Chicken Yassa (£1.50)

Yassa is a spicy chicken dish from Senegal, made with onions, spices and seasoning. In spite of the large quantity of onion, it doesn’t taste oniony at all. More complex versions of this recipe exist, adding different spices, vinegar or other ingredients. I deliberately kept mine as simple a possible.

I went a bit over-the top quantity-wise with this, making enough to feed a family of six. For just one or two people, divide the quantities below by three.

greeds

Ingredients (serves six)

  • 6 breast fillets (or equivalent amount of meat).
  • Three onions, red or green, finely chopped or sliced.
  • Juice of three lemons.
  • 1 cup (½-a-mug) of ground-nut (peanut) or olive oil.
  • 1 well-heaped desert spoon of Dijon mustard.
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
  • 1 Habanero chili, seeds removed, finely chopped (optional) – or some suitable alternative like powdered or bottled hot chili.
  • Soy sauce (optional).

WEAR DISPOSABLE GLOVES when de-seeding and fine-chopping the Habanero chili. It is very hot, and might make your fingers sting. Absolutely do not put your fingers anywhere near your eyes, in your ear, up your nose or anywhere else tender while chopping. You’ll soon regret it. Wondering just how hot these raw chilies were, I cut one in half and licked the end. It was like licking the end of a cattle-prod. The finished dish is not particularly hot, just has that extra tang. but if you’re really not a fan of chili, leave it out, and add soy sauce for some extra flavour instead.

chili

Method

Chop the chicken into small chunks or thin slices and put this in a large mixing bowl. To the bowl add the onion, lemon juice, oil, mustard, cayenne pepper and chili, and stir everything together. I also added a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce, although this is not strictly necessary and depends on personal taste.

chopped

This needs to marinate for half-a-day, so best to do the preparation in the evening and leave it in the fridge overnight, ready to cook the next day.

The customary way to cook this is to fry it on a hot plate – a hot frying pan will do just as well – until the onion is well softened and caramelised and the chicken just starting to brown.

cooking

Serve immediately with mashed potato, some yam or sweet potato mash, rice, or anything really. I microwaved a can of red kidney beans (rinse the goo off them first and put in a ceramic dish to microwave) which went very well. It would also go well with the flatbreads from my previous post.

finished

Can be kept in the fridge or even frozen, I suppose, but this is a food best served freshly cooked. Everything considered, come out at about £1.50 a meal.


 

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Flatbreads – 5p each (Cooking on a Bootstrap)

Cooking on a Bootstrap‘s recipe no. 2 is a beautifully simple recipe which makes eight flatbreads in well under an hour. So far have used them to dip in soup, with a bit of jam inside and as mini pizzas. All in (including electricity and washing-up costs), they come to 5p each.

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  • 3 cups of flour, 1 cup of milk, teaspoon each of dried yeast, sugar and oil, and a pinch of salt.

First, warm the milk slightly in the microwave and stir in the yeast and sugar. Put the flour in a marge bowl with the salt, pour the milk mixture in and stir it all together to make a dough.

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Knead the dough for 10 minutes – if it’s too sticky, add more flour, if it’s too firm, add splashes of milk and knead it in. There’s a lot of flexibility in this recipe because of the way the flatbreads are cooked, so don’t worry too much about precise quantities or measurements. Let it rise with a tea-towel over for half-an-hour in a warm spot, then cut it in to eight pieces.

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Roll each piece flat, to about 3mm thickness and whack them in an oven at 200°C. About 10 minutes later they’re done. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, just go a bit golden-brown on top.

A couple split in half and turned into mini pizzas with a few Tesco salami slices and bit of cheese, with plus a cup of tea or coffee, makes a meal for 30p.

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Cooking on a Bootstrap – Basic White Loaf – 40p a loaf.

COOB - 1A.jpgBack to the real spirit of the blog: good food on a very tight budget. Obtained a copy of Jack Monroe’s new book, Cooking on a Bootstrap, and started with recipe no. 1: “basic white” bread. The recipe is as simple as one can get, even simpler and cheaper than my previous bread post.


Cooking on a Bootstrap – Basic White Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 400 g plain white flour.
  • 1½ level teaspoons dried yeast.
  • Pinch of salt.
  • 250 ml warm water.
  • Teaspoon of oil.

What to do:

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Mix the flour, year and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the water, stirring everything together to make a dough.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Jack suggests rubbing a teaspoon of oil onto the palms of your hands first, and it does work well, stopping the fresh dough sticking to you.

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Let the dough rise under a tea-towel for 1 hour, then into the over at 180°C for 40 minutes.

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The result is an uncomplicated plain white loaf, which, including electricity and washing-up, cost about 40p a loaf using a mini-oven, or 4 pence per thick slice. (Baking it in a large, high wattage oven would, of course, raise the cost by 10p or more.)

