Tag Archives: cheap easy delicious

Gourmet tastes for next to nothing

18 Sep

If you ever wondered how to make a filling, hearty, scrumptious and attractive meal from a few roots and a bit of cabbage…. to satisfy even the most carnivorous of people, read on.

I had lot of root veg in the house, so for supper tonight I chopped sweet potato and half a butternut squash into chunks, turned them in oil and mixed herbs with a heavy pinch of chilli flakes, and bunged them in the oven on top heat. So far, so good.

Then it was the spuds – peeled, chopped and boiling, they toiled away while I peeled garlic and got Rich to pick parsley and chop it very finely. Jules was shredding red and white cabbage, meanwhile, and I was eyeing up the spice shelf.

When the spuds were soft, I drained them, pressed four garlic cloves into the steaming pan, added a sizable chunk of butter and a slosh of milk and mashed their socks off before dropping in the parsley for a final stir.

The cabbage was boiling hard for three minutes while the parsley was making the mash look pretty; then the cabbage was well drained and put back on a gentle heat. Three heaped tablespoons of sour cream, half a teaspoon of nutmeg and a generous shaking of paprika, lots of black pepper, and a thorough stir to coat and colour the white and purple shreds… and it was all ready.

The variety of flavours – sweet roots with an aromatic herby savour and the bright warmth of chilli; earthy mash with tangy garlic and parsley freshness, and the wonderfully complex spicy, creamy cabbage… contrasts that complemented perfectly, and won compliments. The colours and textures, too – I’ll definitely be doing this combo again – an off-the-cuff experiment that worked perfectly. It would be great for autumn and winter, and wonderfully cheap. Spuds, roots and cabbage, with a bit of spice and cream to add the luxury. Can’t be beaten.

Cheap? Yes, for sure.

Easy? Yes – nothing complicated, just some chopping and seasoning to think about.

Delicious? Oh…. yes… mmmmm.

cheap easy delicious

Sweet roots, garlic mash, spiced creamy cabbage

Advertisements

Free-form lunchtime delights

19 Aug

A friend commented on the food I’d produced for a sunny summer lunch a couple of weeks ago, that her mother would never have eaten the salad, as it contained raw peas and weeds. My friends, however, were more daring, and ate the lot with gusto.

salad, wildflowers, Carpathian Mountains, free food, foraging, nutrition

Weedy salad, full of vitamins, minerals and Carpathian sunshine

Salads are free-form food. Brought up in boring British kitchens of the 1960s and 1970s, where ‘salad’ was limp lettuce, soggy tomato slices, bits of cucumber and (in liberal circles) some grated carrot, I gradually realised that a salad could incorporate almost anything edible, from leaves to nuts, fish to fruit, spices, herbs and flowers. I went through a knickerbocker-glory phase of salad making, with layer upon layer of exciting ingredients in a huge bowl, delighting in the planning of it. But these concoctions took forever to produce, so these days I’ve scaled back a bit.

However, I now live amongst organic wildflower meadows, 1,000 metres up in the mountains, and my lawn is full of free and delicious greenery which gives me more nutrition than any shop-bought veg (including curly kale). What many call ‘weeds’, I call lunch. These are plants common to British gardens, so frustrated gardeners fed up of the unwanted leafy squatters in the veg patch: embrace them. Eat them. Ribwort and broad-leaved plantain, Fat Hen, wild carrot, Good King Henry, dandelion, chicory, caraway, chickweed, purslane, ox-eye daisy, smooth sow thistle, nettles, and the bane of gardeners, ground elder: all add texture and flavour to mild lettuce leaves or wilted spinach. Raw or steamed for 30 seconds, these are tasty, healthy and free-of-charge additions to your menu.

Back to salads. We know now that the more colourful the food we eat, the greater the health gains. Fruit, salads and veg come in the full spectrum of hues, and every colour brings different benefits. Raw is almost always healthier than cooked, so salads are the optimum eats.

