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Top quality pizzas are not cheap to come by and the cheap ones are probably best ignored unless you’re in a hurry. Good homemade pizzas on the other hand are a pleasure to make and to eat, and are considerably cheaper to boot. There’s no need to splash out on posh ingredients either, I use the cheapest ingredients from the supermarket’s ‘basics’ range; including flour, tinned tomatoes, onions and mozzarella and they still turn out miles better than shop bought!

Homemade ones do take a bit more time than making a phone call to your favourite takeaway pizza place, but once you’re familiar with the process, the ‘hands-on’ time doesn’t take any longer than any other meal. In fact if prepped ahead pizza can be a very speedy meal taking only a few minutes to roll out the dough, add toppings and bake. When making pizza, I frequently make up a double batch of sauce and dough to portion up and pop in the freezer for another day; it’s well worth doing this as it means there’s always a fast, fresh, tasty meal, ready to go from the freezer.

The amounts given here, are enough for two large pizzas; or four people served with a hearty green side salad. Greedier people like my fella, might like a whole pizza to themselves!

I use pizza ‘stones’ for a crisp base; if you like making pizza as often as I do, they represent a useful addition to one’s store of kitchenalia. They last forever and can be bought lots of places now – just check around for the best deal first.

Classic Margherita Pizza

I generally start by prepping the sauce: 

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and saute gently until tender.
  3. Add the tomatoes and marjoram and allow the sauce to simmer gently on the stove – stirring occasionally – for about one hour, or until the sauce is nicely reduced to a thickish paste. Set aside.

As the sauce is reducing I get on with the dough:

  • 12 oz plain flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried yeast (either kind will do)
  • 3 floz boiling water
  • 4 floz milk
  1. Put flour, salt and olive oil in a large bowl. Stir ingredients together.
  2. Put sugar, milk, water and yeast in a jug and leave to sit until it activates or becomes a bit frothy, this should take about 20 minutes (if using instant yeast, bypass this stage and just add everything straight into the flour.)
  3. Make a well in the flour, and add the liquid. Mix to a ball of dough.
  4. Knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface, then return to the bowl and smooth a little extra olive oil over the surface.
  5. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and place somewhere warm (such as the airing cupboard) for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
  6. Heat the oven to 240C, if using place pizza stones on the top two shelves while the oven reaches it’s temperature.
  7. Meanwhile divide the dough into two and roll out the pieces to roughly 12″ each.

While the oven is heating, I prepare the topping:

  • 4 x 125g balls of mozzarella, drained
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh marjoram leaves, left whole
  • 2 tsp olive oil, for drizzling
  1. Divide the mozzarella into two portions. Thinly slice one half and process or grate the other half. Then assemble the pizzas.
  2. If using, take pizza stones out of the oven, flour lightly and carefully place the rolled out dough onto them (be careful of fingers.) Otherwise use a couple of baking sheets, lightly floured.
  3. Spread the pizza sauce 50/50 over each uncooked pizza base, use the back of a metal spoon to spread it out.
  4. Sprinkle the grated mozzarella 50/50 evenly over each pizza.
  5. Put pizzas in the oven for around only six minutes.
  6. Take pizzas out of the oven (the grated mozzarella should be just melted and the edges of the dough beginning to lightly brown) and add the remaining toppings evenly over both. Drizzle with just a little extra olive oil.
  7. Return the pizzas to the oven (I switch them around at this point) and bake for a further eight minutes. Be careful not to over cook however and keep an eye on them to ensure they’re not burning.
  8. Take out of oven, slice and serve.

 

Wheat Grain, Carrot and Coriander PilafOne of the easiest ways to ensure that our shopping budgets stretch further without relying on cheap processed food products, is to try to make the most of cheap wholefood ingredients.

Staples such as wheat grains, barley and split peas are among my favourite ‘basic’ ingredients for healthy, simple vegetarian dishes and when paired with cheap and reliable vegetables such as onions, carrots and potatoes, they really do make incredibly frugal meals. Add a few spices and some herbs from the garden, and you’re away.

