Sunday lunch

Seems like a long time since I posted anything, so here’s my lunch! Broccoli in creamy garlicky almond sauce, paprika potato wedges and fried mushrooms and onions.


I made the sauce by blending soya milk, a big carrot, a couple of handfuls of almonds, 2 cloves of garlic, some soya sauce and some English mustard. Poured it over the previously cooked and drained broccoli and heated until the whole lot was bubbling. After I took this picture I covered it liberally in nutritional yeast and salt!

Going to mix the leftover broccoli and mushrooms later with some silken tofu, nooch and some wicked smoked chipotle powder I bought from a new deli in town and make a quiche, I think.

Planning on doing another money challenge soon, might have to come up with some kind of forfeit if I fail, since I didn’t manage to get through more than a few days last time I tried.

November ninety – day thirteen

It’s rather a nice day in Leicester. Cold, yes, but crisp and sunny. This was part of my view from work this morning.

cityscape view of west leicester

I haven’t spent anything yet today, but I could splash out £6.50 or so and stay on target, and may take a trip to the shops soon as I am nearly out of almonds, meaning my morning routine is in jeopardy. I’ve mentioned before that I am not usually hungry first thing in the morning so I soak a handful of almonds in my drink when I get in to work and by the time they start to plump up I’m ready to snack. Today’s drink was Equal Exchange brand rooibos and honeybush.

brown liquid in mug with almonds

But now I only have about ten almonds left.

almost empty almond packet

The price of the Natco almonds I’d been getting has shot up over the last year. Used to be you could get 400g from Morrisons for under £2.50, then they seemed to stop selling them but Sainsbury’s had them for around £2.56, still a good price. Last time I saw them there (while I wasn’t boycotting them!), they’d gone up to £3 a packet. Aldi do ground and flaked almonds which work out to less (60 and 62p per 100g), but don’t seem to do whole nuts. The best bulk deal I can find currently involves having to buy 800g for £5.39 (6.74 per kilo) from Co-op, so I may get those tomorrow, or I may pay one last hopeful trip to Morrisons tonight to see if the Natco ones are back in stock. Incidentally, Poundland have started doing a range of healthy/wholefoods type things, and were recently seen selling 150g brazil nuts for a pound, which seemed a bargain if you like brazil nuts! Unfortunately I’m not that keen.


Lunch today was virtually identical to what I ate yesterday, but craftily varied in terms of form. Yestrday I had split pea thick soup with added butternut suash, a bit watered down and with toast on the side. Today I have made open-faced sandwiches of slices of toast generously covered in cold split-pea mix (having a break from the squash), with chopped peanuts on top for added texture, and fresh mint from the garden, which is a slightly odd flavour addition as coriander would go a lot better, but you work with what you’ve got!


I also have a smoothie to which I’ve added all sorts of weird and wonderful things. It has a small apple, some oats, dried apricots, a dried fig, flax seeds, a pinch of Irish Moss (for iodine), blackstrap molasses and a handful of frozen gooseberries. It isn’t terrible, but it does taste quite worthy. I knew I should have put some chocolate in instead of gooseberries!

Pie! (£100 challenge – day 25)

The pie was pretty tasty! I used the same almond crust as the cherry-almond pie I made for MoFo, but just used whole almonds – if they’re going to get blended anyway there’s no real advantage to using slivered almonds unless those happen to be cheaper. The filling was also from the Post Punk Kitchen/Vegan Pie in the  Sky book, from the pumpkin cheesecake recipe, only I was out of a few ingredients. I had no bananas so left them out. I used about 1 2/3 cups of roasted pumpkin instead of canned, had no coconut oil so I just left that out and put an extra spoon of cornstarch in. I also had no lemons so I put a quarter teaspoon of citric acid and two tablespoons of water in. Oh, and I didn’t have any pecans, so I just left the nut topping off – the filling seemed pretty sweet already, plus it meant we got to see the marbling a bit better ( night-time photo doesn’t quite pick it up).

There was spare piecrust mix, so I popped that in a small oblong dish and topped it with my chestnut truffle recipe, only of course I used the last of my rum the previous time, but fortunately there was just over a tablespoon of brandy left.

Both desserts were really nice, although they didn’t have the several hours of fridge cooling they deserved, so weren’t as firm as they could have been.

For the main course, Rich made delicious panfuls of food. We had cabbage sabzi (not sure of the spelling!), braised kale and chestnuts, roasted butternut squash with whole roasted cloves of garlic, runner beans in tomato sauce, and onion gravy flavoured with juniper. A great meal with lovely people! 🙂

By today, I could be up to a spend of £80.64, but haven’t had to buy anything since Monday so I’m still on a total month’s spend of £67.79. Dare I go into town to buy tissues? Will I be able to just spend that pound or will I suddenly spot loads of things that seem like too good a bargain to pass up?…

Souper Saturday – sweet and spicy carrot soup

vibrant orange-coloured carrot soup, with a sprinkling of toasted sliced almonds

I’m not going out until later so there are no pictures of my sociable Saturday yet. Instead, here’s a soup I felt like making.

Sweet and Spicy Carrot Soup

(Probably serves about 4 as a starter)


150g chopped onions

2 tsps cooking oil

150g carrots, fairly finely sliced

35g dried apricots

500ml-ish water, divided

125ml hard cider – I used Weston’s Wyld Wood, which I got 3 litres of on special offer

100g cooked chickpeas

10-15g root ginger (depending on how gingery you like things!)

