Cheap eats: Shakshuka

This is not a terribly authentic recipe, but it’s quick and veggie and cheap. It’s a great store cupboard recipe and also good for using up the ends of the veg bin – I’ve aways got halves of peppers lying about.

This is also delicious for breakfast the next day, or you can use any leftover pepper mix in wraps or as an omelette filling.

A pack of mixed peppers costs about a quid, let’s say 20p for an onion and 50p for a tin of tomatoes. Up to a pound for 4 eggs, depending on the quality and provenance. So meals for 2 adults plus leftovers = between £2.50 and £3.00. As always, I’m assuming some basic store cupboard ingredients and aromatics. 

What you need

  • 3 or 4 peppers, any colour, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Eggs (I serve 2 per person)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Teaspoon each of of paprika and cumin (you could leave these out)

What you do

  1. In a frypan with a lid, fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft, then add the peppers and soften these also.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and spices, and simmer for 5 mins.
  3. Make small wells in the mix and crack an egg into each. Cover the pan with its lid and cook until the egg whites are firm but the yolks are still soft, about 5 mins.
  4. Serve with some bread, or over couscous, if you like, with a splash of hot sauce.

You could, if you wanted to, add sliced mushrooms with the peppers, and/or stir in some baby spinach to wilt, before adding the eggs, but I’ve not costed this.

Add some meat: Some fried chorzo in this woudl be delicious
Make it low-carb: Don’t serve the bread.
Make it child-friendly: Go easy on the spices

Cheap eats: Pork belly and greens 

I absolutely love pork belly. Its fattiness feels decadent but it’s such a doddle to prepare. This is a great Friday night supper, when you want something a bit special because it’s the weekend but you’re also knackered from a week at work and your kids are finally in bed.

You can get 6 or 7 pork belly slices from Aldi for less than £2, which is enough for 2 adult dinners plus a bit of lunch the next day for one of you. Add some pak choi at about £1.50 and some rice or super noodles and that’s about £4.00 for 3 meals, assuming you have the store cupboard bits.

What you need

  • 500g pork belly slices
  • Small knob of ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic gloves, crushed
  • Slug of dark soy sauce
  • Tablespoon of honey
  • 2 star anise or a teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice powder
  • Pack of pak choi
  • Rice or noodles, to serve

What you do

  1. Mix together the ginger, garlic, soy, honey and star anise/5 spice then rub into the pork. I find the best way to do this is to put everything into a freezer bag, tie off the top and mush it together. Then you can throw the bag in the bin when you’re done!
  2. Marinate for as long as you can. If you do this in the morning before work, that’s perfect.
  3. Tip the meat and sauce into a baking dish and cook at 180C for 40-50 mins, turning once.
  4. Meanwhile, cook your rice or noodles and steam the pak choi.
  5. Pour any sauce over the meat and green to serve. That’s it!

Make it veggie: Well, it’s pork belly, so you know…You could use a similar marinade for firm tofu.
Make it low-carb: Remove the noodles/rice or replace with a zero version
Make it child-friendly: Add a little more honey and a squirt of tomato ketchup to the marinade

Cheap eats: Quiche

 

I love a quiche, I do. Quick and cheap. Makes dinner plus lunches the next day. Great for using up the last of the tinned sweetcorn and curling ham slices and a sad half pepper and some tired mushrooms. Easily bulked out with frozen veg. Can be eaten hot or cold, summer or winter. Mum used to make one at least once a fortnight and I understand why.

The pastry for this costs pennies. Cream costs about 75p and you’ll need about 50p of grated cheese, plus 2 eggs. So about £2 plus whatever other ingredients you choose to include.

What you need

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100 butter, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100ml cream
  • handful of grated cheese
  • Protein fillings: try chopped ham, crispy bacon, smoked salmon
  • Veg fillings: I’ve used tinned sweetcorn, frozen peas, diced peppers, cherry or sundried tomatoes, asparagus tips, broccoli, sliced mushrooms, spring onions, diced courgette, diced butternut squash, artichokes in olive oil, olives. (Blast peppers, courgettes and squash in the microwave to soften first.)

