Feed me I’m tired! 


Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve pushed ourselves hard today and set a deadline for getting this round of renovations complete. We had some pine trees down when we bought the house and the logs have sat in the garden for 18 months. I don’t want to burn them as the resin can damage a flue liner. However, stored for three years in the dry, they are fine and won’t damage a chimney. We offered the ‘green wood’ on Facebook and today, the loveliest couple came with a big van and took it all away. We helped them load their van and found out that they have lots of land where they season wood until they need it. They left us a nice bottle of wine, they have plenty of wood for a few years in the future and our garden is much tidier. It’s always great to meet new people.

As soon as they’d gone, we went back to painting. New plasterboard soaks up paint and it took for coats of paint to get an even finish. We bought Dulux over with us from the UK as French paint is so much more expensive. Tomorrow, I’ll buy some stain to paint the stairs to match the other woodwork in the house. 

We do bits and bobs then get out and about. I’ll do out and about tomorrow and I’m excited about going to Emmaus.

After loads of work, I needed good old fashioned comfort food and made Corned beef hash

To make this:

6 medium potatoes- chopped and boiled until just soft.

3 onions sliced and fried in two tbsp of oil until soft.

1 tin of corned beef, cut into cubes.

Add the cooked potatoes to the pan of fried onions.

Resist the urge to turn, allow it to catch and crash slightly.

Add the chopped corned beef and mix, pat down and continue to cook.

Don’t stir and allow it to crisp.

Cook the top half by placing the pan under a hot grill.

Serve with steamed veggies. Eat, put your feet us and have an early night before all the hard work starts again tomorrow.

We are getting there but soon we’ll have two fully renovated bedrooms, stairs and third floor hallway.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxx

Renovating in France


Hello Dear Reader,

After a week of on and off rain, it’s been great to throw open every door and window and enjoy the sunshine. Above is the view of our open plan living area. My thrifted sofa is covered in blankets as the dogs have commandeered it for themselves. The board is across the bottom of the Stairs to stop the dogs going up.

In between the showers yesterday, I laundered and dried all the towels and bedding and today did the same with our clothes.

Whilst I’ve got on with fussing the dogs, cooking and laundry, Dearly Beloved has made a start on the dividing wall. 

He’d done a lot more by the end of the day but here’s the start. The top floor use to be a self contained studio apartment but it’ll be two separate bedrooms when he’s finished. He does the building and I do the insulation and painting. The garden fence has served as balustrade around the stairs so we didn’t fall down them. They will of course be replaced!

I added the photo below, later in the day.


I made homity pie for supper and tomorrow’s lunch. We’ll eat it with salad. We are still eating at home, I really enjoy having time to cook and amble to the local shop just for a bunch of parsley if I didn’t have any.

To make it, I rolled out gluten free pastry (supermarket ready made!) 

Inside.

1 large tin a new potatoes – roughly chopped – 800g of cooked potatoes 

2 onions and 8 cloves of garlic – chopped and gently sautéed in some olive oil until soft. Don’t cook garlic on a high heat, it’ll burn.

6 florets of broccoli, gently steamed – you could use leeks or spinach, I had half a head of broccoli left.

200g of grated emmental or mature cheddar

Salt and pepper

Handful of chopped parsley

200ml of double cream (or the nearest I could get here in France – crème de Normandie- Entière )

Toss the lot together and pour into the pastry case. 

Bake at 180/200 for 40 minutes. It’s creamy, cheesy and loaded with garlic. O

I use a heavy metal deep quiche dish so I don’t blind bake.

Another day in thrifty homemade France.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Gluten Free Pancakes



Hello Dear Reader,

There are some recipes that I just know by heart and cook frequently. We love pancakes and have them for a the occasional weekend breakfast. 

150g of gluten free flour
350ml of milk
1 egg
tiniest pinch of salt

Combine in a blender or food processor and make sure it is lump free. Pour into a jug or bowl. You’ll need a ladle to add to pour out the right amount.


Melt 30g of unsalted butter – plus a little more for brushing the pan or griddle. I always use a crepe pan and mine is well worn and bought in France a few years ago but they can be easily bought here.

Heat the pan, when hot brush with oil.

At the last minute, add the melted butter to the batter mix and whisk.

Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the pan with butter.

