Entertain at home or eat out?

Hello Dear Reader,

Imagine this, you’re meeting up with friends and you want to treat them to lunch. You look for all the cheap options and think of the local carvery at the pub and find an offer on for £8.79 for the full Sunday lunch even though that’s before dessert and drinks. That seems a good deal doesn’t it? No washing up, turn up and eat and the six of you will be fed for £52.74. You think this is the best option as you’re not a confident cook. I believe you can feed people really well with a main course and dessert for under £2.30 per person. You can prepare it in advance and have very little to do or wash up when your guests are with you.

Braised lamb shanks with leek and potato mash with spring greens. All of this was prepared in advance and all I had to do when our guests arrived was steam the greens.

Lamb Shanks – £1 each at my local butchers – they are small but there’s enough for every one. I bought seven and the men had another half each.
500g of peeled and chopped carrots.
1garlic bulb, peel and cloves placed in whole.
3 roughly chopped red onions.
2 Tesco Everyday value stock cubes and 500ml of boiling water,
8 bay leaves – from the hedge in my garden.
2 mugs of red wine (I buy wine in France and pay just over a euro a bottle).

Brown the lamb shanks in a pan with two tablespoons of oil.
Place in casserole dish with all the other ingredients.
Seal tightly with a lid or foil lid.
Cook at 180 for three hours.
I thickened mine with a tablespoon of gravy granules.

Leek and potato herby mash.
2 large potatoes per hungry adult or 1 medium sized for fat fighters.
6 leeks – I buy my veg from Aldi or Lidl and usually pay about 79p for them

Slice and wash the leeks
Peel and diced the spuds
Boil the potatoes and mash with some butter, thyme and pepper.
Saute the leeks in a small amount of butter.
Combine and place in casserole dish – this can be done the day before and you can reheat by warming in the oven for the last hour of the lamb cooking.

You can have any veggies with this. We had some Cornish spring greens, which I very finely slice and steam.

The dessert was a White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake. You can make this the day before.

200g of digestive biscuits – blitz in food processor or crush in a plastic bag by using a rolling pin. 
50g of butter or marg.
400g of cream cheese – softened
100g of caster sugar.
Zest of one lemon
1 sachet of gelatine- sprinkled over 50ml of hot water and stirred until disolved.
200g white chocolate – I buy Tesco everyday value or Lidl’s own brand and this usually costs 30p.
200ml of whipping cream – lightly whipped.
350g punnet of frozen raspberries – Aldi or Lidl are great for frozen fruit.
Icing sugar to sprinkle – optional.

1. Make a biscuit base by melting butter in a pan then stirring in the biscuit crumbs. Line the bottom of a spring form cake tin or loose bottomed tin. Press mixture into the bottom.
I use my Kenwood to do the rest, but a hand held electric mixer would do.
2. Mix the cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar.
3. Whip the cream.
4. Prepare the gelatine and melt the chocolate.
5. Combine altogether,
6. Gently fold in 150g of raspberries.
7. Chill for three hours – I made my cheese cake the day before.
8. Decorate with raspberries and sprinkle with icing sugar.

This could easily have been made into a three course lunch by adding a soup to start and some homemade bread. I love opening my home, being sociable and feeding friends. There’s no need to meet in a pub or restaurant and home catering does not need to be strenuous. The lamb, potatoes and cheesecake could all be made the day before. Table linen and cutlery can be found in charity shops and I think it’s fun when nothing matches. Pick something simple and create a ‘signature dish’ and practise it on your family occasionally. People are often happy to bring a dessert or cake and your friends will just be happy to be fed and not to have to wash up.

It’s easier than you think. My lunch, due to my bulk buys at the local butchers came in at £2.27 per person and there was plenty of the mash and spring greens left and Dearly Beloved and I will be having bubble and squeak for supper. I’m a great believer that you can eat really well and be sociable on a budget.

Over to you Dear Reader. What’s your signature dinner party dish? Who prefers to cook at home instead of flashing the cash at the cavery? Conversely, who feels that home catering is fine for your own family but doesn’t feel confident about feeding guests. Who remembers a special meal cooked by friends. I look forward to what you have to share.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx


Frugal Buffet for twenty people

Hello Dear Reader,

You wrote to me and asked for advice. You told me you are holding a buffet for twenty relatives and you would usually spend £70 on bought in food and wanted some advice for doing this without breaking the bank. The great thing about a buffet is that you can be generous and people will feel they’ve had a good nosh and you’ve been really hospitable. I’ve put together a whole host of relatively cheap ideas.

