For mains


 The first time I cooked red cabbage it went blue.  I boiled the life, the very red, out of it. (Other culinary delights served at that meal were raw jacket potatoes, off sour cream and pork chops as tough as leather).

Now if you read below you will see I have mastered Savoy cabbage.  I made it sexy.  But on a whim I had also brought red cabbage.  It sat in the fridge for at least a week.  It eyed me redly each time I looked in.  It dared me to make a meal of it.  I wasn’t ready. 

Could I forgive myself massacring the bright little vegetable again?  On Thursday the decision was made for me.  With nothing in the fridge except said cabbage and some other bits, I thought what the heck! It’s only cabbage! It can’t kill me!

It was the highlight of the meal, surpassing whatever protein and carb is was served with; it was so good I can’t even remember what they were.  Oh what lovely things happen with a bit of courage, and masses of butter.

Righteous Red Cabbage


Steamy Hot Cabbage Love


I admit, this is one of those where I measured nothing, I threw it all in, half expectant of disaster, half hypnotized by the buttery red smell of lovely cabbage coming from the pan.  Do the same.

Half a red cabbage

25g butter (perhaps more or less, I’m not sure, just whack it in)

Two tablespoons of water

Two – three tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (glug it in)

Roughly two tablespoons of pine nuts (throw them in)

Roughly two tablespoons of capers (throw them in again, although do drain the vinegar off them first)




1. Slice the cabbage in slivers (shred it)

2. Melt the butter in a big, deep frying pan

3. Add the cabbage, stir around and then add the water

4. Fry, stirring about for a bit until it’s starting to go a bit limper

5. Add the pine nuts, stir about for a minute or so

6. Glug in the balsamic vinegar

7. Add the capers

8. Stir around, nibbling little shreds of it until it’s the right texture for you

9. Add some salt (to taste).

10. Enjoy with whatever else is the fridge

In other news:

At the weekend P and I had a big party (sorry if you weren’t invited, come next time).  I made roast potatoes.  I forgot to boil them, arghh disaster I thought.  But not, quartered maris pipers cooked in plenty of very hot olive oil, with lots of smashed garlic cloves and rosemary springs for an hour or so made delicious crispy, fluffy inside roasties that were devoured by my drunken friends.

The sausages were more problematic.  I cooked all 80 of the cocktail king with 2 tablespoons each of sesame seed oil, soy sauce and honey. A kindly guest (read a drunken boy) smelt the lovely sausages, cooking happily in their marinade. He saw all the hot runny juices and silly, hapless creature thought the juice was fat.  He poured all that salty sweet marinade down the sink. ARGH!! Luckily the sausages had covered themselves and sucked up a lot of the flavour so it wasn’t a total disaster. But a lesson to be learnt – never let strangers touch the oven. Ever.

 Wikipedia has reliably informed me that spaghetti alla puttanesca means Whore’s Spaghetti, whore in Italian being puttana.  

According to chef Jeff Smith of the Frugal Gourmet, it was a quick, cheap meal that prostitutes could prepare between customers.  So, in the theme of all things sexy (see cabbage below) this pasta dish seemed a fitting follow-on post. 

I occasionally crave pasta.  My darling mother taught me that you should listen to your cravings as they are your body telling you it needs something. 

Does my body actually need a double portion of refined carbohydrates smothered in oily, salty tomato sauce? I’m not sure. But it’s winter, so maybe it needs stores to see me through the cold.  

I can imagine this dish would certainly see a lady of the night through until morning anyway… 

Prostitute Pasta

Keeps you going all night



Good olive oil (I use Cyrus extra virgin)
4 cloves of garlic flattened and cut in half (length ways)
1 yellow/white onion (finely chopped)
1 tin of anchovies (chopped up)
1 tin of plum or chopped tomatoes
1 medium red chilli (into thin slices)
1 jar of black olives, chopped into thirds (the fiddlest part of the whole recipe)
3 tablespoons of capers (drained)
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of dried parsley
Pasta (enough for two)


1. In a bowl add the tomatoes, chilli, capers, olives, parlsey and a grinding of salt and pepper – if you’re using plum tomatoes chop them up
2. In a deep frying pan heat the oil and then add the garlic, cook until browned but not burnt (meanwhile boil the kettle)
3. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes


Fishy, garlic, onion breath, what a passion starter
4. Add the anchovies for a minutes
5. Put your pasta on (remember to salt well)
6. Add the tomato mix to the frying pan and cook on a high heat, stirring occasionally and crushing with any lumps up with a fork
7. Drain the pasta when still al dente, leave about a tablespoon of water in
8. Add a little olive oil and salt to the pasta, stir about and then plate up
9. Add the sauce on top, sprinkle a little bit of dried or fresh parsley on top and serve to the waiting whores.

