Puy Lentil and Mushroom Lasagne with Winter Salad

I love Puy Lentils. If you are a non-vegetarian who wants to cook for vegetarian friends and doesn’t know where to start Puy Lentils are fantastic, because you can substitute them in for minced beef in familiar dishes and get something which has a slightly ‘meaty’ texture and quite a rich, almost nutty, taste. As well as being great in lasagne they are also rather good in Chilli and in Bolognaise.

Puy lentils come either dried or cooked in bags (a little bit like microwave rice) and I tend to have both in my storecupboard; dried lentils are much cheaper but the ready-cooked ones are much better if you are in a hurry!

This yummy lasagne fed two adults and two children. I had thought that there might be enough left for my lunch the next day, but no such luck!

20160108_184442.jpgIngredients:

for the lasagne…

  • one or two cloves of garlic
  • a medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • a generous squirt of tomato purée
  • 1 microwave bag of Puy Lentils
  • a good splash of red wine (I used frozen wine again)
  • Dried lasagne sheets (approx 1/2 a pack)
  • approx 3/4 pint of milk
  • heaped tablespoon of cornflour
  • approx six mushrooms, sliced
  • two generous handfuls of grated cheese

for the winter salad…

  • 1/4 of a red cabbage
  • 2 or 3 carrots
  • good olive oil
  • a splash of lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper

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Method:

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Fry the onions, garlic, ground black pepper and oregano in olive oil (not fancy olive oil if you have it – save that for the salad!). When the onions are beginning to become transparent add the tinned tomatoes, the wine, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the puy lentils. Allow to heat through and reduce a little (5-10 minutes), taste and add more salt and pepper if required.

While the above is cooking get started on the white sauce. First, heat the milk slowly in a pan. Put a heaped tablespoon of cornflour in a measuring jug with a little extra milk to make a paste, trying your best to ensure that it is lump free. Next, and this is important, add the warm milk to the paste (not the other way around!), mix well and then put it back into the pan to heat through and thicken. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently, and when it has started to thicken add half of the grated cheese. When the cheese has melted set the sauce to one side.

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Now it is time to layer up the lasagne. Put half of the tomato mixture into the bottom of a rectangular dish and cover with a layer of lasagne sheets; you may need to break up one of the sheets into smaller pieces to cover it evenly. Next, put the sliced mushrooms on top of the lasagne sheets and cover with half of the white sauce and a generous grind of black pepper. Cover with another layer of lasagne sheets, add the rest of the tomato mixture and then add a final layer of the lasagne sheets. Finally, top with the rest of the white sauce, the cheese and more black pepper. Put in the top of the pre-heated oven for 30 – 40 minutes. To check if it is done, put a skewer in it and if you only get a little bit of resistance you are good to go.

For the salad; chop the red cabbage (half way between chunky and fine if that makes sense!) and use the biggest bit of your cheese grater to finely slice the carrot. Be very careful not to grate your knuckles! Put in a dish with a generous slosh of olive oil, a squirt of lemon juice, a good few grinds of pepper and a couple of pinches of sea salt. Try. Add more lemon, salt and pepper if you think it would improve it. Simples!

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Stewed Apple with Oats, Walnuts, Sultanas and Ginger

I have to say that I am usually pretty rubbish at making myself eat breakfast, so I am rather pleased with this little number which I made up last week when I realised that buying a pastry on the way to work wasn’t an option with my £5 a week budget! The apples I used came from my parents apple trees – hence the winter wrinkles.

Ingredients

  • One cooking apple
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup sultanas
  • 1/2 tsp dried ginger

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This can be made either in a pan on the hob, or in the microwave. The  first time I made it I (somewhat miraculously) had time to make it on the hob before I left the house. The following morning was a bit more ‘situation normal’ however, so I took all the ingredients with me and made it in the microwave at work and had a number of rather jealous people peering over my shoulder.

Method:

Chop and peel the apple and put it in either a small saucepan or a microwave-proof bowl. Add a splash of boiling water, the fruit and the dried ginger and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the oats and chopped nuts, stir, and cook for another couple of minutes adding a splash more water if it looks a bit dry.