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Subatomic Particle Cheesecake (£1.60)

Gell-MannI assume everybody has one or another favourite subatomic particle, whether it be the humble electron, muon, tau-particle, photon or ever-popular Higgs-Boson. Mine is, of course, the quark, simply because it was first theorised the year I was born and confirmed by scientific observations shortly after. Higgs-Boson particles were, of course, also theorised the same year, but they took half-a-century and billions of pounds, dollars and euros in expense to prove their existence.

quarksThe man who first theorised quarks, Professor Murray Gell-Mann, is now 88 and still an active individual persuing such interests as archaeology, linguistics, birdwatching, art and communicating his love of physics. He originally named his particles ‘quarks’ after a word he’d seen in a nonsense rhyme by James Joyce.

 

JoyceJames Joyce was referring to the name used for a kind of light, soft, saltless cheese, made from curdled and strained milk with no other added ingredients. It was seen as a simple, everyday product or even by-product of other processes – it was probably in this sense that Joyce was using the word as slang for ‘rubbish’ or ‘leftovers’.

Quark has been produced in Europe since at least medieval times. It was probably what Little Miss Muffet was eating, sitting on her tuffet, her curds-and-whey being milk curdled by the natural acids to the consistency of soft cheese.

 

This ultra-simple cheesecake recipe is sloppier than convential cheesecakes, so replace with Philadelphia or supermarket soft cheese if you wish, but I wanted to retain the natural lightness of fresh quark.

Ingredients:

quarkcake1

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 350g plain quark
  • 100g sugar (I used icing sugar here, but with hindsight I think castor or even ordinary sugar is better as it is not so overpowerfully sweet. All down to personal taste though.)
  • 50g butter or marg.
  • Some extra flavouring of some sort – whatever is about. Vanilla essence in the quark mix, chocolate or cocoa in the biscuit mix (mixed with extra sugar if using cocoa), lemon juice. I use a few drops of lemon essence in both the base and quark mix. A sprinkle of raspberries on top would also be very nice.

Method:

Crush the biscuits thoroughly and mix with the butter/marg. There are various clever ways of doing this, such as in a bag or rolled up inside a tea towel, but I simply whacked away at them in a bowl with the end of a rolling-pin. Useful therapy after a stressful day at work if you need one.

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Press this mixture into the bottom of a cake tin – the kind with a removable bottom if you have one.

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Mix the quark with the sugar thoroughly and spoon it over the top of the biscuit base.

Add any toppings such as raspberries or chocolate chips at this point, then put it in the fridge for at least half-an-hour – it’s best cold.

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A bit of a challenge to get out of the container on to a plate, but it can be done, or just serve straight from the container. £1.60 to make and theoretically serves six at 27p a portion, but I managed to personally eat half of the one I made within a very short time.

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Greek Tomato and Feta Bread (65p)

Another Greek recipe from Giota Nikolau at faghta-giagias.blogspot.com, this one a more-or-less direct copy. It is a simple bread recipe with olive oil added, plus sun-dried tomato and feta cheese. Using the tomato and feta did ramp the price up a bit, but cheaper alternatives could be found. The dough had to rise three times, so adding cooking time to this, it is not a quick one to prepare, but the results are very satisfying.

Ingredients:

001

  • 250g plain wholemeal flour.
  • 250g plain white flour.
  • 1 heaped teaspoon dried yeast.
  • 1 flat desert spoon sugar.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (normal or extra-virgin).
  • Pinch of salt.
  • 100ml luke warm milk.
  • 200ml (teacup) warm water.
  • Handful of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fine.
  • 80g feta cheese crumbled into small pieces.

How to make it:

Into a one bowl I put the yeast, half the luke warm water, the sugar and about 3 tablespoons of flour, mixing it to the consistency of porridge. Covered with a dry cloth and left aside of 15 minutes. The purpose of this is to wake the yeast up (‘activating’ the yeast).

001A

I put the rest of the flour and salt into another bowl and mixed it all together, then added the olive oil and yeast ‘porridge’ – I found using a simple metal desert spoon best to mix things together. Kept adding splashes of the warm water until it was a firm dough. (If it gets too sticky, sprinkle in more flour.) Kneaded this for 10 minutes, then left it in an olive-oil-greased bowl (stops it sticking to the sides) in a warm spot for 60 minutes to rise.

bowl

Divided into 4 pieces and rolled these into mini-baguette shapes each with a groove into which I dropped the tomato and feta filling, pressing it into the dough. Pinch the tops together and kneaded each roll for a couple of minutes.

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After this, set them aside for a further 60 minutes to re-rise, then baked in the oven at 200°C for 30 minutes.

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Cost:

Something like 50p a roll. Toasted, buttered, and with a sliced tomato or cheese on top (and not forgetting electricity and washing-up costs), a meal for around 65p.

As a Greek-style bread recipe (i.e. with the olive oil, but no tomato/feta filling), would be 15p a roll.

Traditional Greek Pizza (41p)

Kimolos mapPizza Ladeniaίτσα λαδένια, pronounced something like “PEET-sa la-THEN-ee-a”) has been produced on the island of Kimolos in the western Aegean Sea since medieval times. It is claimed to be the origin of the modern pizza, later developed, of course, by the Italians and which is now consumed the world over.

