Tag Archives: frugal food

Lentil Lasagne

This is the filling I use for my lentil lasagne.  It also works very well as a filling for suet pasties a la Mortgage Free in Three, though the white sauce requirements are very different.

Filling Ingredients:

This will make enough for 6-8, so I tend to use 2/3 for lasagne and the rest for pasties.


2 carrots
1 onion
100g mushrooms OR 1/2 an aubergine (you can use both if you like, but you do need one or the other for texture)
1 clove garlic
1 tin tomatoes  or  4 fresh whole tomatoes
1 cup puy (or green) lentils
600 ml vegetable stock (or water 

2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste

You will also need lasagne sheets if you are making lasagne, or self raising flour, salt, butter, suet, water and egg if you are making the pasties.  Warning – suet pastry is hard work to roll out….

To make the lentil lasagne filling:

Chop the onions, carrot, mushrooms and/or aubergine.  You want the bits to all be roughly the same size….


Fry onion, carrot, mushrooms and/or aubergine together in a little oil until they are soft.  Aubergine is notoriously thirsty for oil, but if it starts looking dry don’t add more oil, just add a little water and put the lid on.  You’ll find it will soften beautifully without sticking or burning.

Chop or crush the garlic, and add that and lentils to your pan and mix well.

This is what puy lentils look like, for those who were asking.  You can get tiny black ones called beluga lentils, which make the filling look even more like beef lasagne – they are really posh but they Co-Op sometimes stocks them.


Add stock, chopped tomatoes and bay leaves, mix well and bring to the boil.  If you’re using tinned tomatoes, I find the whole ones are tastier, and just chop them in the tin with scissors before dumping them in the pan.  In this case, I had some ‘salad’ tomatoes that had refused to ripen fully so used them up instead.


Reduce to a simmer and cook, with a spoon in the pan to hold the lid ‘ajar’, for 30 mins until the lentils can be squashed with the back of your spoon.


White Sauce for Lasagne:

3 Tbsp cornflour
3 cups milk (circa 700 ml)
1/2 cup grated cheese
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

In a microwave-safe jug or bowl, mix  cornflour with a little milk until smooth, and then add the rest and mix well.  Microwave on high in 30 sec bursts, whisking in between times, until it thickens to something like single cream.  Add cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and a dusting of nutmeg and mix well.  It needs to be fairly liquid, as you will be cooking the lasagne sheets and they need water to soften.  If it looks too thick, thin it with water or milk.

To make the lasagne, layer pasta sheets, filling and white sauce alternately until the very last layer, when you just put pasta and white sauce with a sprinkling of grated cheese if you have it to spare.  The white sauce in this picture was too thick, and I ended up having to add milk after I’d assembled the lasagne, which was a complete faff and didn’t work all that well….


Either bake in a 180C oven for 30 mins until hot, or cover and microwave on medium for 10-ish minutes until piping hot and the pasta is soft and well cooked.  You’ll need to experiment with times, and may want to pre soak the lasagne sheets as I often find they stay a bit on the dry side.

The lasagne also freezes very well before final cooking.  It will cook best if you allow it to defrost fully in the fridge before baking.

White Sauce for pasties:

4 Tbsp cornflour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated cheese
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

In a microwave-safe jug or bowl, mix  cornflour with a little milk until smooth, and then add the rest and mix well.  Microwave on high in 30 sec bursts, whisking in between times, until it thickens to something like wallpaper paste (yummy!).  Add cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and a dusting of nutmeg and mix well.


To make the pasty filling, mix an equal quantity of lasagne filling with the white sauce, and allow it to cool fully.  Then put a couple of spoonsful on your pastry circles, seal up the pasties, and bake as per Elaine’s instructions.



Sticky Rice

As I have just promised this recipe to a friend who is feeding hordes of hungry teenagers, this will be a quick-and-dirty posting with no pictures and minimal chat.


225g bacon, chopped (or ham or frankfurters or….)
1 onion, finely chopped
100g mushrooms, sliced
450g rice (just over 2 cups)
425g can French Onion Soup (or improvise with beef stock, extra onions & a bit of cornflour)
600ml water


Fry bacon and onion gently until onion is translucent.
Add mushrooms and stir well to mix.
Add rice & fry for 1 minute.
Add soup and water.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20-25 min until the liquid has been absorbed.

