Slow Cooker Bacon, Broccoli and Potato Soup

I have been experimenting with vegan cooking lately, but this is decidedly not veggie friendly. It is, however, very simple, inexpensive and spoonie-friendly.

Serves 6

You will need:

2 onions, chopped

2 tins potatoes

300g frozen broccoli

1kg cooking bacon

Handful of fresh rosemary

Handful of fresh thyme

Black pepper

1 vegetable stock cube

Water, boiled

Splash of vegetable oil

 

1. First, remove the fat from the cooking bacon with a very sharp knife, then place in a frying pan with a splash of oil. Heat over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. It will become a greyish pink when it is cooked thoroughly.

2. Meanwhile, place the broccoli, boiling water and potatoes in the slow cooker along with the herbs, stock cube and seasoning.

3. When the bacon is cooked, drain off the fat and and discard. Add the bacon to the slow cooker.

4. In the same frying pan heat the chopped onion until waxy, then add that too to the slow cooker. Top up the slow cooker with water to cover by a centimetre or two.

5. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours.

6. When cooked, blend until smooth.

7. Serve with warm, freshly baked bread and a sprig of parsley.

 

TOP TIPS

  • Make use of all the functions of your food processor, if you have one. I used mine to chop the onions and later to blend the soup. For spoon-counters like me a food processor is a real blessing!
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‘Instant’ Hearty Veg Soup

This recipe is not ‘instant’ in the sense that it is immediately edible, but sometimes on a bad day (especially if you’re a Spoon counter) you need something that is both extremely easy to prepare and healthy.

You will need:

500g no-soak soup mix (this will typically consist of red lentils, yellow split peas, green split peas, dried onion, dried carrot, dried pasta, etc.). It’s vital that this is a no-soak soup mix otherwise you’ll make yourself very poorly. If you buy a soup mix in the UK that needs soaking, it will say so on the packet.

2 tbsp powdered onion

2 tbsp dried mixed herbs

2 tsp garlic powder

2 stock cubes, crumbled

2 handfuls small dried pasta (or larger pasta, crumbled a bit)

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Serves 6

 

1. Place all the dry ingredients in a large jar. Twist and turn the jar so the ingredients all mix. Make sure the lid is tightly sealed.

2. Put a label on the jar, then stick it in the cupboard and forget about it.

3. When you need a tasty, easy family meal, put the contents of the jar in a large saucepan with the two tins of chopped tomatoes and add about 2 litres of water (you will need plenty of water because the dry ingredients will swell and absorb a lot).

4. Bring to the boil and let it bubble vigorously for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Serve with bread and grated cheese (I wonder if a sprinkling of nutritional yeast would work well here, for a tasty vegan option?).

 

TOP TIPS

You can adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes and that of your family. If using half, or less than half, of the dry mix, add only one tin of tomatoes and adjust the amount of water. Cook for exactly the same length of time. If more than half, follow the instructions above.

Summer Refresher

In an attempt to boost my family’s ‘five-a-day’, I recently bought a juicer. This is one of my best recipes so far. I urge you to try it. It’s gorgeous. Who knew healthy eating could be so much fun? 🙂

Serves 2

You will need:

100g watermelon (not including rind)

100g raspberries

200g carrots

1. Wash your fruit/veg.

2. Place the watermelon into the juicer, followed by the raspberries and finally the carrots.

3. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

TOP TIPS

Wash the juicer straight away after use, other wise the pulp can become difficult to clean off and could lead to staining or rust.

Although the recipe says to remove the watermelon rind, it is not necessary to remove the seeds.

It’s cheaper to make it: Jack’s Macaroni Cheese, 43p, versus supermarket ready meal, 75p.

I’m going to try this with sweetcorn, soya milk and smoked soya cheese. Yum!

COOKING ON A BOOTSTRAP

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So today I decided to set myself a new challenge, to cook a like-for-like replica of a supermarket ready meal, but cheaper. Harder than it looks, as the ready meals are made in bulk using low priced ingredients – and I have to buy those ingredients at ‘retail’ price, not ‘wholesale’.

I decided on a basic macaroni cheese meal, 75p for a 300g single-person portion.

The ready meal ingredients were pasta, water, milk, cheddar cheese, cornflour, oil, mustard, salt, white pepper – so I attempted to replicate it as closely as I could with what I had in the cupboards and fridge…

Ingredients (serves two):

160g penne pasta
40g dried skimmed milk
50g hard strong cheese
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Scant 1/8th tsp English mustard

First bring a pan of water to the boil and add the pasta. Reduce to a medium simmer and cook for…

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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.

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.

Slow-cooker Spring Supper

10 mins preparation

I had a bag of prepared leeks and spring greens in my fridge that needed using up, plus a chorizo sausage. I also knew I was going to be busy that day, so I decided to use my slow cooker. I came up with this delicious recipe. By dinner time we had faster than fast food – we had a ready and waiting steaming hot supper! This time I shopped in Tesco and Aldi, so the prices are based on those shops.

