is boiling steam the broccoli for 2 minutes then remove and squeeze over the juice from the lemon and a good grinding of black pepper.
Serve with nice crusty bread.
This is one of my favourite dishes and one that I can see myself returning to again and again. It’s also vegan, which I realised afterwards so if you’re looking to expand your vegan cooking repertoire then I can recommend this as an excellent place to start! It’s lovely to have the seasonal purple sprouting broccoli as the star of the dish and the acidity the lemon brings cuts through the comfort of the bean stew. I also normally have some sort of white bean in my cupboards and I think it would work with any of them. If you make double the amount it’s also very tasty served as a soup the next day. I would advise serving this with crusty bread so you have something to mop up the juices from the stew.
I’m not sure quite what’s happened but all of a sudden I find myself spending over £50 a week on food shopping. I know, it’s not a shocking amount and it’s certainly less than I know other people spend but it’s twice as much as I used to spend. I didn’t really notice it creeping up over time and I haven’t really changed what I eat (less meat if anything) but it irritates me nonetheless. There’s only so many beans and lentils one person can eat in a week so thrifty meals are essential to give plenty of variation. My sticky chilli pork is quick, tasty and feeds four people for less than £6.
You will need:
- Oil for cooking £0.02
- 2 pork chops £2.00
- Salt and pepper £0.02
- 3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce £0.25
- 4 noodle nests £1.00
- 2-3 spring onions, sliced £0.10
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds £0.07
- 1 small pepper, sliced £0.60
For the dressing:
- 2 tsp soy sauce £0.07
- Juice 1/2 lime £0.15
- 1 garlic clove, crushed £0.02
- 1 small piece ginger, peeled and grated £0.05
Total cost: £4.35
Cut any fat off the pork chops and slice into strips. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a frying pan or wok and add a little oil. Add the pork strips and fry until golden.
While the pork is cooking cook the noodles according to packet instructions.
Mix the ingredients for the dressing together.
When the pork is cooked through, add the sweet chilli sauce and continue to cook until the pork is coated and glossy. The sauce will thicken a bit.
Drain the noodles and stir the dressing through to stop them sticking.
Serve the noodles with the pepper, spring onion and sesame seeds and top with the sticky chilli pork.
I think this is a pretty well balanced meal; veg, carbs, protein and a little bit of naughty sweet chilli sauce on the side. For something to enjoy in the week when I want something quick and simple this is the kind of thing I cook. It is also delicious with chicken and I’m yet to try it with tofu. I’ve got a few other budget meals to see here and I’m trying to grow these recipes more and more. If you’ve got anything you’d like to see thrifty, let me know!
I’ve never much been a fan of chilli cone carne; I’ll eat it but usually it’s a bit harsh and acidic for me because of the tinned tomatoes and I’m not that keen on kidney beans. However, I love the principal of it; plenty of chilli, spice and flavour and I’ve been working on my own version for a while. I think I’ve cracked it. My Lentil and Black Bean Chilli has all the same flavour but none of the meat; I promise, you won’t miss the minced beef at all. I’ve said this is enough for four but actually it’s probably enough for six and it’s amazing with homemade guacamole and plenty of rice.
You will need:
I don’t know about you but during the week when it comes to cooking dinner I want something quick, easy and full of flavour. It’s also a winner if it’s cheap to make and uses up a few bits and bobs I have hanging around in the fridge too. Keema rice is one of my guilty pleasures; I love the heavily spiced lamb, golden onions and fragrant rice. I thought it was about time I attempted to make it at home.
You will need (for 4):
- 250g easy cook, long grain rice £0.35
- 2 cloves £0.02
- 2 cardamom pods £0.02
- 1 bay leaf £0.02
- 300g lamb mince £2.40
- 1 small tin peas, drained £0.30
- 1 onion, finely chopped £0.10
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed £0.10
- Handful mushrooms, chopped £0.35
- Oil for cooking £0.02
- 2 tsp garam masala £0.02
- 1 tsp ground cumin £0.02
- Salt and pepper £0.02
- Fresh coriander £0.15
Gently fry the cloves, cardamom and bay in a saucepan with a little oil. Add the rice and stir well to coat in the oil and spices.
Pour in 500ml water and put a lid on. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
Simmer for 10 minutes, check occasionally and top up with water if needed. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for five minutes; the rice should be perfectly cooked. Remove the spices.
Put the onion and garlic into a large frying pan and fry for 10-15 minutes on a medium heat.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and turn the heat up. Keep everything cooking until golden brown.
Mix the lamb mince with the cumin, salt, pepper and garam masala. Add the lamb to the frying pan and fry until brown.
Add the peas for a minute or two before adding the rice and giving everything one final mix.
Serve up and top with some fresh coriander.