Salad Nicoise

  • 2 tins of tuna chunks
  • 2 tins of potatoes – you can just use the value brand, they’re fine
  • 1 punnet of cherry toms – cut in half
  • 115g/4oz extra fine French beans, topped, cooked and drained – I just use frozen or tinned
  • little gem lettuce hearts, quartered lengthways
  • red onion, finely sliced
  • 4 eggs, cooked for 6 minutes in boiling water from room temperature, halved
  • 6 anchovy fillets cut lengthways into thin strips – Optional!!!!!!
  • 16 pitted black olives in brine – Optional!!!!

  • Dressing – 3-2-1 Ratio

    6 tablespoons of oil – olive or rapeseed.
    2 tablespoons of any vinegar
    1 heaped teaspoons of Dijon mustard
    Put in jam jar, put on lid and shake – Pour over salad.

    Adapted from BBC food.

    Greek Salad.


    • Handful black olives – you can leave these out
    • 3 medium tomatoes, diced into 2cm/¾in cubes
    • cucumber peeled, diced into 2cm/¾in cubes
    • 1 red pepper, de-seeded, diced
    • ½ red onion, sliced finely
    • 50ml of oil
    • pack of feta, diced
    • 1 small, firm cos lettuce,- or iceberg – I go for what’s on offer chopped into rough cubes lengthways
    • or 2 tbsp dried oregano)
    • 50ml/3 tbsp red wine vinegar

    Preparation method

    1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

      Adapted from BBC food

      Bean and rice salad

      Total time:
      Ready in 25 minutes 25 minutes


      200g long grain rice
      vegetable stock
      400g can  Kidney Beans
      400g can  Mixed Bean Salad
      1  Red Pepper
      1 bunch  Salad Onions
      2 tbsp olive oil
      1 tbsp white wine vinegar
      1 tsp Dijon mustard
      4 Eggs


      Cook 200g long grain rice in vegetable stock for 15-20 minutes, then drain. Meanwhile rinse and drain a 400g can Kidney Beans and a 400g can  Mixed Bean Salad and place in a large bowl.
      Mix in 1 Red Pepper, diced, and 1 bunch Salad Onions, chopped. Whisk together 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar and 1 tsp Dijon mustard and stir into the beans along with the cooked rice, then season.
      Boil 4 Eggs for 4-5 minutes, quarter and serve on top of the salad.

      Adapted From Waitrose Food.

      Quiche – Double or Treble the recipe to make enough for everyone – who doesn’t like Quiche?


      For the pastry
      For the filling

      Preparation method

      1. To make the pastry, sift the flour together with a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Rub in the butter until you have a soft breadcrumb texture. Add enough cold water to make the crumb mixture come together to form a firm dough, and then rest it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
      2. Roll out the pastry on a light floured surface and line a 22cm/8½inch well-buttered flan dish. 
      3. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
      4. Remove the pastry case from the fridge and line the base of the pastry with baking parchment and then fill it with baking beans. Place on a baking tray and bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment and return to the oven for another five minutes to cook the base
      5. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.
      6. Sprinkle the cheese into the pastry base and add the sliced tomatoes if you are using them. Fry the bacon pieces until crisp and sprinkle over them over the top.
      7. Combine the eggs with the milk l and season well. Pour over the bacon and cheese. Sprinkle the thyme over the top and trim the edges of the pastry.
      8. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool and set further.
      9. Trim the pastry edges to get a perfect edge and then serve in wedges.

        Adapted from BBC food.

        Butter Bean Dip

        The beany – butter bean pâté



        • ½ a 425g/15oz can of butter beans, drained
        • ½ lemon, grated rind and juice
        • ½ clove garlic, crushed
        • 1 tbsp fresh mint finely chopped – if I don’t have this, I’ve used a teapspoon of mint sauce.
        • 1 tbsp olive oil – I use any oil
        • 1 tbsp water (approx)
        • salt and black pepper, to taste
        • sprigs of mint, to garnish – optional
        • bread of your choice

        Preparation method

        1. Place the butter beans and lemon juice in a food processor and blend until smooth.
        2. Add the rest of the ingredients, adjusting the amount of water to give a smooth pate. Season and spread onto your chosen bread. Add the mint to garnish.

          I’ve tried and tested this BBC recipe and it’s delicious.




          For the garnish

          Preparation method

          1. Heat chickpeas and four tablespoons of water or vegetable stock in a saucepan.
          2. When warmed through, place the chickpeas and two tablespoons of the stock or water in a food processor. Blend until roughly combined. Add the garlic, tahini and lemon juice and a couple of large pinches of salt and blend again.
          3. Add the olive oil and blend again until hummus is the desired texture.
          4. Serve on a flat dish topped with a drizzle of olive oil, some parsley, fried pine nuts and a sprinkling of paprika.

