What’s in my kitchen?

So I was thinking of ideas for posts to do and I thought why not take a photo of what’s in my kitchen cupboard and fridge? I would always recommend for students especially to buy things on offer and check for bargains (but don’t go buying things unnecessarily just because they are on offer which you’ll never eat, assess whether it’s worth it).

– Some packs of Green Giant sweetcorn (my favourite) which are always useful to add to rice, pasta or a salad, or just straight out the can

– A few tins of canned tomatoes which I used for making some bolognese

– Pasta and spaghetti are a must in cupboard (I’ve got a few more in my room) as they are dry and store for ages

– That big box of Mingles isn’t actually full of mingles, it’s just to keep crackers/biscuits dry so they don’t go soggy (any old biscuit tin will do)

– Rice, I don’t recommend the Tesco basics long-grain rice, next time I will pay a bit more for some good tasting rice (cheaper to buy in bulk)

– Dried fruit like apples or apricots are good snacks, these can be expensive so I don’t have them all the time

– If you’ve spotted that unmistakable gold and red stripey packaging, yes I did go and and buy an 8 pack of Caramel bars because they are so DELICIOUS (my treat after I’ve worked hard in a sports session)

– Go Ahead bars and other cereal bars

– Green tea (the only kind I drink)

– Porridge oats

– Nut granola and bran flakes go really well together although since the granola wasn’t cheap cheap I ration myself to 3 spoonfuls per cereal bowl of bran flakes!

– Some fresh fruit, bananas and apples

– Little canisters of salt and pepper (you can get them really cheaply) and some mixed herbs (oh and a spare jar of pesto)

– Knorr’s chicken stock cubes, for flavouring vegetables

I saved the apple ‘trays’ to put my cutlery and knives in, they are just the right length although the chopsticks stick out a tiny bit. I also had a pack of tortilla wraps, onions and some garlic in a bottom cupboard.

– Pesto and cheese, friends for my pasta

– Activia intensely creamy apricot yoghurt pots (LOVE THESE!)

– Eggs, they are just so yummy.

– Fresh vegetables, when I took the photo I had a pack of beansprouts, a carrot, cucumber, and some peppers

– Leftover minced beef from the bolognese which will be going into the freezer too for the next time I make it

I would be careful with the fresh vegetables and fruit though because you don’t want to go overboard and buy loads (easily done when looking for bargains) as you won’t be able to eat them all at once (as they won’t keep for too long), so just have a rough idea about what sorts of fresh food you have at home when shopping. I don’t eat a lot of fish because I’m a bit fussy but will be out to get some salmon (buy a large piece and chop into smaller ones) or prawns as they store well in the freezer and give you lots of essential oils.

I totally forgot that we had an oven until a few days ago so all that’s in my freezer drawer is one pizza and some bolognese I made earlier. It’s really easy to make (see recipe here) and you can freeze a few portions so that they give you an hearty meal in no time.

(I don’t have the luxury of a chopping board yet I didn’t really get round to finely chopping anything) I also substituted the celery for pepper (put this in 20mins before the end) as I wouldn’t be able to finish the rest of the celery, but I love peppers. The same goes for ingredients like tomato puree, you don’t have to buy every little thing, just the important ones.

They are ready for the freezer when they have cooled.

So that was a rather long-winded post, I hope it wasn’t too boring but I tried to include a few tips and ideas about how to save money and plan ahead by buying food in bulk. Please do check out my other recipes by using the categories column on the right hand side or the ‘recent recipes’ column. I will be posting a ‘Dinners of the Week’ post to show how a few similar ingredients can make a tasty variety of meals. If you have any ideas for posts or quick and easy recipes to try out on a student budget, I welcome all suggestions! Cheerio.

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How to make tomato pasta sauce

It has seriously been such dull drizzly weather for the past few weeks and I was really craving some fresh tomato sauce on Friday, so I decided to make it. This recipe is really easy to make and takes about 30-40 minutes in total including preparation. I have used tinned tomatoes as that was all we had in the kitchen, if you want it to be really fresh you can easily use the same weight in fresh tomatoes.

Fresh Tomato Sauce, serves 6-8 

Preparation time : 30-40 minutes

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 2-3 small cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

– 1 piece of ginger (about the size of your thumb), peeled and finely grated

– 2 medium sized onions (or a handful of shallots – I used a mixture as we were running low on onions), peeled and roughly chopped

– 2 x 400g tinned tomatoes

– 200g tomato passata

(Alternatively you may use the the same weight in fresh tomatoes, to prepare – put in boiling water for 10-15 seconds and carefully peel off the skin, chop roughly and use a blender to purée them so that half the mixture is smooth and the other half still has some tomato chunks in)

– 2 large handfuls of fresh basil

– 2 tsp of dried oregano

– salt and freshly milled pepper, to season

– a pinch of sugar

First ‘peel’ the ginger with a small sharp knife and grate finely. You can see in the photos the size of the piece that I used, it doesn’t have to be totally precise so just use what you feel is right and suits your taste.

 

Next prepare the garlic and onions. A good tip for peeling garlic is to use the flat side of a wide knife to crush it slightly, the skin peels off much easier this way. Chop as finely as possible. Do the same to the onions. It doesn’t really matter what type they are (I used a red onion and a shallot as that was all we had).

Heat a large pan and add the olive oil when hot. Next stir in the onions. After a few minutes, add the garlic and ginger. Let the onions soften but keep stirring to avoid burning. This should take about 5-8 minutes (before and after photos below).

 

Next pour in all the chopped tomatoes and passata. Mix thoroughly with the onions, garlic and ginger. Season with salt, pepper, torn basil leaves and dried oregano. Lastly add a pinch of sugar.

