Rust, dust, concrete and bears

Wow, what a weather day. I was hoping for a little gentle summer rain as the garden is either like dust, or in other parts, concrete. The summer sun is gorgeous, and I’m certainly not complaining, but such extreme heat sucks all the moisture out of the soil, and very quickly at that.

I pulled out the broad beans and harvested all the beans as the plants had got a bad case of rust and I couldn’t see them developing any more. A pretty decent crop too. We had broad bean and runner bean risotto last night, with a dish of halved cherry tomatoes from the greenhouse on the side. Yum

I have three pumpkin plants to put in the emptied bed. So I dug over the soil to pull out all the weeds and refresh it. But my goodness, there was no moisture in it at all. I had to get the hose out and give the things that needed it a good water. I didn’t water everything, most things are coping pretty well in fact. Even the lettuce looks very happy. The pumpkins went in and had a jolly good water in, and I’m hoping for a few vat fruits in a couple of months.

First thing this morning, 7am, I went for a walk around local roads to get my step rate up. 10,000 target hit today – yay! By the time I was almost home again at 8:30ish, the storm clouds were brooding and the wind was getting up. Here comes the rain I thought and sped up. By the time I got home, it was thundering and lowering, the temperature dropped several degrees and the wind was fast and blustery, bending the shrubs in the garden and the tops of the trees.

Did we get any rain. No. Not a drop. And it wasn’t until I watched the news at 6 o’clock that I realised that other people had had humongous amounts. Hove is not THAT far away from us.
Oh, actually, now at just before 9pm, it has started to rain substantial amounts. Just the gentle summer rain I was hoping for. Excellent, that will do the garden a power of good.

I am picking up my 6 year old grand daughter tomorrow morning for three days of fun. I shall be exhausted by the time I take her back I expect. They are doing castles at school when they go back, so the first thing we will be doing is visiting Pevensey castle.

When I baked the last loaf, I made sure to keep a good chunk back for the next batch, which I started off straight away and popped back in the fridge. So another thing I will be doing with DGD is getting her to roll out and cook a wrap for her lunch. She loves bread anyway, so it should be something she’ll enjoy.

The other thing I have planned is a visit to a nearby woodland facility, Wilderness Wood.

I just need the weather to be warm and sunny now. Consistent aren’t I ;)

Another CFR recipe, walnut & seed butter


Here is another recipe from the CFR site, a delicious nut butter. Use it on toast for breakfast, or in sandwiches for lunch, maybe with a sliced tomato, or thick coins of cucumber in it too. A smear of jam would be a variation of the classic peanut butter and jam.

You can use any nuts for this. Value salted peanuts, almonds, pecans if you’re feeling flush. I have also used sunflower or sesame seeds, or a little of several types. All give different results, all delicious. Personally, I’m not fond of the garam masala in it, and never use it. I have reproduced it here, as it is in the original.

It’s 10:30pm at the moment, so I’ll pop in the costs and nutrition tomorrow.

300g walnuts
80g pumpkin seeds
20g sugar
160ml veg oil
heaped teaspoon garam masala

Pulverise the nuts, sugar, spice and seeds in your food processor until finely chopped.

Then drizzle in a thin stream of oil, until you’ve achieved a looseish consistency like the one in the image.

Store in a large sterilised jam jar or two, or freeze until required. Keeps for 5 days in the refrigerator.

Farewell CFR, Smoked Salmon Pasta, 42p per serving

smoked salmonI am very sad that the site I first got involved in with helping to write cheap family recipes is no more. If you like the recipes on, hop on over to here and print any off that you like. I don’t know how much longer it will be there

Meanwhile, here is one of my favourite recipes from there, smoked salmon pasta. I shall post other recipes that I particularly like from there, before they all disappear

I have changed it a little, as the original recipe uses cream left over from something else, and I have updated the prices to current ones

Serves 2
200g spaghetti, value/20p/500g,  8p
clove garlic crushed or finely chopped, 5p
half a 120g pack smoked salmon trimmings, snipped into tiny pieces with your kitchen scissors, Asda £1.20/125g, 60p
20g self-raising flour, value 45p/1.5kg, 0.5p
35ml milk, £1/2.27litre, 2p
25ml oil, £1.25/litre, 3p
125ml approx. water
80g onion, very finely chopped salt and ground black pepper to taste, 5p
total of 84p

