Bargain Hunt ~ please ignore this post if you live in the St. Austell area!

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I had a bit of a rant about a girl who claimed to be too poor to eat well. I’ve been pondering on this as I eat really well on a low budget and I believe that this is not only because I know how to cook but also because I know how to shop ie. I pick up a lot of bargains. For instance this is what I've eaten over the past few days.

Lemony, Peppery Sea Bass Fillets with Asparagus and Sautéed New Potatoes ~ 90p

This was quickly and economically cooked in one pan. I had a few cooked new potatoes leftover from an earlier meal so sautéed them in a little oil till crisp then pushed them to one side of the pan and pulled that side off the heat.  I wiped out the rest of the pan, added a knob of butter, the seasoned fish fillets and 3 stalks of asparagus, sliced.  Both the fish and the asparagus took just a few minutes to cook. I served up the potatoes before sprinkling the fish and asparagus with freshly squeezed lemon and a good old grind of black pepper. 

The sea bass was 66p, reduced from 4.40, the asparagus 49p for 9 stalks so about 16p, the new potatoes were 10p for a kilo so perhaps 1p!

Scallops in a Creamy Leek Sauce, in Crispy Buckwheat Pancakes ~ 90p

½ small leek – cleaned and thinly sliced
7g butter
1 tbsp white wine or vegetable stock
60ml double cream
80g raw scallops

~   Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the leeks to coat thoroughly.
~   Turn down the heat and press something suitable (ie. a butter wrapper, greaseproof paper of piece of foil) directly onto the surface of the leeks.  Cover the pan.
~   Cook gently for 10-15 minutes keeping an eye on things and giving the occasional stir till very tender.
~   Add the wine or stock and allow to simmer for a minute or two.
~   Stir in the cream, bring to a boil then turn down the heat add the scallops and simmer gently for just a minute.

Serve with crispy buckwheat pancakes the recipe for which is here.

The pancake recipe makes 6-8 crepes so I ate 2 and froze the rest, in pairs, for my future delectation (the best way to reheat them is individually in a dry frying pan so that they crisp up again).  Buckwheat flour, which is gluten free, is about £2 a kilo, so my recipe for 6-8 crepes costs about 70p which is about 20p for the crepes, the scallops were reduced from £4.00 to 60p so 30p for them, ½ leek is about 20p, so with the wine and cream – say 90p.

Peppered Steak Salad ~ £1.70

We always pick up the little ends of steak reduced in the supermarket, I use half for either this salad or for Bulgogi and the other half in a fry up for my real man.  On average a small fillet steak trimming costs about £2.50 so that’s £1.25 for my share. handful of lettuce from our favourite mixed bag – 20p, pepper, brandy, cream say 35p. The recipe for the salad is here and as I say it is one of my most popular dishes ever.

Roasted Salmon with Sweet Potato Fries ~ £1.36

Some while ago Jamie Oliver was berated for the expensive ingredients in his book “Save with Jamie” and in particular people seemed aghast at his use of salmon but I can see his point because occasionally Tesco have a half price offer on whole salmon (I used to scale and fillet them myself but recently discovered they’ll do it for you which is even better).  A whole 4kg or so salmon costs about £26 normally, but we never buy one for more than half price, ie. £13.00 and I have seen them occasionally for £6.50!!!

Working it out on the half price version I cut it into about 16 portions so 81p each.  I always keep a sweet potato in stock, 1 sweet potato costs about 60p and is too much for me but the lucky thing is the remaining cut portion keeps well in the fridge with the cut edge covered for about 10 days to 2 weeks so I get three goes at it. Salmon 81p, sweet potato fries 20p, handful of salad 35p = £1.36.

Even better – sometimes I leave a little of the salmon and have it for lunch the next day ... 

Courgette Fritters with Salmon Mayonnaise ~ very little!

Quite often I can’t quite finish my salmon (aren’t I pathetic) so, in this case, I mixed the leftovers with mayonnaise and ate it with courgette fritters using this universal fritter recipe mainly because  we bought 3 gorgeous courgettes for 8p! 