What you do

  1. Make the pastry by sifting the flour into a bowl and adding the butter. Rub with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, add the salt, then chill in the fridge for 20 mins.
  2. Roll the pastry out into a pie dish, prick the bottom and blind bake at 180C for 15-20 mins followed by 5 mins uncovered, until just brown.
  3. Mix together the eggs, cream, cheese and fillings. Pour into the pie crust and bake for 20-25 mins until the filling is just set.
  4. Serve with salad or green beans, if you like.

Make it veggie: Leave out the meat and fish. Add some feat, perhaps
Make it low-carb: You can bake the filling without a crust
Make it child-friendly: Let the kids choose the veg, and make them in muffin tins for child-sized portions

Cheap eats: Sausage and spinach pasta 

I try not to eat too much pasta but it’s definitely a cost effective way of feeding the family. I also got some new pasta bowls for my birthday (not the one pictured which came from a pound shop about 10 years ago) which are just screaming out for a big tangle of linguine or tagliatelle.

I used just two pork sausages for this from a pack of 8, plus half a bag of baby spinach and a few spoons of creme fraiche. It will depend on how good the sausages are, but I estimate this cost about £2.00 for two portions.

What you need

  • 2 pork sausages, skins removed
  • Half a bag of baby spinach
  • A clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 fat tablespoons of creme fraiche
  • A teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
  • Enough long pasta for two people
  • Splash of olive oil

What you do

  1. Put your pasta on to cook
  2. Fry off the garlic in the olive oil, then crumble in the sausage meat and brown
  3. Add the creme fraiche and mustard to the pan, then add the spinach and cook until it wilts
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the pan with a drop of the cooking water and mix together. Done.

 

Make it veggie: Hmm, probably not worth it. You could try Quorn mince but I wouldn’t bother, frankly
Make it low-carb: LOL. Pasta.
Make it child-friendly: Use a mild mustard.

Kid-friendly meals: Savoury mince and vegetable pie

Big G has very strict rules on what constitutes a pie. It should have both a pastry top and bottom, none of this “casserole with a pastry lid” nonsense. He’s not alone – there was even a petition about this a few years ago.

But time is of the essence, so this pie only has pastry on the top. Sorry, Big G.

This pie is the food of childhood. Your mother probably made one; your grandmother definitely would have done. It’s very plain, using basic mince, but so tasty.

Feeds a family of four with plenty of leftovers.

What you need

  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup of diced vegetables
  • 250ml beef stock
  • Tablespoon of flour
  • Tsp tomato puree
  • Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Block of ready-made pastry
  • 1 egg

What you do

  1. In a little oil, soften the onion.
  2. Add the diced veg and cook until soft but still firm. I used sweet potato, carrot and frozen peas. Mushrooms would have been good but Big G doesn’t eat them. I see a lot of recipes suggesting tomatoes and celery; I say, it’s not a bolognese. Once cooked, set the vegetables to one side.
  3. In the same frypan, brown the mince until all moisture has evaporated. Stir in the flour, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Add the veg back to the pan and pour over the stock. Simmer for 20 mins, until thickened.
  5. Pour the mixture into a pie dish and allow to cool.
  6. Cover with a pastry top. Decorate with pastry shapes, if you like, and make a small slit to allow steam to escape. Brush with beaten egg then bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is brown and crispy and the filling is hot.

There is enough in the pie that you could serve it alone, but I served it with mash and creamed spinach.

Make it veggie: Quorn would be the obvious substitute here, but with enough ‘meaty’ veg you could omit it. Try lots of mushrooms, kidney beans and finely diced sweet potato and swede.