So be bold. Experiment with different combinations. These bowls contain little heaps of: red cabbage (vivid purple when grated), tomatoes, crushed peanuts, peas (raw) from my garden, toasted sesame seeds, wild leaves (see list above), and spring onions. Topped with a wild carrot flower, and dressed with olive oil and a choice of lime juice or balsamic vinegar, they are filling, satisfying, pretty and delicious. Cheap, too, and easy – nothing clever required. Have a go.

Summer greens – make me feel fine

19 Jul

Seven kinds of greens, all picked from my veg patch, boiled for a minute and added to pasta with three cloves of garlic gently sizzled in oil, a spoonful of sour cream and lots of black pepper. Greens: purple mange tout, sugar snaps, ruby and golden chard, spinach, redshank and Fat Hen (the last two are wild veg, aka weeds, crammed with far more vitamins and minerals than any cultivated veg. Simple, cheap (some free), very easy, utterly delicious.

Wild, organic greens

Seven kinds of wild and home-grown organic veg, with pasta, garlic, sour cream and black pepper.

Stirring things up with spice, girls

14 Mar
Vegan, vegetable, spicy, spices, colour, flavour, cheap easy delicious

A colourful plate of goodness

Another colourful plateful, inspired by my veggie guests Katie and Suzie. Tonight it was a spicy stir fry that was really flavoursome and satisfying, full of scrumptious spices and textures, crunchy greens and melting noodles, nuts and seeds for protein and plenty of fibre.

Health in a plate, but more delicious than such a virtuous dish deserves to be. This recipe should serve six.

What

1 pack of wok noodles

2 medium aubergines (eggplants)

1 large red (bell) pepper

1 head of broccoli

1 large onion

4 cloves of garlic

1 large carrot

1 thick slice of green cabbage, finely chopped

2 tbsps sesame seeds

2 tbsps flaked almonds

1 small bowl of red-skin peanuts, soaked for an hour

big pinch of mixed herbs

soy sauce

dollop of your favourite Asian spices (Thai 7 spice, mild curry powder and a good shake of cayenne for me)

How

Chop the aubergine and roast in oil for 30 mins on high heat.

Chop all veg except the broccoli and cabbage, and sizzle in wok over low heat with spices, herbs and seasoning, and the nuts and seeds.

When veg is soft, glossy and aromatic, turn the roasted aubergine into the wok and let it absorb the spices. Add the broccoli and cabbage and sizzle of high heat, adding the noodles (prepared as per packet instructions) for the last five minutes.

Serve and eat immediately.

 

 

Mushrooms to kill for

12 Mar

Wow. Some dishes are just knock-out. Our supper tonight was one of those. Knock-out delicious, and knock-out for any passing vampires – the garlic content must be driving every vampire out of Romania, and every flu bug out of existence. Vegetarians, say huzzah – this is a dish worthy of a celebration.

Mushrooms, cauliflower, garlic, vampires, healthy food, veggie gourmet, vegan option, breadcrumbs, super supper, Transylania food

Mushroom crumble with a cheese lattice, served with cauliflower in white sauce

I had a box of field mushrooms (half a kilo @ 12 lei per kilo) demanding to be eaten, and a fat bulb of garlic sitting by a tub of sour cream. What was I to do? Could I neglect a whining mushroom any longer? Was the garlic to be denied? Not to mention a bag of crumbs made this morning from a belly of crusty brown bread and four lebanese flatbreads whose hey-day was past.

I wasn’t sure what would result, although I was confident of the ingredients – just wondered how it would all emerge from the burning fiery furnace of my oven.

By the way, I’ve swallowed half a litre of  organic pear cider (we used to call it perry), hence the purple prose. I shan’t apologise, but shall get on with the recipe.

This serves between 4 and 6 people, depending on their level of hunger. I served the mushrooms with barely-boiled cauliflower in a white sauce made with the stalks of the mushrooms.

What

500g large (field or Portobello) mushrooms

4 or 5 big cloves of garlic

1 heaped teaspoon of sour cream per mushroom

lots of breadcrumbs

fresh black pepper, mixed herbs, salt

50-100g grated cheese, for topping

How

Pull the stalks out of the mushrooms. Give the mushrooms a wipe and put them gills up in an oiled gratin dish, and wedge the stalks in amongst them. Two or three mushrooms per person is more than enough (depending on the size of fungi and appetites).