Ham & Pease Pudding Soup with Crunchy Croutons ~ say 30p

This is thick, warming, savoury and delicious and literally costs pennies. See here for the recipe and add some shredded ham if you can. 

This time I served it with croutons about which I hold strong opinions; they should be torn rather than cut as this way you get lots of little ridges and points to go crunchy. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil plus salt and pepper, spread on a baking tray and pop in the oven for a few minutes till golden and crunchy. It’s best to make these when you have the oven on for something else so I can’t give exact timings as I don’t know what temperature you’ll be using but it’s not long. If you keep a collection of bread scraps in the freezer (old crusts and trimmings) they cost virtually nothing whereas a 100g bag of croutons from the supermarket is about £1.00!  Rip off!

I eat this well and this cheaply all the time and if I can do it so can anybody because not only is the food I use cheap but in most cases it’s a doddle to cook and takes very little time or energy – either mine or the electricity type. I realise that as I love cooking and have been at it for years this sort of thing is easy for me but it really honestly ponestly isn’t difficult – and there’s loads and loads of info out there to help, even some stuff by me!  I also know that it is probably easier for me just cooking for myself (and my real man, this is how he eats) but I am confident that I could feed a family reasonably cheaply and healthily too.

We don’t live anywhere particularly bargainaceous (inland Cornwall, we usually shop in St. Austell Tesco) and we don't spend a lot of time searching out deals. We only shop once a week but we do always pick up any bargains we see and luckily I know what to do with them. Often the first step is put it in the freezer which means I always have lots of inspirational bits and pieces to turn to. If you live in the St. Austell area I would, of course, appreciate it if you’d please ignore the above post and leave all the bargains for us!

If you have the time and the inclination it is possible to do the job even better; we have friends who make a point of visiting Morrisons at about 3.30 on Sunday afternoons and they really clean up.  They bought 4½lb vine ripened tomatoes for 45p a couple of weeks ago – respect!

Barking Mad Choccy!

Oddly enough today is the last day of both National Chocolate Week and of National Curry Week so when better, I ask you, than to write about, ta da ...

kid you not, I saw this mentioned on Twitter a few days ago and made a comment of some sort – I think I may have said “you buggers!”, and shortly afterwards was offered an opportunity to try a sample. After my happy acceptance I received a message saying ...

"3 flavours of choccy have left the building. Don't worry they are all barking mad but do work, enjoy!"

I was a bit nervous but like the staunch foodie I am gave them my best shot!

With each flavour I put a bit in my mouth (did you guess?), closed my eyes and concentrated on the texture and flavour as per the chocolate tasting instructions given by the Independent Newspaper here.  The only thing I didn't do was try tasting with others as this sort of interesting, exciting food is really not my real man’s sort of thing.  Luckily.

The Results

The chocolate in all three bars is lovely high quality Belgian chocolate and melts smoothly and lusciously in the mouth.

Pina Colada – the most normal of the three

As the chocolate melted I immediately thought "Rum" (mind you I often do!!) which was followed by a pleasant fruity taste, I couldn't quite identify coconut and pineapple (the other pina colada ingredients) but the overall effect was a bit tropical and certainly very pleasant. 


I’m afraid I don’t like bubblegum and I didn’t really like this but I didn't chicken out. I think that it is pretty true to the taste I remember as a child and if you like bubblegum then maybe this is for you! 

Orange Jalfrezi 

This was gorgeous – honestly!  A very orangey start with a hot spicy curry finish which sounds incongruous and wrong but certainly isn't.  It contains cumin, coriander, paprika, onion, salt, chilli, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, bay leaves, turmeric, garlic, ginger and black pepper no less and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

These surprising chocolate are made by Choc Amor award winning chocolatiers with tea rooms, The Chocolate Rooms, at Tarleton in Lancashire. They also have a shop at Botany Bay and luckily it’s the Botany Bay in Chorley just off the M61 rather than the Australian version.  I don’t have a list of their flavours but have read that they include things as chilli & lime, peanut butter, banoffee pie, salt liquorice & lemon meringue.  All very good ideas but nothing to rival the lovely Orange Jalfrezi Chocolate

By the way ... Two for the Price of None!

