Tag Archives: frugal food

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
Breadcrumbs

Method
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

Frugal Recipe: Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew

My husband is a yellow sticker bargain ninja. He’s forever coming home with bargains he’s found at the supermarket, some things go straight in the freezer, but fresh fruit and vegetables need to be used within a day or two.

This week he came home with two packets of  Mixed Roasting Vegetables from the Co-op which should have been £1.50 each, but were reduced to 83p each. The packs contained a small swede, 3 carrots, 2 parsnips and two medium sized onions. They were crying out to be used in a stew, so that’s what I did.

There was quite a lot of chopping involved in this stew, and I threw in some lentils and a leek I already had which was beginning to see better days. The result was so tasty and hearty that I’ll be making it again. It was a giant stew, which filled my slow cooker to the brim and took 8 hours to cook.

Frugal Recipe: Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew

It fed our family for three meals. I made stew and dumplings, I turned it into a pie and I just served it as stew with mashed potato. I even managed to freeze a portion for a rainy day.

This recipe uses two of the packs of vegetables, but you can half the quantities of everything if you want to make a smaller stew. With the yellow sticker bargain, I reckon I made this huge stew for around £3.

Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew

Ingredients:

2 medium sized onions, chopped
1 leek, sliced
1 tablespoon of oil, whatever you have
2 small swedes, diced
2 parsnips
3 carrots
2 large potatoes
75g  red lentils, rinsed
2.5 pints of vegetable stock (made with a stock cube)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 tablespoon of mixed herbs
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of sugar
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup

How to make your Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew

Chop you onions and cook them in half a tablespoon of oil until they are soft. Add them to the slow cooker when soft. Slice your leek and fry that until tender in the rest of the oil. Add the garlic towards the end of cooking and stir that through for a few minutes, when that’s cooked, tip the leeks and garlic into the slow cooker.

Peel and chop your swedes, carrots, parsnips and potatoes into similar sized pieces and add to the slow cooker.

Switch your slow cooker onto high and add the stock, chopped tomatoes, lentils and the rest of the ingredients. Put the lid on and cook until all the root vegetables are soft, for me this took 8 hours.

Once the vegetables are cooked, taste the stew and add more seasoning if you think it needs it. Stir through and serve however you want.

Frugal Recipe: Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew

My favourite way we had the stew was with dumplings. It was just the most perfect warming, hearty meal and I know I’ll be craving stew and dumplings now every time the temperature dips. My husband loved the pie, which was just a dish of the stew, which I stirred a tablespoon of vegetable gravy granules through and topped with a puff pastry lid. But it’s just as good served with a pile of buttery mash.

If you enjoyed this, you might like to try these slow cooker recipes:

Frugal Recipe: Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew

Frugal Recipe: Vegetarian Pork and Beans

A few weeks ago I published a recipe for pork and baked beans. It’s a brilliant recipe, really frugal and tasty but not suitable for vegetarians, obviously. The clue is in the word “pork”. Anyhow, as a vegetarian I was a bit jealous of this homely dish and decided to make a version I could enjoy. I made a few changes and I was so pleased with how it turned out, I’ve decided to share my recipe for vegetarian pork and beans.

The basic recipe is much the same, but having considered my options, I swapped out the diced pork for Quorn cocktail sausages and the smoked bacon for Quorn bacon. If I’m honest, I didn’t love the Quorn bacon in the dish. It didn’t add any flavour, the texture was a bit meh and next time I make it I’ll probably leave it out entirely, or cook it separately and drape it artistically over the top. If you’re missing a bit of the smoky flavour, you could add a bit of barbecue sauce to the mix.

This recipe for Vegetarian Pork and Beans is so simple, it’s the kind of thing you can throw together and leave to bubble away gently in an oven for a few hours. Once it’s cooked, you can eat it straight away or divide it up into portions and freeze it.

Frugal Recipe: Vegetarian Pork and Beans

It makes a great lunch on thick toast, or would be great with a pile of buttery mash. I’m looking forward to having it later with a crispy fried egg on top!

This recipe is easy to make vegan, just swap out the Quorn cocktail sausages for your favourite vegan sausage and enjoy!