Kid-friendly meals: Tortilla nachos

I know, I know, nachos are pretty junky. But they’re such a nice Saturday evening tea – perfect before a movie night, and you can eat them with your fingers.

So I  made this version with whole tortillas, instead of shop-bought corn crisps, and a homemade sauce. There was much less sugar than there might have been, only what’s in the tortillas. And I got a surprising amount of veg in: tomatoes, kidney beans, sweet corn and avocado. Which is pretty good going for a Saturday night.

G Major did nearly all of this herself as well, under supervision, so this is a  nice one to do with the kids.

What you’ll need (Feeds 2 hungry children and one hovering adult)

  • 3 mini tortillas or 2 regular sized ones
  • 250g beef mince (I froze the other half of the pack for some distant bolognese)
  • Small tin of kidney beans
  • Half a brown onion, finely chopped
  • Sprinkle of paprika and ground cumin
  • Small tin chopped tomatoes
  • An avocado
  • Grated cheese and sour cream, to serve

What you do

  1. Cut the tortillas into small triangles. Put them onto a baking tray and drizzle over a tiny bit of oil, then bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes, giving them the occasional shake, until crisped up
  2. Chop the kidney beans to roughly the same consistency as the beef. I did a short burst in the food processor but go easy – you don’t want mush, just unidentifiable bean-y bits
  3. Heat a little oil in a fry pan and brown the onion and then the mince. Sprinkle in the paprika and cumin
  4. Add the chopped kidney beans, the tomatoes and sweet corn and cook for another few minutes
  5. Meanwhile, mash the avocado. You could add a splash of lemon juice if you like. This isn’t proper guacamole, FYI, just a cooling accompaniment; if you want to make authentic guac, go for it
  6. Plate up. Traditionally you layer up the corn chips, put the mince mixture on top then cover in cheese before grilling. I couldn’t deal with  the drama of hot plates, though, so I served the meat in the middle and tortilla chips around the edge to scoop
  7. Let the kids help themselves to cheese, avocado and sour cream

Make it veggie: Use Quorn mince or just stick with the beans

Cheap eats: Mince and cabbage stir fry

My mum used to do a version of this. I have cobbled it together from memory; it’s not quite as nice as when she makes it, but recipes passed down from mothers and grandmothers rarely are, are they? My grandmother used to make a delicious salad dressing that I’ve never been able to replicate.

Anyway, this comes in at a cost of about £3.00, which will give you 4 adult servings, depending on where you shop and what quality mince you buy, and assuming you have a basic pantry of aromatics and soy sauce.

It’s a little bit crunchy, with spicy, salty flavours. It’s also very quick to make, so it’s perfect mid-week. This taste even better the next day, so take a serve for lunch.


What you need

  • 500g mince (you could use pork, beef or turkey)
  • Small cabbage, finely sliced (I like sweetheart but regular white cabbage is fine, too)
  • Medium brown onion, finely fliced
  • Pack of supernoodles or a cake of fine egg noodles
  • A red chilli, chopped
  • At least 2, maybe 3, garlic cloves, minced
  • A knob of ginger, grated
  • A dash (15 mls?) of soy sauce
  • Oil for cooking
  • Spring onions, if you have them, finely sliced for garnish


What you do

  1. Heat oil in a wok or frypan. Brown the mince then set aside
  2. Meanwhile, cook your supernoodles or pour boiling water over the egg noodles
  3. Add a little more oil to the pan, and when shiny and hot, tip in the garlic, ginger and chillis and cook for about a minute
  4. Turn the heat down, add the sliced onions and cook until soft, then add the cabbage. Pop a lid over and cook until slightly softened, but not soft – you want to retain some bite
  5. Tip the mince back in, and the cooked, drained noodles. Pour over the soy sauce and stir well before serving. Scatter over the spring onions, if using.


Make it veggie:
Use tofu or Quorn in place of the mince
Make it low-carb: Remove the noodles or replace with zero-noodles
Make it child-friendly: Use less chilli