(Especially as it’s Free)

plus link to “Easy Ways to Pimp your Food” which is also free!

The 9 Best Chocolate Recipes Ever IMHO!


It being National Chocolate Week I think now is the time to share my 9 favouritest chocky recipes ever – all of these have been big sellers in the posh and not so posh restaurants I have cheffed in and also go down well with my real man (except the peanut butter tart ‘cos he can’t stand peanut butter).

Firstly some guidance on melting chocolate ...

Pin so you don't forget!

~   Break the chocolate up a bit. The easiest way to do this is to throw the cold sealed bar violently onto a hard floor or maybe bash it on the edge of the counter.  Unwrap et voila ...
~   Put the broken chocolate into a bowl and the bowl into a small pan of simmering water to come about a third of the way up.  Here’s a tip – stand it on a metal jam jar lid or similar to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
~   White chocolate is a little more delicate than dark and must be melted carefully over very low heat.
~   Don’t mess with the chocolate as it melts just let it sit till there till it’s ready then stir till smooth.
~   WARNING – if you get water into the melting chocolate it will go all hard, lumpy and useless.  For this reason Do Not Cover as steam will condense on the lid and fall back into the chocky.

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream 

The optional brandy in this recipe benefits the ice cream in two ways; it will make it softer and also taste more alcoholic chocolatey.

200g/⅔ cup condensed milk
175g/1½ cups coarsely chopped dark chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa
500ml/2 cups double cream
3 tablespoons brandy – optional but highly recommended 

~ Put the condensed milk, the chocolate and the cocoa into a small bowl.
~ Stand the bowl in a small pan of water as described above.
~ Simmer the water till the chocolate has melted and then stir smoothly into the condensed milk. This will be quite a thick mixture.
~ Cool slightly but not too much as it needs to be soft enough to fold into the cream.
~ Whip together the cream and the optional brandy till slightly thick.
~ Add the melted chocolate mixture and continue whisking till thick.
~ Freeze.


This is just one of over 100 ice cream recipes in my book Luscious Ice Cream without a Machine - including at eight more chocolate ice cream recipes and lots of ancillaries such as the cones and the sauce in the picture. 

Dark Chocolate & Kahlua Marquise

This is a classic and my sister and I made vast numbers of marquises in our Cornish restaurants. When I went to the Caribbean the slices seemed to soften quickly as we plated them so I took to serving from frozen, which worked really well – a kind of semi freddo by the time it reached the table!

You need 3 bowls and a loaf tin to make this, I prefer to use a silicon loaf “tin”.

200g dark chocolate
200g soft butter
40g caster sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
3 eggs – separated in yolks and whites
another 40g caster sugar
275ml double cream
2 tbsp Kahlua (or other spirit or liqueur of your choice)

~   Melt the chocolate as above in the first bowl.
~   Whisk together the butter, first batch of sugar and the cocoa in the second bowl.
~   In the third bowl whisk the egg whites till still. It is crucial that you whisk these in a clean dry bowl or they won’t work.
~   Fold the butter mixture into the melted chocolate.
~   In the empty butter bowl whisk together the egg yolks and the second batch of sugar.
~   Fold this into the chocolate mixture.
~   Finally whisk the cream (together with Kahlua) and fold that into the mix till no streaks are left.
~   Decant into the loaf “pan” and either chill or freeze.

Serve thickly sliced, probably with more cream!

Chocolate Sorbet

This recipe is taken straight from my little book Sorbets & Granitas which gives the key recipe for sorbet , 40 more sorbet and granita recipes, ideas, serving suggestions and what to do with leftovers!

A lovely rich chocolate coffee mix. If you don’t like coffee use a plain syrup in the same proportions and add a drip or two of vanilla extract.

