Leek and potato soup with homemade rosemary focaccia bread

I found myself making leek and potato soup a few nights ago.  It wasn’t a pre-conceived mission or anything. I just happened to have all the correct ingredients and I’d completely forgotten how fulfilling and tasty a well made leek and potato soup can be. The focaccia bread inspiration comes from a good friend, whom whilst in between living his hedonistic lifestyle in Shoreditch as a bass player (in a great band) he always takes the time out on a Sunday to bake bread.

Ingredients

  • 4 large leeks (£1.09)
  • 2 medium potatoes (41p)
  • 1 medium onion (11p)
  • 25g of fresh rosemary (79p)
  • 1.5kg bag of Tesco strong white bread flour (£1.29) – we’re using 450g so loads left
  • 1 pack of Tesco fast action dried yeast (67p)

The cupboard staples…

Olive oil, black pepper, salt, butter, milk (1/2 a pint), garlic (2 cloves) and 2 chicken stock cubes.

Total cost

If you already have the cupboard staples, then according to mysupermarket.co.uk, this trolley was cheapest at Tesco where it came to £4.36 - that's £1.09 per head!

Instructions

  • Let’s start with the focaccia bread. You’ll need to set aside about 2 hours to make. Grab a large bowl and combine 450 grams of flour, 2 teaspoons of yeast and 2 teaspoons of salt together. Then add 400ml of tepid water and use your hands to knead into dough. If it feels a little too sticky (i.e. difficult to work with and clumping in your hands too much), just add a little flour.
  • Once you’ve worked into a dough in the bowl turn out on to a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Keep adding a little flour to avoid sticking and to help into a smooth consistency. Now place the dough back in the floured bowl (this avoids sticking) and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Airing cupboards are perfect for letting the dough rise.
  • Whilst the dough is rising, you can make the soup. Start by prepping the vegetables; so finely chop the leeks, onion, 2 cloves of garlic and cube the potatoes.
  • Take a good large thick bottomed pan and add a large glug of olive oil along with a tablespoon of butter. Add the leeks and onion and soften down for around 10 minutes on a low heat. Now add the potatoes and garlic, season well with salt and black pepper and cook for a further 3 minutes. Then add 2 pints of chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Finally add ½ a pint of milk and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
  • Take the soup off the heat, let it cool down a little and whizz with a hand held blender to a smooth consistency. Set to one side ready to heat up once the focaccia is cooked.
  • Back to the focaccia. Take the dough from the bowl and place in an oiled rectangle baking tray (at least 2 inches in depth), making sure you cover all the surface of the tray with an even thickness. Place back in a warm place to rise for a further 30 minutes (covered with a damp tea towel).
  • After 30 minutes the dough will have risen nicely. Preheat the oven to 200C (425F or gas mark 6).
  • Before putting in the oven, poke holes with your finger all over the bread and add the roughly chopped rosemary, a good pinch of salt (rock salt is better if you have) and drizzle all over with olive oil.
  • Place in the oven for 30 minutes (until golden brown on top). Turn out on to a cooling rack for a few minutes and then slice into thick chunks and serve with the soup (the focaccia should be eaten whilst still warm ideally). A classic. Happy eating!

Lemon and rosemary pork steaks with crushed carrots and garlic new potatoes

This is a lighting quick dish and a perfect mid week family meal. Don’t be put off by the raw minced garlic – it works a treat and I know the garlic lovers out there will dig the potatoes. If you don’t like garlic too much, just use the one clove or substitute with mint.

Ingredients

  • 900g pack of pork shoulder steaks (£3.50)
  • 1 lemon (23p)
  • 500g of Tesco Chantenay carrots (45p)
  • 1.3kg of Tesco organic new potatoes (£1)
  • 25g of fresh rosemary (79p)

The cupboard staples…

Olive oil, black pepper, salt, butter, nutmeg and 4 cloves of garlic.

Total cost

If you already have the cupboard staples, then according to mysupermarket.co.uk, this trolley was cheapest at Tesco where it came to £5.97 - that's £1.49 per head!

Instructions

  • Start by marinating the meat with the chopped rosemary, a few generous twists of black pepper, olive oil and lemon – 30 minutes will do the trick.
  • In the meantime you can prepare the vegetables. For the carrots you should cook as usual, drain and then crush with a fork along with some seasoning, a pinch of nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of butter. Foil and keep warm.
  • Next up the potatoes. Cook as per normal, then drain, season and add 4 cloves of minced garlic and a good glug of olive oil. Stir well and then foil as per the carrots to keep warm.
  • Finally get the pork steaks on to a pre-heated grill for 5 minutes on each side. Don’t brush off the marinating ingredients before grilling.
  • Happy eating!

