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

Vegetable and Chickpea Chilli

This is the third recipe in my Basic Kitchen series. It isn’t the first vegetable chilli I have put on the blog, nor the most complex or inspired; however, it was cheap and warming and the rice was delicious. Chilli recipes can be very varied, if you fancy having a nosy at the rather different veggie chilli’s I have written up previously the links are below.

This would have been a quick meal, but I had to cook the chilli, put it to one side and then cook the rice. Chilli is always better the next day, so if I had been feeling organised (which I wasn’t) I would have made it the day before and then just had to cook rice for supper.

Vegetable Chilli

Ingredients

  • one onion
  • a small carrot
  • a couple of sticks of celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes (you can add more to taste later if required)
  • black pepper
  • half a tin of tinned tomatoes
  • a tin of chickpeas
  • a stock cube
  • rice

Method

Finely chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery sticks. Fry in a little oil and a few grinds of black pepper.

When the onions are starting to look translucent add the tinned tomatoes. Crumble the stock cube into a mug and pour over about a half a mug of boiling water, stir and add this to the pan along with the chilli flakes. Put the lid on and let it simmer over a low heat.

After about 10 minutes taste and season if needed. At this stage I removed the vegetable chilli from the pan and put it in a bowl covered with a plate to keep it warm and washed up the pan ready to cook the rice (for those of you who have not seen my recent posts, I have pared down my kitchen to an extreme extent).

Cooking the rice. A number of people have told me that they find it difficult to cook rice; I am lucky to have spent a lot of time when I was at university with friends from Singapore and Hong Kong who gave me some good pointers.

I tend to bulk-buy rice from the international section of the supermarket – either Thai Jasmine rice or Basmati rice. It is cheaper and, I think, tastier to bulk-buy international brands of rice but it is often less processed and therefore needs more rinsing.

Approximately 1/3 cup is a good portion size. Put the rice in a pan, cover with cold water and then give it a swill around; the water will turn cloudy with the starch, pour the water off and rinse again. I find that cheaper rice needs to be rinsed a few times. After rinsing I cover the rice with sufficient cold water that when I put my index finger on top of the rice the water comes to my first knuckle. Add a pinch of salt and less than a teaspoon of oil (I like to use coconut oil for this but it isn’t currently in my store-cupboard) and cook over a low/medium heat until all the water is absorbed at which point it will be done. It is difficult to say how long it takes because it depends on the volume being cooked.

Serve with the chilli and a little cheese if you fancy it.

I cooked extra rice for this meal so that there was enough for a leftovers lunch and a meal of fried rice.

Costs

  • one onion = £0.09
  • a small carrot = £0.04
  • a couple of sticks of celery = £0.08
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes (you can add more to taste later if required) – £0.01
  • black pepper
  • half a tin of tinned tomatoes – the cost of this was accounted for yesterday.
  • a stock cube = £0.04
  • rice – six portions = £0.40
  • tin of chickpeas = £0.35

Total = £1.01

No extra utensils this time!

Spicy Bean and Stuffing Stew

bean stew

As many of you who follow me are aware I have just commenced a new project called Kitty’s Basic Kitchen. I have put most of my kitchen utensils, spices and other store-cupboard food away in boxes, with the aim of seeing to what extent it is possible to build a kitchen and cook healthy food on a very limited budget.

This is the second recipe in the series. The first thing which I cooked was homemade stuffing and roast vegetables; which quickly made me realise that I had missed something important out of my basic kitchen – a baking tray! Steve and I ate only half of the stuffing I cooked; I had thought to use the extra for stuffing sandwiches for lunch (yum!) but some Pinterest inspiration led me to make this stew.

This one-pot meal was inspired by this recipe from the blog ‘My Fussy Eater’, with some key differences:

  • Instead of sausages I used up cooked stuffing leftover from the meal yesterday;
  • I had in the fridge half a tin of baked beans which I used instead of butter beans;
  • because of the tomato juice in the beans I only used half a tin of tomatoes;
  • paprika has not yet made it into the store-cupboard I am starting from scratch, so I used chilli instead.
  • I am sadly lacking tomato puree; and
  • I didn’t end up adding any stock because there was enough salt in the baked beans.

This fed two people, we dipped bread in it and it was really yummy. If I had used the whole tin of tomatoes and added a tin of butter beans then it would have also made at least one lunch for the following day.

I didn’t need to change the method to fit in with my emptied kitchen, so I don’t think that I need to re-write the recipe. The only difference was that I didn’t need to first cook the sausages. So, on to costs.

Cost

The cost of the stuffing was already accounted for as part of the meal yesterday.

  • an onion – £0.09
  • two carrots – £0.07
  • 2 cloves of garlic – £0.05
  • tin of tomatoes – £0.35 (I used Asda’s cheapest, they were okay but contained more liquid than a more expensive tin. I only used half, but have included all the cost in this meal and will exclude it from the cost of the meal tomorrow.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs – £0.01
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes – £0.01
  • 1/2 tin of baked beans – £0.25 (I used the cheapest I could find in the Co-op, I thought that they would be all sauce and no bean but they were actually pretty good. I have included the full cost of the tin because the beans on toast we had at the weekend weren’t accounted for elsewhere.)
  • I haven’t yet worked out the cost of a tablespoon of oil, but I assume that it is negligible. I will go with £0.05 for sake of argument.
  • Bread to dip – £0.25

Ingredients Cost = £1.13 !!

But wait, we haven’t done utensils yet and I had forgotten something obvious from my Basic Kitchen a tin opener! Having found it in the bottom of a box I now need to add the cost to my monthly £10 utensil budget. What do I do? Should I go for the cheapest I can find and hope that it won’t fall apart in the first week? I expect that I will have forgotten some other obvious things, so cheapest it is.

Utensil Cost – £2.50

Spicy bean stew

stew2

 

Sage & Onion Stuffing with Roasties

A day into my Basic Kitchen project and I have already made my first ‘purchase’ – a baking tray! I found an equivalent for £1 in Asda. I managed to resist buying back one of my mixing bowls, using my one saucepan to crumb the bread into instead.

I wouldn’t have expected the first of a series on frugal recipes to include meat, but I had defrosted the sausage meat a couple of days ago so it needed using up. Usually I would wrap stuffing balls in bacon, which prevents the stuffing from drying out and has the added bonus that the vegetables cook in bacon fat. However, I went to spend my weekly £10 at the Co-op following days upon days of snow and the shelves were bare. Oh well.

The meal including the baking tray cost £2.82, the cost breakdown is at the bottom of the page.

sage and onion stuffing

Ingredients

  • Pack of sausage meat
  • Remains of a dried loaf
  • A few sage leaves (from my garden; if I had used dried sage this would have added to the cost of the meal)
  • Half an onion
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • A splash of milk
  • Three potatoes
  • Five carrots
  • Teaspoon of mixed herbs
  • Drizzle of oil

Sage and onion stuffing Ingredients

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC.

Chop the vegetables and put onto a baking tray, then sprinkle them with herbs and pepper and drizzle with oil.

Break the bread into crumbs – this was rather more time consuming than usual without my food processor! You will need approximately the same volume of breadcrumbs as you have sausage meat. Any excess breadcrumbs can be put into a box or bag and frozen.

Next, rip the sage leaves into small pieces and add to the bread crumbs along with finely chopped onion, a generous pinch of salt and few grinds of black pepper. Add the sausage meat and mix into the dry ingredients, adding small splashes of milk until it binds together (don’t let it get too wet). I found it easiest to mix with a fork initially and then used my hands. You will have to use your hands to make the stuffing into balls so you will have to get your hands dirty one way or another!

Shape the stuffing into small balls and place these on top of the vegetables. Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 45 minutes.

I would have served this with gravy but I forgot and we were hungry! I will share gravy making with you another time.

sage and onion stuffing

Costs

Note that where I already have ingredients in my store cupboard (such as mixed herbs) I have given the cost of the ingredient used; whereas when I introduce a new ingredient I will give the full cost as if I were buying it from the supermarket.

I am not sure how to cost a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper, a drizzle of oil and a splash of milk!

I have included the cost of all the stuffing balls even though we saved some for the next meal, so tomorrow’s meal will not include the cost of the stuffing.

Stuffing

  • Sausage meat – £1.10 (this had been in my freezer since Christmas and I can’t remember the real cost, so I looked up the cost of frozen sausage meat from Sainsbury’s)
  • Breadcrumbs – £0.25
  • Half an Onion – £0.04
  • Sage – using sage from my garden cost nothing. If I had added dried sage to my basic store-cupboard at this stage it would have added up to £1 to my weekly spending, depending on which supermarket I used.

Vegetables

  • Carrots – £0.12
  • Potatoes – £0.30
  • Mixed herbs – £0.02

Equipment

  • Baking Tray – £1

Total Cost = £2.82

The Privilege of Economising

Here begins a project that has been at the back of my mind for a year or more…

When I was living in Stroud, Gloucestershire and involved with my local foodbank I did a project which looked at the barriers which stop people from shopping and cooking frugally. There are many. A key thing I noticed when talking to people at foodbank drop-ins and to friends and neighbours who struggle financially is that many people don’t have the kitchen capacity to cook meals with multiple stages and ingredients; which means that they are restricted to expensive pre-prepared meals. What I mean by kitchen capacity is that they may have only a single saucepan, no mixing bowl, no chopping board… and they can be the lucky ones. I met many a single guy who lived in a single room with only a kettle – sometimes only a kettle shared among many, and when that was stolen or broken sandwiches and crisps were the order of the day.

It made me realise how many ‘implements’ I use in my cooking, and how the healthy, cheap food I cook is made much easier by having a well stocked kitchen. I have also realised that taking advantage of economies of scale are often the privilege of the wealthy; whether this is bulk-buying ingredients, having a slow cooker and large pans to bulk cook, or buying clothes that are expensive but won’t fall apart after a month.

utensils

So, the project that I have had at the back of my mind. I am going to pretend from this moment that I am starting my kitchen pretty much from scratch (I probably should have done this from when we first moved to our rented place, which has a much smaller kitchen than I am accustomed to – the cupboards are overflowing and make me stressed every time I try to find something!). I am going to start with what I consider ‘basic’ (which is still more than many people have) which I have costed up as though I were buying new items from the supermarket. Everything else will go into a box and everytime I realise that there is something else that I need I will have to ‘buy’ it back, factoring in this cost to the price of the meal I am cooking. I will also start with what I consider a basic store cupboard, everytime I feel I need a different spice I will have to ‘buy it back’ from the spice store that I will put to one side – I will find this difficult! Again, the store-cupboard prices come from current supermarket prices. I have assumed at this stage that I could afford to bulk buy things such as rice, I will also use up anything which we already have which is perishable – I cannot abide wasting food!

SONY DSC

So, this is what I will start with :

Utensils (£20.50)

  • One saucepan
  • One multipurpose knife
  • A wooden spoon
  • chopping board
  • Two bowls
  • Two plates
  • (I can get a four piece dinner set from Asda for less than the individual pieces so I will do that)

Storecupboard (£18.30)

  • Cooking oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Mixed Herbs
  • Dried Chilli
  • Beef Stock Cubes
  • Vegetable Stock Cubes
  • A couple of tins of tomatoes
  • A couple of tins of pulses
  • Rice (5kg bag)
  • Pasta (3kg bag)
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Milk

I think that more frequent washing up is going to be a side effect of this way of cooking!

I intend to go back to my strict food budget – which was £5 a week when I was on my own so now will be £10 a week. I will allow myself £10 a month to add to the utensils, if there is any left this can be spent on food or spices.

I shall call this little project ‘Kitty’s Basic Kitchen’.

So, now to start stripping my kitchen of all my privileged items! Wish me luck!

Chicken, Bacon and Haggis

Last night Steve and I had a delicious and very simple meal. There isn’t much to be said about it – it was proper old fashioned meat and two veg for a cold snowy night. I couldn’t even be bothered to do mashed potato so I bunged a couple of baking spuds in the oven.

I adore haggis. I had some in the freezer left over from Burns Night – I have a habit of buying far too much haggis (as you do). I defrosted more than would fit in the chicken so we had the extra wrapped just in bacon, a bit like a stuffing ball. If you don’t like or can’t get hold of haggis then stuffing would be a nice substitute.

A word on chicken thigh – it is tastier than chicken breast and quite a lot cheaper. What’s no to like!

I could have done much more interesting vegetables, and probably would have done at a weekend – but it was a tired Thursday evening and my husband and I were more in the mood for a card game than for cooking! A chuck it in the oven and ignore it meal was definitely the order of the day.

chicken bacon and haggis

Ingredients

  • A boned chicken thigh per person
  • Four rashers of bacon per person
  • A handful of haggis each (possibly not a very helpful measure! I had frozen the (uncooked) haggis chopped into chunks so I could grab one or two at a time as needed)
  • Potatoes, vegetables and gravy – if the mood takes you you can be rather more creative with this than I was!

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC; put the potatoes into the top of the oven straight away if you are baking them. The potatoes take longer than the chicken so there is no need to rush the next bit (I was impatient and ended up having to give the potatoes a blast in the microwave for five minutes part way through cooking, which disrupted the card game somewhat!).

Flatten out the chicken; you will find that because the thighs have been boned there is an obvious place to open it up.

Take about a tablespoon of haggis and wrap the chicken around it. Next, wrap a couple of rashers of bacon around the chicken to hold it together as a parcel. Any remaining haggis after you have done chicken for everyone can be made into balls  with bacon wrapped around. Place in an oven dish and bake in the bottom of the oven for half to three-quarters of an hour.

Serve with vegetables and gravy (I ‘cheated’ at gravy; I found instant granules at the back of the cupboard, doctoring it just a little by using the boiling water from the carrots and adding a little of the juice from the cooked meat).

Simples!