Frugal February – Shakshuka

DSC00430 DSC00436

Every time I make this I wonder why I do not make it more often. Shakshuka makes the perfect quick and easy supper dish. In it’s simplest form it is just eggs poached in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce. I serve it with chopped coriander sprinkled over the top, crusty bread and butter.

Ingredients (serves two).

1 tablespoon vegetable oil- I used sunflower oil

1 brown onion diced very small

2 cloves garlic crushed

1 red pepper diced

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup red wine

1 bunch parsley

1 large bunch chopped coriander

vegetable stock cube

1 tbs chilli powder

1 teaspoon cumin

4 free range eggs

Sautee onion and garlic in oil. Add cumin and chilli powder and cook lightly, don’t let it burn. Add diced red pepper and cook until soft. Add tinned tomatoes, chopped parsley, sugar, vegetable stock and wine and simmer until cooked through. At this point I turned off the heat and let the mixture sit for several hours so the flavours all came together. Just before you want to eat, turn the heat on again and simmer. Make 4 wells into the mixture and crack the eggs into the tomatoes. Cover with a lid and gently poach. When eggs lightly cooked, scatter with fresh coriander.

Tonight my choice was to make Shakshuka or omelettes. Shakshuka takes a little bit of chopping and simmering, but is somehow easier than watching over an omelette pan.Much more satisfying to eat too.



Frugal February- Spicy Sausages and Polenta


I was really pleased with how these turned out. We have had a packet of polenta sitting in our larder for months, and I had never really registered that it was there…simply because I have never before cooked with polenta and very rarely eat it. This ended up being  a delicious, simple supper. Perfect for a cold wintry Sunday evening.

From the larder

One packet of polenta or cornmeal

I jar of spicy tomato pasta sauce

From the freezer

1 packet (6-8) vegetarian sausages or other sausages of choice

From other parts of the kitchen


freshly diced bell pepper

1medium sliced onion

1 stick celery sliced



I placed the diced vegetables in an oven prof dish then laid the sausages on top of them. I poured in the jarred sauce then cooked at 200 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes.

I then cooked the polenta according to the packet instructions…. about 1part polenta to 3parts water and simmered until tender. I used quite a bit of salt and a good knob of butter right at the end which lifted the taste considerably. When the polenta was at the consistency of creamy mashed potatoes it was ready.

Dinner is served!




Frugal February – Kidney Bean Chilli


Once or twice a year I survey our groaning larder and  then our diminishing bank account and have a complete shit fit. Husband-Gusto likes to buy in bulk. I like to buy for the next day or so. The result, inevitably, as I insist on doing most of the cooking, is that we have thousands of tins, pulses, pasta and frozen food- most of which is nearing a use-by date. For a few days I impose a household ban on food shopping and try and cook my way through our store cupboard.

Hence, Frugal February. Granted, considering we have things like caviar and marinated artichokes in our larder, the term ‘frugal’ is a stretch, but I am determined that until our stores are depleted I am going to cook from what we have.

Today, at H-G’s request we had red kidney bean chilli. It was a pretty simple concoction of onions, garlic, red kidney beans, tinned sweetcorn given a bit of spice with diced fresh hot chilli.

From the larder.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tin red kidney beans

1 tub passata

1 tin sweetcorn

6 squares dark chocolate

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup rice

Fresh food

1 diced onion (medium)

1 sliced chilli pepper

1 sliced red bell pepper



Chop and chuck.

Chop all items that need to be chopped. Chuck all chopped items and fresh diced vegetables into olive oil. Add passata and water to cover. Simmer for as long as you wish.

Serve with rice.







Family Favourites -Creamy Savoury Crepes

This is a total blast from the past for me. A dish that my mother made that had a few variations- either creamy vegetable, creamy chicken and veg or creamy seafood crepes. Sometimes she would add a dollop of curry powder to the mixture (which is basically a bechemel sauce) to add a bit of spice.

If we ever had a roasted chicken for dinner, the leftovers would be turned into chicken crepes. If we had dinner guests the starter would often be seafood crepes. Savoury crepes for me remind me of home… of comforting winter dishes, where everything was right and cozy in the world.

I woke up this morning just knowing that we had to eat crepes for dinner. As it happens, we had leftover chicken from a dish I had made to be enjoyed with family who were visiting. I diced a good handful of the chicken, then sauteed diced celery,onion and carrot. The best veg to use is often the frozen mixed veg you can get pre-prepared. Then I made a simple bechemel sauce, just melted butter, a tablespoon of plan flour, adding milk and stirring hard until a sauce has been made. To this I added a handful of grated cheddar cheese and then set aside. I then made the crepes.Some years ago my parents presented me with a crepe pan that has the perfect recipe on the base. The first time I made crepes I made the mistake of adding ingredients while trying simultaneously to read the recipe by lifting the pan above me so I could read the bottom. Memorising the recipe helps avoid half-cooked crepes sliding off the pan at this point.