Taste and add a little sugar if necessary (depending on the sweetness of the apple and your tastebuds) and enjoy with a steaming mug of coffee.

just for clarity…

My January Challenge… to cook all month with only the contents of my store cupboard and freezer and what I can buy with £5 a week.”

Over the last couple of days I have been asking people for feedback on Week One of my blog. A few people have said that it isn’t obvious from my posts that my £5 a week includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and everything in between for a whole week; some people thought that it included only evening meals, and one person thought it was £5 a day!

So, for clarity, my £5 a week includes:

  • all meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner;
  • all snacks;
  • all drinks (so no cups of coffee in town or pints at my local); and
  • feeding not only myself but any visitors that I have over for supper or for tea and cake (despite living on my own, in the last week I have had people over for dinner 3 times and for a cuppa about 4 times and this is pretty normal for me).

My £5 a week does not include:

  • dog food and cat food;
  • cleaning materials and ‘sundries’ (I love that word!).

In my posts next week I will try my best to include a good variety of meals including a rather yummy and very quick breakfast, a family meal, some yummy healthy(ish) snacks and a girly evening meal in with a friend.

Keep reading, keep cooking, and please keep giving me feedback!

Kitty x

p.s. see below a picture of today’s yummy cooking; roasted carrots, onions, garlic and butter beans. yum! It’s very simple: roast the carrots, onion and garlic with some spices and salt (I’m fond of using mustard seeds and cumin seeds), when the veg are nearly done add the butter beans for the final 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chilli flakes when it comes out of the oven. I had it as a meal in itself with rice (with some spare for lunch tomorrow), but it is also rather yummy as a side dish to roast lamb or roast chicken.

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The spare 45p

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I have found something to spend my spare 45p on – hurrah! So I can now say that I have spent exactly  £5 on feeding myself this week.
I get through very little bread, so buying it reduced and then freezing it works really well for me. I mostly toast it from frozen; on the rare occasions that I make sandwiches to take to work I make them Australian style – i.e with frozen bread so that they are just right by lunchtime  (it also stops me eating them for second breakfast!).

In case you were wondering,  I have cooked some rather fabulous things over the last couple of days but have been too busy doing ‘real life’ to share the recipes with you. I will get on to it over the weekend, in the meantime see below a little sneak preview.

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My first £5

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So I have finally got around to spending  (most of) my first  £5. I had already parted with 50p whilst pursuing my other New Year’s resolution of joining the knitting group at my local pub – since when has lime & soda been 50p?! I’m sure that it used to be no more than 20p but what would I know, I’m not very good at soft drinks.

‘I went shopping and I bought’:

  • 400g Mushrooms, £0.85
  • 1kg Carrots, £0.60
  • 1.5kg Onions, £0.90
  • 6 sausages, £1.69

£4.05 well spent I reckon!  The sausages were from the reduced section and are made from British outdoor-bred pork – yum!

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So what next?
First, and this may be stating the obvious, deal with the reduced meat. I have just put three of the sausages (two for tonight and one for my lunch tomorrow) in the oven with garlic, onions, carrots & herbs from the garden and the rest are in the freezer for another week.
The onions will last me a good couple of weeks – so I’ll be able to buy something more interesting next week :).
I find that carrots go nasty quite quickly if I’m not careful; make sure that they are out of the plastic bag so that they don’t ‘sweat’ and keep them in a cool, dry place. Mushrooms can also sweat and get damp if they are kept in plastic so I always pierce the plastic film.
If you get towards the end of the week and think that the veg aren’t going to last much longer, cook them up and freeze them for soup later.
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And finally…

The beady eyed amongst you will notice that I have some additional fresh stuff in my veg basket; this is still left from Christmas – don’t worry, I’m not cheating! Also left are some eggs and some cheese, so if you catch me cooking with them you’ll know that I haven’t been doing some cheeky shopping on the side.

Over and out,

Kitty

Leftovers Soup

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A family favourite  (apart from my sister who can’t stand the stuff) which is never the same twice. I always freeze leftover vegetables for this purpose and have recently made a habit of freezing meaty stock (often the extra liquid from my slow-cooker) in a silicone muffin tray, which can then be ‘popped’ out like icecubes.

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Tonight’s version used leftover roast potatoes from Christmas day, courgette, cauliflower and turkey stock.
The point of leftovers soup is that it uses up what you’ve got, so don’t worry if you don’t have all of the ingredients listed below. It is pretty important to have a base of onion and garlic but apart from that you can  experiment with different herbs and spices, I also rather  like to add bacon when I’m frying the onion if I have some. Note that if you use frozen stock it will probably be rather less salty than the bought stock which you are used to, so you may need to add more salt when you taste it.

Ingredients:
– an onion
– a clove of garlic
– a good pinch of mustard seeds
– a good pinch of cumin seeds
– stock
– paprika
– leftover veg, fully defrosted
– Almond milk (don’t worry if you don’t have this – any kind of milk will do)
– Creme fraiche

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Gently fry the onion, garlic, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When the onion is becoming transparent turn off the heat and add the frozen stock (I used two ‘blocks’),  put a lid on the pan and leave the stock to melt in the residual heat.

Put your defrosted veg in the blender along with the onions and stock. Add Almond milk as you whizz it, continuing to blend until it is smooth and not far off the thickness that you would eat it. Return the whizzed soup to the pan, using some more milk to swill out the blender.

Slowly bring the the soup up to temperature,  trying not to let it boil. Add paprika,  salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a spoonful of Creme fraiche and a sprinkle of paprika on top.

… and enjoy because you will never have another soup quite like it again!
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P.s. I made some rather yummy soda bread to accompany it, but that’s a recipe for another day 🙂

on top of spaghettiiiiii, all covered in cheeeese…

… I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed!  (aarrgg, I’m going to be singing that all week now!)

So, I haven’t had a chance to spend my first £5 yet so this is a true store-cupboard/ freezer recipe. I quite often seem to end up with burgers at the back of my freezer left over from the BBQ season and I enjoy being a bit creative with them. This is the first time I have made them into meatballs to go with pasta though, so this is a true Kitty’s Store Cupboard experiment. I have rather unfortunately run out of onions so I will have to make up for it by using lots of garlic!

The amounts given below served two adults and two children.

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Ingredients:

  • a couple of burgers from the freezer, completely defrosted
  • a tin of tomatoes
  • 2/3 cloves of garlic
  • dried mixed Mediterranean herbs
  • dried oregano
  • tomato purée
  • a splash of red wine
  • dried spaghetti
  • a handful of grated cheese

Ingredients that I could have included if I had them: onions, courgette, mushrooms, fresh basil.

Cut the burgers into quarters and shape into meatballs. Fry these  for approx 5 minutes in just enough oil so that they don’t stick, along with the garlic (crushed or finely chopped) some black pepper and the dried herbs. Turn frequently and add more oil if required.

Next add the tin of tomatoes (making sure that you swill it out with a little warm water so that you don’t waste any), a good squidge of tomato purée and the wine. I tend to freeze wine if I have some left in a bottle that has been open a little too long (yes, it does happen sometimes!) and then scoop out as much as I require.

When the sauce is warmed through, taste and add salt and pepper if required. Cook the spaghetti as instructed on the packet and serve with cheese on top. I like to add chilly flakes to tomato-based pasta sauces – but depending on who you are serving it to it can best to put it on the table so that people can help themselves.

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Day one…

So begins my entry in to the food blogging world. I am not very good at this internet thing (I suppose I will have to join Twitter?) so any (polite!) feedback you have would be much appreciated. I quite often look up recipes on-line and get directed to someone’s blog – I tend to like the recipe but often find the paragraphs and paragraphs of waffle I have to skim through first somewhat irritating, so I will try and be short and to the point!

My January Challenge (apart from getting my head around the ‘tinternet) – to cook all month with only the contents of my store cupboard and freezer and what I can buy with £5 a week. This includes cooking for visitors, so if you know me and live locally please do invite yourself over for supper!

No recipes today I’m afraid – I currently have a baked potato in the oven and I’m sure that you can cope with that (if not, drop me a line!). It’s time for me to go and make an inventory of my cupboards and plan what to spend this weeks £5 on.

ta’ra for now.

Kitty