            This is also from the BBC Food website and the recipe I always use.

          Sorry about font and upper case – Blogger has a mind of its own today – I would also have a selection of homemade hot food to go with this. I would also make a lasagne – here’s my recipe and step by step instructions. I would make a meat lasagne and a vegetarian lasagne. I would also make two loaves of home made bread which I would slice and leave for people to help themselves. Alternatively, I would buy three packs of Value pitta bread, warm through and cut into strips.

          I would also make two sweet dishes. I would include an indulgent version of a Key Lime Pie – Here’s my recipe and instructions. The other dessert I would make is Tarte Citron, here’s my recipe and instructions.

          I hope that has given you some cheaper ideas. Three different types of salads, some bread and dips, lasagne and two desserts. I’m sure all of this can be made for under £25 – so £1.25 a guest and I’m sure no one will think you to be stingy. Remember, if anyone asks if they can bring something suggest soft drinks as juice and cordials can be expensive and certainly say yes if they offer wine.

          I hope that’s been some help. If you want any other ideas, don’t hesitate to ask.

          Love Froogs xxxxxxxxxxx

Frugal Entertaining – Afternoon Tea

Hello Dear Reader,

We had visitors today and we had afternoon tea. I made scones, which we had with jam and clotted cream, fruity flapjacks and lemon drizzle cake. Lots of pots of tea and plenty of chat. 

Lemon Cake Recipe – 10oz SR Flour, 10oz butter/margarine, 5 eggs, 10oz of caster sugar, zest of 2 lemons. Beat all of that together in the Kenwood Chef. Pour half into lined sponge tins and bake for approx minutes. Leave to cool for 20 minutes then add the lemon topping. Squeeze the juice out of the two lemons and mix with several tablespoons of granulated sugar. Spoon onto the tops of both sponges. It will become crispy and lemony. Leave the cakes in the lining paper and tin whilst you do this and leave both in the fridge until entirely chilled. 

Lemon Butter icing – 8oz sifted icing sugar, zest of one lemon and 3oz margarine/butter – cream together with an electric mixer, I mix mine in a Kenwood Chef. Take completely chilled cake out of the fridge, remove lining paper and spread mix on one lemon sponge and balance the other on top. Keep in the fridge until ready to eat. Eat within two or three days. 

Scones – I found this recipe on the BBC food website, which is often my first port of call when looking for a tried and tested recipe.


  • 225g/8oz self raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 55g/2oz butter
  • 25g/1oz caster sugar
  • 150ml/5fl oz milk
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten


    1. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
    2. Mix together the flour and salt and rub in the butter.
    3. Stir in the sugar and then the milk to get a soft dough.
    4. Turn on to a floured work surface and knead very lightly. Pat out to a round 2cm/¾in thick. Use a 5cm/2in cutter to stamp out rounds and place on a baking sheet. Lightly knead together the rest of the dough and stamp out more scones to use it all up.
    5. Brush the tops of the scones with the beaten egg. Bake for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden.

Flapjacks – I used the recipe from the Tate and Lyle website.


  1. *   150g butter
  2. *   75g  soft sugar
  3. *   3 rounded tbsp  Golden Syrup
  4. *   250g rolled oats (porridge oats)


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160Cfan/ gas 4. Grease and line a shallow 20cm square tin with baking parchment.
2. Put the butter, sugar and  Golden Syrup into a medium pan and gently heat until melted. Stir in the oats. Turn into the tin, level and press the mixture evenly and firmly with the back of a spoon. Bake for 25 minutes, or until just golden around the edges.
3. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes then mark into 12 or 16 pieces whilst still warm. Cool completely before turning out onto a board and cutting again with a sharp knife.
Tip: Flapjacks will keep up to a week in an airtight container.

I added a large handful of mixed dried fruit and a small jar of glace cherries, which I halved. The cherries are usually very expensive, but mine came from Approved Food.

We had the scones, cut in half and with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Followed, this evening, by a very long walk! 

Apologies for the blurry photo below – but hopefully an insight into a Cornish Cream tea – It really doesn’t matter if you have cream first or jam first – as you like it. 

We could have met our friends ‘out’ but always entertain at home if we can. The cream was expensive, the jam was a gift I’ve had for a while, the scones were not at all expensive, the lemon cake cost about £2 to make so at a good guess, we had afternoon tea for four for about £6 which is what we would have paid each if we had gone out for tea. Our guests were happy to take away half the cake and half the flapjacks to eat at home and we were just delighted to see them. Socialising with our friends is lovely and we always manage to do so economically by catering ourselves and offering our own home as the venue.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs