Cheap eats January #9: Minestrone soup



Easy to make, tasty to eat. Children love having pasta in soup too.


You will need…

2 medium onions (red are best but white are fine if that’s what you’ve got) halved and sliced
2 medium carrots, top and tailed, peeled and sliced
1 stick celery sliced
600ml of vegetable or chicken stock*
100g dried borlotti beans soaked overnight and boiled for about an hour and a half
Carton of chopped tomatoes**
100-150g savoy cabbage shredded
2 tablespoons of olive oil
100g of pasta (gluten free if need be)

How to…

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
Add the onion, carrots and celery, and cook until soft and onions are translucent.
Add the cabbage and tomatoes, stir well.
Pour in the stock.
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add the pasta and the beans and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
Serve topped with grated parmesan or cheddar and crusty bread.

*Ideally use low salt stock or home made
*If tomatoes are in season, use 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped.


This soup costs £2.43 to make and serves 4-6 people. If you use organic bacon then it costs £4.58 to make.


A quarter of this soup for an adult will provide good amounts of fibre, potassium, folate and vitamin C and some calcium, and magnesium an, iron and zinc, as well as selenium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6


Easy mackerel fish cakes

Cheap eats January #8 Easy mackerel fish cakes. I bought 2 mackerel fillets for £4 for the girls the other day, which was about 300g of fish. I baked the fillets for about 20 minutes and took the meat off the bones, serving with baked potato and veg, there was enough left over for fish cakes (about 150g) mixed with 150g of cooked potatoes.

Annie's Dorset Kitchen

The 5 year old had mackerel, mash and veg for supper last night. Doesn’t sound exciting, but was a good simple meal that went down well.

I had the fish gutted in the supermarket and had baked it whole in foil at 200˚C for about 15-20 minutes.

Of course she didn’t eat it all, so I mixed left over fish and mash and left it in the fridge.

So Saturday lunch was easy, cheap, sustainable, healthy (Omega 3’s of course) and delicious.


Mashed potato
A little butter
A little sunflower oil
Finely chopped parsley

How to….

Take the mackerel off the bones, checking the flesh for bones as you go.
Mix in with the mash (and finely chopped parsley if using).
You want a roughly equal amount of fish and potato – taste to check. Its easier to add more potato if you need to.
You want…

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Cheap eats #7: Spanish tortilla

IMG_0096I first learnt how to make Spanish tortilla from the lovely, Chris Adnitt, 20 years ago when he was sharing a flat in Maida Vale  with my (now) husband.  Chris went on Spanish exchanges when he was at school, and has always loved all things Spanish. So it’s hardly surprising that he now owns a gorgeous neighbourhood tapas restaurant, Number 22, in Herne Hill. He’s from Maltby.

We went recently on a fleeting visit to London just after new year. The food is delicious – service is great too (well I have to say that as Chris served us). The restaurant’s been refurbished after Herne Hill suffered 6ft floods the previous year. Then when I was at uni with another equally lovely friend, Alicia, who happens to be Spanish, the recipe got further updated. So, you could say my tortilla has a pretty good pedigree, though there’s always new ways of doing and improving recipes.

Tortilla, or Spanish omelette is a great way to use left over veg – so it’s a good meal for a Monday. And you can add 100g of bacon for a treat.* I’ve made it recently with sweet potato, carrot, beetroot and peas.


You will need…

500g potatoes (about 4) diced
60ml olive oil Medium onion chopped
100g peas
5 medium eggs
Teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika (optional)

How to…

Heat 15ml olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat.
Fry the onion until translucent. Add the rest of the olive oil.
Heat through and add the potatoes.
Stir well and then reduce the heat to low Cover with a plate, so the vegetables steam cook.
Stir every few minutes until the potatoes are cooked through (should take about 10 minutes).
Add the smoked paprika and mix well.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large bowl.
Add the peas to the potato mixture right at the end.
Put the vegetable mixture into a sieve over a bowl to drain out any excess oil.
Then stir into the beaten eggs.
Add a little oil to the frying pan again, just to coat it.
Pour the mixture into the pan and cook on a low heat. Finish the top under the grill.
Make sure it’s cook through in the middle.
Grate some cheese on top. Serve with cooked vegetables, salad or baked beans (for the kids)


I worked out the cost of this recipe and if you use organic eggs it costs £3.35, using free range, it costs £2.67.


There was once a time when eggs were thought to raise cholesterol, because of their high levels of cholesterol. But this is history now (something I learnt about at uni 15 years ago). It’s really just a good illustration of how science isn’t an absolute, there are always new findings which outdate the old.

