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

IMG-20180501-WA0001.jpg

Chocolate Brownie Tarts

Chocolate Brownie and pastry – why had I not thought of this before?!

One of the things I love about leftovers is that they make me use my imagination. Today I had a very ripe banana and some leftover pastry from making quiche at the weekend. In trawling Pinterest for banana recipes (saved here for a rainy day) I came across some wonderful brownie recipes and an idea was born.

My sister came to taste-test the invention, the verdict was 10/10 when warm and 9/10 when cold. Not bad!

chocolate brownie tarts

The recipe I decided to base the brownie on was a vegan one from the blog recipes from a pantry‘. I halved the recipe because I had only one banana, which also happened to be the right amount for the leftover pastry (more by luck than judgement!). I also didn’t add the additional peanut butter because I wanted the cocoa flavour to stand out. The leftover pastry was just normal ready-roll pastry from the supermarket, so the tarts weren’t vegan. If any of my vegan friends have recommendations for pastry recipes that would be fabulous!

(Update: I have now found out that ‘Jus-Rol’ shortcrust pastry is vegan.)

I have a sneaking suspicion that these would be wonderful with almond butter instead of peanut butter, along with some flaked almond. I will give it a go and let you know.

Ingredients

  • Shortcrust pastry (shop bought or homemade)
  • 1 (very) ripe banana
  • 90 g caster sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp rapeseed or canola oil
  • 1.5 tbsp almond milk
  • 1/2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 45 g plain flour
  • 1.5 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1.5 tbsp chocolate chips, dark (I used 100% cocoa chips which are supposed to be used for drinking chocolate, so very dark!)

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC / 160oC Fan.

Roll out the pastry and use a large biscuit cutter (mine was 88mm) to cut the pastry into rounds. Gently push the pastry into a ‘fairy cake’ tin. If you use a muffin tin (which is bigger) you will need larger rounds of pastry.

Mash the banana into a bowl and then mix in the sugar, oil, milk, peanut butter and vanilla extract. Next, stir in the dry ingredients followed by chocolate chips.

Spoon the mixture into the pastry cases. The brownie only rises a little, so you can fill them almost to the top.

If you have excess pastry then you could add jam to the remaining cases – note that you always need less jam than you think because it bubbles up! If you have excess mixture then you could use paper cases in the same tin and make some little cakes.

chocolate brownie tarts

chocolate brownie tarts

Chocolate Brownie tarts

Breakfast Muffins

Breakfast Muffins

These Breakfast Muffins are perfect for people who (like me) are awful at eating breakfast. They are small yet filling, cheap and easy to make.
breakfast muffins
One of the things which Steve and I struggled with when I started the Basic Kitchen project was what to do for breakfast. I have to say that breakfast isn’t my strong point at the best of times – it is my least favourite meal of the day, but if I don’t eat it I am miserable.

The solution came from Steve’s all time favourite recipe book, published in 1984 by the New Zealand Girl Guides – not something you can pick up in you local bookshop I’m afraid. One of the good things about using this book for the Basic Kitchen project is that it uses cups, so scales are not required. We did of course have to add a muffin tin to our collection of basic utensils, but it was well worth it considering that they are so cheap to make.
girl guides cook book
The book contains two versions of Bran Muffins – one of which is in the section on cooking for big events and asks you to mix in a ‘large bucket’, the other makes a rather more sensible number of muffins! Over the last few weeks I have tried both recipes, adapted and doctored them depending on what I have in the cupboard, and come up with the version below. The original recipes are at the bottom of the post – a big thank-you to the ladies who originally contributed the recipes to the book, and to the New Zealand Girl Guides who gave me permission to publish them here.

When we made the ‘mix in a bucket’ version a few weeks ago Steve calculated that they cost 7p a muffin. I haven’t calculated how much the recipe below costs, because my pregnancy brain is rebelling!