Cook spaghetti as per packet instructions, drain and cover. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or wok (which will take all your cooked pasta plus a sauce) warm the oil, saute the onion, until it is just softened, not browned, and add the flour, stirring to make a thick paste.
Whilst constantly stirring, gradually add the milk and water until you have a thick creamy sauce. Add garlic and seasoning and finally the salmon.
Cook gently for one minute, to flavour the sauce but not overcook the fish.
Tip all of the cooked pasta into your frying pan stirring with a wooden spoon to coat each piece of spaghetti with sauce.
Finally tip the dressed pasta into a large serving bowl and garnish with salt (not too much is needed as the salmon is salted) and ground black pepper.
Serve with homemade bread to mop up the sauce.

If you have any, substitute cream for the milk for an extra creamy dish. I like this with a crispy salad

An Approved Food order

imageOh dear, I’ve been tempted! Approved Food tempt me every day with mega cheap offers and this week I did an order.

I spent £66.97, including delivery, which is quite a bit.


We had some of the spelt spaghetti this evening with tomato sauce and Parmesan and a big bowl of salad bits, most of which came from the garden. It tasted much like our usual wholemeal spaghetti, but at 50p/500g, is cheaper.

imageThis is the 1p lucky box. You never have any idea of what you might get. My 6yr old grand daughter will be staying for a couple of days next week. I should imagine that she will have the little bars and crisps in our lunch boxes when we go out.

That order included 10 bags of butter beans for curries and pates, 10 bags of apricots, some of which I will have with some of the 8 boxes of Allbran for breakfasts, some I shall make crumbles with. DP has 4 huge bags of muesli and 4 of Fruit & Fibre for his breakfasts. There are 2 little jars of grilled aubergines that I shall use with pasta and 6 tins of spicy beans which I shall have at lunchtimes on top of salad greens.

The best bargain was a clearance deal of 8 pots of mustard at just 18p each. I use mustard a lot, in vinaigrettes, as a flavouring in gravy, in sandwiches, and as a general flavour booster in all sorts of things.

We won’t talk about the chocolate fingers or the hobnobs :)

That’s a lot of calories for that £66.97

Asda and Aldi own brand Fruit and Fibre is the same price, and Lidl does a good muesli for the same price, but I kind of like getting the brand ones occasionally.

I like trying unusual things without having to pay a lot for them, like the grilled aubergines in a jar and the onion raisin jam.

I’m sorry, this appears to have turned into an advert for AP, not my intention at all! Let’s change the subject.

This morning I had coffee with the girls as usual on a Friday, then on to The Horse and Groom to meet with the ladies of the monthly lunch group. I had a king prawn linguine which was delicious.

The cherry tomatoes are ripening their fruit at such a rate now we have to have them everyday to keep up. So I shall do some oven dried ones that are stupendous stirred through pasta with a little garlicky soft cheese. They keep in a jam jar for quite a while.

The runner beans and courgette are throwing off fruit at a rate of knots too. One of the things we have a lot now is a bed of salad, I like the courgette sliced up raw in the salad veg part, then we have hot potato and runner beans, with some kind of protein. Maybe a boiled egg and a little slice of cheese, or a sliver of bacon and a little bit of chicken, or some of those spicy beans, something like that.

I’ll do the dried tomato recipe and post it in a day or so.

It is 9pm exactly and this is the sky outside our house right now. Beautiful

We’re in Woman’s Own!

womans ownQuite an interesting week this week. Woman’s Own called wanting to write an article. The journalist wanted to do it there and then as she had to write it that day. Goodness knows what she would have done if I hadn’t been there. I had to put her off for a few hours as I simply couldn’t do it then. Later on we did an interview over the phone for 45 minutes or so.

Wednesday, they called to read the article through, and it is due to be in the issue published on 12th August. Which is quite exciting. It’s quite a lifestyle piece, with Thrifty Lesley on the side as it were.

Then yesterday, the agency that started off all the media exposure got in contact to say that they were thinking of doing some kind of Christmas feature. A Christmas lunch for £1 or something. So I shall have to see what I can do.