Frugal recipe for your turkey leftovers! Massaman curry...

What better than a curry on Boxing Day? This recipe works well with turkey leftovers or, if you've been following my series, you'll have saved pheasant thighs, legs, wings and spuds from the day before. We'll now add loads of spice to get things going again.

Ingredients – The Massaman curry

  • 1 large white onion (16p)
  • 1 lime (25p)
  • 2 cans (400ml each) of Island sun coconut milk (90p)
  • 1 jar (105g) of Bart Massaman paste (£1.75)
  • 500g of Tesco easy cook rice (64p)
  • The cupboard staples\leftovers:Salt, black pepper, vegetable oil, peanut butter, brown sugar, fish sauce, potatoes (leftover from Christmas day) , pheasant/turkey thighs, legs and wings.

Total cost

If you already have the cupboard staples, then according to mysupermarket.co.uk, this trolley was cheapest at Tesco, where it came to £3.70 - that's 61p per head!

Instructions

  • Firstly get a large wok on the heat and add a really good glug of vegetable oil. Season the pheasant thighs, legs and wings and brown in the wok. Remove from the wok and then add the sliced white onion and soften a little.
  • Now add the massaman paste, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and salt and pepper. Cook out the paste a little and a cup of water to loosen the sauce.
  • Next up add the coconut milk and three tablespoons of fish sauce. Bring up to a simmer and add back the pheasant pieces (add the cooked leftover turkey at this stage as well). Simmer on a low heat for 45 minutes until the pheasant is tender.
  • Finally add the leftover potatoes to heat through and the juice of one lime.
  • Serve with steamed white rice and happy eating!

Lemon tart with fresh vanilla mascarpone

I’ll be honest. I detest Christmas pudding. It’s stodgy and the last thing you need after a heavy meal and lots of wine! Does anybody really enjoy it?

My alternative is a lighter affair. The citrus really cuts through the richness of the previous two courses and the mascarpone gives a decadent feel to the dish.

And this can be made up to 2 days before Christmas day as well - it will keep fine in the fridge.

Ingredients – The dessert

  • 4 lemons (£1.08)
  • 250ml of long life double cream (90p)
  • 250g of Italian mascarpone (£1)
  • 6 Hoads farm medium free range eggs (£1.49) – we’re using 5 eggs
  • 1 fresh vanilla pod (£1.44)
  • 1 pack (500g) of caster sugar (72p) – we’re using 200 grams
  • 1 block (500g) of sweet shortcrust pastry (£1.50p) – we’re using 250 grams
  • The cupboard staples:Icing sugar and a dash of milk.

Total cost

If you already have the cupboard staples, then according to mysupermarket.co.uk, this trolley was cheapest at Tesco, where it came to £8.13 - that's £1.36 per head!

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 200C. The filling for the tart is really easy. In a large bowl crack the eggs and whisk, then add the sugar (mixing in well) followed by the cream and the juice of 4 lemons. Sieve to make sure no pips in the mixture and then add the zest of 4 lemons.
  • Now for the pastry. Roll out on a floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Now roll the pasty over a tart case, making sure you get some overhang on the edges – line with baking paper and bake blind (you can use dried beans or rice if you don’t have the posh ceramic baking beans!). Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes (until the pastry has browned a little).
  • Remove the pastry case (and beans\baking paper) from the oven and turn down to 160C – pour the lemon mixture into the tart and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, the filling will feel just set and very slightly wobbly in the centre. The pastry should be browned lightly on the edges as well.
  • Leave to cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before serving (or placing in the fridge to keep). Dust with icing sugar before serving.
  • The vanilla mascarpone cream is very easy. Take the vanilla pod split and scrape out the seeds and add to the mascarpone. Add two tablespoons of caster sugar and a little milk to loosen the mascarpone. You can keep the vanilla pod and blitz with some sugar to make a vanilla sugar as well!
  • Happy eating!

The Portobello mushroom, port and stilton wellington

If you've got any vegetarians coming for Christmas this year - or if you want to cook a vegetarian meal yourself - this recipe for Portobello mushroom, port and stilton wellington is a fantastic meal to serve them.

It's absolutely delicious and it costs just £1.99 per person!

Ingredients - The wellington

  • 500g of Jus Rol puff pastry (95p)
  • 750g of Portobello mushrooms (£3.75)
  • 2 large red onions (32p)
  • 25g of fresh thyme (68p)
  • 100g Tesco pine nuts (£2.49)
  • 215g of Tesco finest mature blue stilton (£1.80)

The cupboard staples...

Salt, black pepper, olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 egg and a splash of port.