250ml strong hot freshly brewed coffee
125g sugar
150g dark chocolate – coarsely chopped

~   Stir the sugar into the coffee till dissolved.
~   Immediately (as it needs to be hot) pour the syrup over the chocolate and stir or whisk to melt and amalgamate.
~   Cool, chill, freeze, mashing scraping the sides of the sorbet to the middle occasionally and mashing to make a smooth sorbet.

Easy Peasy or what? I also make wicked chocolate ice creams which are also based on a genius key recipe but whilst it is another favourite recipe it’s a bit too much to go into here. 

My book, Luscious Ice Cream without a Machine, explains how this quick, easy, no churn method works and gives over 100 ice cream recipes plus ideas, suggestions, recipes for accoutrements such as cones, sauces and inclusions.

Chocolate Mousse

Or in more detail from an old meu long ago and far away ... 


Chocolate Topped Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

You need a 24cm (9½”) pre-baked (preferably by you but bought in is fine too) tart case, either pastry or a crumb base as with cheesecake.

120g smooth peanut butter
50g soft light brown sugar
100g cream cheese
½ tsp vanilla extract + see below
180ml double cream + see below
150g dark chocolate
another 80ml double cream
another couple of drips of vanilla extract

~   Whisk together the peanut butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract till combined.
~   In a separate bowl whisk the first batch of cream till thick.
~   Whisk ¼ of the whipped cream into the peanut mixture.
~   Fold in the rest of the whipped cream and put it into the tart case, levelling the top.
~   Chill.

Now for the chocolate bit ...

~   Chop or break the chocolate into pieces and put it into a bowl.
~   Bring the second batch of cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate together with the second vanilla extract.
~   Allow to sit for a few minutes (during this time it is advantageous to make yourself a coffee to accompany scraping the bowl).
~   Stir till smooth.
~   Pour the chocolate gently over the peanut mousse and smooth the top.
~   Chill till needed.

White Choc Mousse

200g white chocolate
15ml water
75ml sour cream
juice of ½ a lemon
240ml double cream

~   Melt together the white chocolate together with the water as instructed above.
~   Mix together the sour cream and lemon juice.
~   Fold the cream mixture into the melted chocolate.
~   Whisk the cream till thick and fold into the chocolate mixture.

 A Wonderful Thing to do with Chocolate Brownies (and a wooden spoon!)

~   Make a batch of your favourite recipe brownies.
~   Whilst they are baking also make a batch of the chocolate ganache topping in the peanut butter tart recipe above. 
~   Turn the brownie out onto a rack and then take a wooden spoon and lightly butter the handle end! 
~   Carefully insert the spoon handle straight down into the brownie at 1” intervals twisting gently it on the way in and out twisting to form lots of deep little wells.
~   Fill each little hole with chocolate ganache and then allow the brownie to cool completely before cutting into squares.

This is lovely served at room temperature, gorgeous chilled and if you heat before serving the ganache melts and you get a self-saucing brownie which is also utterly wonderful.  

Gorgeous Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 16 fairly large cookies so serves 1!

I make these sporadically and then try other things and then go back to these.  They really are the dog’s thingies!  People keep asking for the recipe – so here it is for everyone.

125g soft butter
125g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
225g self raising flour
a pinch of salt
200g dark chocolate – thrown onto the floor and any larger lumps cut into smaller pieces
a similar quantity of chocolate chips

~   Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Cream together the butter and sugars.
~   Beat together the egg and vanilla and then add it to the butter mixture together with a spoonful of the flour (this helps stop the mixture curdling).
~   Stir (or munge) in the flour, salt and chocky, it is pretty thick so easiest with your hands.
~   Roll into walnut sized balls and place well-spaced on ungreased baking trays.
~   Bake for about 8-10 minutes till just gold round the edges (if you want them squidgier cook a little less).
~   Cool on a rack.
The dough can be rolled into a sausage shape and frozen and then it is possible (if you are careful and use a sharp knife) to slice off just as many cookies as you need and bake them from frozen. Useful in emergencies.


