Where growing, making & good living come together

Wheat-free week: our meal plan

Posted by on Monday 5 September 2011 in weekly meal plans | 3 comments

I stopped publishing our meal plans a couple of months ago because I didn’t know how much value they had to other people – but I thought this one may be more useful. (I have been writing the meal plans most weeks and sharing them with John on Google Docs, and boy have we felt it in the weeks when we didn’t have a plan – we’re definitely plan converts.)

So this week we’re having a wheat-free week. As far as we know, neither of us has any health problems caused or exaggerated by wheat but we eat a lot of bread & pasta, just because they’re easy fallbacks. We’re hoping a wheat-free week will encourage us to find different things to eat for lunch and for quick dinners. I also eat wheat-based (shop-bought) cereal most days for breakfast and we eat a lot of wheaty biscuits/cakes so I’ll have to find an alternative for them too.

John’s not a big fan of potatoes really so there is a lot of rice (and our normal repetition due to leftovers). We’ll probably have another wheat-free week in a couple of months – if you’ve got any recipe suggestions, do let me know :)

Monday breakfast – eggs or porridge
Monday lunch – tomato & lentil soup
Monday dinner – chicken, courgette & pepper risotto, on a bed of spinach/with salad
Monday dessert – chocolate mousse

Tuesday breakfast – eggs or porridge
Tuesday lunch – tomato & lentil soup leftovers
Tuesday dinner – chickpea & paneer with rice
Tuesday dessert – kheer

Wednesday breakfast – eggs or porridge
Wednesday lunch – chickpea & paneer leftovers, with rice
Wednesday dinner – (John might be having a movie night with friends, which may include wheaty pizza but nevermind; if not/for me) Jacket potato with tuna & cheese
Wednesday dessert – kheer

Thursday breakfast – eggs or porridge
Thursday lunch – tomato & bean soup
Thursday dinner – keema curry with rice

Friday breakfast – eggs or porridge
Friday lunch – egg salad
Friday dinner – keema curry leftovers, with rice

Saturday brunch – bacon & eggs, with hash browns
Saturday dinner – steak with vegetables
Saturday dessert – flourless chocolate cake

Sunday brunch – bacon & eggs, with hash browns
Sunday dinner – Spanish omelette (with sweet potato & peppers)
Sunday dessert – flourless chocolate cake

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Spicy onion soup recipe

Posted by on Wednesday 31 August 2011 in cooking, recipes | 10 comments

One of my fellow drama tutors, Kat, lives off cup-a-soups — she’s 19 and working about five different jobs so she can afford to desert us in a couple of weeks and go to drama school in that London. She’s always rushing from this job to that rehearsal and that’s where the cup-a-soups come in handy. Most of the time I have no reaction to them but the smell of the French onion soup one makes me CRAVE onion soup.

Thankfully onion soup is a fun soup to make — not quick but still easy and frugal. I used to make a (veggie but otherwise) strict version of Delia’s but as with many things I cook, it’s evolved over the years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my onion soup is now a little spicy. I do like my spice. Feel free to skip the chilli if you don’t like it hot – but the garam masala adds more flavour that heat, so do still use that.

I definitely recommend using a variety of onions if you can – include red onions for sweetness and colour. I used all boring white onions for the version pictured below because I got a big sack of them on a Ramadan special offer last week – I compensated by adding a little more sugar.

It takes a least an hour to make – half an hour for browning the onions then another half hour or so at the soup stage – but the slower the better really. A restaurant in Leeds used to make a 24 hour onion soup – talk about commitment! If I’m cooking other things at the same time, I’ll try for an hour for the browning then another hour at the soup stage but if I’m making it for lunch, it’s closer to an hour. Either way, the house smells GREAT. :)

Spicy onion soup

Makes about four portions
Costs about £1.20-1.50 in total, so between 30-40p a portion

500g onions
25g of butter
Two cloves of garlic, minced
1 chilli, finely chopped, or 2 if you want it properly hot
1-2 tsp of light brown sugar
1tbsp plain flour (optional)
1.5 litres of hot veg stock
1/2 tsp of garam masala
2-3 bay leaves
1tsp of worchestershire sauce


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More damsons!

Posted by on Friday 26 August 2011 in preserving | 0 comments

The wonderful Vic and John B have donated even more damsons to the Team Peach cause this week. Another 3kg/6.6lb! Thanks again Team B! :)

John’s happy with his three gallons of wine so these are definitely destined for jam. Or maybe damson cheese… To my recipe folder!

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Homemade takeout

Posted by on Monday 22 August 2011 in cooking, Featured | 3 comments

Steel Kitten has blogged about learning how to make her own kebab meat for homemade donner kebabs and it’s made me think about how we’ve slowly been replacing takeout dinners.