I really liked the flavours and textures in this; the rice had a lovely fragrance from the spices it was cooked with, the peas added a sweetness, the mushrooms gave an earthy flavour and the coriander a freshness. The lamb was nicely spiced; I’d be tempted to add a little chilli powder next time for a bit of heat. Although not identical to my takeaway favourite at less than £1 a portion this will be making a regular appearance on the dinner table.
In case you were wondering, I would have preferred to use frozen peas but as I now don’t have a freezer I have switched to tinned peas. They aren’t quite as green but for dishes like this or cottage pie they add a lovely texture and sweetness. I think I’m officially a tinned pea fan.
It’s a funny time of year now, the days and dates get all a bit confused and everyone is in a state of simultaneous post Christmas relaxation and start of year enthusiasm. I use it as a time to reflect on the last year (of cooking and life in general) and also as a way to think about what I might like to do and try for the upcoming year. Below is a list of my ten favourite recipes from the last 12 months; although of course they are all my favourite these are my extra special favourite ones.
Working from left to right from the top (as you would read a book) the posts are as follows:
Green Clementine Fruit Salad with Mint and Vanilla Syrup
This is a really lovely way to use some of the more unusual green clementines that you can find and I was amazed at how just a little bit of syrup can make such a huge flavour transformation. Recipe here.
Luxury Leek and Potato Soup with Homemade Soda Bread
Leek and Potato Soup is such a classic and I’m yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like it. My luxury version is made with chives and double cream but makes enough soup and soda bread to feed for people for less than £4. Recipe here.
Elderflower and Blueberry Jelly
Elderflower reminds me so much of late spring and last year I made my first batch of elderflower cordial which I used in various ways but I think my favourite way was in this delicate elderflower and blueberry jelly. Recipe here.
Beetroot Tzatziki, Beef Koftas and Quick Flatbreads
I love beetroot and am always looking for new ways to use it; beetroot tzatziki was a revelation! So good with quick homemade flatbreads and spiced beef koftas this became a summer staple. Recipe here.
Malted Chocolate Biscuits
Malted anything is always welcomed by me and these malted chocolate biscuits remind me so much of when I was younger as it was one of the first recipes I made from my very first cook book. Recipe here.
Maple Salted Popcorn
Making popcorn at home is so easy (and so cheap!) and it’s great to have a lovely big warm bowl ready to watch a film. I experimented with a few flavours last year but maple salted popcorn was definitely a winner. Recipe here.
I love sweetcorn fresh from the cob and chunky soups are also one of my favourite things. This smoky, chunky soup of sweetcorn, potato and bacon in a full flavoured creamy soup is one of my favourite things ever. And for two big bowls it costs less than £3. Recipe here.
Wild Garlic Gnocchi with Mozzarella and Wild Garlic Oil
If you don’t already know I do like to go out and find wild food and wild garlic is one of the best to start with as it’s so distinctive. Picked wild and then turned into gnocchi (easier than I thought!) it’s a great way to use the leaves and flowers. Recipe here.
Victoria Sponge with Rhubarb and Vanilla Compote
When the rhubarb arrives in the veg box it means spring is just around the corner and making this lovely pink rhubarb and vanilla compote is a brilliant way to celebrate its arrival. Even better in a cake. Recipe here.
Caramelised Fennel and Salami Pizza
I worked on perfecting my pizza base and sauce recipe and it all came together superbly in my caramelised fennel and salami pizza. Whenever I get fennel it’s more than likely it will end up as this! Recipe here.
For 2015 I want to practice baking a bit more and also look at creating some slightly healthier bakes, not all the time though I am a fan of a bit of indulgence. I also want to see if I can veggie up some of the meat dishes I cook regularly for a bit of variety. We shall see what this year brings! Happy 2015 to you!
I don’t know about you but I find it difficult to know what to cook when it’s hot. I don’t want to be hanging around the oven or hob making unnecessary heat but I also don’t want to eat cold food all the time. The worst thing about it is having to do the washing up (no dishwasher in my house!) when all you really want to do is sit outside. I think this meal of Greek salad, hummus and pitta bread is a great compromise; there isn’t too much clearing up afterwards and the toasted pitta bread means that it’s not an entirely cold meal.
I hadn’t done a vegetarian option for my Feed 4 for £6 series for a little while so I thought it was about time I did. I am a big fan of recipes which involve putting ingredients into a pan, putting a lid on and leaving it to its own devices and this is one of those. If you can’t find paneer for this recipe you can use halloumi but it’s saltier. All you need otherwise is onions, carrots, peas, curry powder and rice. Sorted.
|You will need (for 4):
|Rapeseed oil for frying
|1 medium onion, diced
|2 medium carrots, diced
|200g frozen peas
|250g basmati rice
|2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
|2 heaped tsp curry powder
|700ml hot vegetable stock
|Salt and pepper
|225g paneer, cubed
Heat around 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the onion, carrot and garlic. Fry for around 10 minutes or until softened.