Sunday, 30 January 2011

Corn Soup

I'll admit it doesn't look like much in all its beigeness, but corn soup is one of those cheap and easy throw together soups that takes almost no time to prepare and cook and it taste delicious. As sweet and light as you need it to be in Summer while still being a great canvas to carry a bit of stodge in Winter, it's a versatile little bowlful for any time of the year.


2 roasted red peppers, chopped*
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tbls vegetable oil
4 cups of sweetcorn (fresh or frozen)
3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup of milk or cream
salt and pepper to taste

* For roasted red peppers you can either take two red peppers and char them on a grill until black, pop them in a plastic bag for ten minutes or so and then remove all the skin and innards, or you can do like I do and keep a jar of roasted red peppers in the fridge. They're even cheaper than buying fresh most of the year too.
  • Start by sweating the onion in a large pan in the oil over a low heat until they soften, adding a little salt to the onion helps it release its juice a little quicker.

  • Once the onions have softened, add the red peppers and sweetcorn and stir to combine.

  • Add the chicken stock, bring the soup up to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the corn is tender.

  • Remove the soup from the heat and blend. I use a stick blender for this because I like this soup pulpy with a few chunks but if you prefer a smooth soup use a blender or food processor.

  • Transfer the soup back to the pan, add the milk or cream and season to taste. Bring the soup back up to a simmer and serve.
I like to use quite a lot of black pepper when I make this for a warmth that builds up to heat while I'm eating, but you can also add some fresh chili if you like.

The soup is also good with some crumbled crispy bacon stirred through, or add some cooked cubed potatoes and a handful of leftover shredded chicken on cold days for a more substantial meal.

You can also make a large pot of this soup and keep in the fridge for easy lunches all week, just leave out the milk when you first make it. Blend the soup and store in the fridge, then add a splash of milk as you reheat each bowlful.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Watercress Soup

After Chloe arrived home from school in the last week of term with a thimble full of watercress which quickly became a hedgerow once she'd planted it in the garden, I had to find a way of using it.  Daily salads just weren't cutting through it fast enough and it was threatening to overtake the garden.

To say that this is a recipe is probably a bit of a stretch as it's incredibly simple to make, but it was also delicious so here we go ...

A large bunch of fresh watercress
1 medium/large leek or 3-4 spring onions
2 medium potatoes, peeled or washed, whichever you prefer
Small knob of butter
1.5 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
A dairy of your choice, I used single cream, but creme fraiche, sour cream or even some soft cream cheese would be lovely.
Salt and Pepper to taste

Start by removing the watercress leaves from the stalks and set to one side.

Chop the watercress stalks, spring onions (or leeks) and potatoes and sweat for a few minutes in the butter over a medium heat.  Don't let the veg take on any colour, you just want them to start to soften in the butter.  Add the stock and bring up to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook, covered for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool a little before blending until smooth, you can transfer it to a blender if you prefer though I used a stick blender.  Add the watercress leaves and blend again until smooth.  Season to taste.

Bring the soup back to simmering point and serve with a splash of cream (or whatever you prefer) and some good crusty bread.

The soup is surprisingly rich for so few and such simple ingredients and this recipe will make about four adult sized portions.

You don't really need to bother with the garnish, but it does make for a pretty photo.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Crowd Pleaser Chicken

I've made over a hundred pieces of this chicken today and didn't even break a sweat doing it.

When Summer rolls around my favourite meals are often the quickest and easiest to throw together and this chicken fits the bill perfectly.

Another plus is that it tastes even better served at room temp than it does hot which takes the pressure off the cook to have everything ready at the same time and in the full heat of Summer it can be left to marinade over night and baked first thing in the morning when turning the oven on isn't as big an issue as it is in the evening.

Firstly I want to deal with the chicken. Use whichever cuts of chicken your family like best but keep in mind that this marinade tastes best when used on the darker meat so it's best to stick with drumsticks or thighs. Once you have your chicken in front of you, make two deep cuts in each piece of meat. If you are cooking this chicken and planning to serve some to children its worth pointing out that it is quite spicy. What I always do is choose 2/3 smaller cuts of chicken for Chloe and don't score those, then before I give it to her I remove the skin. The skin allows some of the sweetness and the smallest amount of heat to seep into the chicken but protects it from the bulk of the spice and it means I don't have to marinade and cook two separate batches of chicken. Chloe loves it and she's generally a very anti-spice child.