Cover the tomato sauce partly with a lid and simmer gently for a further 20-30 minutes until you reach your preferred consistency. The sauce should become much thicker at this point.

I also added in a sliced red pepper and some meatballs which were left over in our fridge.

Serve hot and season again if necessary. This sauce will keep for a few weeks stored in the fridge. I hope to do a post in a few weeks about how to make your own meatballs to accompany this, so look out for it. This is an incredibly easy sauce to make and is very versatile once you have this basic sauce. You can add mince to make it into a bolognese or add more vegetables to include more protein, or serve with meatballs – it’s totally up to you!

Pasta with Meatballs and Peppers

You already know that I love pasta.  And peppers. And meat. = a satisfied tummy. Although I have to confess that I didn’t make the meatballs. However after I am less swamped in exam revision I will definitely do a post on homemade meatballs (I have the recipe stored away ready for the minute my real summer starts). For the moment, you’ll have to make do. The meatballs were frozen from the freezer so I just lobbed them into a hot oiled pan along with the sliced peppers and fried (stir every few minutes) lightly for 10-15 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the peppers softened. You could easily add any tomato (see my recipe here) or vegetable sauce to flavour the pasta.

pasta + peppers + meatballs = yummy in my tummy

Back to my revision now I suppose…

Pasta. Love it.

Jumble some veg and meat with your pasta!

So today’s post is all about pasta. I’m a bit of a pasta geek, I actually remember all the Italian names of them! Anyway, I had a really yummy lunch today so I’d thought I’d share (the ideas, not the food). Often when there are lots of spare ‘parts’ in the fridge, I jumble together anything I fancy and mix it with my pasta. I live on pasta, rice and bread – but most carbohydrates that provide a staple diet can actually bring lots of variety to meals if you mix different sauces, vegetables etc. with them. Leftover bolognese is delicious with brown rice for example.

Anyway, I am also a huge fan of peppers. When they are raw my ranking order is yellow (the best) followed by orange and red. But when I have pasta, I always go for the red ones to add some colour. I also added some ham for a bit of protein and flavour which has just been shredded into smaller pieces. I put the pepper in with the pasta for the last five minutes of cooking so it would soften slightly. Then I mixed everything together and then topped with some cheese. Other ideas for simple lunches/dinners include adding;

– Pancetta (This needs to be fried in a hot pan for a few minutes until brown, you could easily add some chopped shallots)

– Any other leftover meat, chicken, beef, etc. that is flavoursome

– Olive oil, soy sauce etc. all make good seasoners (as well as salt and pepper)

– Any stew-like meals that are left in the fridge, they can just be warmed and mixed with the pasta.

– Broccoli, lettuce, sweetcorn are a few of my other favourite vegetables to add.

My other tip would be to use decent quality pasta. My favourite is Napolina Bronze Pasta. It is fantastic quality and well worth the extra pound when on offer. Some cheap pastas are too soft in texture or claggy and ruin the dish. I think pasta is best served al dente (with a bit of bite to it).

Pasta makes a great, quick and easy meal that can be flavoursome and filling, (and less repetitive than solely having pesto/cheese all the time). Let me know of your favourite pasta additions!

Good old spaghetti bolognese

This recipe provided the main course for our meal this evening. It’s a great hot-pot dish that you can prepare and then leave bubbling away for an hour and half while you get on with something else. Not to mention how easy it is to make. A fantastic solution to feeding any hungry student!

Spaghetti Bolognese, makes 8

Preparation time : 45 minutes

Cooking time : 1 and 1/2 hours (90 minutes if you prefer)

All that steam has got to my camera - sorry about the blurriness

-500g good quality lean minced beef

-A few tbsp of mild olive oil

-2 onions, finely chopped

-1 carrot, finely chopped

-2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

-150g pancetta (or smoked bacon rashers), diced

-A few tsp of dried mixed herbs or a handful of torn basil

-2 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

-2 tbsp tomato purée

-150ml white wine

-100ml water

-150ml milk

-5oog spaghetti or tagliatelle

Ingredients line up

Heat a casserole heat-proof dish/large pan and add the olive oil. Ensure the pan is hot so that the mince sizzles when added. Keep at a medium heat whilst you brown the mince for 10 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break the lumps. The colour should change from raw pink to a rather unappetising grey before the familiar brown.

 

Remove the mince from the heat and place in a spare bowl. Now prepare the vegetables (easily done in advance). Finely chop the carrot, celery, onions and garlic.

As you can see from the photo, I like to have everything ready – there’s no harm in measuring out the milk, wine and water at this stage. To the same pan/casserole dish, add a little more oil if needed ensuring it is hot. Add the diced pancetta and fry gently for 7-8 minutes (bacon rashers will take a few minutes longer).

Next add the vegetables and turn down the heat cooking for 10 minutes or so until the vegetables have softened (you can put the lid on and stir every few minutes).

Then return the mince and add the herbs. Stir in the tomato purée and wine, allowing the bubble and reduce for a few minutes.

Then stir in the milk and both tins of chopped tomatoes. Slosh the water in the cans to rinse them clean and add all the liquid to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Partly cover the pan and leave to simmer gently.

This makes a really tender and rich sauce. After about 45 minutes, cover completely otherwise the sauce may become dry.

Leave for an hour and a half - patience is a virtue

Cook the spaghetti or tagliatelle when ready to serve. Drain and serve with the bolognese. Season with cheese.

Hungry no more - Dig in!

Those observant views will notice this is only the second meal of a three course dinner. Dessert awaits – apple and walnut loaf…