Category Archives: Low cost Lunches

Beetroot soup with horseradish cream (63p per portion)

beetroot soup with horseradish creamEveryone’s got a jar of horseradish at the back of the fridge, waiting for a roast. However, if you see it going off, here’s the perfect way to use it up. Beetroot’s earthy sweet and vibrant flavour is the best accompaniment. Beetroot are packed full of vitamins, minerals and protective antioxidants demonstrated by their beautiful colour.

This recipe is very easy to prepare and also very cheap. It’s adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s excellent River Cottage Veg Every Day book. I didn’t have a kilo of beetroot so halved the recipe and added some carrots instead that were fresh from our North Aston veggie box.

Take 250g of fresh beetroot and 250g carrots. Scrub them clean, slice into chunks, then place them in roasting tin with a few cloves of garlic, some thyme, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Pour in a glass of water to keep everything moist when baking. Cover with foil and roast for 40 minutes to an hour on gas mark 6. Once cooked through and cooled, remove the skins of the beetroot.

Now blend the vegetables with a pint of chicken or vegetable stock. I make mine from leftover roast chicken bones, but Alders butchers will sell you some bones for £1 – much better than shop bought stock. Blend everything together until smooth and then gently reheat in saucepan. You may need to add more water if the soups is too thick. Mix a tbsp of horseradish sauce with a tbsp of natural yoghurt and stir into the soup before eating. Hearty, warming and beautifully pink!

Stock = £1
Beetroot = 90p
Carrots = 30p
Garlic & herbs = 10p
Horseradish and yog – 20p

Total = £2.50 for 4 (63p per portion)

Millet Salad (43p a portion)

Millet saladI’ve been experimenting with Millet recently. While millet has been used primarily for birdseed and livestock fodder in Europe, it is now gaining popularity as a delicious and nutritious grain that has gained in popularity because it is naturally gluten-free.  It’s good for making creamy like mashed potatoes or fluffy like rice, and goes well with many types of food. It’s got a cous cous or quinoa like quality and is a very versatile grain – excellent for making porridge, salads and even cereal breakfast bars as I’ve just discovered. It’s also good source of some very important bone nutrients, including copper, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.

It’s also remarkably cheap coming in at about £2.50 kg. Not as cheap as cous cous but much more nutritious! I made a large batch up last week and we’ve been eating it for lunch sprinkled with sprouted chickpeas and salad. Here’s the recipe –

Weigh out 200g (1 cup) of dried millet. In a large, dry saucepan, toast the raw millet over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until it turns a rich golden brown and the grains become fragrant. Don’t let it burn. Add 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt, give it a good stir and bring to the boil. Simmer with the lid on until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Switch off the heat and let the millet stand and steam for 10 minutes – this way all the water is absorbed and the grain becomes lovely and fluffy.

Millet (like cous cous) is very versatile, so it’s a perfect way to get rid of leftover veg. I used cucumber, tomato, some grated red cabbage, fresh herbs and sprouted chickpeas and seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. It would be delicious with some crumbled feta and toasted nuts and seeds too!


200g millet = 50p
Herbs = from the garden
Lemon, olive oil, salt & pepper = 20p
Vegetables & chickpeas = £1

Total = £1.70 for 4 (43p per portion)


Food waste soup!

Having met Anna Pitt at Sesi Wholefoods on Monday, I’ve been experimenting with meal ideas created from food waste. I’ve started taking my food waste bin seriously and delving in to discover new and exciting recipes. Many important vitamins and minerals are thrown away when you peel and trim vegetables as most of the nutrients lie just under the skin. If you have to peel instead of just a good scrub, you can save these peelings for use later on.

Food waste soup ingredientsFor example food waste soup. This is an easy introduction (after potato peeling crisps) to using your leftover peelings and reducing food waste. I cooked a chicken earlier in the week, then used the bones to make the best stock ever. I’ve been saving all my peelings, skins and veggie odds and ends in a Tupperware in the fridge, and today was the moment of truth where I combined everything that would have usually just gone in the bin.