I served this with my favourite garlic chilli prawns:


1 packet raw (this is crucial) king prawns
1 medium chilli (thinly sliced)
3 fat cloves of garlic (crushed and chopped up)
1 tablespoon of good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper


1. Before starting anything else mix the above ingredients in bowl and then put to oneside
2. After dishing up the pasta and sauce, put the deep frying back on the hob on a high heat, add the prawns and cook until pink
3. Either find room on the pasta plate (hard) or serve up seperately on a side plate.

Just a quick one this time.  You must make this.  It’s easy and tasty and cheap and warming. 

Sexed up Cabbage

One savoy cabbage (into strips)   
One white onion (finely chopped)  
1 litre Chicken stock  
1 packet Streaky bacon(very roughly chopped, chunky 1cm pieces)  
1/5 litre white wine (half a bottle ish, the rest for quaffing)  
New potatoes (enough for two – into thirds) 
25g salted butter  
1 tin Butter beans  
Salt and pepper 

Making – you’ll need a wok or deep frying pan  

Heat a spalsh of olive oil in your pan on a high heat and add the bacon. Cook until crispy and remove to a seperate bowl.  

Add the butter to your pan, heat gently and add your onion, fry for 5 minutes until softening, then add your cabbage and fry gently for a further 10 minutes.  

Add the bacon, salt and pepper and then add the chicken stock and potatoes and turn up the heat – let it come to a boil.  

Then add the white wine, bring to a boil again  and then simmer for 15 minutes or so until the potatoes are tender, you may want to stick a lid on – just depends how runny you want it.  

Add the butter beans about 5 minutes from the end.  

Serve with bread and butter  

Pretend that you will save some for lunch whilst in fact eating it all that night, mostly with spoon out of the pan.


In the lovely little village I grew up in, the Fete, Produce Show and Hog Roast were big occasions in the village calendar.  One such event I remember vividly from my childhood was the ‘WI Winter Warmers’.   Around this time of year the  local WI would cook masses of winter food, sell tickets and then serve it in the Village Hall.  I remember that the windows steamed up and you could barely squeeze between the tables as everyone tucked into a warming wintery meal .

I remember beef casseroles, lamb hot pot, thick stews and spicy curries, followed by fruit pies, crumbles, sponge puddings all served with hot custard. It was such an occasion of village life, warm and friendly and delicious. I loved it because it heralded the start of winter, which was and still is my favourite type of year to cook and eat. Now it’s November and definitely winter, here a couple of warming winter recipes that are very effective at internal heating:

Sausage Casserole

You’ll need a non stick frying pan, a large saucepan and another saucepan to cook the rice

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

2 ts Cayenne Pepper

2 ts Mild chilli pepper

Good quality sausages (2 – 3 per person, depending on size of the sausage & the person)

Two small red onions, sliced

2 cloves garlic

1 tin black eyed beans

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 chicken stock cube

Wholegrain rice

1.       Chop the sausages into thirds (width ways), and fry in a tablespoon of olive oil and half the spices until brown on most sides in a non-stick frying pan

2.       Meanwhile in a big saucepan fry the onions on garlic on a high heat until sticky and cameralized

3.       Add some salt and pepper and the sausages to the saucepan

4.       Add the chopped tomatoes

5.       Add the beans

6.       Add the stock (make in one of tins to save washing up)

7.       Leave to simmer gently away while you cook the rice

8.       Serve with lemon wedge, natural yoghurt, chopped chives and some parmesan cheese (or none, it’s so tasty it doesn’t matter)

Note: If I had smoked paprika I would add this instead of chilli powder. If I had any red or yellow peppers I would have added those. If I had chorizo I would have definitely chopped some of that in as well.