Use a ladle to pour one ladle full onto the crepe pan, immediately move the crepe pan around to cover the pan with the batter mix. 

When the pancake has crisped at the edges and I like mine to be wafer thin and as much like a French crepe as I can get it, then use a pallet knife to flip it over. 

Serve with what every you like, we usually eat ours with a smear of jam and a big mug of coffee for breakfast.

How do you like yours? Any one else love those thin French crepes? I’m always envious of people eating them when I’m there as I have to stick to buckwheat pancakes which are gluten free so has anyone. I  must remember to bring some ‘farrine de sarrasin’ home with me.

Until tomorrow, 

Love Froogs xxxxx

Feed me quickly, without fuss!


                        

Hello Dear Reader,

Quick recipe for stuffed mushrooms. More assembly than cooking. Perfect for when you can be bothered to cook and I can’t be bothered this weekend.

5 portobello mushrooms 
300g pack of feta 
1 chopped onion
1 beaten egg
1 pack ready cooked quinoa and brown rice
1 pack of chopped kale, steamed to your liking.
1 sliced of cheese for each mushroom – i used the sliced sandwich cheese
serve with salad

Combine the ingredients, top with cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serve with salad. Put your feet up, it’s been a long week and eat healthy yummy nosh that’ll nurture your soul too. I’m eating lots of easy assembly food at the moment as I don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. We all get like this once in a while but hey, it’s cheaper than the takeaway!


                        

I’m brain drained. I’m trawling eBay, free ads, freecycle and local auctions to furnish the French house. So far, I’ve gleaned…….small undercounter freezer, click clack sofa bed, double bed frame and so on. Everything will be wedged in the corner of my dining room, stacked up ready to take with us in December. We’ve hired the UK version of a U haul trailer which worked out cheaper than hiring a van. We’re buying here as we’ll take everything we can second hand and we’ll look out for second hand items when we’re out there too. 

We’ll be back there next Saturday staying in a bargain gite on the moors and we’re really looking forward to lots of walking, outdoors, vide grenier on Sunday in Morlaix and a womble around the local depot ventes in the local towns searching our necessities at bargain prices. I don’t pay much here and get everything second hand and I’m going to do the same here too, especially for kitchen items, small pieces of furniture and decorative items. 

I’m so distracted that this week will mainly be ‘on toast’, out of a tin or the freezer and will involve list making, packing and bidding on ebay.

Over to you Dear Reader, who else gets moments where you’d rather sit in a ditch than cook? We can pat ourselves on the back if we manage egg and chips as it’s cheaper than the chippy!

Until tomorrow,

Froogs xxxx

All hail the Hake

                       
Hello Dear Reader,
I paid a very high price for not following a healthy eating plan for a week. For a week, I thought sod it, ate any old thing, potatoes, carbs and so on. I put on 5lbs in one week. I swear I can put on weight driving past the supermarket. I wouldn’t have minded if I’d gone on a crazy binge but I just eat a few slices of bread and spuds. I’m really sensitive to how my body breaks down starches of any kind. I’ve gone gone back to carefully keeping my carbs under control and I’ve lost 2lbs since Monday. I’m also being careful with calories and getting myself out for a brisk walk every day. 
I’m trying to eat more fish. Tonight we had Hake that we bought from Lidl with garlic butter, roasted veggies and a scant 60g of cooked wild rice. It was stunning. 350 calories for the whole meal and under 40g of carbs. The only down side is that two fillets are £2.50! It was extremely tasty but fresh fish is so expensive. 
                       
I’m going to add more fish in our meals by using more tinned fish too, salmon, tuna and mackerel are fine in a tin and easy to pop in our lunch boxes with salads. What about you? Anyone else trying to add some fish to their meals?
Until tomorrow,
Love Froogs xxxx

Chicken, Leek and Chorizo Risotto


Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve had rain, wind and storms and every time I open the front door bits of garden and shrubbery get swept into the house! It’s just the weather for a chicken pie! In the absence of pastry, although I will get round to gluten free pastry, I decided that the contents of the pie could go into a risotto.

You will need

2 chicken breast or thigh in cubes
500ml of vegetable or chicken stock
2 leeks – chopped
1 cup of mixed frozen veg
2″ of chorizo – also chopped
200g of arborio rice
10ml of oil
10g of butter
3 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 heaped tablespoon of parmesan – I found a dried similar cheese for a lot less.


 Add the oil and butter to the pan
Add all the other ingredients except the rice and stock and stir well

Stir through until the chicken and leek are cooked.

Add all the stock at once, no faffing around here!

Stir over a gentle heat until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is cooked just as you like it. This can take around 15 – 20 minutes. Stirring constantly.

Serve with a sprinkle of the cheese on top of each on. I know!!! It’s not a chicken pie but it doesn’t have any gluten and it does have that comfort that only a risotto can bring on a cold night.


I like to simplify my cooking and make it simple for everyone else. If I make this again, I would use more leeks as they lost their flavour with the stock and the cheese. 

Over to you Dear Reader. Who else is being battered by terrible weather? Who else is traveling to work in driving rain and coming home to a garden full of branches?

As an aside, there are plenty of gluten free products on Approved Food at the moment. I’ve just taken delivery of lots of very much reduced items to keep me going to a while, including gluten free stuffing mix so I can make faggots.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxxxxx

How to cook a perfect steak at home

Hello Dear Reader,
The very very last thing I would ever order if I ate out (in the UK) would be a steak! Here to get a steak done just right you’ll need to order it blue! I heard the perfect description of how to cook a steak (the way I like it) “Clip its horns, wipe its arse and walk it round the grill!” If I’m paying the cost of a steak, which in my case at current prices is £2 each, then I’m going to cook it my way. 
I’ll start off with the recipe for Balsamic dressing to go with the salad. 
3 parts oil
1 part balsamic vinegar – we buy ours in Aldi, but this is from a cupboard clear out from mum-in-laws.
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of honey
1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce
Put into a jam jar, put the lid on and shake.
Onto the steak.
This is rib eye steak – aged and hung with fat marbling through it. A well aged steak tastes far better than the bloody red beef you might be used to from a supermarket. I’m not worried about the fat as I don’t eat steak every day.
Cover with a plastic bag and beat it senseless with a rolling pin.

You steak is now flattened like a badger on the A38.

Drizzle some oil onto the steak and massage in. Oil on the steak and never in the pan!

Turn the steak over and massage a tiny amount of oil into the other side too.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

You will need a cast iron grill pan and you should set the flame under it at least fifteen minutes before you start cooking. The pan should be smoking hot before you use it.

I cook my steak for under five minutes on both sides. I don’t want to spoil it.

When I eat steak, I just serve it with salad. No chips, onion rings, peas or any thing else – just salad! Of course with some balsamic dressing.

Be as generous as you like with the dressing. I also don’t eat any low fat or artificial alternatives just real salad dressing.

When some of the fat starts to render down, the steak is cooked enough and I turn it.

A medium rare steak should be as soft to touch as your cheek. You are touching your cheek right now! Medium is the touch of your chin and well done similar to the touch of the tip of your nose. You’ve just touched your cheek, chin and nose haven’t you?

I cut my steak down into strips and serve it on top of my salad.

Medium to rare steak with salad in under twenty minutes of getting in from work including salad and dressing for £2.50 each.

Simple steak supper for £2.50 per person. I don’t think the Harvester can compete with that! We don’t eat out so can justify the occasional steak.

Over to you, how do you cook your steak? Who doesn’t cook steak at home and likes to leave it to a chef? Who also thinks that only the French can actually cook a rare steak with out over cooking it! Who likes steak tartare? Who has a really good recipe for it?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

Bargain basement Christmas lunch review – £1.49 per person

Hello Dear Reader,

Our weekend guests have now been and gone. I wanted to give them something really special for Sunday lunch and decided on Turkey and trimmings and tried some bargain basement products and was happily surprised by the outcomes. The local Co-op leaflets our house and I saw that roast potatoes were £1 a bag. Everyday and ordinary potatoes are really expensive, of course unless you grow your own, and sometimes it’s just as cheap to buy instant potato products. They are a good product and if you see them at this price then try them for yourself. We can make our lives easier!


I also tried Lidl’s turkey breast joint. Ignore the cooking instructions and please do the following or it will be a dried up shrivel of turkey leather. 