Put the pan in the middle of the table, provide a stack of bowls and spoons, and watch the stuff evaporate.

(you can add frozen peas if you need a bit of greenery)

Armenian Bean Casserole

Today was dreich.  A good Scots word for a rather wretched Scottish day.  Outdoors, it was wet, windy, dark and thoroughly unappealing.

Normally, miss F and I would have gone shopping today – the stock of fresh stuff in the house is getting perilously low – but as she put it: “I want to be warm and dry more than I want to get fresh air.”

So, what to make with store-cupboard-only ingredients that would be a warming welcome-home for DH after a double shift yesterday, and another long one today.


Armenian Bean Casserole
(feeds 4-6 with rice or chunks of bread)


225g pinto beans soaked for 8h or overnight (or you can use 3 tins – roughly 600g cooked beans anyway and start following the recipe after the first 30 minute simmering stage)
1 litre water
3 Tbsp oil for frying
2 onions chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2.5 cm root ginger, finely chopped (I used 1 tsp of the bottled Minced Ginger from Approved Foods ‘cos ginger just doesn’t last in my fridge)
1 tin chopped tomatoes (I love the tetrapaks from
2 vegetable stock cubes
85g ready-to-eat dried apricots, quartered (scissors are good for this)
30g raisins/sultanas (basics range always seems to be sultanas, so that’s what I used)


Tip out the soaking water and put the beans in a large pan with 1 litre of water.  Bring to the boil and boil vigorously for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the onions and fry them gently until soft.
(a useful tip, when chopping onions, is to leave the root end intact. It holds everything together, and you can slice from tip to almost root all the way across before cutting slices from the nose-end)
onion ready for chopping
Add the spices and ginger and stir well.  Add the garlic and fry for another few minutes, until it stops smelling raw.
Add the part-cooked beans along with their cooking liquid, then the tomatoes, veggie stock cubes, apricots and sultanas.
Bring back to the boil, and simmer uncovered  for a further 30 minutes until the beans are tender and the cooking liquid has reduced to a thick, unctuous gloop.  Stir occasionally, but I’ve never had this catch yet (touch wood).

Serve with rice, bread, or whatever takes your fancy.

(If, like me, you have a pressure cooker, you may want to do the first stage in there, and save yourself 20 minutes or so….)

After all that, though, his nibs decided he would prefer hummus, so 5 mins in a mini-blender later, that was his dinner along with oatcakes and some of the red wine I won at work.  I’ll post that recipe another day.

For now, here’s a collection of recipes that might appeal:

Link up your recipe of the week


Tortilla Lasagna

Wednesday night arrived, and with it the lovely news that DH didn’t have to work.  Lovely, except that I hadn’t planned dinner to include him, as he gets fed when he is at the cafe….  Nothing on the plan and not much in the fridge either, so there was a momentary panic before I remembered this recipe, which will go from ingredients to table in less than 30 minutes.

It’s one of DH’s favourite recipes, modified from a magazine article many years ago.

Tortilla Lasagna (serves 4 if you have salad to go with it, or have a full pack of 8 wraps)


Wheat tortilla wraps (minimum 4, but 6+ is better)
Tomato pasta sauce (1/2 jar or make your own: 1/2 onion fried gently, add 1 tin chopped tomatoes, simmer while you’re flapping about defrosting the spinach and setting the table)
Frozen spinach (300g, defrosted and the water squeezed out a bit)
finely grated cheddar cheese (150 – 400g depending on how cheesy you like it, and how far your budget will stretch)


Put some greaseproof paper on a baking sheet.  You really need this as the wraps can weld themselves to whatever you cook them on.
First layer: 1-tortilla, 2-pasta sauce, 3-spinach, 4-cheese
Last layer: tortilla, pasta sauce, cheese

Bake in a hot (200C) oven for 20 minutes, remove and allow to stand for 5 minutes to firm up a little.
Cut like a pizza and eat hot or cold.
It freezes and reheats very well.

This time we had ours made with 4 wraps, and about 150g of cheese, and it was yummy but only fed 2 adults and 1 6-year-old.  More wraps and more cheese = more people….