This recipe is fantastic for using up cereal which is going a little soft – a common occurrence for me since I don’t like breakfast very much! In the last few weeks I have made the muffins with ‘All-bran’ and with bran flakes which already had dried fruit added to it. I found that bran flakes needed a bit of crunching up before using.
bran muffins
Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 heaped teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (optional – I leave this out if I have included sugary dried fruit such as prunes, if I do add it I use dark sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups of bran
  • a handful of dried fruit (something sticky and sweet such as prunes or dates work well)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

First warm the milk, syrup and butter in a pan and dissolve the bicarb of soda and coffee into it (I just want to drink it at this stage!). Take the pan off the heat and then add the bran, crumbling it in your hands, so that it can begin to soften.

Mix the rest of the dried ingredients together, then mix in the egg and the milk mixture. Stir in the dried fruit.

Bake in the centre of the oven in lined muffin tins for approximately 15 minutes.

When cooked, remove onto a cooling rack. Once cool they can be stored in an airtight tin for up to a week.
Bran muffins

Bran Muffins

breakfast muffins

breakfast muffins

Breakfast muffins

Beef Sausage Stew

It seems that here in the UK winter is going on and on. This stew was really warming and delicious; and cheap, being made using sausages from the reduced section of the supermarket, ‘cooks bacon’ and vegetables bought at the end of the day from my local market.

I served the stew with soda bread which is very quick and easy to make. Although I have a favourite soda bread recipe which I have written up before, I decided to have a go at the recipe from Jack Monroe’s ‘Cooking on a Bootstrap‘ blog. Jack’s recipe is much more simple than the one I had been using and worked very well.

Beef Sausage Stew

Ingredients

This made three portions.

  • 3 Beef Sausages
  • 3 Rashers of Bacon
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 3 Tomatoes
  • 6 Mushrooms
  • 1/2 tin of chickpeas
  • 1/2 tin tomatoes
  • Chicken or Vegetable Stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chilli Flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Mixed Herbs
  • A couple of tablespoons of chopped flat-leaved Parsley

Method

Finely chop the onions and red pepper. Put these in the pan along with chopped bacon, sausages and a little oil or butter. You won’t need much oil because fat will quickly come out of the bacon and sausages. Fry over a medium heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently.

Beef and Sausage Stew

Next, coarsely chop the tomatoes and mushrooms and add these to the pan along with the dried herbs, chilli and some black pepper. Let everything cook together for a few minutes and then add half a tin of tomatoes, about a mugful of stock and the chickpeas. Note, I used chickpeas because this is what I had in the cupboard, butter beans would also have been good and is a more traditional pairing with sausages.

Allow to simmer on a low heat for ten to fifteen minutes; as with many stews the longer it cooks the more the flavours develop. So this stage depends very much on how hungry/ impatient you are feeling!

About five minutes before you are ready to serve add the fresh parsley. Make sure you taste the stew before serving and season with more pepper, chilli and/ or salt if required.

Serve with a chunk of fresh bread, I made soda bread which is incredibly quick and cheap to make.

Costs

  • 3 Beef Sausages – £0.39 (reduced from Tesco)
  • 3 Rashers of Bacon – about £0.15
  • 1/2 an onion – £0.05
  • 1/2 red pepper – £0.17 (Peppers are usually rather expensive, however I went to my local market as they were closing up and got three for £1 which is pretty good)
  • 3 Tomatoes – £0.17 (Again, from the market – six for £0.50)
  • 6 Mushrooms – about £0.50
  • 1/2 tin of chickpeas – £0.35 (I only used half a tin, but I have included the full cost and will exclude it from the cost of the meal tomorrow)
  • 1/2 tin tomatoes – £0.35 (I only used half a tin, but I have included the full cost and will exclude it from the cost of the meal tomorrow)
  • Stock Cube – £0.04
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chilli Flakes – £0.01
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Mixed Herbs – £0.01
  • A couple of tablespoons of chopped flat-leaved Parsley – from the garden

So, this cost £1.84 for three portions, with some leftover ingredients for another day.