A quarter of this tortilla is about 385 kcal’s, and provides some calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate and vitamin B12 and vitamin C. *Bacon is a treat because there’s strong evidence to suggest regularly consuming processed meat such as bacon increases your risk of cancer. It’s thought that the nitrites in bacon and other cured meats could be the reason for this. It is possible to buy nitrite free bacon though whether this removes the risk factor is not known!

Cheap eats January #6: Make your own custard




It’s really easy to make your own custard – all from store cupboard ingredients along with organic eggs, and milk – and you can make it dairy free by using coconut drinking milk (I am sure you could use other dairy free milks but I haven’t tried them as yet).

This is enough for two good sized portions for kids – just double the amounts for more. You can keep what you don’t use in the fridge for a few days. I’ve worked out the cost, and making it with milk and caster sugar costs 44p, Making it with maple syrup (so it has no refined sugar in it) costs 81p.

You will need…

2 egg yolks*
200ml of semi skimmed milk, whole milk or coconut milk drink
1.5 teaspoons of cornflour
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or caster sugar)
Capful vanilla extract

How to…

Bring the milk to the boil in a pan.
Whisk the egg yolks with the maple syrup in a large bowl or jug.
Mix the cornflour with a teaspoon of water so it makes a paste.
Whisk the cornflour and vanilla extract into the egg mixture.
Pour the milk into the egg mixture whisking all the time.
Put it back in the pan and bring to the boil again, whisking all the time, it will thicken.

Serve with seasonal fruit (steamed or baked apple, rhubarb, or sliced banana) or crumble if you have time to make it.


If you’re making this for infants under 1 year, don’t add any sugar or maple syrup – the vanilla extract will add enough sweetness, all you need to do is whisk the cornflour and vanilla in with the egg yolks.


A portion of custard provides good amounts of calcium, phosphorous, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

*You can use the two egg whites along with another egg and make an omelette or keep them for this banana macaroon recipe. You can refrigerate in an airtight container for a couple of days, or freeze for longer.



Cheap Eats January #5 : In praise of beans on toast

Yes that’s right, I am writing a post on… baked beans on toast.

Only because nutritionally it’s a great meal, it’s cheap of course and if you’ve been working all day, doesn’t take long to prepare so you get to spend some time with your kids.


This meal will give your kids good amounts of protein, potassium, calcium, iron zinc, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate, oh and fibre, of course.

Lower salt baked beans are ideal, as regular baked beans (and organic brands can be higher than others) tend to be high in salt (a quarter of a 100g tin of baked can provide as much as 75% of a 5 year olds recommended intake of salt – and that’s before you’ve added in the salt from bread too).

Protein combining

Proteins are chains of amino acids, of which there are 8 that are essential in our diets. Two of these, lysine and methionine are more readily available in balanced proportions in protein from animal sources (such as eggs, milk and cheese). Vegetarians and especially vegans need to make sure they get a combination of foods that have good amounts of each.

Protein from cereals such as wheat and rice, tend to be low in lysine but good sources of methionine. Beans and lentils and peas tend to be low in methionine but high in lysine.

So combining cereals and legumes means you get complete proteins. Classic examples examples being beans on toast, humous and bread, tortilla and chilli (with red kidney beans) and rice and dhal (lentils).

It was for some time thought essential to combine these foods at the same meal but is now not thought to be necessary. However, it is interesting that in different cultures, all over the World that these combinations have existed for hundreds and thousands of years.

Even if it’s not required to combine these foods at the same meal, it makes sense to, as they complement each other so well.

What’s for lunch: Chickpea and leek soup

#cheapeatsJanuary4 I posted this recipe about a year ago – it’s a great Winter soup, as leeks are in season. And the chickpeas provide protein and contain folate as well as iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium and potassium and of course, fibre! I usually blend it less than the soup in the photos – it is a favourite with the kids – they always enjoy it. Soups are a great way to get kids to eat veggies.

Annie's Dorset Kitchen

What’s for lunch is a series of recipes and ideas for lunch to share when you’re at home with your baby and/or toddler. They’re not amazing food adventures just simple sustaining meals that are quick and easy to prep, as well as being tasty and nutritious.


This is a recipe from the first Jamie Oliver recipe book. It’s easy, quick and cheap and I can’t find the recipe book so have been making my version of it…I made it twice last week and both kids loved it.

You will need…

125g of dried chickpeas soaked overnight, rinsed and boiled for 2 hours in unsalted water (until soft) or a drained tin* of chickpeas
600ml of low salt chicken stock made up
2 good sized leeks, top and tailed and sliced
1 potato peeled and diced.
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter (if you don’t eat dairy then replace this…

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What’s for lunch*: “Best ever spag bol” with chicken livers

January cheap eats #2

This recipe is a version which was adapted from A Girl Call Jack’s version of a Jamie Oliver recipe. The bolognese includes chicken livers which are nutrient-dense – packed full of iron, and b vitamins. And red lentils also provide good amounts of vitamins and minerals. At the moment the toddler is often too busy to want to eat. So am working hard not to let it bother me, so it doesn’t become a big issue. ‘t I know at least when she’s eating this she’s getting lots of vitamins and minerals. And if you’ve got bad memories of liver, don’t worry, this dish is tasty! I bought a 400g pack of organic chicken livers for £2.69 (this recipe uses 200g so you can make up two batches and freeze some).

