Aubergine and Preserved Pepper Bake

This is the first recipe from my new kitchen… in Dubai! Yes, the ‘quiet year’ we had planned after the craziness of last year all went to pot when we moved half way around the world. Our possessions from the UK arrive today, hurrah! We have been rattling around in a rather empty apartment until now. As I have shared with you previously a kitchen with limited resources makes for some creative cooking… as does a  frequently breaking fridge-freezer it turns out. grrr. I am never buying a second hand fridge-freezer again!

There is nothing quite like a broken fridge-freezer to inspire a new use-it-up recipe. Sometimes these dishes are a bit ‘interesting’, however this one I will definitely make again. Past successes have included ‘disaster jam’ (can’t waste frozen fruit). I wasn’t sure what to call this one, ‘disaster vegetable moussaka bread and butter pudding’ – doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

aubergine

Ingredients

  • Dry bread, buttered
  • Two aubergine (Eggplant), sliced
  • One red pepper
  • Four tomatoes
  • Stuffed peppers preserved in oil
  • Salt, pepper and chilli flakes

Method

Pre-heat the oven to about 180oC.

Fry the pepper and tomatoes in some oil from the preserved peppers (the deliciously flavoured oil is too good to waste).

Place the bread butter-side down in an oven dish.

When the pepper and tomatoes have started to cook down add half to the dish as a layer over the bread. Add some of the preserved peppers, focusing on putting them in any gaps between the bread.

Add a layer of aubergine followed by the rest of the pepper and tomato mixture and the remaining preserved peppers.

Top with the last of the aubergine. Add a spoon of the flavoured oil onto each aubergine slice and season generously with salt pepper and a spice mix of your choice – I used BBQ chilli flakes.

Bake in the oven for approximately half an hour.

Enjoy!

Lamb with nectarines

lamb and nectarines

This recipe has been sitting in draft since January – so we haven’t ‘recently’ returned from Australia. In fact, we are now in a different part of the world altogether (we have a very well travelled baby, more on that another time). Although this post lacks the ‘immediacy’ of my usual writing, which means that I am not completely happy with it, I have decided to share it with you anyway – both because the meal was delicious, and because it was made in one of my favourite places. If  you ever find yourself travelling in the Australian State of Victoria make sure that you spend some time staying at Lochinver Farm; it is idyllic, and Alison will be able to point you in the direction of some fabulous places which serve local food and wine. 

Lochinver Farm

We have recently returned from spending nearly a month in Australia. Are we mad to fly around the world with a 6 month old baby? Maybe, but actually the most difficult part is now -dealing with a jet-lagged baby who wants to go to bed at 3.00 in the afternoon and wake up at 3.00 in the morning.

We spent our first week in Australia with our good friends the Williamsons who run a farm in country Victoria – the beautiful Lochinver Homestead. At Lochinver they raise sheep for both merino wool and meat, as well as offering accomodation in the old homestead and workmen’s cottages (well, ‘old’ by Australian standards at least!). On New Year’s Eve Mark cooked us roast lamb from the farm, and the following evening I took it upon myself to create something with the leftovers. What we ended up with was a middle eastern inspired dish, which also used up some fresh fruit and bits I found in the wonderful old-fashioned larder in the farmhouse kitchen.

Ingredients

  • Three handfuls of cooked lamb
  • A handful of raisins
  • A couple of teaspoons of Zaatar
  • Two nectarines
  • Half a tin of chickpeas
  • A handful of flaked almonds

Method

Chop the lamb into bite-sized pieces and put in a microwave-proof bowl with the raisins, zaatar and a splash of water. Microwave for about 3 minutes. Chop the nectarines into small pieces and fry them  in olive oil, together with the lamb hot from the microwave, the almonds and the chickpeas. Fry for about five minutes, stirring frequently.

I served this with salad, couscous and an impromptu ‘tzatziki’, which I made by stirring mint sauce and chopped cucumber into Greek yogurt- when in a strange kitchen you have to improvise!

This was a delicious and very simple dish, made even better by the satisfaction of using up leftovers and of eating lamb at the farm where it had been raised. Please let me know if you give this recipe a go -I would love to know how you get on!

lochinver farm sheep

lamb with nectarines
lamb with nectarines

 

Vegan Chestnut Stuffing Sausage Rolls

I love a guest blog post – this isn’t because I’m lazy (much), but because I love discovering and sharing other people’s recipes and writing styles. This recipe comes from the fabulously creative Kate.

Kate is, amongst other things, a Laughter Yoga teacher, a creative writer and seriously skilled at making cakes. Embracing the vegan lifestyle has, if anything, made her more creative in the kitchen and I always enjoying sampling the tasty treats she makes.

So without further ado, and in her own words (and with the help of playdough), here is Kate’s recipe for Vegan Sausage Rolls.

vegan sausage roll

So… near the start of the month I had a vegan sausage roll from Greggs (pleasant warming snack).

But then I got obsessed with sausage rolls!

I wrapped a Linda McCartney vegan sausage in pastry… also good.

Then I made my own stuffing with bagels, chestnuts, pecans, sage, dried cherries and spices and made it into this super fancy braided sausage roll based on some random video that appeared on my newsfeed. And it is the best yet!

I wrote it into my titchy recipes notebook (started in 2002!) but here it is slightly more legibly.

Day one: make the stuffing and eat some of it with some roast potatoes and veg

Day two: turn the rest into sausage rolls.

Special skills needed: adding just the right amount of water to things.

Ingredients:

(Stuffing fills a 15cm diameter, 7cm deep round oven dish)

STUFFING

  • 2x bagels
  • 200g ready to eat chestnuts
  • small handful pecans
  • 8 dried cherries (I like the Urban Fruit ones as they aren’t sweetened)
  • 6 sage leaves
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • sprinkle of mixed pepper
  • sprinkle of mixed herbs
  • water
  • dessert spoon of vegan margarine

PASTRY

(to make three sausage rolls)

  • 180g plain flour
  • 90g vegan margarine
  • pinch of salt
  • cold water to mix

Method:

Day one:

Blend bagels, chestnuts and pecans on a low speed until they are in crumbs/small pieces. Tip into a mixing bowl.

Boil the kettle.

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Snip cherries into thirds, add to bowl (It is possible that using a different amount of cherries cut into different fractions will also work!).

Skip idyllically into your garden to harvest some sage leaves, wash them, then rip them up and add to the bowl.

Add the spices and smush around with your fingers.

Pour a splurge of boiling water on until the texture looks like stuffing. Add the margarine on top and stir to melt it in.

Cook in an ovenproof dish for 25 minutes.

Day two:

Preheat the oven to 200oC

Make the pastry. Rub margarine into flour and salt. Tip a little cold water in until you get a dough, then roll it out and cut it into thirds. Top tip: don’t go back and forth over your pastry like a steamroller, just push it one way at a time then it won’t go tough.

Place a chunk of stuffing in the middle of each rectangle.

I didn’t have the opportunity to make another batch of pastry to demonstrate the braiding technique… but I did have some play dough and giant chalks (see below images for a step by step guide. ed).

Please do not consume chalk or play dough in a moment of confusion.

Cut the pastry in diagonal lines, wet the edges, braid it and do something rustic with the ends (or find a slightly more detailed tutorial if you aren’t a fan of super chunky pastry!).

Cook for 25 minutes.

Enjoy the wodge-tastic January comfort food goodness! Smile and then you can ingest your chestnuts in jest. Sausage ROTFL. Ha!

😋

braided sausage roll

vegan sausage roll

 

Vegetable and bacon pie… and a yummy use of leftover pastry

Little boy is four and a half months old (now 5 months) (… now 6 months!) and I’m going to attempt to finish my first blog post since he arrived. I did draft one a couple of months ago, but it turned into a rant about how people judge other people’s parenting skills. A shame really; what had started as a good day where I had managed to cook myself a delicious lunch from scratch (and even eat it while it was reasonably warm) turned into the day where I decided that the collective noun for mothers is ‘a judgement’. A parliament of owls, a murder of crows, a judgement of mothers… sounds about right. Today I am somewhat more positive, so here goes.

Not only is this the first post since baby arrived, it is also the first in my new kitchen. We took delivery of a new oven this week to replace the rather scary ancient gas contraption, so of course I celebrated by making pie!

This recipe was invented using inspiration from the reduced section of the supermarket and what needed using up in the fridge. I have rarely bought ready chopped vegetables in the past thinking it a bit lazy, which I suppose it is when you have time and energy. Now that I have a baby who will only let me put him down for limited periods of time I see the point of them! The chopped carrot and swede was reduced in the supermarket, as was the pastry. The spinach was in the fridge and wanted using, I wouldn’t have thought to buy it for this purpose but it worked.

Ingredients

  • Chopped carrot and swede
  • Half a pack of bacon, chopped
  • Half an onion
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • Teaspoon dried herbs – I used thyme and tarragon
  • A couple of handfuls of spinach
  • A splash of cream
  • A handful of grated cheddar cheese
  • Pastry – I used ready rolled

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Finely chop the onion, garlic and bacon and fry together in a saucepan which has a lid – you will need very little oil because the fat will come out of the bacon. Add the chopped carrot and swede, herbs and black pepper. Do not add salt or stock at this stage – you will probably find that the bacon makes it salty enough. Add about half a pint of water hot from the kettle and simmer until you can put a fork in the vegetables. Stir in the spinach so that it wilts, then drain most of the liquid off (you can use this later as stock for soup). Stir in cream and grated cheese, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Put the pie filling in an oven proof dish and let it cool before adding the pastry lid – pastry put on a hot filling often shrinks. Brush the pastry with egg and bake in the centre of the oven for half an hour to 45 minutes.

… and finally, I don’t like to waste things so I made some delicious little tarts with the leftover pastry and egg. I rolled the pastry thinly and used a biscuit cutter to make rounds which I pressed into a small muffin tin. These I filled with finely chopped mushrooms which I had stirred into the remaining beaten egg along with some dried herbs and salt and black pepper. These were baked below the pie for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Kitty’s Cereal Bar Recipe

I am notoriously bad at eating breakfast, but one of these with a cup of tea in the morning gets me going. Not the healthiest of breakfasts, but at least there are slow-release sugars to keep me going for a while as well as the sugar and syrup. The proportions are based upon my favourite flapjack / oat slice recipe but with half the amount of sugar.

cereal bar

Ingredients

  • 4oz / 110g Dark Soft Brown Sugar
  • 8 oz / 220g Butter
  • 2 rounded dessertspoon Golden Syrup
  • 8 oz / 220g Oats
  • 2 oz / 55g Bran Flakes
  • 2 oz / 55g Rice Crispies
  • heaped teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • generous handful of Dates
  • generous handful of Chopped Nuts, I used brazil nuts. Pecans or walnuts would also be good.

Note, you can substitute in different types of cereal depending on what you have in the cupboard – as long as the total dry ingredients adds up to 12 oz / 350g. If you want to add flaked almonds I would advise including them as a proportion of the dry ingredients rather than substituting them for other nuts, otherwise they will dry out the mixture.

Method

Line a square tin (8 inches approx) with greaseproof paper, and preheat the oven to 150oC.

In a large pan, gently melt the butter, syrup and sugar. When melted add the ginger, fruit and nuts followed by the dry ingredients. Mix well and then put in the prepared tin, flattening it with the back of a spoon.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes. When it is cooked, let it cool in the tin before turning it onto a board and chopping it into squares.

cereal bar

Basic Kitchen Project – debrief

basic kitchen

As promised in my previous post, here are some notes to close-out the Basic Kitchen project.

The first thing to say is that it was certainly hard work – I don’t think I would have been able to do it if I didn’t work part time, and if I didn’t enjoy cooking.

What I was really rubbish at was keeping a good record of what I spent, which isn’t very helpful for a roundup of how the project went! We were pretty close to £10 each week though. What I will share with you are some shopping tips and things which I consider to be the ‘best buys’, and the favourite things we ate.
Shopping

The first week we really missed green vegetables and colourful food – not that we ate badly, it’s just that the cheapest vegetables tend to be carrots which can get rather dull. In subsequent weeks we managed to do some good market shopping for vegetables. The best bargains came when we went to the market not long before it shut.

I would highly recommend finding out the best time to visit your local market.

Most of the meat and fish we bought came from the reduced section of the supermarket, with the exception of the wonderful ‘cooks bacon’ (the cheap offcuts). This meant that I had to think on my feet a little bit when shopping.

A good buy was the pack of beef sausages which I got in the first week. I used some straight away and then froze the rest in batches of three. Really yummy in casseroles.

Another bargain was some reduced beef mince. I decided at that point to reintroduce a big frying pan with a lid so that I could bulk cook traditional Bolognese. This fed us for a number of meals and cost just a few pounds. I will write up a Bolognese recipe for you at some point.

A good way to get protein and good flavour into budget food is to buy ‘cooks bacon’ from your local butcher or supermarket. These are the ‘scrag ends’ or offcuts – exactly the same meat as rashers of bacon but not a uniform size. If you’re going to chop it up for cooking anyway then why buy anything else?