3lb chicken pieces (roughly 20 pieces depending on size)

3 tblsp dark brown sugar
1 tblsp paprika (smoked, sweet or regular)
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

4 tblsp oil of choice

Place all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and add the oil to make a loose paste.

Add the chicken pieces and use your hands to turn and coat each piece of chicken thoroughly. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge to marinade for at least an hour or you can leave it over night.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place a wire rack over a large roasting pan or tray and load it up with chicken pieces. The rack isn't absolutely necessary but it does save you having to turn the chicken once or twice while it's cooking. Bake the chicken in the oven for 35-40 minutes, then remove it from the oven and leave to rest for at least 10-15 minutes or better yet, leave it to cool completely before serving.

And enjoy.

And even a couple of pieces for the kiddies too.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Cheap Eats

The time is very nearly here. I've been helping a friend out by covering her maternity leave while Chloe is at school, but in less than two short weeks that will come to an end which means that if I'm not selling I won't be earning.

What better time to start cooking and enjoying cheaper meals and Summer really is a great time to cut back on food spending. We're lucky enough to have a bunch of fresh herbs and veggies in the garden that I'll be making use of and you can't beat the cheaper cuts of meat like chicken legs and wings, pork ribs and the humble burger cooked up on the barbecue.

I'll also be posting more recipes as I come up with ones I'm happy with and ones I'm confident will work for everyone. I'll be cooking only with foods in season as they'll be the cheapest and the most tasty and looking at ways of adding lots of flavour for as little money as possible using things like pork belly.

I've already a handful of great, cheap recipes here I can rely on for basic things like chapatis which help to fill out any meal, as with any breads like soda bread, focaccia and fake-accia, a quick knock up which lies somewhere between soda bread and the traditional yeasted bread.

I'll cover breakfasts, soups, salads, sides, main dishes and sweets all in an effort to find good, enjoyable food and cut the cost of our food bill at the same time.

Hopefully there won't be too many failures along the way.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Lemon Squares

This is a really quick and easy food processor recipe, but it does mean that I have naff all in the way of "in progress" photos:)


Preheat oven to 180C (350F)


2 cups plain flour
1 cup cold butter, in smallish pieces
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup coconut - flaked or desiccated

Lemon Layer

1/4 cup plain flour
2 cups white caster sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking powder

Greased and lined 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan

Place all the ingredients for the base into the food processor and process until it looks like wet sand. Press the crumb mixture into the base of the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

While the base is baking in the oven, put all ingredients for the lemon layer into the food processor and blend for two or three minutes until well combined and to let the sugar begin to dissolve into the eggs and lemon.

Pour the lemon mixture over the base while it's still hot and bake again for 20-25 minutes until the surface of the lemon mixture is crisp and golden. It's easier to do the pouring if you just leave the baking pan in the oven and slide the shelf it's sitting on out of the oven slightly to make it easier to get at, rather than try to carry it back to the oven full of liquid.

Once baked remove the baking pan from the oven and place on a wire rack, then leave the squares in the pan until complete cool and cut into squares ready to serve.

The lemony layer is very like a firm set lemon curd with a very light and crispy topping.


Monday, 5 April 2010

Non Bread Tasty Loaf Thingy

A friend likes to call this cinnamon and apple soda bread, because it uses soda as a raising agent, but my dad disagrees as it doesn't use buttermilk. He likes to call it a tea bread because that's generally when he eats it, but because it isn't made with tea and doesn't contain yeast I disagree about the whole tea bread theory or even the bread bit to begin with.

It's closest relative is the muffin but because of the size almost everybody disagrees with me. Though if I make individual ones in muffin cases, they'll happily play along.

What everyone does agree on is that it tastes really good, warm or cold and it gets even better as each day passes. It's the perfect little loaf to make in the evening so you can drift off to sleep to the smell of warm cinnamon (perhaps with a slice already in your belly) and wake up to a fat slice for breakfast, spread with a little butter or jam.


