Frugal Food: Cheesy Leek Gratin

The start of the year is always the longest, leanest time for me. There have been many evenings lately that I have peered into the fridge and wondered what I could cobble together for tea.

A few days ago I picked up some leeks from the greengrocers for not many pence, and being leek fans, I decided to throw together a lovely, comforting cheese leek gratin. It’s remarkably simple and fairly frugal vegetable dish and even my fussy about veg 9 year old asked for seconds!

Frugal Food: Cheesy Leek Gratin

Cheesy Leek Gratin

Sliced leeks, I used six, but you can use more if you want
A little butter for frying
50g butter or margarine
50g plain flour, or sauce flour if you have it
1 pint of milk (maybe a little more, maybe a little less)
100g mature cheddar cheese
30g Parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper and dried chilli flakes

Slice your leeks and fry gently in a bit of butter until they are soft.

Whilst your leeks are softening, melt the butter in a saucepan, once melted, tip in the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Mix until it’s a paste and then cook the flour out for a minute. Add a splash of milk and stir until it turns into a paste again. Keep adding milk in splashes and mixing until it starts to turn into a silky sauce. The amount of milk will vary, but I’d say you need at least a pint of milk. If it looks lumpy and unpromising, just use a whisk until it turns into a lovely smooth sauce.

Grate your cheese and add it to your sauce. Set aside about 30g of the cheese to top your bake with. Stir, stir, stir your sauce and season with salt and pepper. I also like to add ground chilli flakes for a bit of a gentle kick, but you can leave that out if you prefer. Taste the sauce to check the seasoning; if it’s not cheesy enough for you, now is a good time to add more cheese. Now is also a good time to pre-heat your oven to 220°.

Once your leeks are soft and your sauce is cheesy and smooth, tip them both into an ovenproof dish and mix together. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon and sprinkle over your reserved cheese. I usually top bakes and gratins with breadcrumbs. It gives a lovely texture and makes it look extra tasty. If I can be bothered I something whizz up some stale bread in the food processor and use that, but I have a tub of ready made breadcrumbs in the cupboard because sometimes life it too short to make your own. I sprinkle whatever I have over the top, use as much or as little as you want.

Frugal Food: Cheesy Leek Gratin

Put your cheesy leek gratin in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the top is brown and the sauce is bubbling beneath. I’ve made this several times now and it’s a regular veg dish as part of a winter roast. It’s great with chicken or sausages, or even on its own with a crusty piece of bread.

If you enjoyed this, you might like my recipe for slow cooker vegetable stew.

Frugal Food: Cheesy Leek Gratin

Recipe: Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls

Everyone loves a good sausage roll and vegetarians are no different. It’s pretty much impossible to find them in high street bakers, but they’re so easy to make I usually bake up a batch by myself. This week I wanted to ring the changes, so I baked a batch of these Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls and very, very good they are too.

Recipe: Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls

I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 30 years now and I’ve never tried black pudding, real or vegetarian. I spotted some in my local butchers (I know right, a vegetarian who goes to the butchers) and bought some veggie black pudding with no real plan for it. After a bit of thought I decided that Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls sounded like they’d be a good combination, and I was right.

Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls


1 sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
150g pack of Granose Meat Free Lincoln Sausage Mix
100g The Bury Black Pudding Company Vegetarian Black Pudding
2 tablespoons of parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper
1 egg, beaten

Recipe: Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls

How to make Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls:

Take your pastry out of the fridge and pre-heat your oven to 200°. Cover a baking sheet with a piece of greaseproof paper.

Make up the mix of Granose Meat Free Lincoln Sausage according to the packet instructions. I found this to be a good substitute for sausage meat. Chop up 100g of vegetarian black pudding as finely as you can and add it to the sausage mix. Stir through your chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

Recipe: Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls

Unroll your sheet of puff pastry. Cut your pastry sheet in half length-ways. Spoon a thick line of sausage mixture along the middle of each piece of pastry and paint beaten egg in a line along one edge of the pastry. Roll the sausage up and make sure the pastry edge is sealed well. Cut the long sausage roll down into smaller sausage rolls.

