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.

One Pot Pasta – v.2

I am so enamoured with the idea of One Pot Pasta, that the night after I first discovered it I made it all over again! This version didn’t contain tomatoes and therefore tasted less ‘Italian’ – instead it was peppery, herby and garlicky, and the bacon contributed a lovely saltiness.

This version of One Pot Pasta was full of lovely veggies – just what this pregnant lady needed. One of the things Steve and I noted after the first week of the Basic Kitchen Project is that we missed green vegetables. This isn’t to say that we ate badly. I find that carrots are one of the cheapest ways to get vegetables into your diet and we have relied quite heavily on them both weeks. This week however we made a trip to the market and added some more green.

Once again this made two evening meals and two lunches – I am eating the leftovers ‘as we speak’ (‘as I write’ would be more accurate).

One Pot Pasta

Ingredients

  • half and onion
  • a clove of garlic
  • a large carrot (well, almost – I ate a chunk of it raw before it got into the pan!)
  • broccoli
  • bacon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs
  • lots of black pepper!
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (from my garden)
  • about 3/4 pint chicken stock (once again I didn’t measure it, sorry!)

one pot pasta

The method is almost exactly the same as when I made it previously the only thing to mention is that I added the broccoli about 5 minutes after the pasta so it didn’t go ‘soggy’. So, rather than waffle on about the method I will get straight to the costs.

Cost

  • One onion – £0.09
  • A clove (or two) of garlic – £0.05
  • A large carrot – £0.13
  • Broccoli – £0.45 (this was the remains of the what I used with the sausages & chips, so about a third of a head)
  • Bacon – £0.15 (see my note on buying bacon at the bottom of this post)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs – £0.01
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes – £0.01
  • Stock cube – £0.04
  • Fresh parsley from my garden – free
  • 4 cups of wholewheat pasta – £0.29

Total = £1.22

One  things which is making my limited store cupboard more tolerable is growing fresh herbs. I will write about this in another post.

Sausages and Chips

There is very little to be said about this meal – it does what it says on the tin!

The sausages were in the reduced section of the supermarket – £1.04 for eight beef sausages, £0.13 per sausage. We cooked three potatoes, which I reckon was about £0.30. A head of broccoli was £0.70 and we used about a third of it. So, in all this meal cost approximately £0.80 for two people!

sausage and chips

Method

Heat the oven to about 180oC. Chop the potatoes into medium sized chips, sprinkle with mixed herbs, black pepper and a little oil and then place the sausages on top. Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately half an hour – you will know when they look cooked.

Chop the broccoli and put in a saucepan with a pinch of salt and water hot from the kettle. Cook for up to five minutes – depending on how crisp you like your vegetables.

This would be nice served with gravy, but because I am currently limited to one saucepan I didn’t bother.

One Pot Pasta

One Pot Pasta

This is a one-pot-wonder! A very simple pasta recipe which leaves you with very little washing up – winner.

The cost was approximately £1.50 for four portions – dinner for two plus leftovers for lunch. I have just eaten my leftovers outside in the sunshine, which is the first time I have eaten al fresco this year – always an significant occasion I feel!

One of the things I have been struggling with since stripping down my utensils to (more than) the bare minimum is only having one saucepan. Since starting the Basic Kitchen project I have struggled with anything which is served with pasta or rice. When I made veggie chilli I had to make the chilli, put it to one side, wash the pan and then cook the rice. When I made the delicious spicy stew I was too tired and hungry to spend time washing the pot and cooking rice so we dipped bread in it instead. This is an important point. I was clear at the outset of this little project that I am coming at this from a position of privilege – I do have money, I work part time so I do have time and usually energy, I love cooking and don’t consider it a chore. If it is difficult for me to cook with only one pan how much more so for someone who, for example, is working long hours for little pay or who is a carer?

So, discovering that pasta can be cooked this way was a revelation. I also think that the pasta is tastier because it absorbs the stock and tomato.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that it can be almost infinitely varied, so it is great for using up things which you have in the fridge. For this meal I used a base of bacon, onion and mushroom, but the recipe which gave me the inspiration used veggie sausages, sundried tomatoes, spinach and soy cream.

Have a go! Experiment! I would love to know what variations you make.

One Pot Pasta

Ingredients

  • One onion
  • A clove (or two) of garlic
  • 125g Cooking Bacon (see note below)
  • About 5 mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Black pepper
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • 1/2 pint vegetable or chicken stock (note, if you are not adding a tin of tomatoes you will need more liquid)
  • 4 cups of wholewheat pasta

Method

Fry the onion, garlic and bacon in a little oil and black pepper; when cooking with bacon you only need minimal oil because the bacon fat will melt. After a few minutes add the mushrooms, chilli and mixed herbs.

Boil the kettle to make the stock (I had to guess the amount because I don’t currently have a measuring jug – all part of the fun of the Basic Kitchen project!). Add the pasta, tinned tomatoes and stock to the pan and give everything a good stir. Cook on a low heat with a lid on the pan for ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. You may find that you need to add a little more boiling water if the sauce begins to dry out. Test the pasta to see if it is how you like it (I like mine to still have a bit of ‘bite’) and taste the sauce. Add further seasoning if necessary.

Serve with some cheese on top.

Cost

  • One onion – £0.09
  • A clove (or two) of garlic – £0.05
  • Bacon – £0.15 (see below note)
  • About 5 mushrooms – £0.47
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs – £0.01
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes – £0.01
  • Tin of tomatoes – £0.40
  • Stock cube – £0.04
  • 4 cups of wholewheat pasta – £0.29

Total cost = £1.51  – pretty good for four servings!

A note on bacon. By far the most cost effective way to buy bacon is to get what I call the ‘scrag ends’ – the bits which the butcher ends up with when he has cut all the perfect shaped rashers. I usually try to get this at the butchers because it is a cheap way to get high quality meat, however, I did my shopping in Tesco this week so the bacon was seriously cheap but not ‘butchers quality’. Buying bacon in this way is always a bit of a surprise – sometimes you get tiny offcuts, other times thick pieces which are almost gammon steaks. This packet contained three gammon steaks – so guess what we will be having for supper later in the week! So, all in all, 60p well spent!

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Ricotta Gnocchi – with lemon, parsley and chilli

One of the purchases which made up my £10 budget for this week was a pot of ricotta from the reduced section of the supermarket; 250g of ricotta cost me 86p. I hadn’t decided what to do with it when I bought it, but a bit of googling and I had the answer – it was time for me to learn how to make gnocchi! I used the basic recipe from this website – for the simple reason that it used the amount of ricotta that I had and I didn’t want to do any maths! I added fresh parsley from the garden to the mixture and used cheddar cheese because I had no parmesan, apart from that I followed the recipe pretty faithfully.

This isn’t the most camera-friendly dish I have ever made, but it was truly delicious.

Ricotta Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 8 oz / 250g Ricotta Cheese
  • 3/4 cup / 75 g freshly grated parmesan cheese (I substituted in cheddar cheese)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup / 110 – 150g plain flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • A splash of lemon juice
  • Black pepper

Method

Combine all of the ingredients – except for the flour – in a bowl and mix together. Add the minimum amount of flour to the mixture and combine until it makes a sticky soft dough. Add the remaining flour a tablespoon at a time, until you have a consistency that you can work with.

Turn it out onto a work surface which is lightly dusted with flour, sprinkle a tiny bit of flour on top then pat it down to a disc about an 2.5cm thick. Cut it into 8 pieces. Next, roll a piece into a log about 1.5 cm in diameter and then cut this into 1.5cm pieces. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

Ideally, the gnocchi should go into the fridge for about half an hour at this stage. It can keep in the fridge a day or more if you want to be organised and make it in advance.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Tumble the gnocchi in and cook for a couple of minutes, or until the gnocchi is floating on the surface for around 30 seconds.

Once the gnocchi is drained put some butter, pepper, chilli flakes and lemon juice into the pan and then return the gnocchi to the pan for a couple of minutes. Alternatively the gnocchi can be served with a pasta sauce, such as this favourite of mine (which is the first recipe I ever shared with you!).

Cost

  • 250g Ricotta – £0.86
  • 75g Cheddar Cheese – £0.40
  • 150g Plain Flour – £0.06
  • 2 Eggs – £0.31
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes – £0.01

Total Cost = £1.64

Ricotta Gnocchi