Potato-onion-cakes fried in an onion ring (AKA the real delicious potatoes)

I hang out on the Post Punk Kitchen discussion forum and from time to time spammers chance their luck, as happens with all forums. The mods are great at deleting things pretty quickly, but I sometimes click through because they are occasionally hilarious.

This morning a spammer posted two “recipes” with some extremely weird ingredients, instructions that made no sense BUT one post (entitled “potato latkes”) was accompanied by a picture that made me want gussied-up fried potatoes – it was what looked like mashed potatoes and very finely diced spring-onions or green peppers bound by a ring of onion. The other post was entitled “delicious potatoes” and was clearly a picture of latkes, so I choose to think the picture illustrating latkes was actually the one that was supposed to go with the “delicious potatoes” recipe. I didn’t have spring onions or peppers, but here’s my interpretation anyway…

Delicious potatoes before baking

Delicious potatoes before baking

Delicious potatoes - baked vs. fried

Delicious potatoes – baked vs. fried

Delicious potatoes as part of a delicious brunch

Delicious potatoes as part of a delicious brunch

How I made the delicious potatoes:

250g potatoes, boiled, drained and mashed

A single 220g onion, sliced widthwise into 4

olive oil for frying and basting

1 tsp soya sauce

1tsp balsamic vinegar

1tsp Herbamare seasoning salt

1TBS nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp smoked paprika.

Method: Take the two middle (fat) slices of onion and separate the outer rings. I used 6 rings, but you might want to use 7 or 8 instead and underfill them a little bit, because the filling stays the same size and the onion rings shrink when they’re heated, as you can see from the second picture above.

Chop up the rest of the onion and fry it on a low-medium heat in a splash of olive oil with the soya sauce and balsamic vinegar until browned and caramelised, about 12-15 minutes.

Add the onion into the mashed potato, stir in the rest of the ingredients, pack the resulting mix firmly into the onion rings and either brush with oil and bake in a medium-hot oven around 200 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or fry for 5-6 minutes on each side in a pan. I tried both, and they both taste good, I think presentation-wise the fried ones look a bit more appetising but there’s not much in it.

I wasn’t just going to eat 6 delicious potato cakes on their own (although I probably could!) so I cooked up some fancy baked beans (by fancy I just mean I spooned some from a tin and added a few peas, tomatoes, slices of garlic and chopped fresh coriander), Fry’s frankfurter-style sausages and a few fried mushrooms. Very pleasant brunch indeed!

5-spice lentils topped with balsamic vegetables

If I were asked to give my top five tips on frugal living, they would definitely include one on onions. If you can get hold of a catering size bag of onions, they seem to be about half the price of smaller packs, they keep well and they form the base of savoury meals from all over the world. Having large sacks of red and brown onions available to me means I’ve never been at a loss for how to start a meal throughout these challenges. Chop up an onion or two and take it from there!

Earlier today I fried up about 2/3 cup of chopped red onion in a large saucepan, threw in some salt, five-spice powder and about a cup of red lentils, covered with water and boiled them for a few minutes, then put the lid on and left them for a couple of hours while I thought about what to have with them or add to the pot. I remembered still having half a red cabbage and a couple of carrots left, so I fried up another red onion in a different pan, added strips sliced from half a carrot and about a quarter of the cabbage, a glug of balsamic vinegar and some soya sauce and a few frozen peas for the heck of it. It’s not meant to be any particular style of food, but I really thought the whole lot came together very well, and I feel like it probably contained a few vitamins. It’s a pity I didn’t do this while it was still daylight as the colours came out very pretty, my phone cam under artificial light doesn’t really do them justice.

bowl full of lentils topped with vegetables

The last day! November ninety – day thirty

I’m celebrating the last day of my spending challenge with split-pea soup and a spend of zero so far today. I’ll be going out later, but only to someone’s house.

I hadn’t cooked any split peas recently as it took rather a long time to get through the previous batch. What I really fancied was lentil soup, but have no lentils, so split-pea was the next best thing. I hadn’t soaked any, but I thought of a way around this – I’ve seen a few recipes for quick soups using bean flour. While I do have a dry container for the Vitamix it seemed a bit of a faff to get that dirty to make some flour, and I’d probably have to make more flour than I could use in one go in order to get it to blend properly, so instead I put about half a cup of dried peas into the normal blender  container with two or so cups of water and whizzed them up with a chilli pepper, garlic and some spices.

You may recall that back in September I bought ten kilos of onions? Well, they’re finally at an end! The last one got fried up in a tiny bit of oil, then I added the blended pea mix and some bouillon powder. Once the soup heated up it got incrediby thick! I ended up adding more water. I also added some potato and rainbow chard mix found in back of the freezer leftover from the summer when I was getting a veg box delivery. The potatoes didn’t like being frozen much, they went a bit lumpy, but overall the mix added a bit more interest to the soup.

To serve, I topped it with some pickled summer squash and onions my mum made in 2011. She found them at the back of her cupboards earlier this year and was a bit dubious about them but they’re in a good strong vinegar solution and still perfect for livening up meals! I also made a very simple flatbread with self-raising flour, water and bouillon powder cooked in a pan greased with just a trace of olive oil.


To wash it down I had a smoothie made from dried apricots, frozen redcurrants, apples and gooseberries and a tablespoon of flaxseeds, diluted with water.