This is a dish I tried, purely because I wanted to make more use of the large and ridiculously cheap bag of organic wheat grains in my store cupboard and as for carrots, I always have them on hand in my vegetable basket.

I think it makes a lovely late summer pilaf or salad. Eat just warm for supper, or chilled in your work lunchbox, the sweet and spicy flavours work well either way.

Wheat Grain, Carrot and Coriander Pilaf

 

Wheat Grain, Carrot and Coriander Pilaf

  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Grains (aka ‘Wheat Berries’)
  • 4 Carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 2 tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 Pinch Chilli Pepper Flakes
  • 2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1/3 Cup Raisins
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • A Handful of Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
  1. Put the wheat grains in a large pan on the stove and cover with plenty of boiling water. Bring to the boil, add the lid and reduce the heat to a fast simmer. Cook for 40 – 50 minutes, or until the grains are well cooked (wheat grains remain pleasantly chewy when cooked.) Drain and place in a serving bowl.
  2. Put the remaining ingredients (barring the salt and pepper and fresh parsley) into another pan, and cook over a medium heat for around five minutes.
  3. Stir the carrot mixture into the wheat grains. Season with salt and pepper and stir through the parsley.
  4. Leave till just warm before serving, or chill.

Recipe adapted from here: http://thehealthyapron.com/2011/03/17/its-a-potluck-carrot-raisin-wheat-berry-salad-with-cumin-and-cilantro/

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I’m not a big fan of sweet things at breakfast time so I often prefer my breakfasts to be savoury, however what I don’t prefer is the hassle that usually comes from cooking them first thing in the morning. In my ongoing search for fast simple and savoury breakfasts, I found this recipe from another blog here some time ago and I’ve been making it ever since; with a couple of minor alterations. It’s savoury, satisfying and actually rather moreish as well as being nice and quick and relatively mess free! Generally I cook up a batch of quinoa and then use it from the fridge during the week, but even if you haven’t pre-cooked your quinoa, it only takes another ten or so minutes of prep to do it in the morning.

Savoury Breakfast Quinoa – vegan

  • cooked quinoa, about a ladle full or a US cup full
  • one small onion, roughly chopped
  • a good handful of mushrooms or about 100g, sliced 
  • 1 dessert spoonful of tasty oil, I like hemp or olive
  • 1 tsp soya sauce
  • salt and black pepper
  1. If you haven’t already cooked your quinoa, then put a cup full in a pan and cover with boiling water. Bring back to the boil, put on the lid and reduce the heat. Simmer for ten to fifteen minutes, or until doubled in size. Rinse and strain.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or large non-stick saucepan. Add onions, mushrooms and a pinch of salt, and fry on a medium to high heat for several minutes, or until the edges of your mushrooms begin to brown.
  3. Add the cooked quinoa (as much as you are hungry for) and heat through briefly, while stirring.
  4. Serve. Season with a dash of soya sauce and a grind of black pepper.

 

 

 

It’s been a while since I last did this, so it’s time for another round-up of yummy, wholesome low-cost vegan recipes from other people’s blogs! As it’s still really cold out there in the rain soaked UK, I thought some warming spicy internationally themed dishes were in order.

First up from Frugal Feeding, is an absolutely delicious, fiery Penne All’arabiata. This recipe includes the clever addition of butter beans in place of the diced chicken which can be found included in some recipes (particularly in Americanised versions.) Pasta and pulses are a traditional combination in many rustic Italian dishes and they are wonderful together here smothered in a rich slow-cooked chilli-laced tomato sauce. The combination of grains and pulses provides plenty of wholesome plant-based protein, along with oodles of winter-defying carbs. Serve with a simple side salad or some warm bread. A topping of grated hard Italian cheese or a sprinkle of yeast flakes makes it perfect.

We’ve had this dish numerous times over the past few months and it’s become a household favourite! As for frugality, the primary ingredients of tinned tomatoes and pasta can be found in the ‘basics’ range of all major supermarkets. And of course beans are typically considerably cheaper to buy than chicken.