I’ll be honest – we still do eat quite a bit of takeaway/delivery food – but it is less than it used to be. When we lived in Leeds, we were in a prime spot for takeout – we were in the overlapping bit of four different takeout areas so had a huge variety of places to choose from. It was mostly junk food takeout (but done well) but there were a few more better quality places (eg Box Pizza – who when they first started out did fancy burgers too) and restaurants that delivered too. Lots of tasty temptation.

Since moving, we’ve become disillusioned with the takeaway options around here but still have takeout cravings/the urge for lazy comfort food at dinnertime so have started making more of our own takeout favourites at home:


We are curry fiends. In West Yorkshire, it’s almost rude not to be – there are so many excellent restaurants around. We still eat curries out of the house about once a fortnight but we also make them a lot. A few years ago, we went on a cookery course taught by one of the head chefs of a local restaurant chain and it vastly increased John’s cooking confidence so he’s the one that tends to cook them at home. He blogged a few of our favourite recipes from that course (lamb achar; lemon rice; chicken jalfrezi) but he’s tweaked them over the years so next time he makes them, I’ll document the new versions (especially the keema & chickpea version of the achar – that’s my favourite :) ).

We used to have daal a lot when we were veggie – with rice as a main dish rather than just the side dish it’s relegated to a lot over here. I used this recipe for tarka daal, and this for a yellow split pea one.

Obviously just about the best thing about curry is that it’s one of those foods that tastes better the next day and it freezes really well too. We always cook curries in large quantities (one of the few things we batch cook) so we can have a homemade ready meal/homemade takeout when we’re feeling lazy — healthier and far cheaper than ordering in. Daal doesn’t freeze as well (or rather, whole pulses don’t defrost well in my experience) but wetter soup-y style ones don’t suffer as badly as they’re already mostly/entirely broken down.

Cost per portion: (some sort of meat curry)
take-out/delivery – about £5-6 a dish, plus extra for rice/chapatis from some places
homemade – (made with organic & local meat) about £2, including rice
Time to make: 1hour+ – but can be batch made and frozen (then takes about 10 mins)

Cost per portion: (some sort of veggie daal)
take-out/delivery – about £4-5, plus extra for rice/chapatis from some places
homemade – no more than £1, including rice
Time to make: about half an hour

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Surprise damsons

Posted by on Friday 19 August 2011 in homebrewing | 11 comments

Our fab friends Vic and John B texted the other day to ask if we’d like some damsons – they’d used as many as they could but had some spare that needed eating/processing ASAP. “Some” turned out to be about 5kg (11lbs)! Thanks so much Vic & John B! :)

Last year, we thought our mysterious plums might be damsons – they’re about the right size – but the colour is very, very different. Ours are a very deep pink when ripe but these are such a rich indigo-blue, it’s almost unreal. I feel by the process of elimination, we’ll work out what our plums are eventually :)

We gave a few handfuls some to Strowger & Urbanwide for eating and my John turned the rest into wine last night. He did a lot of exclaiming about the amount of sugar needed for the wine – it’s a good job I don’t have any immediate jamming requirements as he’s used up practically every grain of sugar in the house.

Have you grown/foraged damsons this year? What did you do with them? Any favourite recipes?

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Wild plum/cherry plum ketchup

Posted by on Thursday 11 August 2011 in cooking, preserving, wild food | 2 comments

As I mentioned yesterday when discussing my SUPER AWESOME YUMMY jam (it’s gooooooood), I used the rest of our last plum-type fruit harvest to make some ketchup.

Last year, I made jam and spicy chutney but this year I was inspired by a tweet from Jono from Real Men Sow‘s tweet linking to a cherry plum ketchup recipe a few weeks ago.

Since it was a bit of a test, I quartered the quantities of Norfolk Kitchen’s original recipe (although accidentally only halved the amount of onion) and added about 10ml of Worchestershire Sauce as well the vinegar because I thought it would add some nice undertones. I also added a little water, maybe 100ml in total, while it was simmering as I thought it would be getting a little sticky for ketchup.

My quartered amount – based on 500g of plums – made more than I thought it would – 3 bottles full of sauce (this old Heinz bottle and two Encona ones). I imagine a week or two of “aging” will help the flavours develop but it’s already pretty tasty – fruity but savoury. It’s a lovely colour too – a proper full-bodied deep red – first taste with the eyes and all that ;)

Like Tracey, I’ll probably use it with things I wouldn’t normally Heinz up, like cheese on toast. I’m also interested to know how it will work with the Swillington Farm pork and plum sausages we have in the freezer – double plum action! :)

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