Recipe: Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls

I cut each of the two long sausages down to 5, so I had 10 in total. But you can decide how big you want each roll to be. Place them on your baking sheet with the sealed side down. Slash the top of the pastry with a sharp knife and brush with beaten egg. Put them in the oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown and delicious.

Recipe: Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls

I have to confess, my meat-eating husband went mad for these. He said they were the best he’d ever had and asked me to make another batch asap. They’re just the thing for Christmas get togethers and really quite different to normal sausage rolls. Maybe stir a couple of spoons of cranberry sauce into the mix if you want to make them more festive. They’re good, really good.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like to try these easy cheaty sausage rolls or these vegan sausage rolls.

Recipe: Vegetarian Black Pudding Sausage Rolls

Three Meat-Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

As the head chef in our house, it falls to me to put dinner on the table most nights. I’m a vegetarian, but the boys aren’t and I like to have a balance of meals through the week which suit us all. Maybe three nights a week they get something meaty and the rest of the time they will happily tuck into something we can all eat. I’m always on the lookout for meat-free Monday ideas to keep things interesting for us all.

This week we’ve been trying out some of the vegetarian meals from Goodlife Foods and in the process discovered some great Meat-Free Monday ideas.

Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

We loved this wholemeal pita stuffed with lovely crunchy salad and chickpea falafel with a side of slaw. These Moroccan style chickpea falafel from Goodlife are packed with spices and are just 39 calories each; making them perfect for a light meal. I always think falafel are really versatile, my freezer is rarely without a packet.

Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

Another favourite from the range was this Mushroom and Spinach Kiev. The Kiev is packed with mushrooms and spinach which hides an oozing creamy garlic and cheese sauce, and is coated in a crunchy seeded breadcrumbs. Although it’s not a stunner on the plate, it is absolutely delicious and just garlicky and cheesy enough. Served with some of our favourite veg – sweet potato mash, French beans and chantenay carrots, this was a cracking meal we could feel virtuous about. Each Kiev is 290 calories, so this was a good meal we didn’t need to feel bad about.

Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

My own personal favourite was the French Bean and Spinach sausages. They are so flavoursome, even my pork sausage loving boy tucked into them and demanded seconds. The sausages are filled with French beans, petit pois, fresh spinach, a pinch of nutmeg and a mild crumbly Wensleydale cheese. 

They are incredibly versatile. I served them with buttery mashed potato, French beans, garden peas and veggie gravy. They’d be fantastic in a wrap or sandwich, or thrown in with some creamy pesto pasta and they’re only 86 calories per sausage. They have lots of other sausage flavours too, I need to track down their beetroot and feta for a start!

Three Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

Goodlife Foods have been creating vegetarian sausages, vegan burgers, vegetable based kievs and falafels in the UK for over 25 years. They work with framers across the UK to sow, grow and harvest the best vegetables at their peak, so they know that their veg is fresh and tasty.

Whether you’re having a Meat-Free Monday, feeling flexitarian or you’re committed to a full-time vegetarian diet, Goodlife have a really interesting and tasty selection of frozen foods to help you mix things up and create great family meals.

Three Meat-Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

I’ve been buying Goodlife products whenever I’ve seen them for years. You can find them in the freezer section in Booths, Waitrose, Ocado and Iceland, amongst other places. I’ve tended to keep them just for me; but now I’ve seen my boys tuck into them with gusto, I guess I’m buying them for the whole family now. It’s lovely to see such dedicated carnivores tucking into a very obviously veggie sausage and asking for more!

You can find out more about Goodlife Foods including finding your local stockist and their full range on their website.

Note: I was sent these products for review purposes, all images and opinions are my own.

Five Delicious Vegetarian Comfort Food Dishes

I turned vegetarian when I was 13 and there’s not a lot I miss, but on a cold winter night I do sometimes hanker after the slow cooked, deep flavoured chilli my Nan used to make. Thankfully after lots of practice I’ve finally nailed the recipe and managed to make it vegetarian too.

