I haven’t posted for a while. A combination of doing volunteering work, my Dad passing away and securing a new job has zapped my energy and enthusiasm. But as if I didn’t know already, the scales confirmed that I need to get back with it and maybe in doing so life will become more enjoyable.
I rarely get excited about a soup recipe – home-made versions are better for you and lower in calories compared to saltier tinned equivalents, but can still lack taste. However, Mexican Street Corn Soup from Pinch of Nom did capture my imagination and I was thrilled with the end result. The chopped green chilli and chilli powder give it plenty of ooomph and there’s a nice balance of flavours along with the red pepper, sweetcorn, potato and feta. This is one soup dish that I’ll return to again and again, plus it’s only approx 70p per serving to make and 199 calories (not 99 as printed by the Sun newspaper when plugging PON’s latest book earlier this year).
The Hairy Dieters has an ‘Awesome Oats’ section in their second book and after enjoying banana and pecan porridge from it I decided to try Porridge with Spiced Plums. This recipe was similarly delightful – the creamy, warm soothing oats topped with fruit and a hint of spice from the star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg (optional). Wonderful.
When I used to commute to Birmingham (prior to the pandemic), grumpy office workers would queue to pay £2.50 for a bang average bowl of porridge from a café. This infinitely better version from the Hairy Dieters works out at roughly 60p per portion. That’s proper awesome oats!
Cooking with tinned ingredients has become more popular since the pandemic due to supermarket shortages and people needing to eat more frugally after sadly losing their jobs or livelihoods. Thankfully, you can still eat healthily and imaginatively with tinned goods and Three-Bean Cowboy Stew from Two Chubby Cubs is a belly-busting vegetable stew which you can make for less than £1 per head.
You’ll need a few fresh ingredients and dried herbs (see below) to make the tins sing, but nothing out of the ordinary. This dish might not look particularly appetising, however it’s tasty and will provide 6 generous portions which those with big appetites can serve with a small portion of rice.
Cowboy stew is best known to contain meat, so if you’re looking for a meat-based alternative check out campfire stew which uses gammon.
You might think Easy Sun-dried Tomato Pasta from Two Chubby Cubs isn’t up to much from my photo, but think again. This flavoursome, quick vege pasta recipe is one of my favourite dishes of 2021 so far. It’s so simple, yet so tasty despite requiring just seven ingredients, and costs just 40p per serving. Superb!
Breakfast Potatoes from Pinch of Nom is a lighter version of an American brunch dish which you can top with a fried egg (as I did) or some avocado. It’s not the quickest to make, so is probably better suited for a weekend.
My shoddy photo really doesn’t do justice to Pulled Chicken Baked Sliders from Pinch of Nom. The BBQ chicken, melted cheese in a bun combo transports you into an American diner with the added bonus that this costs less than £1 per head to make. The only thing missing is the fries on the side!
The recipe below is for 9 people (yes, 9), but just scale down accordingly depending on how many you are feeding. There is a long list of ingredients and, although it tastes good, the effort required to make this recipe is disproportionate unless you’ve got copious amounts of time on your hands. From start to finish, this took me about 2 hours, which is way too long to knock together a leisurely weekend lunch.
There are some fabulous recipes in Pinch of Nom’s new book – Quick and Easy. But rather like crispy chili beef (which I featured on this blog last week), some of the prep times are way too ambitious. If you just want a no-faff sandwich or wrap, click here for some ideas.
Justine Pattison has provided a slimming friendly version of the classic French Onion Soup recipe which will feed 6 people for less than 50p a head! There is something really comforting about this soup and the extra cooking time to slowly cook the onions (don’t let them burn!) is worth the wait.
Justine recommends using the nuttiness of Gruyere cheese to put on the thin baguette slices, but any hard cheese will do. And if you can’t get your mits on a baguette as I couldn’t, then thin slices of garlic bread are a good substitute but do factor in the extra calories.
If you’ve got some eggs and odds and sods in your fridge that need using up, shove them in a frittata. Pinch of Nom’s thrifty version uses bacon, potato and spring onions which are a great combo, but chuck in what you like. If you’re after a vege version, check out vegetable frittata. Ideal for brunch or a light lunch with a green salad on the side.
I frown when I hear people say ‘they can’t afford to cook’, or worse, ‘I can’t afford to buy healthy, fresh food’. There’s a difference between being genuinely skint, as opposed to not knowing how to cook from scratch. The lines between both statements often get blurred.
Pasta Arrabbiata from Pinch of Nom is a really easy and affordable vegetarian recipe to get even the most nervous and sceptical of cooks into the kitchen. It can be rustled up for about 50p per serving in 30 minutes. Arrabbiata sauce is a traditional Italian, spicy sauce made from garlic and dried chilli peppers. This recipe requires 1 tsp of chilli flakes, but heat freaks might want to up the ante by finely dicing a normal red chilli to give it more of a kick.
There are many variations of French Toast but some can be particularly high in calories. This awesome lighter version from the Hairy Dieters is under 300 calories and less than a £1 per serving! But best of all, this tastes unbelievable and so indulgent with the apple compote, cinnamon, maple syrup, Greek yoghurt and blackberries dolloped over a slice of eggy bread. Pure heaven!
Coronation Chicken, if bought from a supermarket, can be really unhealthy. But this alternative sandwich filling suggestion from Two Chubby Cubs is much kinder to your waistline and tastes sensational.
Once your chicken is cooked, it’s just a case of mixing together light mayo, mango chutney and a dash of curry powder together and sprinkling over a few sultanas. Yummy! For more fast sandwich and wraps ideas, check out the relevant section on this blog here.