You will need:

225g chorizo, cut into chunks  £2.50/225g (Tesco)

300g bag leeks and spring greens or leeks and cabbage £1.00/300g (Tesco)

75g chopped onion (I use frozen, chopped onion) £1.00/500g (Tesco)

75g chopped pepper (I use frozen, chopped mixed peppers) £1.00/500g (Tesco)

500g carton passata 29p/500g (Aldi)

400g tin chopped tomatoes 31p/400g (Aldi)

150g red lentils £2.99/2kg

567g tin potatoes 15p/567g

Handful of fresh parsley (from windowsill)

1 chicken stock cube £3.00/200g (Tesco)

Water

Total: 98p per serving (less if you use Tesco value stock cubes)

1. Put onion, pepper, chorizo, chopped tomatoes, lentils, potatoes and passata into slow cooker.

2. Add parsley and stock cube.

3. Top up with water with enough room to cover.

4. Stir and leave to cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

5. Bob’s your uncle. Dish it up after a long day, steaming hot. Serve with some grated cheese.

TOP TIPS

Although this recipe was designed for a family of five, it had plenty left over. Why not freeze what’s left for another day when you don’t want to cook or want something quick and healthy to eat without resorting to ready-meals.

Delish Fish Dish

15 minutes, plus 3 hours cooking time

 

This recipe is a variation of fish stew, but fish stew sounds boring. My son refuses to eat anything called ‘stew’, but he ate this with relish! This can be prepared first thing in the morning and then left in the slow cooker on low until you get home, at which point you will have a tasty, healthy meal ready and waiting.

You will need

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil* £2.50/750ml

100g frozen chopped onion or 1 chopped onion* £1/500g

1 cube frozen garlic/1 teaspoon garlic salt/1 garlic clove, crushed* £1.27/80g

2 tins chopped tomatoes* 31p/400g

1 tablespoon tomato purée 48p/200g

4 white fish fillets, frozen £2/500g

100g frozen chopped vegetables 75p/1kg

1.5l water

1 kallo organic free range chicken stock cube* £1.08/66g

2 teaspoons dried dill £1.66/10g

2 teaspoons dried basil 61p/14g

pinch of chilli powder 80p/44g

ground black pepper

63p per serving

1 Heat the oil in a large stockpot over a low heat. Add the onion and garlic. Do not let them brown, as this makes them bitter, just keep an eye on them until they have become soft and shiny.

2 Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée, followed by the frozen chopped vegetables. Stir to combine.

3 Add stock cube, dill, basil and chilli powder. Grind some black pepper over the top, to taste, and stir to combine.

4 Add the fish fillets and enough water to cover.

5 Slowly bring to the boil over a low heat and let the stew simmer* over a very low heat for two hours, stirring occasionally. Top up with water if necessary.

6 Serve with mashed potato, crusty bread, rice or dumplings.

TOP TIPS

*Extra virgin olive oil tastes the nicest in this dish, but vegetable oil will do

* I buy frozen crushed garlic. It is ready and waiting when you need it, with zero wastage. 

* I use organic free range chicken stock cubes by Kallo, but ordinary chicken stock cubes will do. Kallo stock cubes have a lovely taste but ordinary chicken stock cubes are cheaper.

* Simmering means bubbling gently – not so much that it is vigorous bubbling, but just enough so that the bubbling is continuous

* Children like to sprinkle grated cheese on the top. I personally love a sprinkling of some very tasty herbamare.

* Tomatoes are one of few foods whose nutritional value improves with processing. Tinned tomatoes contain more vitamin E and more lycopene (which may help prevent cancer) than fresh tomatoes. They are also available year round.

* If tinned peeled plum tomatoes are cheaper than tinned chopped tomatoes, get a small kitchen knife and chop them inside the tin. Because they’re already soft, you can do this quite easily by moving the knife from one edge of the tin to the other and then moving the tin round to make sure they all get chopped. Do it over a plate or chopping board as the juice can spill.

Simple Stir-fry

I am on a restricted diet at the moment. Stir-fried vegetables and boiled rice have become a staple for lunch, and frankly, they’re so much nicer than a sandwich!

 

1 tablespoon *stir-fry oil £1.28/250ml

100g frozen stir-fry vegetables £1.11/500g (cheaper if you prepare fresh vegetables yourself)

1 tablespoon oyster sauce £1.03/150ml

1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional) £1.58/375ml

75g rice 40p/kg

Serves 1, 45p per serving

 

1. Bring the rice to the boil in a covered saucepan and let it bubble gently for 10 minutes or until the water is absorbed.

2. After five minutes, heat the oil in a *wok over a high heat, until it is beginning to steam.

3. Add vegetables, oyster sauce and soy sauce.

4. Stirring, heat for five minutes or until *piping hot.

5. Serve on top of the rice.

Enjoy!

 

TOP TIPS

*Stir-fry oil is a blend of sunflower oil, sesame oil, ginger oil and garlic extract. It is cheaper than sesame oil.

Ordinary vegetable oil will suffice (not olive oil).

A *wok is useful but not a necessity. A frying pan, or even a large saucepan, will do.

*Piping hot means literally steaming all over and all the way through. If food is not piping hot when first cooked you can give yourself food poisoning. I learned this the hard way when I was a teenager. I wouldn’t recommend it.