Vegetarian Pork and Beans

Ingredients:

500g dried haricot beans, soaked for 24 hours
1 tablespoon oil, I used vegetable, but use what you have
2 packets of Quorn cocktail sausages
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons of dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper
1 pint of stock, made with a stock cube
4 rashers of Quorn bacon, chopped (optional)

How to make your Vegetarian Pork and Beans:

The day before you want to cook your Vegetarian Pork and Beans, soak your dried haricot beans in plenty of water, following the instructions on the back of the packet. Once they’ve soaked for 24 hours, change the water and boil them for half an hour, or until they’re not chalky inside. Drain and set aside.

Put all of the ingredients into a lidded casserole dish, don’t add the salt at this stage, the economy stock cubes I used were pretty salty, so it’s worth waiting until near the end to taste and see if you need to add more salt. Stir the pot gently and put into an oven at 160° for 2-3 hours. Make sure you give it a stir every half hour or so.

Ideally the sauce should be thick and it should look, smell and taste good. It might only take two hours for your beans to get to the right consistency, it might take nearer 3 hours. Just keep an eye on it and use your judgement. The beans should be tender and creamy inside. If the sauce gets too thick, you can always add a splash of water to loosen it.

Taste the sauce. Add more of whatever you think it needs, now is the time to add the salt if you think it needs it. Serve it however you like, it’s great on toast for lunch or piled on top of mashed potato. It’s a hearty dish, perfect for a winter warm up and ideal if you’re feeling frugal.

If you enjoyed this, you might like to try these vegetarian recipes:

Frugal Recipe: Vegetarian Pork and Beans

Frugal Recipe: Slow Cooker Pork and Baked Beans

This year, for various reasons we are tightening our belts. I’ve been looking to cut costs in the kitchen, and one way to do this is to batch cook dishes and freeze in portions. Another way to do this is to eat more beans and lentils. This week, I’ve done both and made a huge batch of slow cooker pork and baked beans.

This dish does take a bit of planning ahead, but at £1.12 (current price at Morrison’s) for 500g of haricot beans, it’s a pretty frugal way to feed the family. Sure, you can buy baked beans, but this recipe is worth trying at least once. It’s like the baked beans we get in a tin, but a little different. Lighter and less stodgy perhaps, they are certainly tasty.

I’ve used diced pork pieces in this recipe, but I think it’d be just as lovely if you swapped the pork for sausages or chipolatas. I like it served on thick buttered toast, but it would be great with a pile of buttery mash or on a jacket potato.

This recipe makes so much food, it’s great for batch cooking and freezing and really economical too. There’s probably enough for two good-sized meals for a hungry family of four.

Slow Cooker Pork and Baked Beans

Slow Cooker Pork and Baked Beans

Ingredients:

500g dried haricot beans, soaked for 24 hours
1 tablespoon oil, I used vegetable, but use what you have
450g diced pork (or swap for sausages)
4 rashers of smoked bacon, finely chopped
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons of dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper
1 pint of stock, made with a stock cube

How to make your pork and baked beans:

The day before you want to cook your pork and baked beans, soak your dried haricot beans in plenty of water, following the instructions on the back of the packet. Once they’ve soaked for 24 hours, change the water and boil them for half an hour, or until they’re not chalky inside. Drain and set aside.

In a frying pan, add your oil and cook the diced pork until it is browned. Once brown put it in your slow cooker. In the same pan, fry off the bacon pieces (you can buy packets of lardons which are cheaper than bacon slices if you prefer). Once the bacon is cooked, add that to the slow cooker.

Turn the slow cooker to high and add the beans and rest of the ingredients, but leave the salt out until later. The economy stock cubes I used were pretty salty, so it’s worth waiting until near the end to taste and see if you need to add more salt.

I cooked the pork and baked beans on high for two hours, then checked it and gave it a stir. It looked watery and I wasn’t convinced it would work. I then went out for two more hours and while I was out, magic had happened in the slow cooker. The sauce had thickened, the beans had softened and the pork and smoked bacon had given out their flavours. It had in total about 4 and a half hours on high, but cook it until the sauce has thickened and it looks, smells and tastes good.

Taste the sauce. Add more of whatever you think it needs. I added a bit more ketchup and it didn’t need any extra salt. Serve it however you like, it’s great on toast for lunch or piled on top of mashed potato.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, this works just as well in the oven. Put it in a lidded casserole dish on 160° for 2-3 hours, stir it every so often and when the sauce is thick, it’s done.

This is a great dish to cook in the depths of winter. I’m pleased as punch to have several tubs of this in my freezer for a rainy day.

If you enjoyed this, you might like to try these slow cooker recipes:

Slow Cooker Pork and Baked Beans