FRUGAL FOODIE: A time for nostalgia, friends and fireworks

Frugal Foodie
Frugal Foodie

I’ve had a lovely month since I last wrote. We’ve enjoyed Hallowe’en, with the kids revelling in trying to scare the neighbours, and Bonfire Night, which ended up with no bonfire (well, a very flame-retardant, damp one) but lots of fun with friends and neighbours!

Of course, the best thing about both of these occasions is always the food – the leftover pumpkin that makes its way into soups, cakes, pasta and pies, and the traditional delights that we have to enjoy on Bonfire Night – for me it has to be tinned tomato soup, from a flask, and hot sausage sandwiches. It’s the law. It makes me feel so nostalgic about lovely Bonfire Nights on the farm, as a child. Frugal or not, sometimes nostalgia has to reign.

Frugal Foodie

Frugal Foodie

I have been incredibly frugal this month, actually. 

I am always, of course, but this month was such a busy one that I didn’t make it to the shops until today. And that was under duress. I had a few cherry tomatoes, some mushrooms, half an onion and a few spinach leaves in the fridge and I’d even run out of my staple tinned tomatoes in my store cupboard. Regular readers may be able to feel my panic. I found some pork mince and decided to concoct a recipe.

It had to be something that the kids would eat as well so I decided to base it around pancakes. I’ve always got flour, milk and eggs so that’s easy enough. Although even my flour ran out so my batter was rather runny! I added a little grated cheese so that we could have cheesy pancakes and decided to use these to layer up the mince.

I created a sort of pancake lasagne with mushrooms and pork mince! It was not bad at all. I cooked the onion and mushrooms in butter, oil and garlic and then added the mince. I turned up the heat to brown it and added lots of thyme, a splash of white wine vinegar, a squirt of tomato ketchup, a crumbled beef stock cube and some salt and pepper. I found some soft cheese with herbs that needed using and I mixed that in.

I had some natural yoghurt so I mixed in a beaten egg, salt and pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. I would have loved to have made a proper bechamel sauce but a) time was against me, b) I wanted to make it healthy and c) even though I’d have overridden points a) and b), I couldn’t override the fact that I had run out of flour.

So, healthy version it was! It worked pretty well, really!

In a buttered oven dish, I started with a layer of the mince, a sprinkling of tomatoes and spinach then added a layer of cheesy pancakes. I poured some of the yoghurt mix on top of this and then repeated the same steps, ending with a final layer of yoghurt and the best pancake that I’d made (obviously the last one. Why is that always the way?) on the top and a sprinkling of cheese for good measure. I baked it for 20 minutes (longer would have been better but my kids were ready for bed. I served it with some green beans I found in the freezer.

If I was to make this again I’d add some breadcrumbs to the mix to soak up some of the juices.

Whether you want to admit it or not, Christmas is almost upon us.  Homemade Christmas cake, pudding and mincemeat just can’t be beaten. It might feel like an initial outlay getting the dried fruit etc but it’s so worth it when you’re enjoying your own fare. And you can be enjoying mincemeat for months and months (or years! I’m still using mincemeat from two years ago!) to come and it makes a lovely gift too.

Before you hit the shops, make sure you’ve delved right to the back of your cupboards as you might just find some of the ingredients there and they last for so long that I can almost guarantee they’ll be fine!

I’d especially encourage you to make your own mincemeat. I have to force myself not to eat it directly from the jar. It really is that good.

I make mince pies throughout the festive season but I also use it to jazz up ice cream or to make desserts out of apparently nothing. Try making a mincemeat sponge pudding – it gives a real wow factor yet fabulously frugal off-the-cuff pudd.

I sometimes make individual sundaes as a sweet treat during the winter.

This is my go-to mincemeat recipe. I’ve made this for far too many years to mention. It’s Delia Smith’s and it’s still the best. I’d encourage everyone to make this or to get children to make it.

It’s a fun and easy recipe to make as it’s really just assembly and stirring, whilst surrounding yourself in the most amazing Christmassy smells imaginable.