  1. Add some water to the dish.
  2. Add some more bacon as it wasn’t enough.
  3. Rub some butter or margarine into the meat.
  4. Seal the dish tightly with foil to keep the moisture in.
  5. Reduce the heat and time suggested.
A ‘catering’ tip of how to make a joint of meat go further. Cool and chill, then slice with an electric slicer. Reheat when needed and keep in gravy until served to keep moist. I promise you, it will make a joint of meat feed twice as many people.

It is plenty enough for six people. I would suggest padding the meal out further with a sausage or two wrapped in bacon for each person, a Yorkshire pudding for each person, some plain sage and onion stuffing for each person. That, along with plenty of steamed veggies will provide a more than ample lunch for six hungry adults.

One of the bags of roast potatoes was really more than six people needed. They certainly worked out cheaper than buying a bag of potatoes and losing a lot through peeling them. I had to cook the potatoes for longer than the pack suggested and at a higher temperature, however my cooker is terminal and hasn’t got much longer. The turkey needed less time and adapting otherwise it could have been dry. You might just want to try the cheaper turkey breast without stuffing and just use two packs of Supermarket value stuffing. To jazz up the stuffing , add some finely diced fried onion and garlic. 

I used 

Tesco Everyday Value stuffing – 20p
Tesco Everyday Value Batter mix, for the Yorkshire puddings – 20p
Tesco Everyday Value Gravy granules – 1/4 of a tub – 5p
Ready to Roast Potatoes – 1.00
Turkey breast joint – 5.99
Half a bag of mixed frozen veg – Lidl – 50p
Half a cauliflower – 35p – Aldi
4 carrots – 14p – Aldi
3 slices of bacon – 51p Aldi

Total Cost – £8.94 – served 6 – £1.49 per person.



Prices are rising fast and will go up before Christmas. Fill your freezer now if you see offers and if you know you will eat them. Will anyone else be taking the bargain basement route for their Christmas lunch? To me, food is just fuel and nutrition and I like it simple and not wrapped in food or brand snobbery.

I’m a great fan of Sunday lunch and it’s always better when shared.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxxxxxxx

Saturday Night Takeaway – £1.29 each


Hello Dear Reader,

The last time we had a Chinese takeaway was on our wedding anniversary and it cost us £13 for the two of us. It was an expensive blow out but we decided it was a lot less than going out for a meal and we could justify the expense as a once a year treat. It will be a long time before we have another one!

Here’s my ingredients for our meal for four (lovely guests for supper tonight) of sweet and sour chickenless and egg fried rice.

Quorn (one bag is enough for 4 and one bag has gone in the freezer) 1.89
1/2 bunch of spring onions – chopped – 37p
1 chilli – 16p
punnet of mushrooms – 25p
1 tablespoon of minced ginger – 10
bag of bean sprouts – 50p
shredded savoy cabbage – 10p
tin of pineapple chunks – 20p
1 jars of sweet and sour sauce – 52p
oil – 5p

Egg fried rice
250g of long grained rice – 10p
1/2 bunch of spring onions – 37p
tin of peas (I had no frozen) – 20p
2 beaten eggs – 33p
oil 5p

Total Cost £5.18 – £1.29 per person

1. Start by boiling the rice – 1 mug of rice + 2 mugs of boiling water – cook until the water has almost absorbed and then turn the heat off and put the lid on and the rest of the water will be absorbed leaving the rice cooked and fluffy.

2. Heat the oil in the wok.

3. Add the ginger, chilli and garlic – stir and immediately add

4. Spring onions, quorn, beanspouts, any finely sliced vegetables and mushrooms into the oil and fry rapidly on high.

5. After two minutes add the sauce and drained pineapple and leave to simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

6. Whilst simmering, heat oil in a wok and add the chopped spring onions. 

7. Stir in the cooked rice and make sure it is coated with the oil 

8. Stir in the beaten eggs – keep stirring until all the egg is cooked – it looks like bits of scrambled eggs in the rice.

9. Stir the cooked peas through until they are hot.

Serve immediately with a splash of soy sauce.



A lot cheaper than the take away! I made this in less time than it would have taken me to walk to the takeaway and pick up and order. 


£1.29 is a very expensive meal for us but we had guests and it was lovely to cook something really quick and tasty for them.