So many value brand items have increased in price hugely, it’s quite shameful I think to impact on those who can afford it least. I will need to have a look at last years Festive Week and see if that is still doable.

Went to the dentist this morning for a six month checkup and when I made the appointment for the next one, it was in January 2015. So we wished each other Merry Christmas :)



The loaf recipe, 17p

imageAt least one day before you want it, make the dough mixture.

250g strong white bread flour, Asda 1.5kg/80p, 13p
7g yeast, Asda 125g/64p, 4p
Half tsp salt
17p for the loaf
35p to run the oven for an hour, a total of 52p

Put everything in a medium sized mixing bowl, mix together. Using a spoon, add enough cold water, from the tap, to make a very loose dough, almost like a thick batter.

Cover with cling film and put in the fridge. You can leave it there for several days. If it is in there more than, say, 4 days, add a handful of flour and a splash of water, mix and recover.

When you are ready to use it take it out of the fridge and add a little flour, just enough to take it from the almost thick batter it was to a loose dough.

Give it a little knead to firm it up a bit and shape it into a loaf shape. The firming up helps the texture of the finished loaf. You may need to add a little flour. I used a spatula as it was too wet to knead with my hands.

Grease and flour a loaf tin with a capacity of 1 litre. Put the loaf in and leave on the side until it has risen to the top of the tin again. Bake it in a preheated 200C fan oven, 200C non fan, 425F, Gas 7.

Bake until the crust is completely solid, about an hour.



The cost of baking this loaf is an obvious overhead. At 35p for an hour, it would be a good idea to cook something else at the same time, or more loaves, which could be sliced when cool and frozen. So if you cook, say, three loaves at the same time, each loaf would cost a total of 28p, including the fuel cost

This same dough can be used to make wraps. Use as much dough as you want, then put the rest back in the fridge for another day

My best loaf so far

imageI tried the second bread mixture in the fridge today. I took it out of the fridge and added a little flour, just enough to take it from the almost thick batter it was to a loose dough.

Then I was going to do a dome shaped loaf on a tray, but it looked like it was going to bake really quite flat, so I popped it in a tin that was greased and floured first. Then I left it on the side until it had risen to the top of the tin again and baked it in a preheated 200C fan oven.

I tried to slash the top, but the dough was so soft, I couldn’t cut it.

Aiden, the teacher, said that we shouldn’t time our loaves, but learn how to tell if they were done. So, I left it until it was a good golden brown, then tipped it out of the tin and baked it a bit longer until it was crispy and crusty all over and put it on a cooling rack. I knocked the bottom and it sounded hollow.

By the time it was cool, it was losing its crust. I tried the end crust, which was delicious, and right enough, the middle of the loaf was still a little too moist. So I put the oven back on and baked for what turned out to be a further half an hour.

By this time, the crust was completely solid and I thought I might have overdone it and have a brick on my hands.



The finished loaf had a great texture. The crust was perfect, and the slices were light and spongy. The taste was superb. I think probably the best loaf I have made so far.

So, so far, I have discovered that

      leaving a very loose dough to rise and mature at least overnight gives a dough with a very good flavour.
      A 250g flour mix bakes in a loaf tin with a 1 litre capacity.
      I need to bake it until the crust is completely solid
      Bake at 200C throughout the cooking process
      Next steps…
      try value flour
      try malted grain flour with some walnuts added
      try a loaf that is the same size as an 800g bought loaf so I can make conventional sized slices

Flowers blooming in the garden and wraps made with dough that’s been in the fridge for several days

Took a few pictures today of what is in flower in the garden right now.
This day lily is a lovely match with the shrub next to it

A lacecap hydrangea in its full glory

As much as I can get in one shot of the front garden flowers

The pot of lilies that are blooming outside the study window and waft their gorgeous fragrance through, all day long





Some succulents outside the greenhouse


Earlier this week, I made a pizza and put the remaining dough in the fridge. Aiden, the teacher on the course I went to recently, said that dough will mature and deepen in flavour if kept this way. You can keep it for quite a while this way.

Today, I decided to use it to make a couple of wraps for lunch for us. I made them earlier in the day and put them under a clean tea towel straight away, while still warm, to keep them soft. They were pretty springy to roll out and kept springing back. The gluten had certainly developed!

