Hand blender for £4? Yes please! (You don’t need super fancy kitchen equipment to make great food)

An hand-held blender is a wonderful, inexpensive piece of kitchen equipment.

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Slow-Cooker Potato and Lentil Soup

What do you do if you have a spouse with toothache, a bag of potatoes and fresh coriander that needs to be used up?

Answer: You make soup.

What do you do if you think you won’t have much time or energy in the evening with which to make dinner?

Answer: microwave a ready-meal No, no! You use your slow cooker.

A thick soup like this warms you up on the coldest of winter days, and is also good as a light-but-filling summer dinner. With the potatoes for carbohydrate, lentils for protein and virtually zero fat it is good for those of us who need to watch our weight too. Time to prepare: about 10 minutes max.

 

You will need:

1kg potatoes, washed and chopped into chunks £1.90/2.5kg

1 onion, chopped 17p/each

150g red lentils £2/2kg

1 tablespoon fresh coriander 80p/31g

2 vegetable stock cubes 15p/100g

Approx. 2l water

black pepper

Total 30p per serving

 

1. After chopping the onion and potato, place into the bottom of the slow cooker.

2. Add the lentils, coriander, stock cubes and enough water to cover – there should be a gap of about 5cm between the top of the potatoes and the water line.

3. Sprinkle on black pepper, to taste.

4. Put slow cooker on high and cook for 3-4 hours, or on low and cook for 7-8 hours. Stir occasionally.

5. Using a hand-held blender, whizz to a creamy, thick soup.

6. Serve steaming hot with crusty bread.

TOP TIPS

This can also be made on the hob if you soften the onions first; just remember to boil the lentils vigorously for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Grated smoked soya cheese sprinkled over the top makes this even more delicious.

You can also sprinkle with some fresh coriander, if this is to your taste.

Easy Spinach Daal

I’ve called this ‘daal’ because it is an adaption of a more complex recipe which involved lots of  faffing about time spent crushing cardamoms and roasting cumin seeds. I wanted to experiment with a simpler recipe using basic curry powder and the heavenly combination of spinach and lentils. I came across green chillies, fresh spinach and fresh coriander in the reduced section in Tesco, so this dish suggested itself from the beginning. The prices below are standard Tesco prices, not reduced prices. 

You will need:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil £1.25/1l

250g chana dal (or yellow split peas) £2/2kg

1 onion, finely chopped 17p/each

1 tin chopped tomatoes 31p/400g

450g fresh spinach £2/450g

3 fresh green chillies 60p/65g

2 teaspoons garlic salt £1.15/90g

1 vegetable stock cube 15p/100g

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander 80p/31g

3 teaspoons mild curry powder £1/80g

TOTAL 82p per serving

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently heat the onion until softened.

2. Add the spinach leaves and heat gently until wilted.

3. Prick the chillies several times with the tip of a sharp knife.

4. Add the chillies, tomatoes, stock cube, coriander and curry powder to the pan.

5. Stir to combine.

6. Add the chana dal and enough water to cover.

7. Bring to the boil with the lid on.

8. Turn down the heat and simmer for around 40 minutes with the lid off, stirring occasionally and making sure the mixture evaporates but not so much that it boils dry. The chana dal should begin to break down but not go mushy.

9. Add more water if necessary.

10. Serve with chappatis, poppadums, or steaming hot basmati rice.

11. Enjoy!

TOP TIPS

Chana dal look exactly the same as yellow split peas, so they are probably interchangeable. I believe the chana dal are more oily, which suits this kind of dish. Either way, it is an inexpensive yet tasty dish.

Curried Marrow and Lentil Soup

Our household is trying to be more environmentally-friendly. We have made the choice to try to buy local, in-season foods, and to increase the amount of vegan food that we consume. Marrows are in season right now in the UK, so I decided to have a go at something other than my usual stuffed marrow (which I shall post online another time). The marrow and lentils in this soup give it a beautiful smooth texture, and the curry flavour works really well with the delicate tastes of marrow. The following are current Tesco prices.

 

You will need:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil £1.25/litre

1 medium onion, chopped 17p/each

1 marrow, seeds removed, chopped into chunks £1/each

100g frozen mixed vegetables 75p/kg

100g red lentils £2/2kg

2 vegetable stock cubes 15p/100g

1 tablespoon mango chutney £2.39/530g

3 tablespoons plain flour 65p/1.5kg

3 teaspoons mild or medium curry powder £1/80g

Water

Total 32p per serving

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot and add the onions. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until they change colour.

2. Add the marrow.

3. Add the flour and curry powder, stir until the onion and marrow are coated in the oil/flour/curry powder mixture.

4. Leave to heat through for a couple of minutes over the same gentle heat.

5. Add the frozen mixed vegetables, lentils, stock cubes, mango chutney and enough water to cover.

6. Bring to the boil and bubble vigorously for 10 minutes.

7. Make sure there is enough water, if not, add some more, then turn the heat down and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

8. Using a blender, whizz until smooth.

9. Serve with brown bread or chappatis.

10. Enjoy!

TOP TIPS

A hand-held blender is wonderful for making these kinds of soups and if rinsed immediately is ready to use next time without the fuss of cleaning a jug blender.

Soups like this can be frozen in individual containers and re-heated when needed. Easy and convenient, there is no need to rely on tinned or packet soups.

Nutty Kale Lasagne

I bought kale because it is in season in the UK right now, and I found a bag reduced to 79p. Spring onions are also in season so I bought some of those too. With these and some back-of-the-cupboard ingredients, I created this delicious vegan lasagne.

You will need:

300g kale or spring greens 79p/300g

150g spring onions, chopped 75p/150g

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil £2.50/750ml

50g plain flour 65p/1.5kg

100g Tesco free from soya smoked (cheese), grated £2.25/227g

1 teaspoon garlic salt £1.15/90g

1 vegetable stock cube 15p/100g

250g lasagne sheets 32p/250g

1l unsweetened soya milk 59p/1l

100g chopped mixed nuts 89p/200g

black pepper

82p per serving

1. Boil or steam the kale for around 8 minutes until dark green and slightly limp.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saucepan and cook the chopped spring onions over a low heat until softened.

3. Add the  flour and stock cube and stir to combine.

4. Add the garlic salt, grated soya cheese and a dash of soya milk. Stir.

5. Add a dash of black pepper.

5. Gradually add the soya milk, a little at a time.

6. Continue stirring until thickened.

7. Take off the heat.

8. Drain the kale and layer half on the bottom of a large rectangular casserole dish.

9. Sprinkle half of the chopped mixed nuts over the top of the kale.

10. Put half of the lasagne sheets on the top, spread out evenly.

11. Put 1/3 of the sauce over the lasagne sheets.

12. Spread the rest of the kale over the sauce.

13. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over.

14. Put the other half of the lasagne sheets over the kale.

15. Spread the remaining sauce over the top.

16. Bake in a pre-heated oven 180ºC for 30 minutes.

17. Serve with crusty bread.

18. Enjoy!

TOP TIPS

A twist on the more usual spinach and ricotta lasange, I prefer the subtle sweetness of the kale in this recipe, which is so nicely balanced by the smoked soya cheese and mixed nuts.