I’m fairly pleased with that meal. It covers most of my nutritional needs and it tasted pretty good and left me feeling full but not like I’d ruined the diet. I’m still looking forward to something deep fried tomorrow though!


cooking chickpeas cheaply (£100 challenge, day 27)

Wow, it is windy out! I meant to go shopping today for some form of cabbagey thing as I’m total out of green veg,  but I’m really not liking the way the trees are thrashing around!

While I’ve been watching the weather I’ve been cooking up a batch of chickpeas that had been soaking overnight. However, having been recently reminded that it is possible to cook pasta by bringing it to the boil and then turning off the heat and just leaving for about the same cooking time you’d normally give, I wondered if the same thing was possible with chickpeas. So, I brought them to the boil and let them bubble at that temperature for a couple of minutes, then turned off the heat, put the lid on and went to do something else for 40 minutes. The result is firm, but definitely cooked chickpeas. I’ve had undercooked chickpeas before, but these are cooked through, just pleasantly al dente. Result!

(This is a very good batch of chickpeas though. I think results might vary according to how big or old they are. Also, you shouldn’t do this with kidney beans, they need boiling for ten minutes at least for safety.)

I fried up an onion with some cumin seeds, added some of the chickpeas and most of a tin of tomatoes and some bouillon powder. While that was heating through, I blended the last of the roasted medium-sized pumpkin (since I think I did that last Sunday, so it definitely needed using up!) with a red chilli pepper, seeds included, and a bit of water and poured the resultant puree into the pan to make a vibrant orange-coloured sauce. Pretty nice, though a squeeze of lemon might have been a good addition. This was garnished with a few surviving leaves of the reduced-price coriander plants I bought about 9 days ago.


£100 challenge – day five

Being a Saturday that I didn’t have to work, it was a temptation to just slouch around the house, however as it’s been intermittently cloudy and sunny it seemed a pity to waste any smidges of sunshine to be had outside, so my boyfriend picked me up in his car and we went on an adventure in glamorous Oadby!

When I say “adventure” what I actually mean is that we looked around a couple of charity shops and supermarkets. He’s on the £100 challenge too, apart from a weekend towards the end of the month that he’d already committed to weeks ago, so I was impressed with his reckless spending of £7.50 for a jacket from the Loros shop. And he bought some beer!

I wasn’t immune to the lure of consumerism either. I got a jar of pimento-stuffed olives from the Co-op. The shelf price was £1, but B has a NUS+ card which apparently gives 10% off purchases so that was 90p instead. I like to add olives to my hummus to make it a bit more interesting, but only a few at a time so they should last a little while.

We went to Asda for the beer (I really loathe the layout and vibe in every Asda I’ve been to, but occasionally pop in to buy their Shades brand recycled bog roll , and marvel at the horridness of the store once again). I was going to see if they had any nice-looking soya sauce (they didn’t) but my eye was first caught by their 60p cauliflowers, which is cheap for a supermarket cauli I think, and then I saw one that looked perfectly fresh reduced to 40p, so I nabbed that.

Total spend for the month now £4.65 on food. I also paid B for a ticket he bought me for a gig we’re going to later this month, which was £12.10 including booking fee, so that brings total spend up to £16.75. Not great, but it could be worse.

When I got home it was gone lunchtime so I made a quick lentil soup with garam-masala croutons from the last of the bread rolls I made on Monday, which had gone pretty stale by this point. See my feeble attempt at food styling? The croutons are supposed to represent a flower, in case it’s not obvious…

bowl of orange-coloured lentil soup, with rough oblongs of pan-fried bread oon the surface of the soup. there is a spoon handle coming out of the soup pointing toward the bottom of the photo, and the croutons and handle together are supposed to look like a flower and its stalk.

Pie-day Friday – cauliflower and onion pie

It’s payday! I meant to make a bad title worse by buying expensive ingredients and then calling this ‘payday pie day Friday’, but you are all spared as I saw a cauliflower for only 60p while I was mooching through the market.

If you read yesterday’s entry you will know that I bought rather a lot of onions on Wednesday.

shopping trolley two thirds full of onions

I’m planning on making something like relish with some of them, but I’ve also been looking at onion pie recipes. I was taken with a suggestion from easy as vegan pie to caramelise onions and blend some into a sauce, although the layering described in the recipe sounded a bit faffy.

I sliced and started cooking 5 onions with a pinch of smoked salt, but forgot to add sugar – 20 minutes later they were still pale, but they had a great flavour.

I made a standard short crust pastry case.

uncooked pastry in pie dish with frill of excess pastry

uncooked pastry in pie dish, trimmed

baked empty pastry case

Kinda wish I’d left it with a ripple!

I cut the cauliflower into what I hoped were bite-sized pieces, and fried them in a drizzle of oil with some of the onions. I made a sauce by blending 200g tofu, 2 cloves garlic, most of the remaining fried onions, a couple of teaspoons each of English mustard and bouillon powder and (a mistake!) 2/3 of a dried chipotle, which made it too spicy. I was gilding the lily by adding that as well as mustard. I also added soyamilk and about 3 tablespoons cornflour, as I didn’t want it as firm as last week’s custard, but in fact it could have stood a bit more.

The pie went in a hot oven for about fifteen minute, with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and a few squirts of one-cal sunflower oil spray.

whole baked pie

It tasted pretty good, although definitely too chipotle-y, and went pretty well with some of the rhubarb and apple chutney made earlier this year. I have a feeling the flavours will mellow and become tastier once it cools.