1 hot red chilli, de-seeded (optional – think this would still be nice without)

2 teaspoons bouillon powder

To garnish: Toasted flaked almonds


Chop onions and start frying them in the oil in a medium-large saucepan which you have a lid for.

Once they’re sizzling reduce the heat and leave while you slice the carrots up into thin rounds. Add those to the pan, turn the heat up and mix them up for a minute or two. Add half the water, and the bouillon powder, and bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover with lid and simmer for a few minutes until the carrots start to soften, then turn off heat.

Put ginger, chilli, chickpeas, apricots, and cider into a blender, then strain the cooking liquid from the pan of carrots and onions into the blender container. If you like a completely smooth soup add all of the carrots and onions as well, but you might need some extra liquid. I wanted some texture so I only scooped half of the carrot-onion mix into the blender container. Blend until smooth then pour back into the saucepan. Add the other half of the water to the blender container and swoosh it around to get the rest of the blended stuff then add that to the saucepan too. Turn heat back on to gently reheat soup.

While waiting for the soup to re-heat, a quick and delicious crunchy garnish can be made by toasting some flaked almonds with seasoning of choice. I squirted my cast-iron frying pan with some Fry Light 1 cal sunflower spray, added a few drops of the liquid smoke I got from a rare visit to one of the few Whole Foods stores in the UK, and a dash of soya sauce for colour and flavour, then mixed them round on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until they started to brown and crunch up.

flaked almonds in frying pan, with spatula

I probably don’t need to continue with the instructions, really! Put your soup in a bowl, top with some of the almonds, and enjoy!

Bowl of orange-coloured carrot soup, with flaked almond topping, on tropical fabric covered surface.

almond and cherry custard pie

Welcome to pie-day Friday!


Not sure why, but I’ve been hankering after desserts featuring set custard for a while now.  Possibly my recent talk of jellies has made me think of other smooth yet jiggly puddings, or it could be that there seems to have been a lot of discussion of trifle round and about, perhaps kicked off by this very brave attempt to emulate Rachel from Friends’ tradition trifle/cottage pie recipe –

Whatever the reason, there was nothing to stop me from making a custard dish of some description, as I had both corn flour and custard powder, along with soya milk, sugar and a variety of flavourings. As usual, I had a good nosey at other people’s ideas and was inspired by Isa’s pastry recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen –

I made up a batch of that, and since the Pyrex casserole dish I was using as a pie dish only measured 8 inches across I had some pastry left over for making some mini pies too.  Having gone renegade already, I further messed with the recipe by using water instead of almond milk, as I didn’t have any. If it had occurred to me that I would shortly be opening a litre of soya milk I could have used some of that instead, but I’m still a bit ill, so not thinking that logically.

It seems like a long time since I made anything with a press-in crust, have to say I messed around with it a bit, trying to get it evenly spread and I don’t think I did that good a job, although the clear Pyrex was useful for holding it up to the window to see where light came through more.


That was baked for 15 minutes at 180/350, and while that was going on I set about improvising a custard.

Lately my custards haven’t been doing what I want them to. Fairly recently I tried to make a German-style lemon buttercream to go on a carrot cake and ended up with lemon curd instead, and my last attempt at a set custard came nowhere near the sort of jiggly bounce I was after, so I really went to town on the cornflour this time, and added in some firm tofu for good measure.

Although there was a certain charm about the idea of a simple vanilla and almond custard pie, I did think it might be boring to eat a whole one, so I rootled through the cupboards and found a weeny 42g jar of morello cherry jam, and a packet containing about 60g dried sour cherries. I spread the jam around the base of the cooked pie crust and sprinkled the cherries over before embarking on the custard.

Vanilla Almond Custard recipe:

1 pint of soya milk
7 tablespoons cornflour
about 1/3 cup sugar (yeah, I mixed cups with imperial measures. Whatcha gonna do about it??!)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond essence
200g firm tofu


put the cornflour, tofu and about 1/5 of the soya milk in a blender and whizz until the tofu is incorporated and you have a thick cream.

Put the rest of the soya milk in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat, and whisk in the tofu-cornflour cream and the vanilla and almond flavourings, and whisk until very thick. It won’t take long, so on no account stop stirring or it will catch and/or go lumpy.

Pour over the pie crust.

At this point there are two choices. You can leave it to set, possibly having sprinkled some toasted flaked almonds over the top for decoration and texture, or you can do what I did, which was stick it, and most of the tiny pies into the oven. I had it on a very low heat, but when I looked after 20 minutes the almonds hadn’t changed colour so I whacked it right up to near the top heat for ten minutes to get them looking a bit more crunchy.

For comparison, I filled one of the tiny pies with just the custard and allowed it to set without baking. It did taste pretty good, I would strongly consider going that route in future, as I’m not sure the baking added anything to this sort of pie. However, an unbaked custard would undoubtedly stop the almonds from being crunchy more quickly, so it might be something that would work best being made and served on the same day, whereas there’s no way I’m going to get through a whole custard pie this weekend… although, having just tasted it, I might do that quite easily after all. Lovely thick vanilla-almond custard, juicy and tart cherries and buttery pastry. I know I shouldn’d say this as I made it but it’s really good!