Whether Italian cooks really got the idea from Greece or were just developing traditions found throughout the Mediterranean is open to debate, but the Greeks are very proud of their own, more ancient version.

The main difference between traditional Greek and modern Italian-style pizzas is that the former is rich in olive-oil and baked slowly in a high-sided tray or pan, while the latter is a less oily creation rapidly roasted on a dry hot plate or oven shelf and which first appeared in Naples about the year 1800. The origin of the name, ‘pizza‘ is lost in time, but probably originally simply meant ‘bread’ or ‘bite of food’, while ‘ladenia‘ is derived from the Greek words for oil (‘lathi‘) and olive (‘elia‘).

Acknowledgments to Giota Nikolau at faghta-giagias.blogspot.com for this. In the photo below there are three tomatoes and two onions, but when I came to chop them up I found I needed one less of each.

2018-03-19A Pizza ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 vine tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons dried yeast
  • Cup of warm water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A dozen chopped olives
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper

Method

In a bowl add half the warm water, yeast, sugar, two tablespoons of flour and mix it all together. Cover and leave to rise for 15 minutes. Doesn’t need to be anywhere especially warm – mine rose very happily in a coldish kitchen. Stir in thoroughly the remaining flour and water to make a firm dough and knead this for 10 minutes.

2018-03-19C Kneading

If it came out right it shouldn’t be sticking to your hands of fingers while you’re doing this. If it is too sticky, add pinches of flour until it is right. After kneading, put it back in the bowl, cover and leave for a further ½ hour to rise again.

2018-03-19D Bases

Flatten and stretch out the dough moderately thinly into one large or two small pizza base shapes. Press the sliced tomato, onion and olives on top and drizzle olive oil over them – traditionally this was quite an oily creation! Sprinkle on some dried oregano with some salt and ground pepper. I’m normally anti-salt, but this definitely benefits from it.

2018-03-19E Drizzled

Bake in a lipped dish or tray, lined with a generous smear of olive oil, for 20-30 minutes at 180C (all depends on how efficient your oven is, might need a little longer). Important to used a lipped dish or tray because otherwise the olive oil will run off and burn on the bottom of the oven. The pizza is cooked when it is browning all over and not flexible when lifted.

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Cost: This made two pizzas, each quite filling, and could happily have been shared between four people. The price per meal was therefore (assuming 4 people each with a mug of tea, and including electricity and washing up costs) … 41p.

I found I’d made mine a bit too thick – would have been better flattened to under 1cm height when making the pizza bases. Also might add a sprinkle of bacon bits or shreds of ham next time, but important to remember that originally this was everyday, filling food, not a fancy treat like modern pizza.

Mango, Partridge and Pasta

 

2017-06-10 bannerAnother game dish that gets in this ‘cooking-on-a-budget blog’ on a technicality – a kind person generously donated the partridge for me to experiment with. The following recipe could also be called ‘101 things to do with a dead peasant, no.6’, as the flavour and texture of the meat of the respective species is similar.

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The bird after cooking – as with chicken and duck, was simply dropped straight in the slow cooker and cooked in its own juices. Nothing else added.

Greedients:

  • 1 partridge.
  • 2 beef tomatoes.
  • 3 fresh medium-heat chile peppers (or a generous pinch of crushed chile).
  • Juice of ½ a lemon.
  • Flesh of ½ a mango.
  • 1 desert spoon of orange marmalade.
  • Schwartz ‘Season-All’ or any all-purpose seasoning (I like the Schwartz version because it is less salty than most).
  • Oil for cooking.
  • Pasta shells or twists ideally (or whatever there is – I used spaghetti on this occasion).

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Cooked the bird in my ‘slow cooker’ on high for two-and-a-half hours. Picked off the meat, examining it carefully for any dodgy-looking bits. There was enough for two or three servings. I did find it a bit of a pongy bird while cooking – needed the windows well-open

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Surprising quantity of meat considering the small size of the bird.

Fine-diced the tomatoes and mango (discarding the tomato seeds because I don’t like the texture of them). Finely chopped the chile peppers after removing the seeds.

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Broke the partridge meat up well and lightly fried it in extra virgin olive oil and with a generous sprinkle of the seasoning  I know food buffs say olive oil shouldn’t be used for frying, but I like the flavour. Fried it well on a high heat so that some of the pieces of meat were going crispy at the ends.

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Threw in the rest of the ingredients, the lemon juice and – the secret ingredient – a desert spoon of orange marmalade. Heated for a couple of minutes more to soften the tomato and mango a bit.

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Served with quality pasta – any kind, although shells or twists would probably be better. I used wholemeal organic spaghetti on this occasion. Can be served hot or cold, and is easily reheated in the microwave. I prefer it as a chilled pasta salad straight from the fridge.

 

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I like it cold best, with a glass of fresh orange juice.

My own creation, this one, aiming for juiciness and tanginess with the ingredients to counteract the dryness and ‘seedy’ flavour of the meat. Could be done with chicken of course, or various off-cuts of meat, and makes a small amount go a longer way.