FRUGAL FOODIE: The meat-free Monday that turned into veggie week

Frugal Foodie's Storecupboard, Speedy, Spicy Noodle Soup.
Frugal Foodie's Storecupboard, Speedy, Spicy Noodle Soup.

We’ve just got back from a weekend of camping with friends.

We had a great time and, like all good camping trips, we ate enough barbecued meat to sink a ship but, in the words of our friend Andy, ‘I need some vegetables to curb the scurvy!’.

Frugal Foodie's summery spaghetti.

Frugal Foodie's summery spaghetti.

I often try to do a few meat-free nights every week to save money and we regularly do a meat-free Monday so I made the most of this to recover from the overdose of sausages.

Not one to do this by halves, I’m going to make like a vegetarian and cook meat-free all week.

I’m sure my body will thank me for it, after 30 something years of very carnivorous eating!

The vegetable patch is just coming into life with lots of gorgeous new potatoes, lovely little courgettes, mange-tout and lots of Swiss chard and kale, as well as loads of salad ingredients. Perfect for my veggie week!

I’ve not been to the shops for a while so I have been eating from the storecupboard and the veg patch.

I’ve been earmarking a carbohydrate from the cupboard for each meal and have decided to create a totally new recipe each evening too, to keep the veggie enthusiasm alive.

I’ve touched on this before, but I can’t stress how vital a good cupboard of spices is if you are going to eat delicious, flavoursome meals on a budget.

They transform even the simplest of ingredients. And with an addition or removal of just one spice, you can have a whole new meal.

I love pesto and I have an abundance of basil in my greenhouse.

I hope you took my advice and have lots of herbs too.

I decided to make a slightly altered version of the traditional pesto by not adding Parmesan to the mixture.

I simply shaved Parmesan over the top instead. It’s a kind of deconstructed pesto!

If, like me, you are an olive oil junkie, this is the time to use the good stuff in the cupboard. I bought some amazing organic extra virgin olive oil at an olive oil factory in Crete. It was so cheap and is to die for.

RECIPES

SIMPLE SUMMERY SPAGHETTI

INGREDIENTS

A large handful of basil

A handful of pine nuts

2 cloves of garlic

Extra virgin olive oil

A pinch of salt and pepper

2 baby courgettes, ribboned

A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

Parmesan shavings, to serve

METHOD

Put your spaghetti in a pan of boiling, salted water and cook according to packet instructions.

While this is cooking, get cracking with the sauce. Start by toasting your pine nuts in a dry frying pan over a low heat. As soon as they start to brown, turn the heat off. They will continue to cook in the residual heat of the pan.

Put the toasted pine nuts, basil, garlic and salt and pepper in the food processor. Add a couple of tablespoons of the olive oil and whizz. I like it to have crunch so I don’t whizz it to a smooth paste. Add as much olive oil as you need to bring it to the desired consistency. You will need quite a lot as you want it to be a lovely sauce for your pasta.

In a frying pan (I used the one that I had used for the pine nuts), heat up a knob of butter. Add the courgettes and gently sauté for a couple of minutes until softened.

Drain the pasta, leaving a little cooking water. Stir the nutty oil through the pasta, taking time to get it all coated.

Add the courgettes and the tomatoes and mix gently. Dish it up and, using a vegetable peeler, shave Parmesan over the top. Et voilà, serve.

STORE-CUPBOARD, SPEEDY, SPICY NOODLE SOUP

I could feel a cold coming on so I had been down to the veg patch and collected a couple of baby courgettes and a handful of Swiss chard and curly kale and wanted something spicy to blast the germs away.

And it had to be speedy as I am impatient.

Looking in the back of the store cupboard I found some dried udon noodles that I should have used years ago – oops – so decided it was time to give these a go!

So, noodle soup it was!

METHOD

Start by cooking the noodles in some boiling water. Add half a bag of mixed, dried mushrooms to the pan.

In a pestle and mortor, lightly bash up a tablespoon of coriander seeds. Don’t bash the life out of them, leave them with crunch.

In the mixer, add:

A chunk of ginger (I freeze it so I threw it straight in, frozen);

Loads of chilli flakes, lemongrass (I had a tube in the fridge);

2 cloves of garlic;

Handful of coriander stalks;

1 tsp concentrated tamarind paste;

Juice of half-a-lime;

1 tbsp oil – I used groundnut

Whizz it up to a paste. Stir in the coriander seeds.

Heat up a wok, add the paste and cook for a minute. Add the courgette, ribboned, and the kale and chard, shredded. Stir-fry for a minute. Add the noodles, mushrooms and some of the mushroomy cooking water along with a tin of coconut milk. Add a dash of Thai fish sauce and a tsp of sugar and stir.

Serve up in bowls and stir through some chopped coriander. Sprinkle some more chilli flakes over the top. Enjoy!