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.




Organic Catalan Chicken

My first job when I graduated was on the Organic Targets Campaign at Sustain – where I worked for the lovely, Cath Fookes. We organised a rally and lobby of MP’s to increase Organic Farming in the UK and it worked. Cath now works for the Organic Trade Board on their Why I love organic campaign – which published the Discover Organic Cook Book – which is on sale in Waitrose at the moment.

Yes I know that all sounds like a thinly-veiled plug and it is, and I don’t care because I love organic and only ever buy organic and free range meat, eggs, dairy and salmon. With fruit and veg, I buy British and organic and I grow my own – which is of course, organic.

Quality over quantity is my mantra. Yes organic is more expensive, but there are good reasons for this – the animals have more room to move about (lower stocking density), are not fed antibiotics to make them grow unnaturally fast. Milk and meat has higher levels of omega 3 fats compared to intensively farmed – because cows are fed on a natural grass diet. Another reason why we shouldn’t have mega dairies in this country.

Organic and free range chicken has 25% less fat than intensively farmed, and higher levels of healthy fats.

I bought a lovely organic chicken from the farm shop and made Catalan Chicken from the cook book – Kate Humble’s recipe – and it was delicious – my daughter loved it, though didn’t believe me when I told her it had chocolate in it…

You will need…

1 tbsp olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
1 free range organic chicken cut into 8 pieces
1 tin of plum tomatoes
small bag of prunes (I used just over 100g and ate the rest)
4 cloves of garlic crushed
two handfuls of pine nuts
1 tbsp ground almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
25 g organic dark chocolate

How to….

Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat and add the onion and cook for 15 minutes until soft, with the lid on. (I cooked mine for 10 minutes). Put the lid on the pan and bring to a simmer on a low heat.

Meanwhile brown the chicken in a pan.

Whizz the tin of tomatoes in a food processor, and add to the onions with the crushed garlic.

Cook for a further 10-15 minutes, simmering gently reducing the sauce.

This is apparently the basis of lots of Catalan dishes, and is called the sofregit.

Add the chicken to the tomatoes and onions with the ground almonds, cinnamon and prunes to the dish, stir well and season.

Meanwhile toast the pine nuts.

After about 30 minutes, when the chicken is cooked, grate the chocolate into the pan and add the toasted pine nuts.

We had ours with mashed potatoes, carrots and purple sprouting broccoli. And I’ve got some more in the fridge for tomorrow.

There are lots of lovely seasonal recipes for the family in this book: Raymond Blanc’s apple tart (well his’ maman’s) recipe, baba ganoush, tarragon baked chicken and carrots, green thai curry and some lovely pasta recipes too…o and a recipe for homemade scotch eggs from the founder of Laverstock Park Farm.

Some of the recipes are on the Why I Love Organic website too.

Clam Linguine

I have been off work for a week with the 5 year old who has a cough that’s doing the rounds. She hasn’t been well enough for school but not ill enough to be in bed. I did manage to get her out of the house yesterday – she has wanted to be in pyjamas all day – I get that sometimes too. After shopping we went to the beach and sat by the shore. The sounds of the sea, watching the waves, the open sky and sunshine was all very therapeutic for a short while before we decided it was too cold and time to get cosy indoors again.

After sitting by the sea I wanted to make a dish with shellfish for supper and found frozen clams in the supermarket They’re high in iron and vitamin B12, these ones are MSC certified (certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainably sourced). They defrosted quickly too. I bought some linguine to go with them, my favourite pasta.

Because I have been cooking all week, Mr O took over in the kitchen and made Clam Linguine for us and it was delicious, cheap (about £1.80 per person) and easy to make…


1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
3 cloves garlic crushed
500g vacuum packed frozen clams
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Handful of chopped fresh parsley
200g dried linguine
Grated Parmesan cheese

How to…

Put the olive oil, butter into a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the tomatoes, simmer and reduce for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. If the sauce reduces too much add a little juice from the clams.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the sauce with the clams and chopped parsley, mix and cover with lid and allow to cook for a couple of minutes before serving with parmesan.

My daughter liked the clams, saying they tasted like the sea. Then she told me she didn’t like them anymore. At the moment I am battling with the influence of school, and its ongoing. I knew this time would come, though as she’s always been a good eater I didn’t worry about it too much. It’s one of those things you don’t deal with it until you have to.

For now I am just taking it a meal at a time, and not limiting the foods I offer, and will continue to try new dishes, like this one. Its tricky sometimes to work out whether she genuinely doesn’t like something, which I am fine with or that she is trying to get attention or being influenced by friends.

So, I said, she obviously did like it and encouraged her to eat more, which she happily did, and considering she’s not had much of an appetite this week, was good