Revised Ginger Nut Crumble


A while ago I promised that if I made my Ginger Nut Crumble again using the crushed biscuits in the crumble mix I would post the results. Last night I finally got around to it (nothing like freezing rain to inspire a bit of baking) and from now on I will ALWAYS add biscuits. I revised the recipe a bit, and this one is definitely better. I’m looking forward to experimenting with different kinds of biscuits – hob nobs are next on the list.

You’ll need an oven proof dish.

For the crumble:

275g plain flour

150g light brown sugar

50g of crushed ginger nut biscuits – I crushed them in a big bowl with a rolling pin (it was very theraputic)
200g/7oz unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature 

For the filling:

Three apples chopped into bite-sized chunks

4 plums quartered

1 big tablespoon of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of plain flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

5cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped (optional)

1.       In a big bowl add all the filling mix and gently stir around

2.       Add to your oven-proof dish

3.       Wash the bowl out and

4.       Fill your oven-dish with the fruit mix

5.       Mix the flour, crushed biscuits and sugar in the bowl. Add the cubes of butter a few at a time and rub with your fingers until all the butter is added and the mix looks like breadcrumbs (you may not need all the butter)

6.       Add on top of the fruit

7.       Put in the oven at 180C for about 40 minutes. Check it at 30 – the fruit should be bubbling out of the sides a little bit and the crumble should be browning

8.       Eat in a bowl with custard or ice cream. (not out of the oven dish stood at the oven because you will burn your mouth. I learnt that the hard way – twice now.)

Everyone I’ve ever loved has loved a plate of mince in its various incarnations. Spaghetti bolognaise, chilli con carne or just mince and mash, learning how to cook mince to perfection has been a personal mission. I think I’m nearly there.

 ‘Mattie’s Mince Mess’ was the only recipe that could interest my brother in cooking when he was a little boy.  Mum and him used stir in all the ingredients together and then she served it with heaps of buttery mash. A perfect dinner for an aspiring rugby player/human tank.

With no disrespect to my brother’s cooking skills (although they are limited to stirring), the recipe is fairly straightforward.

However, for years I’ve been striving for that deep yummyness that my mum’s mix had.  My mince mess never quite that rich tasty moreishness – the kind that made me stand in front of the fridge and eat my mum’s mince mess cold. But last week, I think I cracked it.

Inspired by the dead mouse we found in our kitchen cupboard on Tuesday morning; I’ve called this recipe Mouse’s Mince Mix.  I would never have drunk quite as much red wine (partly meant for the sauce), and therefore been quite as generous with my ingredients and cooking time, if I didn’t have the deeply joyous task of cleaning the cupboards, floor and all the baking utensils the mouse had pooed all over in its death throes.

Not the most appetising image I know, but it worked for this recipe so do try it.

Spaghetti bolognaise

Ingredients (serves 2 for dinner, and left overs, serves 4 normal people for dinner, with garlic bread and salad)

One big onion, finely chopped

3 fat, firm cloves of garlic, chunkily chopped

3 table spoons olive oil

Two carrots, chunkily chopped

1 teaspoon each of whatever dried Italian herbs you have; I used Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Oregano and Parsley

Salt and Pepper

250g ish low fat beef mince

250g ish low fat pork mince

Big squeeze of tomato puree

Tin of chopped tomatoes

Vegetable stock cube

Big glass of red wine (I used a Cabernet Merlot)

Whole-wheat pasta


1.       Heat the oil in a big saucepan on a medium heat, add the onions, garlic and salt and pepper, fry for 10 – 15 minutes, until really the onion is buttery and soft but not changed colour

2.       Add the carrots and fry for a for further 5 – 10 minutes

3.       In a non-stick frying pan heat a little splash of olive oil and put on a medium heat, season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides and then add it to the pan and brown it off gently until you get to stage 6 (about 10 minutes)

4.       Add all the herbs to the onions and carrots and stir around for a couple of minutes

5.       Push all the herby onion and carrot mix to the outside of the pan and add a generous squeeze of the tomato puree (just under a tablespoon) to the middle and fry for a minute or so, then mix it up with everything else

6.       Add the chopped tomatoes and mix, bring to a simmer and create a rich tomato sauce (no juice left), then add the meat and stir it all up

7.       In the tin that the tomatoes were in, add your stock cube and boiling water, stir to dissolve and then watching your fingers because the tin will be hot, add to the mixture.  Simmer and stir until the liquid is nearly gone

8.       Add the wine, and a glug more, and then simmer for an hour (or however long it takes you to deep clean all your bakery items, drink the rest of the wine, clean the floor, sigh dramatically a few times and grate some parmesan.