Total cost

This recipe serves five people and, if you already have the cupboard staples, then according to mysupermarket.co.uk, this trolley was cheapest at Tesco, where it came to £9.99 - that's £1.99 per head!

Instructions

  • Let’s make the filling first as we need to cool it right down before we place in the pastry - otherwise the puff pastry will meltdown and it will be too hard to handle.
  • Roughly chop the red onions, mushrooms, thyme and garlic cloves.
  • Now get a large pan on the heat and add a really good glug of olive oil. Fry off the onions first until soft, then add the mushrooms, pine nuts and garlic and fry until they have a nice colour on them. Now turn the heat right up on the pan and add a good splash of port and reduce down until the alcohol has burnt off (you don’t want the mixture to have too much excess liquid so make sure you reduce sufficiently). Add the fresh thyme and salt and pepper. Let the mixture cool right down in the fridge.
  • Now preheat the oven to 220C before you rollout the pastry.
  • Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out into two even rectangles on a floured surface. I would make the pastry between ½ a cm and ¾ of a cm in thickness.
  • Remove the cooled filling from the fridge and place it in the middle of one of the pastry rectangles along with a few slices of stilton on top of the mixture (use all the 215grams – it’s Christmas!). Then brush the edges with a little beaten egg and place the other rectangle on top. Bring the sides in a little using your hands so you get a nice tight wellington. Cut off any excess pastry using a knife so it seals the wellington tightly.
  • Place the wellington in the fridge to cool for 15 minutes before cooking. After 15 minutes take the wellington from the fridge, place on a baking tray (lined with greased baking paper) and egg wash. Cook for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden.
  • Happy Christmas eating!

Roasted pheasant, caramelised sprouts, rosemary potato roasts, sauce and stuffing

Looking for a frugal alternative to the traditional Christmas turkey dinner? Then you're in luck.

Here's my recipe for roasted pheasant (with garlic and bacon), caramelised sprouts, rosemary roasts, bread sauce and peach, sausage and thyme stuffing (serves 6, total cost £26.73 - £4.45 per person).

This main course is really great as there is so much you can do the day before and the pheasants take next to no time to roast as we’ll be taking the legs and wings off for use in the Boxing Day curry first. I’ve also provided a vegetarian alternative to the meat with a rich Portobello mushroom, port and stilton wellington.

Ingredients – The pheasant main

  • 2 x 250g packs of unsmoked streaky bacon (£2.56)
  • 2 x 398g of Porkinson sausages (£3.76)
  • 3 x whole Gressingham pheasants (£15)
  • 1 can of Tesco value peaches (39p)
  • 1 pint of whole milk (45p)
  • 500g of Brussel sprouts (£1)
  • 2.5kg of Tesco white potatoes (£1.20)
  • 25g of fresh rosemary (79p)
  • 25g of fresh lemon thyme (68p)
  • 1 bulb of garlic (24p)
  • 1 large onion (16p)
  • 1 loaf of Tesco crusty white bloomer (50p)

The cupboard staples...

Salt, black pepper, olive oil, cloves, sugar, bay leaf, butter and a splash of white wine.

Total cost

If you already have the cupboard staples, then according to mysupermarket.co.uk, this trolley was cheapest at Tesco, where it came to £26.73 - that's £4.45 per head!