Chocolate Quesadilla

This is not actually a time honoured recipe of mine, just a Really Good Idea I had a couple of years ago and wrote about see here for how to make your own chocolate quesadilla.



And here’s another thing I like to do with chocolate; try it you might like it!

Home Alone with Too Much Cauliflower!

We are now entering that glorious time in Cornwall when the centres of operation of major supermarkets fail to come to terms with the huge drop in customers once the tourists have left the area. The shops are overstocked and what bargains we glean!


A few days ago my real man gleaned quite a bag full including a lovely cauli for 10p which is great but I already had a lovely cauliflower in the fridge and he was going away for a short while to visit an ailing cousin – he’s back in a few hours, yippee – so I had to cope with it on my own. 

This gave me a chance to play with my food, sorry Daddy, and this is what I came up with.

Roasted Cauliflower “Steak”

Pin this so you don't forget!
This is something I've wanted to try for years but never got round to which is shame because it's lovely. I decided rather than start researching into what must be a simple thing I’d wing it.

~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Cut a slice or more of cauliflower, crosswise and about 2cm/¾” thick.
~   Coat slice(s) with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
~   Lay in a shallow roasting tin and cook for about 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through, till just tender and prettily golden.

It worked ...

What does one do with a roasted cauliflower slice?  Well it could be a side dish or perhaps an alternative cauliflower pizza base (I often read of these  but don’t fancy them; sort of cooked cauli and cheese pressed into a pizza shape).  A vibrant dressing would be good on it  with cauli enhancing flavours such as garlic, capers, olives or walnuts but I decided to savour it with smoked garlic, fresh sage(I took a cutting from the enormous bunch my neighbour gave me a while ago) and Parmesan. 
Roasted cauliflower is surprisingly delicious so whilst the oven was on I also roasted some florets which took just about 15 minutes.

Roasted Cauliflower Curry – for 2 as the main dish

 1 small cauliflower broken into florets and roasted as above
1 large onion
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp curry paste
a squeeze of lemon juice
fresh cilantro – if possible

~   Peel and halve the onion. Cut crosswise into thin half moons.
~   Heat the oil in a small pan and toss the onion slices in it separating the layers.
~   Carefully cover the onions with a piece of foil (or a butter wrapper) to cover completely.
~   Turn down the heat to low and cook gently, stirring from time to time, till the onions are completely soft and maybe just starting to caramelise.
~   Stir in the curry paste and lemon juice and cook a couple of minutes more.
~   Taste and season (remembering that the roasted cauliflower is already seasoned) and spoon the spicy onions over the roasted cauliflower florets.
~   Sprinkle with chopped cilantro – if you can.

Cauliflower Cheese Fritters

These are a good idea which I have already written about here.


Cauliflower Soup – for 4-6

Especially good as the weather is turning colder (I just put the heating on for the first time since the spring). This is, of course, based on my genius recipe for soup.

1 onion cooked as above in the curry recipe
1 tsp minced garlic
500g peeled floury potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Piper – thinly sliced
1 head cauliflower – divided into florets
500ml or more good stock
a little double cream optional
salt and pepper

~   When the onions are almost tender add the garlic and continue cooking a little longer.
~   Add potato, and enough stock to just cover it.
~   Bring to a boil, cover the pan, turn down the heat and cook till the potatoes are almost tender.
~   Add almost the cauliflower and cook gently till that too is tender.
~   Purée the soup adding more stock and cream till the soup is just the way you like it.
~   Taste and adjust the seasoning.

A few more ideas for Cauliflower …

~   Cauliflower Cheese, naturally – cook the cauli al dente, drain well and toss in hot cheese sauce, sprinkle with more cheese and breadcrumbs and bake till hot, bubbling, crisp and golden.
~   Salad – turn freshly cooked still hot and just tender florets in a vinaigrette and chill till needed..
~   Coat just cooked florets in a batter and deep fry.
~   Reheat cooked cauliflower in a little cream together with a scraping of nutmeg which goes very well with this vegetable.
~   Sauté cooked cauliflower in a little butter together with garlic, stir in grated cheese and serve on toast. I have had enormous success (well I thought so) doing this using black garlic and St. Agur blue cheese. Oh yum!