After thoroughly washing my veggie waste (potato and carrot peelings, some onion and garlic skins, celery leaves and spring onion tails), I pressure cooked them in the chicken stock I had made earlier. Then I simply blitzed it all with the hand blender!

Food waste soupThe results weren’t exactly a gastronomical revolution, but perhaps more importantly, a nutritious and hearty Winter soup that would go well with any home made focaccia.

I was pleasantly surprised, a dollop of crème fraiche, natural yoghurt or indulgent cream would bring this soup alive!

As all the ingredients were heading for the bin – this soup could almost be considered FREE!

If you like this recipe check out my orange and lemon peel cake – it’s delicious and passed the kids party test.

Wholemeal Focaccia recipe (25p a portion)

I did say I’d get round to making my own bread at some point! This recipe is very easy to make, though you do need to start a day ahead. It jazzes up any soup or salad dinner perfectly. You can vary the toppings with anything that you need using up.

Wholemeal foccacia recipeI met Anna Pitt on Monday who is a big advocate of Zero Waste and she suggested I go through all my cupboards and to see if there was anything that needed using up, and sure enough, lurking at the back of the fridge I found a jar of Jalapeños – I must’ve bought them for a Mexican dish many many moons ago, and some lonely looking sundried tomatoes. They looked fine, and I thought they could make a wonderful topping for a spicy Focaccia to go with the parsnip and coconut soup I made on Monday.

Keeping in local and healthy

I love using wholemeal grains as they are so much more nutrient dense. Shipton Mill sell their own flour which is grown and milled just down the road in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. A Kilo is a bit more expensive than a Supermarket brand but the taste is second to none. Here’s the recipe – it’s adapted from Peter Reinhart’s wholegrain breads.

In a bowl, mix 250g of wholemeal flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 5g dried yeast, 240ml warm water and 1 tsp of sugar for 2 minutes.The dough will be sticky, but smooth. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the dough and mix for a few seconds. Now let the dough rest, uncovered for 5 minutes and then mix it again for another 2 minutes. If the dough is too wet, add a small amount of flour.

Wholemeal foccacia 1Line a tray with baking paper and add 1/2 Tbsp olive oil to grease the paper including the side walls. Place the dough in the tray. Rub the top of the dough with 1 tsp of olive oil. Flatten the dough a little using the palms of your hands. Don’t worry if it doesn’t cover the entire baking tray, it will once it’s risen. Cover the tray tightly with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.

The next day take out the dough from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 4 hours. Remove the clingfilm covering the dough and drizzle on 1 tsp of olive oil. Using your fingertips, starting in the middle, press the dough so that it begins to fill out the tray. Loosely cover the pan and let it sit for 20 minutes. Repeat this procedure a second and third time. After the third cover the tray and let it sit for 2 hours.

When the 2 hours is nearly over, preheat the oven at gas mark 10 / 260 C/ 500 F. Sprinkle on your toppings – I used jalapeños, sun dried tomatoes and a grating of cheese, but just herbs, sea salt and olive oil would also be delicious! Reduce the oven temperature to gas mark 8 / 230 C/ 450 F and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the tray around 180 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy!


250g whole wheat flour = 32p
Salt, yeast, sugar = 5p
Olive oil = 5p
Tomato = 10p
Cheese = 30p
20g Jalapeños = 10p

Total = £1.02 (25p a portion)

Spicy parsnip & coconut soup (29p a portion)

I love parsnips, roasted and sweet on a Sunday lunch. But quite often there’s a lot leftover, or we get extra in our veggie box delivery, and if there are, this is what I like to turn them into –  a spicy soup.

Spicy parsnip and coconut soupResearch shows that compounds found in parsnips have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer function and offer protection from colon cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia! They’re also a rich source of many B-complex vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid as well as vitamin K and vitamin E. And also contain healthy levels of minerals like iron, calcium, copper, potassium, manganese and phosphorus; important for bone and heart health.