I had mine with value fish fingers, a tiny blob of mayo and and a tsp of tamarind chutney, together with some lettuce from the garden. DP had his with chicken goujons, and pickled onions. Not to my taste!

The wraps were extra tasty. I think the time in the fridge had indeed added a depth of flavour to them.


Because of the lovely flavour, I decided to mix up a 250g flour batch into a bread dough and just leave it in the fridge.
This was it immediately before I put it in. I just added all the ingredients into the bowl, poured in some cold water from the jug and stirred it until everything was incorporated. No kneading at all, and this is what I did with the pizza dough too.


After a couple of hours, it looked like this, practically filling the bowl. And don’t forget, this was in the fridge the whole time, and made with cold water.

I may make a loaf with it tomorrow, or leave it and use for wraps. Proving dough in this way means that you can quickly stir everything together when you have a couple of minutes, pop it in the fridge, and bake/cook whatever it is you want without having to wait for the dough to mature.

So maybe fresh bread for breakfast, or rolls with dinner after work, or a batch of wraps for weekday lunches. This is something I am going to continue to experiment with.

I am using a huge bag of white bread flour that I got from Approved Foods. This batch has a little wholemeal added to it. When the strong flour runs out, I have lots of value flour, so I shall try that and see what that tastes like.


Coconut powder, and lost pictures

Maggi_Coconut_Milk_Powder_150g_2Just a very quick post now, more later, to say that Approved Food have just emailed to say that they have the boxes of coconut milk I use, for £1.20 for 2 boxes of 150g. So if you like the mango and coconut curry, now would be a good time to get some. I would get some myself, but I bought 10 boxes last time and still have lots left.

Approved Food link on the right (or at the bottom if you are using a tablet/phone)

Also, for some reason best known to itself, WordPress chopped off most of the pictures from last nights post, so I have just put them back in if you want to have a look at the proposed kitchen layout


Kitchen Plans

Edit: How extremely annoying. I posted this last night and WordPress for some reason decided to chop it off right at the beginning, and I can’t access the Revision copies either. So I’ve had to re-write what I could remember. Goodness knows what you thought I was up to!


Thought I’d share what we are hoping to achieve in our new space. The plans are those drawn up by the Wickes designer, so they are an artists impression sort of thing

This is the floor plan of the existing space, and the new space, laid out with the new configuration. The lovely oak table that DP made will go in the new part along the right hand side, and the sofa currently squished into the 2nd bedroom used as an office, along the left hand side

The bottom left hand corner shows the enormous walkin larder, beside that is a pullout 300mm unit. There are no wall cupboards, but there is more storage than at present

floor plan

The island from the kitchen side. The unit on the right is a built in freezer, next to that is a built in fridge.  Dishwasher on the corner, hopefully built in. The small void on the right should be big enough to hold the clothes airer and ironing board. It is behind the door into the kitchen when that door is open, so it shouldn’t show much.

island 2

The island from the dining side. I am hoping to hide the washing machine behind the unit door on the left hand side

island 1

I am hoping to replace the existing oven with a steam oven and an induction hob. The existing combi microwave is at least 25 years old and the combi part is unreliable, switching itself off when it feels like it. So I would like to replace that as well.

Our existing range cooker was bought when we moved here 8 years ago. I feel extravagant changing it to something else but don’t want to compromise as I do with so many other things.

The tower arrangement was something the designer came up with. I had made a compromise for the combi but wasn’t very happy with it, and there was no tower. I like this design, and although it means we will lose some worktop, leaving just 300mm each side of the hob, the very large new part where the sink is will make up for it. And there is enough by the hob for taking pots out of the oven and moving pots around from the hob. That new part is about 1200x1800mm, so lovely and big. The challenge I will now have is to stop DP piling it with tool and bits and pieces!

hob & oven

I was doing some research online for pricing Corian worktops and finding places that will do it at half the price of Wickes, which makes it much more affordable. Still not cheap of course, but much more of an acceptable price.

All of the units will need to be in place before the worktop people can come and make a template. The units have a delivery time of about 4 weeks, then the worktop people take several weeks after that. The hob and sink have to be disconnected when they measure up, so it’s a bit like a jigsaw, but we think we know how we are going to do things before everything is fitted together.