I started the project with stock cubes, mixed herbs, chilli flakes and salt and pepper, in the hope that over the weeks I would be able to add to my spice cupboard within my budget. This was not possible. This is a bit of a disappointing discovery but hardly a surprise – £10 a week may be sufficient to eat healthily (if you have the time and energy to shop and cook carefully) but it doesn’t allow for very exciting ingredients. When I did my £5 challenge at the start of this blog in 2016 I allowed myself the use of what was already in my store cupboard, including spices; I found it significantly more difficult to cook creatively without this.
What I Cooked

One of the things I really enjoy about restricting my budget is that it forces me to be creative with what I have. Despite being somewhat limited this time – with having only chilli, mixed herbs, salt and pepper, I still found that I made some good discoveries.

  • One Pot Pasta! This is a one pot wonder. It is so simple to make, and easily varied depending on the ingredients to hand, that I wrote up two different versions of it (and made it many more times than I wrote about). It also makes for less washing up – bonus. One Pot Pasta has definitely entered my repertoire for good – just this week I made a delicious creamy version with bacon, onion, homemade stock from the freezer, crème fraiche and cheese. Yum.
  • Mackerel stuffed with haggis – I appreciate that this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but this was a truly magnificent and decadent meal – which cost only £2.30 to feed three people. It goes to show that, with making good use of the reduced section of the supermarket and some imagination, you can still make a rather impressive dinner party meal on a tight budget.
  • Breakfast Muffins – these were very yummy and cheap to make, and even such a reluctant breakfast eater as myself enjoyed them.

I found that I cooked a lot of tomato based dishes, because tinned tomatoes work well with chilli and with dried herbs. I managed to vary things a little by using fresh herbs from the garden; flat leaved parsley and sage were in season and I was very glad of them. I have to say though, that after a while I got somewhat bored of Italian inspired dishes and simple chilli dishes and really craved curry! Curry can be a fabulously cheap to make if you already have the basic spices, especially when you use a lentil base.

Anyway, that’s that. I hope that you found some inspiration from my little £10 a week project. I would love know what your favourite frugal recipes are. If you fancy writing up a favourite recipe as a guest blog post that would be fabulous – do get in touch.

‘over and out

Kitty x

Enough Challenges!

The observant amongst you will have noticed that I haven’t updated you on progress with the Basic Kitchen project. I have just found two blog posts sitting in draft, which review progress at week one and after a month – I obviously wasn’t happy with either of them (although reading them now I am not sure why).

Rather than belatedly publishing the two posts, I am going to tell you about what has been making me too preoccupied to write, and why I have quite enough challenges to be going on with at the moment! I do have some brief ‘lessons learned’ from the Basic Kitchen project to share with you, but I will do that in another post rather than make this one long and unwieldy.

I think I ‘may’ have taken on a little too much in the next few months! First and foremost I am expecting my first baby in early July – I think that this alone would slow most people down! In addition, Steve and I are organising the blessing of our marriage; we had a relaxed little wedding last summer, with the intention of having a big big party and blessing the following year. Originally, we were going to have the blessing at midsummer but that was (happily) scuppered by the baby, so we are planning the party for September.

Organising a big event with a baby on the way wasn’t enough to keep Steve and I busy… so we decided to put an offer on a house!

So, in summary, we are currently doing what are widely perceived to be three of the most stressful things in life – having a baby, organising a wedding, and moving house! Phew! All very exciting, but you can see that giving myself a tiny budget and blogging challenges won’t be top of my list for a little while.

So what can you expect from Kitty’s Store-Cupboard over the next few months? Probably radio-silence a lot of the time! When I do share recipes I expect that they will mostly still be of a frugal nature – buying a house and organising the blessing are quite expensive occupations. I’m sure that there will also be a few treats thrown in, and some excitement at being able to cook and eat things which pregnant ladies are not supposed to eat – such as pate and blue cheese. I am hoping that there will also be a few guest bloggers – watch this space!

I would very much like to write about the vegetables and herbs I am growing, however I expect that I won’t find time to do so. Currently I am sharing an allotment with my sister, it was very overgrown when we took it on earlier in the year but we are doing reasonably well given our different constraints (I’m not really up to heavy digging, however crouching down to weed is pretty good exercise for getting the baby into the best position for birth – you win some, you lose some!). We have got garlic, onions, beans, squash and raspberries growing, so I am looking forward to some harvest cooking. I am very excited that the house we are buying has a greenhouse – I have some very happy looking tomato plants in pots which will ripen nicely under glass.

So, here is an obligatory ‘bump’ photograph (now somewhat bigger!) taken in my scruffs down at the allotment. I will share the Basic Kitchen ‘lessons learned’ with you next week.

Kitty x

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