Preheat oven to 180C (350F)

1 1/2 cups plain flour (dug in cup fulls from the bag)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white caster sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed firmly)
1 teaspoon bicarb/baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon (we love cinnamon but you can half this amount for a more subtle flavour)

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup applesauce

Place all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine. It's usually easier to scrunch the brown sugar through the rest of the ingredients with your hand.

Place the wet ingredients into a jug or another bowl and again give them a good mix.

Dump the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined, don't worry too much about little lumps, especially where the brown sugar is concerned. Pour the batter into a 2lb loaf tin and spread it around a bit to level it.

This batter starts to rise pretty quickly, even in just the time it takes to mix in the bowl and pour into the tin, the batter will have become almost mousse like. Place the tin in the preheated oven and bake for at least an hour.

It takes about an hour and 15 minutes in my oven, slighter longer in mum's and as much as 90 minutes at a friend's house, but after an hour test for doneness with a skewer. It's ready when moist crumbs cling to the skewer rather than any batter.

Leave it in the tin to cool for about ten minutes and then turn out. It will have a light fluffy crumb on the inside and a crisp crust which softens once it is completely cooled.

Serve hot from the oven, cold the next day or warmed slightly under the grill with or without butter and jam.

You can of course make up this recipe and make individual muffins. It will make about a dozen large muffins and they take about 30 minutes to bake and make a great breakfast on the go.


Tuesday, 16 February 2010


Most of the time I'll admit that when I head into the kitchen to bake something, my only purpose in doing so it to make sure there is something good in the house to eat or to occupy an easily bored four year old. On those occasions I break out the old faithful recipes, the all in one variety which results in a delicious cake or treat without too much effort on my part.

However, I do really love to bake and when the notion takes me and I find myself with an abundance of free time on my hands, second on my list of" must makes" are scones (beaten from the top spot by bread).

Scones are one of my all time favourite things to bake. There's something very comforting in the familiarity and old fashionedness of scones. I make them, just as I was taught, with my hands.

The recipe for a basic scone dough is simple enough and you'll likely have all the ingredients handy. I think this may be a WI recipe, as it is, I found it scribbled in a notebook which belonged to my mother in law.


500g plain flour
1 heaped tsp bicarb
2 tsp cream of tartar
125g cold butter, cut into cubes or dipped in flour and grated a la Delia
35g caster sugar
1 large beaten egg (reserve one tblsp)
250ml milk


1 tblsp reserved beaten egg and 1 tblsp milk combined

Oven Temp

220C (425F)

Start by preheating your oven. Sift the flour, bicarb and cream of tartar into a large bowl.

Add the cubed or grated butter to the flour mixture and rub in gently with the fingertips, giving the bowl a quick shake every now and then to raise any lumps of butter to the surface. Once the butter is completely rubbed into the flour (it will have a sandy consistency) stir in the caster sugar.

Next add the beaten egg (remembering to reserve one tablespoon) to the milk, mix to combine and add the milk and egg to the flour mixture in the bowl. Using a blunt knife or palette knife, quickly mix the wet ingredients into the dry.

The dough will be very soft and ever so slightly sticky, but you should still be able to handle it if you move quickly.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured counter top. Flour the palms of your hands or dust the surface of the dough with a little flour and pat it down until your dough it about 2 cm thick.

Flour a 2.5 inch cutter and cut out the scones. You can very gently press the offcuts of this dough together to cut a second batch of scones. I usually get about 20 scones from this recipe.

Place the scones about 2 inches apart on a floured cookie sheet and brush the tops with the glaze. You can also sprinkle a little sugar on top of the glaze if you like them sweeter.

Place the scones in the oven and bake for 10-13 minutes until they're risen and the tops are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, but only slightly, they're very good eaten still warm.


Fruit Scones - add 100g of any dried fruit to the dry flour mixture before adding the egg and milk. I used raisins in this batch.

Cinnamon - add to taste (I use about 2.5 tsp) of cinnamon when sifting the flour.

Chocolate - add 100g of chopped chocolate to the dry ingredients. I'm personally not a fan of chocolate in these, but everyone else I make them for seems to love them, so ......

Cheese - omit the sugar and add 100g of good strong cheddar to the dry ingredients or a red cheese is lovely too.