In Other News …

~   Despite the cooler weather our primroses are still flowering – I’d like to know what their plans are for the spring!

A Rant & a Very Funny Thing!

Rant First ... scroll down for the Very Funny Thing!

It’s not the first time I have ranted about this; the eating habits of overweight “poor” people!

It was brought to my attention (again) by a picture on Facebook which has received, as I write, 158,939 comments. I haven’t read them all, of course, but I have scanned down for a few hundred and haven’t seen anyone supporting her. 

I thought it fair to look into the lady’s story further and it seems she may have been misquoted in the FB picture above because in an interview I read she says that her GP sent her to a gym but she just had a few sessions because she didn't have the willpower to stick to it and she was embarrassed.  I can sympathise, I’d be embarrassed too. On the other hand being slimmer and healthier would surely be worth the embarrassment.

She also said ...

"I tried swimming but it cost £22 a month and it 
meant I had to cut back on my favourite 
pizza and Chinese takeaways."

And I slightly sympathise with that too, £22 a month would certainly be a lot to me. Mind you in my thoroughness I looked up the price of takeaway Chinese meals in Wigan, her home town, and the average price of a main course for one seems to be about £5. Probably there'd side dishes too. I could cook a damn fine meal for that – and not just for one!

On the other hand Cristina (that’s her name) who gets more than £20,000 a year in benefits said in an interview ...

 "I need more benefits to eat healthily and exercise 
and it would be good if the government offered a cash incentive for me to lose weight. I’d like to get 
£1 for every pound I lose."

I don’t sympathise with that at all, at all – I think by the look of her that she has enough incentive to lose weight!

I have niece who was very overweight (caused initially by a health glitch) but in the past year or so she has worked absolute wonders. Yes she does go to the gym, every day at her own expense because she works hard to be able to afford it. She also eats only what she is allowed on her very strict diet despite belonging to a very foodie family. Even on special occasions she brings her own rice cakes or whatever instead of digging in with the rest of us. She has lost a phenomenal amount of weight looks absolutely beautiful and I am so proud of her. She has recently started writing a very honest blog Gym~Berry on her journey from overweight and unhealthy to the fine woman she is today!  I thoroughly recommend it and would do so even if I didn't know her!

She didn’t need government help, she didn't need any more incentive than her health and happiness being at stake and she had the intelligence and gumption to sort her own life out.

Having said all that I suppose that being a bit low in the IQ department is no more blame-worthy than being short sighted or hard of hearing – not sure about lazy or greedy though!

I so wish that people like this girl would learn to cook. It is said and I agree that more education is needed but information is as easy to get as logging on to online bingo so that’s not much of an excuse. On the other hand if someone hasn’t learned by the time they are grown up with kids they probably aren’t interested. What a shame, it’s mostly easy and can bring so much pleasure into your life and the lives of those you care about. 

It is to this end that I keep publishing my humble little ebooks – yes, I’d like to make some money but what I’d really like is for people to discover how easy cooking delicious food is and to have a go.  To this end my handy little ebook of hints and tips is free and includes a link for another free eBook. It's available in all sorts of formats including pdf so there is no excuse ~ get yours here now!  

And that’s enough ranting for now – it just this sort of thing really gets up my goat!!!

In Other News ...

I have completely revamped and updated my book on stress-free Christmas cooking. The contents have doubled and it now contains over 50 recipes and every helpful hint and tip I can think of.

I also changed the cover and have to say I am dead chuffed with my artwork!

And this leads me to ...

The Very Funny Thing

I was bemoaning to some friends that however hard I try, even sending out free copies, I never seem to get many reviews for my books (although those that I do are usually 4 or 5 stars). I was pretty boring so by way of changing the subject, and I don’t blame them, they asked if I had seen the reviews on Amazon for methylated spirits, Of course I looked immediately and was utterly delighted - see what you think!