Adzuki “black” bean soup

(feeds 4 with bread, or 2 without)

3/4 cup adzuki beans, soaked 8h or overnight in plenty of water, and well rinsed. (or 2x400g tins)
1L water
1 bay leaf
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
3/4 cup frozen pepper bits
1 tsp cumin
1/4 – 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or ground ginger for gentler warmth)
Oil for frying.

First cook the beans in the water with the bay leaf added until very soft: 9 minutes in a pressure cooker at High pressure, or 40 minutes in an ordinary pan.
Pour everything into a large bowl, and clean the pan.
Fry the onion gently until soft.
Add the cumin, chilli flakes, peppers, beans & cooking liquid along with the bay leaf.
Simmer for 15 mins.
Remove the bay leaf (!)
Liquidise / blend and add salt to taste.

Serve with bread & butter.

This is seriously spicy, so if you don’t like heat, try adding ground ginger instead of the chilli flakes.

Stretch your mince – spaghetti bolognese with lentils 89p p/p

I may have mentioned that I have a very particular child. She knows what she likes, and isn’t afraid to let you know. Food can be a problem…. So, when I discovered that she enjoyed Bolognese, it immediately went onto the menu plan.

The problem is, mince isn’t exactly cheap at £2.89/500g at my supermarket of choice, and I need to make it do at least 3 meals for the three of us at that price.

So, my bolognese isn’t exactly authentic, but it does taste good.

Pressure Cooker Bolognese with lentils (to feed 6 adults @89p per person)

1 onion, finely chopped (9p)
2 large carrots, finely chopped (20p)
2 TBSP oil + 30g butter (20p)
500g beef mince (£2.89)
150g brown lentils (30p) [you could use red lentils which will disappear completely]
100 mL milk (4p)
1 x 500mL carton passata (33p)
100g tomato puree (24p)
3 TBSP tomato ketchup (8p)
1/8 tsp salt (less than 1p)
600g spaghetti (26p)
grated cheddar to serve – optional (60p)

Melt the butter in the oil over a medium heat and cook the carrots and onions gently until soft.
Turn up the heat and brown the mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
Add the milk and boil until it has all evaporated (this coats the mince and removes the gritty taste you sometimes get).
Add the remainder of the ingredients, stir well, put on the lid and bring to High pressure.
Turn down the heat to whatever your hob requires to keep the pressure cooker fizzing, and cook at High pressure for 15 minutes.

Once the pressure cooker is doing its thing, put the spaghetti in a pan of lightly salted water, put on the lid, and bring to the boil.  As soon as it boils, turn off the heat and leave to cook with the lid on for 8-10 min depending on how you like it.

Reduce the pressure quickly using either cold water (old fashioned cooker) or your release valve.  Stir well.  Add a cupful of the bolognese mix to the pasta and mix to coat the spaghetti.  Serve with an extra spoonful or so of bolognese sauce on the top of each bowl, and a grating of cheddar cheese.

See what everyone else is doing at Menu Plan Monday with OrgJunkie

Experimental cooking: fishcakes at 31p each

We managed to cook rather too much potato at the weekend, leaving me with 200g of mash in the fridge. I’d already made soup, so that wasn’t my preferred option (though mashed potato is an excellent way of thickening up a soup or stew).

Inspiration struck in the local Lidl, where I spotted a 200g tin of herring fillet in a mozzarella & tomato sauce for 79p. At least, I assume that’s what it was, as the ingredients were all in German, as was the front of the tin.


I poured the contents of the tin (sauce and all) into a large bowl and mashed it up with a fork, added the 200g of mashed potato, along with breadcrumbs from the heel of a loaf of bread, and mixed it together well. I formed it into patties, dusted them with flour, and fried two for 5-ish minutes a side.

Next time, I’ll add another heel’s worth of crumbs, as the cakes were a bit on the soft-and-sloppy side, but served with the last of the sweet chilli sauce from the back of the cupboard, they were delicious. A bit of salad would have been nice too, but I didn’t have time to make coleslaw so we did without.

The herring comes with all sorts of different sauces, so I can see trying them all out for interestingly-flavoured fishcakes.

