Warm(ish) Salad with Tahini Dressing

It occurred to me that it was a while since I’d made hummus, and as I had a brand new jar of tahini, I thought today might be the day to put that right. Then, I noticed that there were a few odds and ends in the fridge this morning and I decided to combine them in a salad and use the tahini in a dressing.

So this is what we ended up with:

Tahini-Dressed Salad

Warm(ish) Salad with Tahini Dressing

1 400g Can of Chickpeas

1 Courgette

1 Red Bell Pepper

3/4 Bag of Rocket

8-10 Leaves of Mint

1 Clove of Garlic

2 Tablespoons of Tahini

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

Squirt of Honey

Juice of Half an Orange

Zest of a Lemon

Juice of Half a Lemon

Salt & Pepper to Taste

Open the can of chickpeas and toss them into a sieve.

Rinse them under running water and leave to drain.

Peel and finely grate the garlic.

Cut the courgette into small, thin, bite-sized pieces.

Cut and core the red pepper.

Make the dressing by combining the tahini, garlic, honey, zest, orange and lemon juices.

Mix gently and add a drop of water until it’s slightly runny.

Add the olive oil.

Whisk gently with a fork until you have a runny consistency.

Leave to one  side.

Gently heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and add the courgette pieces.

Fry them over a medium heat until they start to brown (about 10 minutes).

Add the pepper pieces and fry them for a further five minutes.

Turn the heat off.

Get out a large bowl and throw in your chickpeas, rocket and the fried vegetables.

Pour the dressing over the combined vegetables and toss the lot together.

Scatter a few mint leaves over the top and tuck in!


Coconut ‘Chicken’ Curry

This is one of my favourites – full of flavour and not at all spicy, so you can serve it to anyone and they won’t be afraid of it. I was full sure I’d already posted this recipe until my friend Karen and her daughter, Ciara, came by for lunch. Ciara is also vegetarian and forever on the hunt for new recipes. She liked this curry, so I blithely told her ‘oh! It’s on the blog – you can easily download it from there’. Then I discovered it wasn’t, so I’m hastily typing this up so it will be by the time she looks later this evening!

Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off – there is little to prepare out of the list, it’s more assembly than preparation, to be honest. I think I’ve mentioned this before (and if I haven’t, I should have!) but if you have a friend or two who likes to cook, it is worth your while to get a decent-sized bag of ground spices at your local Asian market and divvy it up between you. That way, you’re getting the value of the cheaper prices in these shops and you’re using up the spices before they go off. I am reminded of this because there are a few spices in this recipe that only call for a pinch, but you’d miss them if they weren’t there.

Coconut 'Chicken' Curry

Coconut ‘Chicken’ Curry

1 Tablespoon of Coconut Oil

2 Teaspoons of Cumin Seeds

4 Fresh Chillies

8 Cloves of Garlic

300g Quorn Chicken-Style Pieces

1 Teaspoon of Ground Turmeric

1 Teaspoon of Ground Mango Powder

1 Teaspoon of Ground Cumin

1 Teaspoon of Ground Coriander

1/2 Teaspoon of Garam Masala

Pinch of Ground Cloves

Pinch of Ground Cinnamon

Pinch of Ground Cardamom

1 400ml Tin of Coconut Milk

Peel and bash the garlic and ginger and chillies together in a mortor.

Heat the oil in a pot over a low heat.

Add the cumin seeds, ginger, garlic and chillies.

Fry, stirring, over a low heat until the garlic is browning and the mix is releasing its fragrance.

Add the Quorn and mix it all together.

Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick .

Stir in the turmeric, cumin, coriander, mango, garam masala, clove, cinnamon and cardamom powders.

Cook, stirring, for about three minutes.

Add the coconut milk and raise the heat a little until the mixture is bubbling.

Turn the heat down low, cover the pot and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes.

We had this with carrots and orange with chickpeas, wilted spinach with garlic and Mozzarella and plain, boiled brown rice.

Eggplant, Mushroom & Fig Tagine

I hesitated before posting these recipes. The cake, in particular, isn’t really a budget bake (what with ground almonds being E1.79 per 200g), but if you fancy a bit of a splurge when there are a few more euros than usual knocking around, this menu might be just what you’re looking for.


We had friends over for dinner last night and I wanted to make something I’d never made before. So, I decided to make a tagine. A tagine is not something I make often, certainly not often enough to justify buying a proper tagine pot, but because we don’t use meat and don’t really need to slow cook, a regular saucepan did the job nicely.


With the tagine, we had rice (I didn’t make couscous since I’ve been off wheat since November) and a potato dish (salad potatoes being such good value at the moment), as well as baked cauliflower with Halloumi. Seeing as the oven was on, I decided to bake for dessert.  The whole menu is quite a melding of flavours (we had hummous and crudités to start with and I made an orange/ginger lassi as well) but it seemed to work. I’m just posting the tagine recipe here – will follow with the others in the next day or so (sick child in the house at the moment – nothing to do with my cooking, I hasten to add! 😉 )


The photo here is really sub-par, but it gives you an idea…..