All you need to do to make this soup is fry 2 white onions and 4 cloves of garlic in a little olive oil until soft and brown. Add 1 tbsp of garam masala and 1 small red chilli and continue to fry for a minute or two. Then add in 3 parsnips and 2 carrots chopped into small pieces. Add 100g creamed coconut and 6 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft enough to blend. If you’re using already roasted parsnips then this time will be much shorter. Blend with a hand blender and serve with crusty bread. It’s a Winter warmer.

Coconut  = 50p
Parsnips & carrots = 50p
Onions, garlic & chilli, garam = 15p
Total = £1.15 for 4 generous bowls


Cheap and Easy Spinach Falafels

This is a quick, easy and healthy weekend lunch.  It would also make a great picnic addition, or lunch box snack.

Homemade gluten free greens falafelsThe combination of spinach greens, chickpeas and peanut butter makes this recipe great for getting your calcium quota.

1 cup of spinach has twice as much absorb-able calcium as a cup of milk. Chickpeas are also high in calcium, and peanut butter, which binds these beauties together, is just brimming with magnesium; which you need to insure that calcium is fully utilized. In other words, these Falafels are a perfect source of vitamins for strong healthy bones. Also a wonderfully versatile meal or snack for those of us that like to use our fingers to eat (which lets face it is most of kids and adults too). This recipe is a doddle and the end results are beautifully light fluffy green tasty morsels. Here’s the recipe:

Put 4 tbsp of oats in a blender and whizz until they turn to flour consistency. Add 200g of Spinach with 1 drained and rinsed 400g tin of chickpeas (or to be more frugal soak 120g of dried chickpeas overnight and boil for 1 hour). Squeeze in the juice of a whole lemon, and add 1 tsp of cumin, a pinch of salt, 3 cloves of garlic, 1.5 tbsp peanut butter and a handful of fresh herbs (I used coriander and fresh mint from the garden). Blend until it forms a smooth paste. If your blender is having trouble cutting through all this fibre add a dash of warm water to get things moving. Once your batter is formed roll it into balls and place on a greased baking tray. My mixture ended up a bit wet, so in the end I spooned quinelles (like they do on masterchef) of the mixture onto the baking tray. Bake on a moderate to high oven( Gas mark 6 / 200C / 400F) for 25 minutes until they are crispy on the outside but still gooey in the middle. Serve with lashings of home-made hummus either on their own, or with salad – delicious!

How much do they cost to make?

120g dried chickpeas = 14p
peanut butter = 20p
Oats = 20p
Spinach = 50pHerbs, garlic, salt & pepper = 20p

Total = £1.24 for 12 falafel.

Cumin roasted pumpkin soup

I love squashI love the sunshine that pumpkins bring to a Winters day. When I received two beautiful baby Squash in our Westmills Organic Veggie box I couldn’t resist a warming soup.

Squash and pumpkins are a perfect match for the spice cumin. It’s earthiness really complements the slightly sweet plump flesh. Together they create a meal that has a restorative quality. Now that I’ve discovered how easy it is to boil my used bones to make stock, the whole combination is a marriage made in heaven.

Roasted squash and cumin soupSquash are one of the most nutritious and healthiest vegetables you can eat, with a rich array of vitamins, minerals as well as lots of fibre. It has a high content of flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as leutin, xanthin, and carotenes which have cancer fighting properties and are good for eye health. It is also a good source of B-complex vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid and rich in minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

There’s nothing complicated about this recipe. Simply slice the squash in half, don’t bother to de-seed. Sprinkle with olive oil and a tbsp of cumin. Roast on a medium oven for 1 hour. The roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the squash as opposed to boiling which can wash away the delicate flavour.

Scoop out the pips and discard. Then scoop out the flesh and add them to your pre-prepared stock. Blitz with the blender and add salt and pepper to season. Best served on a cold day with a dash of cream or natural yoghurt. Hearty and delicious.

If you make your own stock from left over bones, this recipe can cost as little as £1 for 4 portions.