Most of the warming comfort food dishes from my childhood were meat based – family roast dinners, my Nan’s amazing beef chilli, corned beef hash, shepherd’s pie and bubbling stews cooked so long the meat almost melted in your mouth.

There’s something about cooking up some comfort food which makes you feel like you’re showing your family some extra love. I enjoy throwing a few things in the slow cooker and knowing that by tea time there will be a delicious meal ready for my family.

Vegetarian comfort food can feel a bit hard to come by, so I’ve created and shared some of our favourite family recipes on my blog, here are five of my favourite vegetarian comfort food recipes – 

Vegetarian Galletes

vegetarian comfort food

These are a recent addition to my comfort food repertoire. They’re really easy to make, utterly delicious and once you get the hang of it you can fill them however you want. I made a Goats Cheese, Caramelised Onion and Quince Galette and a Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette. Both were absolutely bang on and real crowd pleasers.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

vegetarian comfort food

Now autumn is here my soup making pot is starting to see some serious action. Cauliflowers are cheap and plentiful in the shops, so I recreated my favourite soup, but with a cheesy twist. Try my very delicious Norwegian inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup.

Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

vegetarian comfort food

I’d had it in my head to make a big Spanish style bravas sausage casserole in my slow cooker for a while. This summer hadn’t been up to much and I was desperate to start rustling up comfort food dishes, and this was the first one of the season. I made my sausage casserole with Quorn sausages, but you could very easily make them with your favourite meaty sausages if you’d prefer. I made the sauce in the slow cooker and let it bubble away gently to itself for a few hours. The recipe is really simple and it’s now a firm family favourite.

Authentic Armenian style Imam Bayildi 

vegetarian comfort food

Imam Bayildi is basically stuffed, baked aubergines. They’re simple to make, you can prepare them ahead of time and then cook them when you need them and they are melt in the mouth gorgeous. I like to use good quality ingredients in this recipe as every single mouthful zings flavour. Fresh vegetables and herbs are essential, they’re packed full of flavour and these sunshiny aubergines are a little bit of summer on a cold autumn evening.

Easy Microwave Jam Sponge

vegetarian comfort food

No vegetarian comfort food round-up would be complete without a pudding. This incredibly easy to make and very quick to cook microwave jam sponge is just the ticket to warm your cockles on a cold winter evening. All you need are a few store cupboard ingredients, ten minutes of your time and you’ve got a good pud that’ll make your family smile. have a great blog post about the five healthy foods that can actually save you money, and if you want even more money off your online shop they also have plenty of Sainsbury’s vouchers which you can use.

vegetarian comfort food

Foodie Firsts – Cooking with Tofu

Despite being a vegetarian for the last 27 years there is one ingredient I’ve always been afraid to cook with, but it is one of my favourite foodie things – tofu.

I’ve bought the ready pressed tofu, marinated and ready to use, but never a block of tofu, white and perfect and ready to be transformed into a thousand different dishes. I was asked by Morinaga if I’d like to try their silken firm tofu, and I knew it was time I stopped being a bit afraid of pressed soy puree and just tried cooking with it.

Morinaga tofu

After consulting a friend who is a vegan chef, he told me I’d need to press the Morinaga tofu. This was an easy job, you just take it out of its packet and put it on a plate, place a flat plate or board over the top and put a couple of tins of beans on there for an hour or two. The tofu should let out quite a lot of liquid which you just discard. Then it is ready to use however you want.Morinaga tofuTofu tastes of nothing but is incredibly good at absorbing other flavours, so it’s perfect for marinading in whatever you like.  It’s also low fat, high-protein, dairy and gluten-free.

