Monday, 8 July 2013

A quick and easy pasta dish- perfect for summer picnics!

I love love love this recipe. It's a bit of a cheek to even call it a recipe, it is the simplest but tastiest pasta dish in the world. The secret ingredient? Sun dried tomatoes. These little bad boys, in a jar of oil (£1.35 in asda but available everywhere) are my new Top Ingredient. I have never really used much of them before but honestly, they are worth trying in this simple dish. Tossing the al dente pasta in the flavoured oil with a few fresh ingredients (from the herb garden darling!) is guaranteed to make me feel more luxurious than frugal. And Mr Frugal and Miss Frugal agree. So, winner, winner. Pasta dinner!

Sundried tomatoe and basil pasta
Serves 4

500g dried pasta eg fusili
1 small jar of Sundried tomatoes
1 large onion
1 big handful of parsley
As much basil as you have/can handle
Any other ingredients you fancy such as sweetcorn, mushrooms, olives etc.

1. Cook the pasta until al dente
2. In a frying pan fry chopped Sundried tomatoes, onions and other ingredients you may choose (not herbs) using the oil from Sundried tomatoes.
3. Add pasta and toss about until all pasta coated in oil.
4. Add basil and parsley and cook until slightly wilted. Season well with salt and pepper.
5. Serve with salad/garlic bread/meat or leave to cool and eat in packed lunches.

As with all things I make this recipe is just my starting point. I add whatever I have although always the tomatoes. I estimate this costs:
Tomatoes: £1.35 (asda)
Pasta: 50p (asda)
Onion: 40p (average cost)
Herbs: Free

So, £2.25 and it is plenty for 2 evening meals and 2 lunches (so 4 meals altogether) So 56p a meal, bargain when you consider the taste!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Bread (of heaven)

Have you noticed how much the price of a loaf of bread has increased lately?! Especially if, like most, it is one of those items you rely on the "corner shop" for midweek. A quick scan in mine shows you cannot buy a decent loaf for under £1.30. Sure, they have that value bread that is of questionable quality, very rubbery and all together quite "yuck" that I will admit we have resorted to on occasion. But we have worked out that it costs under 40p to make a high quality loaf with no hidden nasties, no additives/flavourings/preservatives. And it makes your house smell like a home. Convinced? Give it a go!

So what's the alternative? As always, the cheaper option is DIY. I was always put off making bread as I thought it was something you could only do with considerable skill and/or a bread maker. Happily not so. Below is my super easy bread recipe but Google throw up a million variations and I'm sure with a little practise they would all be lovely!

White Bread

500g strong white bread flour (extra for dusting)
7g sachet of yeast
2tsp salt
300ml hand hot water
3 dessert spoons olive/sunflower oil


Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl
Make a well in the centre of mix
Add oil and water in well
Mix thoroughly until a non sticky dough forms. (If sticky add a little more flour)
Knead well on floured surface for 10mins (very therapeutic actually!!)
When smooth pop back in bowl, cover with tea towel and leave in warm place for 1 hour-until dough doubles
Remove from bowl and 'knock back' by kneading for 1-2 mins
Shape dough into whatever shape you prefer (remember to cut a cross in top of loaf) or transfer to loaf tin (score a line down the centre of loaf)
Leave to rise for 1 hour in warm place
Preheat oven to 220c or GM 7 and put loaf in centre of oven for 25-30 mins
To check if cooked tap the base of loaf- if it sounds hollow it is cooked.

TIP- Add a roasting tray with a cup of cold water to base of oven to create a shinier more crusty crust.

TIP- Use oil instead of flour when kneading the dough- this will result in softer bread. I haven't tried this one!

If my Mama ever set foot outside that kitchen, I'd say "Hey Woman, get back in there and make me a pie!"

Now more than ever it is important to have a few tricks up our sleeves when it comes to creating our family meals. We are still all very much feeling the pinch at the moment. Many workers have lost jobs or had hours cut as companies attempt to stay afloat. Add this to the increased cost of living with petrol and utility costs seemingly creeping up by the day. Then when (if) we have managed to pay the bills we still have to eat. And lets be honest, in the modern world, war style food just doesn't cut it. We are so used to treats and banquet meals in and out with huge portions and choices of side orders that we feel positively cheated if we have to eat jacket potatoes every night of the week!

So, as always, I have tried to find a few little tricks to keep meal times fun, family occasions where the food is plentiful, mainly healthy and definitely frugal. I know not everyone likes to spend every evening in the kitchen preparing meals and trying to do wonders with a wilted lettuce but sometimes, if we want to be getting anywhere near a balanced diet on a budget, it has to be done.

If I only have enough money for a few store cupboard essentials I will make sure I always have a good stock of:

  • Flour- Self Raising, Plain and Bread flour.
  • Salt- cooking/table salt
  • Olive Oil- although other oils can usually be substituted 
  • A large tub of cooking butter (whatever is on offer)
  • A few blocks of solid fat eg stork, lard etc
  • Sugar- as many varieties as possible but always Caster and Granulated
  • Sachets of fast acting Yeast

Keeping these ingredients alone means that I can use leftover meat, vegetables and salad stuff to create the next meal on a super scrimping budget. I make:
  • Bread
  • Naan Bread
  • Tortilla Wraps
  • Pizza Bases
  • Pastry
This is just a small selection and I am constantly adding new ones to this. Do you have any recipes you can share? I will be posting my own favourite recipes over the next few days but Google is packed full of ideas- BBC Good Food is well frequented website in the Edwards household!

So, the next time you have a few past their best tomatoes, a can of sweetcorn and a small lump of cheese left in the house to feed you all consider making a pizza or calzone. With a few tricks up our sleeve we can provide nice meals at low prices!

In the meantime check out my home made bread, it costs approx 30p a loaf. Cheaper, healthier and one heck of a lot tastier than any of the budget breads out there. Can you afford not to?