9.       Good plate licking to be had.


Note: a good variation on this mix is a chilli con carne; don’t use carrots (maybe mushrooms instead?) instead of the herbs add a teaspoon each of cinnamon, cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Use two – three fresh red chillies and add at stage 4.  Use a beef stock cube and less wine. Serve with rice and natural yoghurt.

After the success of last week’s curry (and by success I mean cheapness relative to taste) I decided to have a go at it again tonight. With no generous donations or huge sponsorship deals as yet, my personal credit crunch is still not showing any green shoots. The ingredients are still store cupboard gatherings. 

I found a packet of fresh king prawns lurking at the back of the freezer, and with the joy of frozen spinach now in my life, this week’s version was slightly more lavish than last week’s veggie offering.  As with everything I seem to make, nothing was really weighed or measured and most ingredients are interchangeable with other bits and bobs. I knew this one was particularly good because we both licked our plates clean. (When I was little and still lived under the watchful eye of my mum, I would have to lick my plate hidden in the kitchen pretending to load the dishwasher. Now I can do it straight after dinner).

Pauper’s Prawn Curry



Thumb sized bit of fresh ginger, chopped up

Juice of half a big lemon

2 grinds of salt

Fresh coriander if easily available, roughly chopped

Big glug of vegetable or sunflower oil

One big onion, sliced

2 fresh chillies, finely chopped

Handful of new potatoes chunkily sliced

1 teaspoon each of chilli power (half if you don’t want it too spicy), turmeric, garam masala, cumin and coriander

1 juicy tomato

10p sized squeeze of tomato concentrate

100ml tomato juice

Packet of chopped tomatoes

1 litre fish stock

1 packet raw prawns

5 chunks of frozen or a bag of fresh spinach

Whole grain rice


1.      Saving a little bit of the ginger, combine the rest, lemon juice, salt and fresh coriander in a bowl and put to one side

2.      Fry the onion with the little bit of ginger in the oil for five minutes on medium to high heat

3.      Add the chillies, stir

4.      Add the new potatoes, cook for five minutes

5.      Add all the spices and stir and cook on a medium heat for 3 minutes

6.      Put the kettle on

7.      Add the tomato and the tomato juice, stir around a bit for 2-3 minutes

8.      Add the chopped tomatoes, bring to a simmer and let it reduce for 5 minutes

9.      Put the rice on

10.  Add the fish stock

11.  Bubble away, stirring occasionally for 15 -20 minutes (taste a potato to check it’s cooked)

12.  Add the spinach, stir around until unfrozen or cooked

13.  Add the prawns, stir around for 3 minutes

14.  Add the lemon juice mix

15.  Serve with rice and lick your plate clean.


I must remember to get a before picture...

I must remember to get a 'before' picture...

It is hard having no money. It’s also hard to complain when the reason you have no money is because you have splurged your last £3.50 on cherry tomatoes at Broadway Market.

So this week I am on an economy drive: I am trying to last the week without doing a food shop. The cupboards are bare.

Sminorf Ice Stir Fry, perhaps?
Sminorf Ice Stir Fry, perhaps?

The curry last night: tinned tomatoes, frozen spinach, chick peas, stock, an onion and a teaspoon each of basically everything in my spice rack except dill (saving that for today) and cinnamon. Served with way too much rice, as ever.

The good thing about cooking with no money and limited ingredients is whatever happens is a nice surprise.  Necessity is the mother of all invention. I didn’t follow any recipes this week and I didn’t feel stressed about not having the right ingredients, so everything has worked out better than expected.

Tomorrow all I have to play with is McCain’s hash browns, kidney beans, cherry tomatoes and some flour. Thank God I’ve got the crumble out of the freezer!

And on Friday: A rich dish of tomato sauce and honey, roasted with the finest shop brought pesto. Served with a jus of vegemite. At your table a waiter will pour over a froth of Tabasco to enhance the subtle flavour of each competent of this rewarding meal.

And on Friday: A rich dish of tomato sauce and honey, roasted with the finest shop brought pesto. Served with a jus of vegemite. At your table a waiter will pour over a froth of Tabasco to enhance the subtle flavour of each competent of this rewarding meal.

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