Recipe: Fishcakes (feeds 4 @ 31p each)


1 tin Lidl herring in tomato & mozzarella sauce [79p]
200g potatoes, peeled, cooked & mashed (or equivalent of instant mash) [20p]
2 heels of bread, grated/whizzed to form crumbs [free, would have been thrown out]
2 TBS flour for dusting [5p]
oil for frying [4p]
4 slices bread-and-butter to eat alongside [16p or a little more – depending on your choice of bread and spread]

1 TBS sweet chilli sauce (optional) to serve


  1. mash the fish into the sauce until well blended.
  2. add the mashed potato and mix well
  3. add the breadcrumbs and mix well
  4. using oiled hands, shape the mixture into 4 large or 8 small patties and place on a floured plate or board
  5. fry on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes a side until heated through and crispy on the outside
  6. serve with sweet chilli or your preferred sauce, and bread or a salad (or both)

Menu Plan Monday: A new approach

I’ve started a new job with lots of new stuff to learn, and am finding it hard to settle down to planning every week.  So, for a while at least, we’re going to be on a predictable round of meals.  If we get bored, well, I’ll change things around a little, but this is the basic outline.


  • non-branded shreddies / chocolate weetabix for small
  • 1/2 cup of mix made from Lidl musli (750g) with added porridge oats (250g) soaked in milk / bread & marmalade for big


  • biscuits (bought custard creams and ginger nut biscuits; might make oatie biscuits if there’s time)
  • apples
  • satsumas
  • bread-and-jam

To drink:

  • water
  • tea / decaf tea / bush tea / coffee (big)
  • ribena (small)
  • milk (small)


  • sultana loaf / banana bread / girdle scones / muffins (all can be frozen)
  • Pressure cooker rice pudding (once you add in the prep & heating / cooling time, it’s closer to 20 mins than the 9 she quotes, but hey it’s still quick)
  • natural yogurt and cake-decorating sprinkles (stir to make rainbows in your bowl)
  • ice cream cone

Main Meals:


  • school dinner (£1.80) / bean burger leftovers or soup
  • pressure cooker risotto (still working on getting small person to eat this – she likes rice pudding, so…?)


  • Chicken mayo wrap (from frozen cooked chicken leftovers) / risotto leftovers
  • Poached egg / Omelettes with boiled potatoes ( make extra for tomorrow’s lunches)


  • potato salad (or coleslaw?) with cheese cubes (small person gets an after-school extra meal as she has dance class – possibly egg mayo?)
  • bean goulash (or my modified version of Butternut, spinach & chickpea curry without the chilli) & rice


  • hotdog / leftover bean goulash or soup
  • pasta & cheese sauce with carrot sticks for crunch


  • Tuna wrap or hamster mix / leftover pasta or soup, depending on quantities
  • Baked potatoes with cheese (small) or tuna salad (big)


  • Potato soup with carrot & milk instead of yogurt (small person had seconds, so this is definitely on the menu!)
  • Sausage & mash OR slow cooker roast chicken


  • Soup of some description (small person does NOT like tomato)
  • Bean burgers served in muffins or on rice (may not work for small person so fish fingers a reliable option)

Just a reminder: I’m cooking for two adults (one female, one male) and a 5yo with a history of reflux who would still happily live on milk alone.

Reference link of the week: Things to do with powdered milk.

Hop over to Menu Plan Monday on Orgjunkie.com to see what everyone else has got planned.

Menu plan Wednesday?

So things haven’t gone all that smoothly this week, and I’m only getting my menu plan up today.  Sorry about that!  It’s been on the fridge since Sunday night, though, and that’s what really matters!


  • the last of the ham with mayo/mustard on bread with cucumber & fruit
  • bangers &  mash for her and me, J eats at work



  • banana loaf, fruit & biscuits for them – was supposed to be a snack but they stayed out for lunch – and cheese sarnie for me.
  • Finally (finally!) got to eat that cobbler after the casserole was frozen last week due to to not having time to make the scones.  It was awesome, despite being made with only 2 chicken breasts instead of 4, and bacon bits instead of sausages.