I like tofu when it’s got a crispy crust, so I pressed and drained my tofu for a couple of hours and cut it up into bite sized chunks. I put some plain flour in a bowl and seasoned it generously with salt, pepper and chilli flakes, I gently tossed the tofu in that, taking care because it is quite delicate. I put a generous tablespoon of groundnut oil in a frying pan and added a splash of chilli oil and heated it up until it was very hot and fried the tofu, turning often until it was golden and crispy.

I’m a bit lazy when it comes to stir-frys, I often just buy a ready made packet of stir fry vegetables and stir-fry them with soy sauce, honey and some sweet chilli sauce, toss through some noodles and add a handful of chopped coriander and serve. Only this time I added my fried tofu at the end and it was delicious. Seriously delicious!

Morinaga tofu

Now I’ve tried the fresh tofu there is no way I’m going back to the ready made stuff which seems dull and chewy in comparison. The Morinaga silken firm tofu was perfectly crispy on the outside but soft and yielding on the inside. It was as good a tofu as I’d had in restaurants and I was impressed by how good it was, I didn’t think I’d be able to recreate it as I had done.

As a vegetarian I know that tofu is a good source of protein and contains iron and calcium, as well as a range of other essential vitamins and minerals. Morinaga tofu currently costs £1.24 for a 349g packet in ASDA and does not need to be stored in the fridge, though it does once it’s been opened, but it wouldn’t last that long in my house anyway.

If you’ve never cooked with tofu before, do not be afraid. Now I’ve tried it there is no going back for me, my little foodie mind is whirring away with tofu ideas and potential recipes. Do you have a favourite tofu recipe?

Morinaga silken firm tofu available in the ambient aisle of Sainsbury’s and ASDA. For more information visit their website or Facebook page.

We were sent some Morinaga silken firm tofu to try for ourselves. All images and opinions are our own.

Vegetarian Recipe: Skinny Homity Pie

I had a falling out with my kitchen around Christmas time. The turkey gave me the evil eye, the sprouts turned on me and quite frankly the stuffing can get stuffed. So ever since then my usual culinary enthusiasm has been somewhat lacking. Perhaps it was the change of season or the pile of leftover new potatoes glaring at me from the fridge, but inspiration struck and I decided to do my take on the Cranks classic – Homity Pie.

Skinny Homity Pie

I’m not a massive fan of thick pastry, unless it’s covered in jam and cream with a big cherry on the top. So for a while I’d been musing about a homity pie made with filo. So I looked up the Cranks recipe, carefully read it, closed the book and put it back on the shelf. I was going to experiment and see if I could make it a bit healthier but just as tasty.

Skinny Homity Pie

1 onion, finely diced
Olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme (or dried if you don’t have fresh)
Enough sliced cooked potatoes to half fill your pie dish
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of mustard
3 or 4 pieces of shop bought filo pastry
50g grated Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper


Sweat one onion in a dab of olive oil, when soft add a crushed clove of garlic and as much fresh thyme as you fancy (I used a lot, thyme and onions are the best of friends and I have a huge thyme plant in the garden).

Slice up a pile of cooked potatoes; I used new potatoes because that’s what I had.

Whisk up 2 eggs, some salt and pepper and a goodly dollop of your favourite mustard.

Grab your favourite quiche or pie dish, give it a light coating of oil, lay a piece of filo in the dish, oil that piece of filo and artfully drape another on top, repeat the process until you’ve got 3 or 4 pieces of filo piled up, greased and ready to go.

Mix your sliced spuds and the unctuous onion mix together, spread a layer in the bottom of your dish, sprinkle a handful of cheese over and drizzle your mustardy egg over, layer the remaining spuds, pour over your leftover egg and top with another handful of grated cheese.

I baked it in the oven for 25 minutes at 220 degrees or until it looks golden and gorgeous.

I served it with a huge green salad and some oven roasted tomatoes. It was a huge hit with the boys, impressive as the toddler is (oh joy) going though a picky phase. This Homity Pie is monumentally easy to do, half quiche, half homity pie and it’s a real family favourite!

For more simple and tasty family recipes, click here.Vegetarian Recipe: Skinny Homity Pie