Spending 45 minutes to make Cream of TomatoSoup might seem pointless when you can just crack open a tin of Heinz or Baxters, but can we please all agree that tinned soup is shite and loaded with salt? This home-made version from Justine Pattison is ace with a swirl of chive cream and less than 150 calories per serving.
Despite barely leaving the house, having no social engagements or work commute costs, January has been a tight month financially for us. Intending to finish 2020 with a bang after what had been the shitest year on record, we went overboard on buying generous family Christmas gifts and enough ‘naughty’ food and booze we could consume. I guess I’m fortunate that we were able to do so in the first place.
But this month we’ve been ‘skint’, so I’ve tried to go back to ‘basics’ by making cheap, healthy meals. Spaghetti with Broccoli & Anchovies from BBC Good Food is entirely forgettable, however at around 62p per serving it’s a wonderfully affordable option when you want a thrifty pasta dish.
I loved it, mainly because I had all of the ingredients in. My wife hated it, mainly because I burnt the breadcrumbs. I pointed out she was nitpicking and that they were merely ‘well done’. But yeah anyway…. keep an eye on the breadcrumbs and don’t burn them, ok? If you love pasta and are wondering what to do with any leftover anchovies, then pasta puttanesca is the absolute dish to go for and is also cheap to make.
Cassoulet is a classic French dish and Pinch of Nom include a budget-friendly version in their second book using diced pork and beans. Don’t be fooled by my photo – I made this for 3 people and hence my portion size was huge (but still only 444 calories). But if making this for 6, as Pinch of Nom suggest, then you’ll still be full up if you have it with some healthy mash on the side.
Do try and use vegetable and red wine stock pots to enhance the taste (rather than cheap stock cubes), along with fresh thyme leaves if you can get them, otherwise this Pork Cassoulet dish could taste a tad bland. The Hairy Dieters do an all-singing, all-dancing cassoulet recipe in their first book which includes chicken, gammon and sausages, along with some orange zest and parsley. It’s a beast of a dish, but my son loves it ,so I’ll try and feature it on the blog next month.
Sausage Hash is the first recipe I’ve tried from Lorna Cooper’sFeed your Family for £20 a week book and she also runs a very popular Facebook group based around the same concept. Although I’ve not put Lorna’s budget-saving ideas to the test yet, this particular breakfast dish can be made for less than 50p per portion.
But 2 sausages, 2 tomatoes, an onion and a tin of diced new potatoes (or 4 cooked potatoes) doesn’t stretch particularly far between four people, and I’ll confess that I ended up making this for just me and my teenage son Will when I was feeling hungover one morning! The addition of the grated cheese on top totally hit the spot and I’d have no hesitation in making this again, whether I was feeling delicate or not!
With the temperatures falling below zero in many parts of the UK, it’s high time I included more soup recipes on this blog. And I can’t think of a better one to start with than Cauliflower Cheese Soup from the Hairy Dieters.
Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable and it tastes exquisite here when blended with cheese, milk and wholegrain mustard for a smooth and creamy finish. The recipe quantities will serve 4 people generously for 233 calories and at just 68p per portion. Forget tinned soup when you can conjure up home-made varieties as good as this. Superb.
For more exotic soup ideas, check out the soup section on this blog here.
A turning courgette was my motivation for trying Vegetable Frittata from the Hairy Dieters, but it had already gone off when I finally got round to making it. Now for someone who has to follow every recipe to the letter this represented a major crisis. One glass of wine later, I came to my senses and realised that this was a frittata after all, and the whole premise of a frittata is that basically anything goes when you’re throwing it together.
In the Hairy Dieters’ version, they suggest using courgette, red pepper, red onions, butternut squash, broccoli and green beans, but honestly, just use whatever spare vege you have that needs using up. This is a cheap fall-back option when you’ve got some eggs and vegetables in your fridge but don’t know what to do with them.
Don’t let my appalling cutting skills deter you (by this time I’d had two glasses of wine), this will comfortably serve 4 people with a salad on the side, if you like.
My local Italian restaurant charges £4.95 for bruschetta, but you can pretty much recreate the classic flavours yourself for about a quid with Justine Pattison’sTomatoes on Toasted Sourdough recipe and knock it up in 10 minutes. Bravo!
It’s ironic. Prior to lockdown, I could never get my hands on sourdough bread when visiting my local supermarkets. But now I’ve switched to online shopping deliveries I can get this luxury bread and it’s a perfect snack for any time of the day. Just use some good quality olive oil and maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar if you’re feeling fancy.
Lemon Chicken with Honey and Rosemary is the first Gino D’Acampo recipe that I’ve featured on this blog and it’s a cracker from the Italian chef turned celebrity. Lemon, honey and rosemary makes for such a delectable combination and they made the chicken drumsticks and potatoes taste delicious after being slowly baked in the oven.
This is such a simple, wonderfully tasting meal that you can make for less than £1 per head. Chicken drumsticks are fantastic value. The ones from supermarkets are ok, but you’ll get more meat for your buck from a butcher if you can afford it.
Is there anything more comforting than a steaming jacket potato when the weather is cold and crappy? The Hairy Dieters include recipes for baked potatoes in their second (Eat for Life) and sixth books (Make it Easy) and they are a handy option to fall back on when you want something easy, cheap and nourishing to eat.
I tried their no frills Jaunty Jacket Potato with Cheesy Beans Filling andit was just what I needed on a freezing, wet day. A word of caution though to those counting every calorie. In this recipe you only get just over 100g of baked beans per person (based on serving 4), which isn’t a lot. There are approximately 169 calories per 225g potato, and 280 calories in total by adding the beans, light-cheese triangle and spring onions.
You can cook your jackets in a microwave if pushed for time, but I prefer to bake mine in the oven for an hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes so they go nice and crispy, topped with some good quality baked beans, like Branston.