After making the crepes and setting them aside on kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil, I put two tablespoons of the mixture in the middle of the crepe and folded it. The crepes then had more cheese scattered over the top and then were baked in the oven at 180 degrees celsius for 20 minutes.

This was delicious with a side of broccoli.


The chicken and vegetable mixture.


perfect crepes – 2 eggs, 110 gm flour, 200 ml milk, 75 ml water, pinch of salt, knob of melted butter. Never fails. 🙂


A perfect pancake.


The filled crepes about to go into the oven.


The result. The pic does not really show how stuffed and creamy the filling is, but I was too keen to eat to take another one!

Pumpkin curry



We tried the pumpkin curry from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I made a few changes according to our tastes… we used fresh diced pumpkin rather than canned, and yellow lentils instead of red for the bit of extra bite. I also used vegetable stock in the sauce and used light coconut milk. I was really pleasantly surprised with this, as I thought the main focus on pumpkin would be overwhelming but it was a really deep flavoured and delicious.

Served with brown rice, and kale sauteed in vegetable stock.

Roasted pumpkin and coconut soup


A delicious, warming, and lightly spiced soup. Perfect for a cold autumn day.


1 large butternut squash or pumpkin diced into large chunks

2 medium onions diced

2 garlic cloves

3 sticks celery diced

2-3 large carrots diced

olive oil

2 litres vegetable stock

1 tablespoon all spice

1 tablespoon chilli flakes

1 tin coconut milk

Heat oven to 220 degrees celsius. Place diced pumpkin into a roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil. Scatter the allspice and the chilli over the oil and roast for about 40 minutes.

While the pumpkin is roasting, add oil to a saucepan, and the diced onions, celery, garlic and carrots. Sweat the vegetables on a low heat for 10 minutes before adding vegetable stock and cooking on a low simmer.

Add the pumpkin and simmer again for about 30 minutes. Add the tin of coconut milk and turn off the heat. When cool blend the soup until it it smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I ate this with toast topped with grilled artichoke puree. Delicious. Grilled artichoke puree is my current favourite toast topper. I just pop a jar of chargrilled artichokes in oil into the blender, add a clove of garlic, pepper and a smidgeon of salt and blitz. This keeps for a good week in the fridge and is utterly scrumptious. I find it has been replacing my usual favourite of mashed avocado on toast as decent avocados are becoming more difficult to find.


Grandma Syrett’s New England Oyster Stuffing (as made by her son’s step god-daughter Rosy).


Our dear friend Rosy is a gifted writer and blogger and has years of experience inviting hordes of people to massive Thanksgiving meals. One mainstay is her now-famed oyster stuffing. Despite the name, the stuffing is not actually cooked inside the chicken or turkey, but is prepared in a pan and then baked in the oven alongside of it.  I have been agitating for some time for Rosy to share her recipe, because if you are not a vegetarian, this is truly one of the most extraordinary and unexpected dishes that you will come across. Combining smoked oysters, bacon and cream with rice does not sound like it will result in anything so heavenly. But the flavours come together in a way that is outstanding.

Rosy did not host a Thanksgiving meal this year but very kindly agreed to share her recipe with the Gustos this week. This can be served on it’s own with a salad, or alongside a roast.

Oyster stuffing
1 onion diced
1 or 2 garlic cloves,  diced
1 tin oysters john west in sunflower oil
I tablespoon Sunflower or canola oil.
Half pack lardons or six slices streaky bacon chopped into chunks
1 cup cooked white rice. (ready cook instant rice works well)
1 good handful of chopped flat leaf parsley.
3 tablespoons double or single cream

Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Sauté garlic and onions in oil
Add lardons when onions softened
Add lots of cracked black pepper
Cook lardons until cooked through but are still pink.
Add the cooked rice

Stir mixture through the pan so that the oil coats the mixture lightly.
Open tin of oysters and put all the oysters and the oil into the mix. Leave the upturned tin on the top so all the oil can drip out. Keep stirring the mixture lightly so it does not stick.
Drink wine
Put half the bunch of chopped parsley into the mix
Add cream
Call coronary specialist
Stir through
Taste again
No, put the spoon away now
Season with more black pepper
Put the cream away into the fridge as you will need it for the pumpkin pie
Place mixture into an oven proof dish

This will take about 20 minutes in the oven until is lightly browned on top.

Then serve with turkey or chicken or just with a side salad
Drink more wine





This is even better the next day. Newbies to Rosy’s feasts tend to be unaware of just how good this stuffing is, and so bypass it. All the more for us.