Crush or chop the garlic and put a bit in each mushroom; add the herbs and seasoning, then the dollop of sour cream.

Scatter the breadcrumbs liberally over the mushrooms till they’re well covered, then grate the cheese over the top.

Hurl it into a medium-hot oven for 30-40 minutes until the cheese melts into a lattice and the breadcrumbs are dark gold.

Serve with caufliflower in white sauce. (I chopped the four remaining mushroom stalks into the white sauce.)

This is a seriously good supper dish, and if presented with more care than I bothered with this evening, it would make a stunning meal for the most exacting of veggie gourmets. With the cauli, it is a triumph.

Vegans – substitute hummus or nut butter for the sour cream.

Cheap – yes. Easy – certainly. Delicious – unutterably.

 

 

Mock lobster (vegetarian)

11 Mar
Mock lobster, vegetarian recipe, tomato, onion, egg, rice, colourful food, cheap supper, flavour

Mock lobster and rice

Anyone else know this one? It may be a family thing, I’m guessing from World War 2 when rationing in the UK meant cooks got creative.

This is a delicious variation on tomato-and-onion sauce for rice or pasta; the pink colour is the only link with lobster – there’s no fishy taste at all.

Definitive cheap, easy and delicious recipe.

What:

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

2 tsps tomato paste

1 large onion

1 clove garlic

2 eggs

1 tbsp cream or sour cream*

4 basil leaves, ripped

Parsley to garnish

* my variation. Would definitely not have been in a wartime-rationing recipe.

How:

Chop onion and garlic finely and sizzle gently in oil till transparent and soft.

Add tomato paste and stir for two minutes till everything’s bubbling.

Add tinned tomatoes and let everything sizzle for another couple of minutes.

Add basil and seasoning (salt, pepper, etc to your taste)

Beat eggs with sour cream and a little bit of water, then add into tomato mix. Turn up the heat and sizzle hard, till egg is cooked and everything is bright pink.

Serve with rice or carb of your choosing; scatter parsley on top, and eat.

Spicy greens stir-fry

8 Mar
brassicas, broccoli, cabbage, spicy, spices, sesame, vegan, vegetarian, cheap easy delicious, vegetables

Intriguing, zingy, fresh, crunchy and full of character

Here’s a zingy vegan recipe that – if you’re dubious about brassicas – will transform your feelings about cabbage and broccoli. If you’re already a fan, this is another way with the greens.

Lots of people hate the idea of broccoli and cabbage, probably because as children they were fed them cooked to the point of disintegration.

Such a shame – not only are they incredibly good for you, full of nutrients and health-promoting goodies, but when properly cooked are delicious, fresh, crunchy, lively veg; and in this form, all the supper you can eat.

For four people (or three greedy ones) as a supper dish. As ever, this is how I did it, but you can improvise as you please:

What:

Two good broccoli stems (heads 6-8cm across)

Quarter of a cabbage (I used winter green cabbage, but choose your favourite leafy green)

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 tbsps of fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 tbsps sesame seeds

2 tbsps flaked almonds

1 tsp cayenne pepper or chilli flakes

1 tsp of Thai 7-spice powder

A good pinch of mixed herbs

Salt to taste

How:

Chuck everything except the green veg into a wok or a big saucepan, with a slug of oil (by preference, toasted sesame oil, but whatever you like to cook with).

Stir it thoroughly and let it all sizzle gently until the sesame and almonds are starting to colour, and the spicy aroma is getting heady (about 10 mins).

While that’s doing, chopped the broccoli into bite-sized bits, and the cabbage into fine slivers. Dump them into the wok and stir everything together for two minutes to coat the veg in spices, then turn up the heat and fry, turning and stirring continuously to avoid burning. It’ll take about 10 minutes to cook the veg till they’re bright green and al dente – still with a bit of crunch and character.

Serve with rice or noodles and eat immediately, while good and hot.

You can turn it into a meaty treat just by adding some chicken, pork or fine-cut beef, but I think it’s utterly scrummptious as it is.