Butterbeans all’Arrabbiata by Frugal Feeding

Butterbeans all’Arrabiata by Frugal Feeding

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Second up is another dish I’ve cooked several times now. My partner is a huge curry fan, and so am I. As well as more authentic Indian dishes, we both love the classic Anglo-Indian curry house fare typified by chunky ingredients cooked in a thick smothering of rich red-brown spicy sauce! This recipe fulfils the requirements of any non-meat eating, spicy heat loving, Indian takeaway fan.

I tend to tweak this a little. We like to add some fresh little fiery red chillies (from our beloved windowsill plants) to the ginger and garlic paste, for the punchy heat that’s so famous to Vindaloo in the UK – clearly how hot you like your curry is a personal thing, so I won’t offer any suggestions as to quantity here. I also add three US sized cups of water after the vegetables go in, and  then cook at a highish heat with the lid on for about twenty minutes; before adding a little sachet of creamed coconut (I use this instead of adding the coconut milk) and then simmering without the lid for another five to ten minutes to reduce the liquid.

Although the base ingredients of potatoes, onions and cauliflower are not in themselves extravagant, because this recipe involves making a spice paste from scratch, it requires a lot of spices which could be problematic if you are on a tight budget. I make sure that that’s not an issue to me, by keeping my spice rack well stocked at all times and I find the best way to achieve a good range of spices, without spending a great deal all at once, is to pick up one or two spices here and there, as you shop from week to week. I usually get in a refill of something each shop and I firmly believe that the value in terms of flavour and variety that a well stocked spice rack can impart when used along with otherwise frugal staples, makes it worth every penny. A quick note on ginger, do buy it whole and not in those little dried up chunks that come in packets, it’s generally much cheaper to buy it in larger roots, and they last for ages. As for Basmati rice which is an essential companion to any curry, we get ours in bulk from Lidl where it can be found in huge bags along with lots of other bargain world food ingredients.

This blog appears to be dormant at the moment, so I’m going to have to copy this recipe just in case it ends up getting deleted..

Indian Spicy Vindaloo with Cauliflower and Potato by Lillneko’s Kitchen

Indian Spicy Vindaloo with Cauliflower and Potato by Lillneko’s Kitchen

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Third up is another exceptionally frugal but flavourful dish, this time originally hailing from Macedonia. The blogger states that they found it in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook, which like many others is one on my ‘must get sometime’ list. If you haven’t tried them already, then wheat berries (also more pragmatically named whole wheat grains) can be found at wholefood suppliers; I got mine in an incredibly good value 3 kg bag for a little over £4 from the online supplier Goodness Direct HERE. What’s even more impressive is that they’re organic too!

Wheat berries are super filling and satisfying. Being a whole unprocessed grain they also last ages in the store-cupboard. They are chewy little niblets of numminess, a great addition to the wholefood store-cupboard, and perfect combined with a rich spicy sauce like the one in this recipe. Another blog that’s in stasis here, I must make an effort to type the recipe up as well!

Macedonian Wheat Berry Stew by The Culinary Cheapskate

Macedonian Wheat Berry Stew by The Culinary Cheapskate

NOTE: While I have credited the authors and linked to their blogs, I haven’t asked permission for the use of these images. If any of the authors object for any reason to me posting their images, do let me know and I’ll take them down!

Cashew nut roast with cranberries, red chilli and rosemary

I know there are a lot of Marmite-style love / hate feelings about nut roast in the vegetarian community. But so far as I’m concerned classic dishes never go out of fashion, and good nut roast is as classic as they come. For me a good nut roast has to be both firm but moist, as well as holding it’s shape and slicing nice and cleanly. This recipe (which I’ve adapted from HERE) works well on all fronts. I also like a nut roast to deliver distinctive flavours, and here I’ve included a robust trinity of fruity, herby and spicy elements in the form of cranberries, rosemary and chilli. Brought together these ingredients compliment each other very much like a perfect winter chutney against the savoury nut meat base.