Annie's Dorset Kitchen


I dithered  over posting this recipe, as I know people have a bit of an “ewww” reaction to liver. But logically, if you’re happy to eat a chicken’s legs why not it’s liver?

I made it last week for lunch, it’s really tasty and nutritious and the babster loved it, I gave a little taster bowl to my eldest daughter (who’s 7) and she didn’t like it, I can’t really expect her to as I’ve never gave her chicken liver, so it’s not a flavour she’s used to (the dish isn’t overly liver tasting anyway – if that makes sense). Forcing children to eat food is a very bad idea,  getting them to try a little bit of everything is the ideal.

Anyway, please keep an open mind and try it, it’s Jack Monroe’s  spaghetti bolognese recipe posted her blog last week,  – it’s adapted from a recipe in…

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January cheap eats #1

It’s taken longer than usual to get over the Christmas and New Year gatherings – which were lovely. As I have my youngest daughter’s birthday early in January and have also been tying up loose ends after running a Beach Hut pop up shop at the beach – am only just getting into the 2015.

So now we’re well into January and I am not detoxing or embarking on new diets or anything. But do need to get back to sensible eating again after Christmas indulgences.

January can be a long month and the weather and short days can make you want to eat comforting foods. Just at the time when you’re wanting to recalibrate your eating and drinking habits. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive and if you go for foods that are in season and make soups and stews they can be comforting without being unhealthy. I am going to post some healthy, cheap recipes and links throughout what’s left of January …

FIrst up is a recipe from My Darling Lemon Thyme – a blog by a Kiwi living in Perth, Australia. The style of the blog is gorgeous to start with and the recipes are vegan and gluten free. I’ve only had a chance to try one of the recipes : yellow split pea with carrot and sumac soup. I’m always drawn to simple recipes and I love beans and lentils, they’re great sources of protein, fibre and essential minerals and vitamins. A pack of yellow split peas are 55p for 500g from my local supermarket. So you can see it’s a cheap meal. Yellow split peas contain good amounts of thiamin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. This recipe makes lots of portions – I tend to make this up and freeze some of it.

My toddler loves this soup – probably partly because she gets to sprinkle the sumac on – I have to hide it after the second or third time. From my experience, children like beans and lentils, they’re a great way to make meat stews and sauces go further by adding a cheaper form of protein.


For me healthy eating tends to be easier if I eat things that I can make for the whole family and/or adapt for me – so for instance I don’t really like pasta, so instead I will have puy lentils or broccoli with pasta sauce. Making healthy meals that the whole family can eat, creates less work, and therefore makes it easier for you to maintain a healthy diet.

First Steps Nutrition recently published an Eating well recipe book which has lots of simple cost effective recipes for the whole family, including guideline portion sizes. First Steps Nutrition is an independent, expert public health nutrition charity that provides resources to support eating well from pre-conception to five years. All their advice and guidance is based on the best available evidence.

Hope that 2015 is a happy, healthy year for you 🙂

My antidote to New Year detox: A Morning Knickerbocker Glory

Am heartened to see lots of health experts telling people not to detox or embark on gruelling fitness regimes at the beginning of 2105, as I wrote this blog post along the same lines 3 years ago. Healthy eating is all about moderation over the whole year. Though I definitely need to get back to my usual eating habits. I’ve been tying up loose ends after Christmas in the last week, and getting ready for my youngest’s 2nd birthday, so haven’t had a chance to yet. I will be posting cheap, healthy and easy to make recipes, old and new for the rest of January…hope they inspire you to try them! Oh and hope you have a great 2015!

Annie's Dorset Kitchen

New year, new you?!

Don’t believe the hype, don’t do the detox. If you are anything like me you ran around in the weeks leading up to Christmas working, buying, searching on websites for that “must-have” present, sending Christmas cards, making costumes, deciding on whether to buy turkey or goose, comforting overtired children and planning blog posts that never materialised.

Then Christmas came, if you spent it with family, that brings with it all that wonderful mayhem and madness. Followed by New Year, another gorgeous gathering with delicious food and drink. Then last week, the kids went back at school and according to all the papers and media you are expected to have healthy new resolutions and go on a detox and/or exercise regime of some sort.

Now hang on a minute. You have just spent a month running around like crazy and suddenly because the decks are clear (if…

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