Instructions

  • The day before we can prepare the pheasants, parboil the potatoes, make the stuffing and bread sauce. Let’s start by prepping the pheasants.
  • We’re after the crown of each bird with the bone in to roast, so this means removing the legs, thighs and wings from each bird. Once you have deboned place in the fridge overnight.
  • Now for the bread sauce. Place the milk in a saucepan and add a bay leaf, a pinch of salt and an onion sliced in half studded with cloves (5 cloves in each half the onion will be fine) and bring up to a simmer. Whilst the milk is infusing prepare 150g of white breadcrumbs – once the milk is up to the simmer turn off the heat and leave for 1 hour. After 1 hour take the onion and bay leaf from the milk, get back on a low heat and add the breadcrumbs, a twist of black pepper and tablespoon of butter. Stir in over a slow heat until thickened – this will take 5 minutes. Cool and place in the fridge.
  • Whilst the milk is infusing for the bread sauce we can make the stuffing and prep the potatoes. The potatoes are very straightforward; just boil for 6 minutes in salted water, drain, shake around a bit to get some rough edges, cool and place in the fridge. I would make lots of potatoes as we’re using Boxing Day as well in the curry so we need some leftovers.
  • The stuffing is next up. Take a cake or loaf tin and line with baking paper (no need to grease the paper) and set the oven to 190C– now finely chop a red onion and 2 cloves of garlic and fry off for 5 minutes until softened (make sure the garlic doesn’t burn). Once softened cool the onions and garlic down and add to a bowl along with the sausage meat (skin the sausages first), finely chopped thyme and chopped peaches. Season with a little black pepper and get your hands in to give it a good mix – now place the mixture in the loaf tin and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Once cooked just remove from the oven, cool down and place in the fridge. That’s the bulk of the work done really!
  • First up when you’re ready to start cooking on Christmas day is to get the oven on at 200C and remove the pheasant crowns from the fridge. Let’s start with the roast potatoes – just throw them in a roasting tin with some roughly chopped rosemary, a healthy pinch of salt and pepper and some big glugs of olive oil. These will take around 45-50 minutes to cook (if you want nice and crisp).
  • When the pheasants are up to room temperature season and cover in a little olive oil. Get a large dish\pan on the heat (preferably a dish\pan that can also go in the oven) and seal the pheasant crowns on the breast for 3 minutes each. Once browned place 8 slices of streaky bacon over the breasts and roast for 30 minutes at 200C, adding a good splash of white wine to the dish and the garlic cloves with the skins on (around 12 will do). Baste the pheasants after 15 minutes in the oven. Once cooked remove the pheasants, loosely cover with foil and place somewhere warm (but not to warm so they carry on cooking). Keep the pan you cooked the pheasants in as we’ll use for the gravy. Once the pheasants are out the oven put the stuffing in the oven to heat up.
  • Brussel sprout time! Cook the sprouts until al dente, drain and cut in half. Get a pan on the heat and add a dessert spoon of butter and a little olive oil to stop the butter burning – add the brussel sprouts, season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar and fry until slightly browned.
  • All that’s left now is to heat up the bread sauce and make the gravy. The bread sauce probably thickened a bit overnight in the fridge so add a little milk before you heat up to loosen the sauce.
  • For the gravy put the pan we used to cooked the pheasants on the heat and deglaze the pan with some white wine - make sure you get all the goodness off the pan and squash down all the garlic cloves. Then add 2 pints of chicken stock and reduce down for 15 minutes. To thicken the sauce mix together equal amounts of butter and flour (2 dessert spoons of each) into a paste and add to the pan stirring all the time. Reduce the gravy for a further 5 minutes and strain the gravy when it’s at the thickness you’re after. Season the gravy to taste.
  • Now to serve – remove the bacon from the breasts and carve one pheasant breast per person from the crown (save the carcasses for use on Boxing Day). For a little wow factor with the guests – I would slice the stuffing like a loaf of bread and place in the middle of each plate. Now place a pheasant breast on top of the stuffing along with 4 slices of bacon and drizzle over some gravy.
  • Serve the other dishes on the side for everyone to help themselves (maybe with some greens or carrots as well).
  • Happy Christmas eating!

Smoked mackerel pate on crostini and red onion confit

The starter

Smoked mackerel pate on crostini and red onion confit (Serves 6, total cost £6.89 - £1.15 per person).

Ingredients – The starter

  • 600g of smoked mackerel (£4.42)
  • 5 large red onions (80p)
  • 1 lemon (27p)
  • 300ml of crème fraiche (£1)
  • 1 fresh granary baguette (40p)
  • The cupboard staples (salt, black pepper, olive oil, horseradish sauce and red wine vinegar).

Total cost

If you already have the cupboard staples, then according to mysupermarket.co.uk, the starter was cheapest to buy from Tesco, where it came to £6.89 - that's £1.15 per head!

Instructions

  • The pate can be prepared on Christmas Eve. Start by flaking the mackerel into a large bowl (discarding the skin and watch out for the bones!). Now mix in the crème fraiche, the juice of half a lemon, two teaspoons of horseradish sauce and season with salt and pepper. Place in the fridge overnight.
  • You can also make the red onion confit the day before as well. Slice the red onions and place in a thick bottomed pan with a little olive oil, sauté off until the onions are translucent and you have a little colour on the bottom of the pan – probably about 6 to 7 minutes. Now add salt, pepper, a big pinch of sugar, three tablespoons of red wine vinegar and one tablespoon of water. Reduce down on a very low simmer for about 1 hour until all the liquid has evaporated and you’re left with a sticky red marmalade consistency. Cool down and this can also be placed in the fridge overnight.
  • On Christmas day morning you can make the crostini. These really are simple. Slice the baguette on an angle about ½ an inch thick – you’ll get plenty of crostini - I would serve 2 or 3 per person. Drizzle with a little olive oil and place in the oven at 200C for 5 minutes. Let them cool before serving.
  • When ready to serve just place a little pate on each crostini and serve with a wedge of lemon and good dollop of red onion confit on the side.
  • Happy eating!