As ever in the Penniless kitchen, I look to employ the most affordable ingredients available, and so the cashews I’ve used are from the generic supermarket ‘basics’ range which – at ASDA at least – come in at under half the price of the regular kind. Just pop them in a sieve and give a quick rinse under the tap to remove the added salt, then gently shake off the excess moisture in a clean tea towel before chopping. An added bonus to supermarket ‘basics’ cashews are that they come ready toasted, so there’s no need to go through that stage of preparation yourself.

Further to frugality, I always cook with herbs harvested from my own garden. As a woody perennial evergreen, rosemary is a stalwart herb which continues to provide colour for the garden and flavour for the kitchen throughout the winter months. If you have a bit of space outside, rosemary is a great evergreen shrub to plant and just like many herbs, it asks for very little and gives a lot.

The fresh chillies I’ve been cooking with this year I’ve also harvested from my own plants. I’d encourage anyone who enjoys the pungent zing of fresh chillies, to try growing them. It’s absolutely worth the small outlay for a packet of seeds. If looked after and kept in a warm bright location, they will even keep providing you with fresh chillies right into the winter. The aptly named variety ‘Prairie Fire’ provides an abundance of fiery little chillies that pack a proper punch. The plants are attractive and compact, and as such ideal for growing indoors on a sunny windowsill. A pack of seeds can be got for just 75p from my favourite bargain seed supplier ‘More Veg’ HERE; what’s more many people even include these festive looking little red and green pot plants in their Xmas table decorations.

Serve  this nut roast thickly sliced with all your favourite trimmings. For me that means a big pile of braised red cabbage. Roast potatoes cooked to a golden toffee-like crunch are also essential. For something green, lightly steamed broccoli florets served with an optional creamy blue cheese sauce. And last but not least, rich onion gravy to pour over everything.

Cashew nut roast with cranberries, red chilli and rosemary

 

Cashew Nut Roast with Cranberries, Red Chilli and Rosemary – vegan

Ingredients

  • 80 g / 3 oz dried cranberries
  • 80 ml / 3 fl oz hot water
  • 225 g / 8 oz cashews, toasted and roughly processed 
  • 170 g / 6 oz breadcrumbs
  • 2 dssp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 – 4 small hot red chillies, finely chopped
  • 80 g / 3 oz flour
  • 200 ml / 7 fl oz light vegetable stock (I use 3 tsp Marigold bouillon powder)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas 5. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Put the cranberries into a cup and add the hot water, set aside to soak.
  3. Mix the breadcrumbs, nuts and rosemary in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a large deep-sided non-stick pan (I use a casserole dish). Add the onions and saute for several minutes until tender.
  5. Add the crushed garlic and chopped chillies and continue to saute for a couple more minutes until the garlic releases it’s aroma.
  6. Take off the heat and stir in the flour. Then pour the hot stock into the pan and stir well to form a sticky paste.
  7. Strain the cranberries and stir them into the bowl containing the cashew and breadcrumb mixture.
  8. Then tip the cashew, breadcrumb and cranberry mixture into the pan. Mix well so that everything is thoroughly combined.
  9. Pack the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Smooth down the top with the back of a wettened metal spoon.
  10. Bake for around  forty-five minutes to one hour, or until firm and an inserted knife comes out clean.
  11. NOTE: Once baked, I prefer to leave nut loaf to sit in the tin for about half an hour before serving, as I feel it helps it to firm up for slicing.

Mulligatawny Soup

This spicy autumnal soup is a great way to rid yourself of the huge marrow that your dear neighbour has kindly bequeathed you! The one I’ve just disposed of was an absolute monster which had been left out on a grass verge by an anonymous gardener ‘free to any taker’, so we did!

I originally found this recipe by way of Delia Smith’s Vegetarian Collection a few years ago and I make it every autumn. This version is slightly simplified for the sake of ease as Delia toasts and crushes a variety of whole spices instead of using generic curry powder as I do. She also uses oodles (4oz/100g) of butter and to be truthful the butter really adds richness so if you don’t exclude dairy from your diet, you could swap the margarine I use here for butter (though I wouldn’t suggest using quite as much as Delia does unless you really love rich buttery flavours.)