  • Tuna mayo wraps with fruit and Banana Loaf (recipe below) for them, tuna salad for me
  • Peshawari Biryani with Pilau Rice (recipe to follow)


  • leftover biryani for me, tuna salad for him, tattie salad & cheese for her
  • the other half of the cobbler (nomnomnom)


  • cheese & coleslaw for us, tattie salad & cheese for her
  • Greek Rice with mint & feta (will do two meals, so one for the freezer)


  • day out in Jed fur her and me.  Tattie salad & cheese, banana loaf
  • carry out dinner for a treat before the 2h drive home, J eats at work


  • Pizza Muffins (hopefully to do school lunches too)
  • Roast duck breast (from the freezer) with veg & potatoes

Recipe of the Week:

Banana Loaf
Recipe given to Bronwen (Granny Bron) Noble by Jean (Grandma) Noble
Makes 2 loaves (~14 slices per loaf)


4 cups flour
1 cup (~200g) butter / marge
3 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
4 beaten eggs
2 cups mashed bananas (about 6 bananas)


  1. Cream butter & sugar
  2. Add beaten eggs & mix
  3. Sift in dry ingredients & mix
  4. Add mashed bananas & mix
  5. Spoon into lined or greased & floured loaf tins
  6. Bake at 200C for ~1hr or until the top is lightly browned and the centre does not stick to a skewer.
  7. Leave in the tins for 10 mins before turning out onto a rack to cool fully.


  1. 1 cup = 240ml
  2. mash bananas with a potato masher
  3. you can substitute up to 50% of the fat with sunflower / vegetable oil for a loaf that keeps longer and tastes just as good
  4. Leave until the next day before slicing to avoid it falling apart
  5. Freezes wonderfully
  6. Keep the heels, chop into cubes, and serve with custard for a decadent and almost-free dessert

Hop over to Menu Plan Monday to see what everyone else is making this week.

Menu plan Monday: 29 July 2013

Last week’s plan had a few modifications, but having the plan meant I never had to scrabble for food, or wonder if I had all the ingredients I needed for a particular meal.  What with the pair of us juggling shifts and childcare, that is a very good thing!

We didn’t manage to get to the cobbler, despite me thawing out the chicken and bacon on Sunday, so that’s on the list for this week again….


  • Potato salad for small person, left over Bean Goulash & rice for me, DH will eat at work (this has already fed us once for dinner, and once for lunch in pita breads)
  • frozen pizza at £3 for 3 from Farmfoods (we’ll use two) as we won’t get in until after 6pm and I didn’t plan well enough to have something in the slow cooker


  • hot dogs for small person, left over Pressure Cooker Risotto for me & DH
  • Baked potatoes & home-made coleslaw & cheese for me, baked potato and cheese for small person, DH eats at work


  • chicken mayo wrap for small person, home made coleslaw & bread/cheese for me & DH
  • potato & chickpea curry (using a jar of jalfrezi sauce I found in the cupboard) for grownups, boiled eggs for small person


  • Tuna mayo wrap for small person, leftover curry (I hope) for me & DH
  • Chicken cobbler as planned for last week.  I’ve already made the stew, so all that remains to do is make the scone topping and bake.


  • Ham sandwiches for all of us, with coleslaw for grownups
  • poached eggs – both eggs and bread need to be used up!


  • morning concert for summer dance school means we will be out – picnic lunch of home made houmous/pita for grownups & hotdog for small person with fruit & banana pancakes (from the freezer).
  • Bangers & mash – a treat from our local butcher


  • Ham & Cheese sandwiches with fruit & Sultana Loaf (from the freezer) for a picnic lunch: work has a corporate ticket for Our Dynamic Earth, and I have booked it for the weekend!
  • Bean, Cumin & Carrot burgers again.  They were wonderful, and we have plenty of beans!  Small person remains to be convinced, though, so may have to put something else on her muffin….  Hoping to have a friend round for dinner too, so will make double quantities.

Quick Scone Recipe (Aunty Phyllis Cowell)

2 cups flour
1/4 cup cooking oil + 1 lightly beaten egg & top up with milk to 1 cup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 level tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder

1. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients & mix very lightly.
2. Pat out to 2-3cm thick on a floured board and cut with a floured scone cutter.
3. Bake at 230C for 12 minutes

I use this for both sweet scones and to make a savoury cobbler topping as I loathe the mess and hassle of rubbing fat into flour to make traditional scones.  You can add up to 1/4 cup of any fruit or nuts to the scone dough if you wish; and herbs or spices to the cobbler topping.  Melted butter works just as well as cooking oil, but you do need to measure it separately!


 See what other people are doing over on Menu Plan Monday with Orgjunkie.