Aubergine, Mushroom & Fig Tagine

Aubergine, Mushroom & Fig Tagine 

5 Tablespoons of Oil

2 Small Onions

5 Garlic Cloves

2 Teaspoons of Ground Coriander

2 Teaspoons of Ground Cumin

2 Teaspoons of Ground Cinnamon

2 Teaspoons of Ras-al-Hanout (optional)

400g Can of Chickpeas

400g Can of Tomatoes

600mls of Vegetable Stock

Large Pinch of Saffron Threads

1 Large Aubergine

250g Mushrooms (button or closed cap)

100g (bout 12) Dried Figs

Handful of Fresh Coriander


Top and tail the aubergine, then chop into bite-sized pieces.

Pop into a non-metal sieve or colander and shake a generous amount of salt over the pieces. Leave to drain for about 30 minutes while you get on with the rest of the prep.

Peel and chop the onion.

Crush the garlic cloves.

Drain the chickpeas.

Halve the mushrooms if you’re not using button mushrooms.

Halve the dried figs.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan and add the onion, garlic and spices.

Cook over  medium heat for five minutes, until the raw smell goes off the garlic and the spices release their aroma. Stir the whole time, to avoid burning.

Transfer this spiced mixture into a saucepan.

Add the tomatoes, stock, chickpeas and saffron.

Rinse the aubergine pieces and squeeze the excess water out of them.

Heat the rest of the oil in the frying pan and add the aubergine pieces.

Fry them over a high heat.

Add to the saucepan and bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and figs and continue to cook, uncovered for another 20 minutes.

Scatter the coriander into the stew and season with salt & pepper.

Stir. Serve with crusty bread, couscous or rice.







Harissa is a lovely, hot, paste associated with North African (particularly Moroccan) cuisine. The first time I had it, I ate it with just plain rice, and was delighted with the resultant tingle on my tongue.


It’s a quick, easy and cheap recipe that brings a bit of zing to many dishes. I have spread it on Quorn chicken-style fillets, mixed it with roast vegetables and spread it on bread and cheese sandwiches.



24 small dried chillies

8 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

2 teaspoons of ground coriander

1 teaspoon of ras-al-hanout (optional)

5 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt


Soak the chillies in hot water for about 30 minutes.

Peel the garlic.

Blend all the ingredients together.

This will keep for a few months in the fridge if you keep a layer of oil over the top.


Store Cupboard Recipes

Yesterday was the first day of half-term, which meant the girls and I had a lie-in that we very much enjoyed. Even though I was up at 7.30am, I didn’t feel like getting out of my pyjamas, much less like leaving the house.


I hadn’t done a proper shop at the weekend, however, and was resigned to the fact that I might have to actually leave the house; but then I cleared out some cupboards (chucking millet flakes with a best before date of June 2008 and other delicacies in the process!) and realised that, actually, we had plenty. Yaay! I could stay in my jammies and not bother sticking as much as my nose outside the door!


So, here are the recipes I rustled up by just using the bits and pieces I found in my cupboards (and fridge!).


Frittata Feb 2014Vegetable Frittata


8 medium eggs

2 Beetroots

8 Salad potatoes

2 Onions

2 Red chillis

2 Carrots

30g Ginger-Garlic paste

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

20g Hard cheese

½ Tablespoon of mixed herbs

Salt & Pepper to taste


Heat your oven to 180 degrees.

Beat the eggs with the herbs, salt and pepper. Leave to one side

Chop the onions, beetroot, carrots and potatoes (or about 750g of whatever root vegetables you have handy) into chunks.

Toss the vegetables with oil, and garlic-ginger paste.

Pop the oiled vegetables into an oven-proof dish.

Tuck a red chilli in at each end.

When the oven is ready, put the veggies into the oven and roast them for about 40 minutes, tossing them halfway through the cooking.

When the vegetables are cooked properly, pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and scatter the cheese over the top.

Pop the dish back into the oven, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.


I know that with 8 eggs in this dish – at 29c each – this is not exactly a cheap dish, but it is very filling and we got a eight generous servings from this amount. The frittata can be eaten hot or cold, with bread if you have it, and a green salad if you happen to have some leaves in your fridge.


Also in my cupboard-rummage, I found the end of a bag of rye flour that was two weeks shy of its best before date. An opened bag of ground almonds lay beside them and I decided they might make an interesting pairing.


Rye & Almond ShortbreadRye Almond Shortbread


75g Rye flour

75g Ground almonds

75g Light brown sugar

75g Butter


Cream the butter with the sugar.

Add the rye flour and the ground almonds.

Mix the lot into a dry-ish dough.

Press into an oven proof dish.

Pop in the oven for 30 minutes.

While it’s still warm and still in the tin, score the shortbread into eight pieces.

Leave to cool in the tin.