Fresh Mackerel Stuffed with Haggis

… fresh mackerel stuffed with haggis, and served with three vegetable mash and whiskey sauce.

Trust me, this was wonderful!

fresh mackerel with haggis

It is difficult not to be decadent when my good friend ‘Winemaker Sarah’ (so called because she makes wine for a living, and I have many Sarah’s in my life) comes to stay. Sarah always arrives with a car full of delicious goodies from which we create weird and wonderful things. Two of the ingredients for this meal came from Sarah’s car – whiskey-infused cheese and, bizarrely, a swede.

The mackerel was from the reduced section of Tesco and was a whole 68p. Because it was in the reduced section it was already wrapped and I wrongly assumed that it was a couple of fillets – as it turned out I was glad that my mum brought me up to be able to gut fish!

The haggis came from the freezer, the last of the leftovers from Burns Night. I used the rest a few weeks ago wrapped in chicken and bacon. Yum.

This served three, despite only having one small fish (slightly biblical?) and I am at at loss to describe just how delicious it was.

Ingredients

  • One mackerel
  • a few tablespoons of haggis
  • flat leaved parsley
  • splash of lemon juice
  • splash of ginger wine
  • a small swede
  • two carrots
  • a few potatoes
  • 1/2 pint of milk
  • tablespoon of flour
  • whiskey-cheese

Method

A ready gutted and filleted fish would be easiest to work with, but briefly a word on gutting fish:

Take a very sharp knife and carefully open up the belly of the fish from tail to head. Remove the innards then take the knife and use it to break the spine at the tail, gently lift the spine trying to bring as many of the little bones with it as possible. Rub the inside of the fish with course salt to clean it.

gutting and stuffing fish

Fill the cavity of the fish with the haggis and a couple of sprigs of parsley and then wrap snugly in foil. Bake in the bottom of the oven at 160oC for 25 minutes.

When you have put the fish in the oven chop the carrot and swede and bring to the boil. The potatoes won’t take as long to cook, so chop them and add them when the rest of the vegetables have been bubbling away for about five minutes. When each of the vegetables can be easily pierced with a fork drain and then mash them with some butter and pepper.

Because I have stripped my kitchen down to (less than) the bare essentials as part of the Basic Kitchen Project I put the vegetables to one side, cleaned the pan and then made white sauce.

Heat the milk slowly, do not allow it to boil. Put a heaped tablespoon of plain flour into a mug and add a splash or two of milk and mix to a paste. Pour some of the warm milk into the mug and mix thoroughly, then return the mixture to the pan. Maintain the low heat and stir the sauce as it thickens – keep a close eye on it! When it has begun to thicken crumble the cheese into the sauce and allow it to melt. If (like most people!) you don’t have a friend who rocks up at your house with whiskey cheese then you can add a tablespoon of whiskey to the sauce at this stage.

For the last five minutes turn up the oven to 200oC, open up the foil from around the fish and add a splash of lemon and of ginger wine then return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Cost

This one is a little difficult to cost, mostly because I cannot find where I wrote down the weight of the haggis which I used. The haggis was a ‘leftover’, but I appreciate that most people won’t have this kicking around at the back of their freezer! ‘Winemaker Sarah’ found the ginger wine while she was poking around in my drinks cabinet – a common occurrence when she comes to stay.

  • One mackerel – £0.68
  • a few tablespoons of haggis – ?
  • flat leaved parsley – from my garden
  • splash of lemon juice – ?
  • splash of ginger wine – ?
  • a small swede – this was a (bizarre) gift, but if I had bought it at Asda it would have been £0.50
  • two carrots – £0.30
  • a few potatoes – £0.30
  • 1/2 pint of milk – £0.25
  • tablespoon of flour – ?
  • whiskey-cheese – a gift. If I had used cheddar  I reckon it would have been about £0.30

So, not the best costing I have done as part of this project! I will go with it being approximately £2.30 plus gifts and leftovers – still, not too bad for a particularly decadent evening.