If we had a takeaway once a week, like many people do, then we would spend on average £10 a week and just over £500 a year. We have a takeaway as a treat, well just the one this year and the rest of the time, we cook quick and easy Saturday Night Takeaways for ourselves.

Over to you Dear Reader. Who else has kicked the takeaway habits? Who else has kicked the eating our habit? Who else saves hundreds of pounds a year by cooking for themselves? Who else sees a takeaway as a once a year treat? Raise that home cooked frugal flag and wave it with pride! 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxxxx

Minced beef cobbler

Hello Dear Reader,

Thanks to everyone who has entered the £50 Bonmarche giveaway – to enter, all you have to do is tweet @queen_frugal and her #frugalbonmarche giveaway. Wrapping up warm will save you some money but the biggest way that I save money is on the way I use energy around my home. 

I use my mini oven when I’m cooking one meal just for the two of us. I bought my mini oven from Argos, but they are commonly found everywhere. When we went to France, the caravan didn’t have an oven, so we took it with us. You could use it in a camper van, or keep it in the utility room or as we do, just on the side in the kitchen. It uses a fraction of the energy that a big oven uses. If it’s just the two of us, then I can cook for two days by using a larger casserole dish and cooking for two days. I cover it with a microwave ‘lid’ and put the meals in the fridge until the next day.


Whilst I’m here, I’ll share my recipe for Minced Beef cobbler.

250g of minced beef
3 carrots – peeled and finely diced
1 onion – finely chopped
6 chopped mushrooms
cup of frozen peas

Fry the above and don’t add oil – the mince has enough fat.

Add some water, a stock cube, some thyme and a squirt of tomato ketchup and leave to simmer.

Thicken with instant gravy and pour into a roasting dish.

To make the cheese scones to top……………….the cobbles.

225g of SR flour
55g of marg or butter
40g of grated cheese – I used 20g of parmesan
150ml of milk

Rub in the marg or butter and add the grated cheese. Stir in the milk to form a dough.

Press flat with your hands or roll out and cut out the scones and place on top.

Place in the mini -oven (pre-heated to 180) for thirty minutes.


Mine looks sticky and dark but the light had gone and this was from the flash on the camera. This made meals for two nights and the next night just took eight minutes in the microwave as I stack the two meals with covers on top of each other and re-heat both at the same time.

I got really lucky on Sunday afternoon and picked up ready to roast potatoes and veggie packs including broccoli for 25p each! 

Even though I have a menu plan, if it’s in the freezer then I consider that to be used at any time as long as it’s some where on the plan. I use my slow cooker to cook cheaper cuts of meat and it’s wonderful for slowly braising steak or sometimes known as chuck steak. It’s cut from the shoulder of the beast and as it’s a deeply muscular part of the body, it will require slow cooking. Along with the other fore quarter of beef, such as brisket which is best slow cooked, you could also use plate or skirt and shank or shin. The supermarkets are generally rubbish with meat and don’t know which part they are selling and will just label beef as stewing or braising but the cut is important. A good local butcher will be able to sell you exactly what you want. Very few seem to sell it on the bone, which is a shame as it always tastes better that way. 


Meat shrinks to almost half the weight when cooked so if you want 100g each with your meal, or about 4oz, then you will need 150g each to start with. A human only needs 2oz of meat protein a day so 4oz is a very generous portion. When braising or slow cooking beef, my advice would be to leave the fat on and trim it afterwards as you will loose a mass of flavour if you remove it first. (If you want to lose weight, don’t worry too much about fat but reduce overall portion sizes).

I put my meat into the slow cooker at 6.30 in the morning and leave it on until I come home at six and thicken with some instant gravy. It’s so tender that the meat comes apart with a spoon. 

I do most of my cooking in either my slow cooker or mini oven. It has drastically reduced my energy bill and I feel great that I’m cutting back on the amount of carbon I’m producing. 

Back to the giveaway – to win a £50 Bonmarche voucher, and this is just for Frugal Queen readers, you need to tweet @queen_frugal warm and cosy #FrugalBonmarche. Good luck – I will randomly draw a tweet on Friday and announce the winner here and on Twitter.

Over to you Dear Reader. Who else rarely uses the ‘big oven’ any more? Who else is using the halogen? Remorska? mini oven? slow cooker? Who’s got one and needed reminding to use it?

Until tomorrow,

Froogs/@queen_frugal