Delia says she got the original inspiration for her vegetable mulligatawny from classic English cook Eliza Acton (1799-1859), who in case you don’t know, was one of the very first people to write a cookery book specifically for domestic cooks.

Mulligatawny itself is a classic example of Anglo-Indian food (a hybrid of British and Indian cuisine originally imported from India to Britain by members of the British military and colonial administration) that was particularly popular during the Victorian period, and which indeed remains popular in the form of ‘old fashioned’ favourites in the UK today. Even Worcestershire sauce – a cupboard staple most people would think of as being British through and through – originally heralds from the Victorian love of Indian spices.

The one small extravagance I’ve splurged on in this otherwise frugal soup, is the use of a small amount (and it is only a small amount) of wild rice mix in place of the basmati Delia uses. I think the wild rice mix adds extra interest by the way of texture and colour, but feel free to substitute any kind of rice you have in stock.

Eliza Acton’s Vegetable Mulligatawny – vegan

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:

  • 50g / 2oz vegetable margarine  
  • 3 large onions , finely chopped
  • 2 – 4 tsp curry powder (depending on how hot you like your food!)
  • 700g / 1&1/2lb marrow, peeled de-seeded and chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes, dissolved in 850ml / 1&1/2 pints hot water
  • 2oz rice (I used a wild rice mix)
  • 1 tbsp of vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce

Method:

  1. Melt the margarine in a large pan and saute the onions until they are soft and golden.
  2. Stir in the curry powder and cook briefly.
  3. Add the chopped marrow, potato, tinned tomatoes and stock to the pan.
  4. Bring to the boil, reduce the temperature, put on the lid and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender.
  5. While the vegetables are cooking, simmer the rice in a separate smaller pan until just cooked. Then drain, rinse and set to one side.
  6. When the vegetables are cooked, remove pan from the heat and blend the soup to a smooth puree with a hand held immersion blender (beware of hot splashes!)
  7. Stir in the cooked rice and Worcestershire Sauce and warm through if necessary.
  8. Season well with salt and pepper and serve with brown rolls.                                                                                        

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Now Autumn is well underway thoughts of forthcoming Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes Night celebrations are with us. Before Winter’s chill really sets in, an Autumn bonfire party is the last proper opportunity for us in the UK to enjoy outdoor eating.

These US style baked beans are full of rich flavours, and quite unlike our UK tinned baked beans. Just perfect served over a big fluffy baked potato with a healthy serving of red cabbage slaw on the side; and don’t forget the mulled cider if you’re having a party. Of course you don’t actually have to have a bonfire party in order to make US campfire style baked beans but they are a great warming way to feed a crowd, especially if you do the traditional thing and bake your jacket potatoes on the bonfire!

Once soaked and boiled, the preparation for these beans is really quick and easy, however they do take several hours to cook properly so make sure you get your preparation underway earlier in the day! I actually cook mine in a traditional glazed terracotta ‘Olla’ or Spanish bean pot that I picked up for a fiver in a charity shop and it’s absolutely perfect for the job, however any casserole dish with a well fitting lid will do.

Boston Baked Beans – vegan

Ingredients

  • 450g / 1 lb dried haricot beans (great northern), soaked overnight in cold water
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 4tbsp molasses or black treacle
  • 450ml / 16 floz lager or bitter
  • 1 x 400g / 14oz tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4tbsp tomato puree
  • 4tbsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
  • 1tbsp chilli powder (optional, or use less if you prefer your beans less piquant)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 150C / 300F / Gas 2
  2. Drain the beans. Place them in a large saucepan and cover with fresh water. Boil for 10 minutes, scoop any foam off at this point. Put lid on saucepan, reduce heat and simmer for a further 45 minutes.
  3. Drain cooked beans and place in a casserole dish. Stir in the chopped onions, mustard and lager or bitter.
  4. Add all the other ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until well blended.
  5. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish and stir through the beans well.
  6. Put lid on casserole and bake for around 4 hours. Check a couple of times during cooking to ensure the beans don’t dry out too much – add a little extra water if needed.

Serves 6

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