As you can imagine, this was quite dry, so one of my girls had it with a spoonful of Greek yoghurt. I enjoyed mine with a cup of Earl Grey tea.


While I was at it, I used up the end of my besan (chickpea flour) and made flatbreads.


Chickpea Chapatis


2 cups of besan

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1 Tablespoon of curry powder



Add the oil to the besan.


Carefully, add enough water to draw the mixture into a pliable dough.

Chickpea flour is of a very different texture to wheat flour, and this can quickly become a sticky mess, so be sparing with the water additions.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes an leave to one side for 20-30 minutes.

Break off a lime-sized piece of dough and flatten it out on a wooden board. I didn’t roll it because I didn’t have any rice flour to dust it with in order to stop it sticking. I did have wheat flour, but I’m wheat-intolerant so chose not to use that.

Dry-fry the bread over a medium heat – about 30 seconds each side.

Keep warm in tinfoil lined with kitchen paper (the tinfoil keeps it warm, the kitchen paper stops condensation forming as a result of the steam from the bread).

Eat warm.


I also realised I had one blood orange left from last week’s shopping and four carrots that were just a few days short of rubbery. I was going to make soup, but Ishthara begged me to find some other way to use them up. So I grabbed a tin of chickpeas and made this:


Carrots & Chickpeas Feb 2014

Chickpea, Carrot and Orange Fry.


1 Tablespoon of oil

1 Tablespoon of butter

4 carrots

400g Can of Chickpeas

2 Teaspoons of cumin seeds

3 Cloves of garlic

Zest of 1 orange

1 Tablespoon of freshly-squeezed orange juice

2 Teaspoons of smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste.


Melt the butter in the oil over a medium heat.

Add the cumin and cook for about 2 minutes, until the cumin releases its aroma.

Tip in the carrots and cook for 8 minutes or so – until the carrots are softening and starting to brown.

Add the garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, orange zest and chickpeas.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas have been heated up (about 5 minutes).

Remove from the heat.

Pour the orange juice into the pot and stir to mix.


This was yum – and very filling – served with the chickpea chapatis.



Crazy Cake!

Earlier this evening, I was on the radio with George Hook.  If you’re interested, you can listen here, from 5.52.


We were talking about this blog, really, and how it is possible to feed your family if you’re relying completely on benefits. It’s not easy and it takes time, effort, planning and innovation (as you already know). In the course of that conversation, George made reference to earlier generations and how poverty is not a new invention. He’s right, of course, and the chat we had reminded me of a recipe I came across (and tweaked!) a few years ago.


I’d invited an old school friend home for coffee one particular morning.  We agreed a time and date three weeks in advance, and the night before she was due to rock up, I was in a lather. I had no money (which isn’t unusual) nor did I have anything to serve with the coffee. Thankfully, I had coffee – and more types of tea than you could shake a stick at – were you in the mood to shake a stick!


I couldn’t cancel – I’d been looking forward to seeing my friend for ages, and I was too embarrassed to admit the dire straits I was in. It was then I discovered crazy cake. The crazy thing about this cake is that it is so cheap to prepare! There are no eggs, no butter, very little sugar and a little bit of magic in the mixture.  Apparently, the recipe was produced during WWII in order to stretch rations and still enjoy something sweet.


Crazy Cake

200g of Plain Flour

150g of Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda

1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

2 Tablespoons of Cocoa

1 Tablespoon of White Vinegar

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

5 Tablespoons of Oil

250mls of Cold Water


Preheat the oven to 180.

Sieve all the dry ingredients straight into an ungreased nine-inch cake tin.

Poke three holes in the mixture.

In the first hole, add the vinegar.

In the second, pour the vanilla extract.

Into the final hole, pour the oil.

Pour the water into the pan and mix it all together.

Pop it in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean.


Cucumber Sorbet

The recent glut of cucumbers had me making soup, lots of Greek salad and – last night – a sorbet.


I love sorbets. I love them as a light dessert option, and I especially love them as palate cleansers between courses. That’s what this sorbet was made for. The more savory flavour of cucumber was perfect for palate cleansing duty between our spicy mains and dessert. I added just a bit of mint to complement it, using only three leaves because cucumber is such a delicate flavour and mint can overwhelm other tastes very easily.


Cucumber Sorbet

1 1/2 Cucumbers

2 1/2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice

300mls of Water

150g of Sugar

3 Fresh Mint Leaves

Chop the cucumber into small slices.

Mix well with the lemon juice.

Place in a plastic box and freeze overnight.

Add the water and sugar together in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved completely, remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Blitz the syrup, mint leaves and frozen cucumber pieces together until you have a puree.

Transfer to a litre box and pop back in the freezer.

After two hours, remove from the freezer and blitz again.

Return to the freezer and freeze for another two hours before blitzing a final time with a stick blender.

Freeze overnight.

Remove from the freezer and put in the fridge for an hour before serving to defrost enough to eat!