chicken thyme casserole

This is a basic, really easy to make and filling chicken casserole. It easily serves four with leftovers making a pie filling for four for another meal – it’s frugal!

what you need:

  • 4 chicken breasts – skinless (or use 6-8 thigh fillets – skinless)
  • 2 large onions
  • 6 big carrots
  • 2 leeks
  • glass of wine (if wish – otherwise make up difference with stock)
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • handful of thyme leaves or couple of teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • for the dumplings – 4 tbs plain flour, 4 tbs self-raising flour, 1/4 pk butter, tsp dried oregano.

what you do:

  • preheat the oven to 180C
  • warm a splash of olive oil in a large oven proof pan – chop the chicken in to chunks and throw it in the pan to start cooking.
  • peel and chop the onions and garlic and add them to the pan.
  • slice the leeks and carrots add to the pan
  • pour in the wine if using
  • add the chicken stock and a hand full of thyme leaves – season with salt & pepper
  • transfer pan to the oven and cook for around 2 hours
  • when there is 45 minutes remaining add the dumplings


  • put the flours and butter into a mixing bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  • add the oregano and season with salt and pepper
  • tip in cold water and drop at a time and mix into a firm dough
  • take ping-pong sized chunks of dough and roll between floured hands into a ball shape.
  • add the dumplings to the stew when there is 45 minutes cooking time remaining – when adding them check liquid level and if necessary top up with boiling water.

to serve:

this casserole is lovely with parsnip & parmesan mash or simple mashed potatoes, chips or perhaps a roast potato or five….

leftover stew can be used as a pie filling making another meal – simply reheat filling – add pie crust & bake in the oven for 20 minutes.


minestrone soup

It’s soup weather now… soup, bread, cheese, it’s just what’s required lunch wise.

what you need:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 big red onion
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 3 big carrots
  • 2 courgettes
  • a bag of spinach (approx 150 – 200g)
  • tin of borlotti beans
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • a big splash of red wine
  • 1 pint chicken or veg stock
  • handful of tiny soup pasta (or snapped up spaghetti)

what you do:

  • peel and finely chop the garlic, onion and carrots, finely slice the celery.
  • add a big splash of olive oil to a large pan and gently fry the garlic, onion, carrot and celery for around 15 minutes
  • dice the courgettes and chop the spinach
  • add a splash of wine to the pan (you can leave this out or add a glass it’s up to you)
  • add the tinned tomatoes
  • add the courgettes, spinach and beans
  • add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes
  • add the pasta and cook for another 8-10 minutes
  • sprinkle on any chopped herbs and season to taste

to serve:

My preference is with parmesan cheese, chopped parsley and lots of black pepper, bread essential. This is also sent in thermos pots for packed lunches.

You may also like – spicy lentil soup or twister bread

Autumn seaside – National Trust – Formby

This post doesn’t need all that many words. Formby is stunning, the autumn weather gorgeous and the children happy*

*well when I say happy, obviously that incorporates a wide range of sulking, arguing, fighting, tantruming and general Veruca Salt style behaviour in amongst the happy. But the happy was very happy – paddling, shell collecting and for a certain small boy the sitting in the sea fully clothed experience….

Formby is a brilliant place to visit and an absolute must if you are around the Southport area. It’s so easy to spend a day here – picnics, walks, beach, red squirrels, forests and obviously ice-cream.

spicy tomato and lentil soup

Simple, easy to make, filling.

what you need (serves 4):

  • small onion
  • 2 carrots
  • a large ripe plum tomato or two
  • a couple of handfuls of puy lentils
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp of dried sage
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a splash of red wine
  • salt & pepper
  • a small crumbled chilli

what you do:

  • peel and chop the onion and carrots
  • chunkily chop the plum tomatoes
  • add a splash of olive oil to a saucepan – slowly fry the onions, carrots and plum tomato with the garlic and sage for 10 – 15 minutes
  • add the red wine, tin of chopped tomatoes, crumbled chilli and puy lentils
  • top up the pan with enough boiling water to cover everything well (approx 1-1 1/2 pints)
  • season with salt & pepper and leave to simmer for an hour – do keep an eye on it you made need to top up the water depending on the quantity of lentils you use.

to serve:

  • my preference is sprinkled with a mound of double gloucester cheese with plenty of homemade bread to dip in. I also send this in flasks for the children’s packed lunch.

BBQ pot roast beef

This recipe is really quite frugal and stretches well to a few meals, roast the beef then turn it into a few dishes over a couple of days. In the old days it was just what people did but now it seems to be a whole new fashionable ‘idea’ using up the leftovers instead of throwing them out. I used topside of beef in this recipe because I managed to get a good deal it would be just as lovely made with brisket.

Once cooked you’ll be left with a lovely tender piece of roast beef and a gorgeous spicy BBQ sauce.

what you need:

  • 1.5-2kg piece of beef for pot roasting
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 large plum tomatoes chopped
  • 2 peppers chunkily chopped
  • 1 large red onion chunkily chopped
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • 2 red chillies – pierce holes into them a few times – don’t chop
  • 4 tbs worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 4 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tsp english mustard
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • a large squelch of ketchup
  • pint of boiling water
  • splash of olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

what you do:

  • preheat the oven to 170C (fan oven)
  • prepare your veggies – peel/chunkily chop
  • finely chop the garlic
  • add a splash of olive oil to a large oven proof pan and gently fry the onions, garlic, peppers and plum tomatoes
  • when softened add the tinned tomatoes, pierced chillies, worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, english mustard, paprika, ketchup and pour in the boiling water.
  • add your beef to the pan – sprinkle with salt and pepper
  • transfer to the oven and cook for around 3 hours until the beef is falling apart.

to serve:

think frugally when serving this, really make it stretch.

  • firstly we had this as strips of meat in the bbq sauce with rice and greens
  • we also had strips of meat in baguette with the sauce smeared over
  • it made an appearance thinly sliced and smattered with mustard for packed lunches
  • and finally the remainder was chopped up finely and fried in some chilli oil until crispy & sprinkled over spicy sticky ginger vegetable rice.

a huge sausage sandwich

I like sausages, I like sandwiches and I like big comforting dinners and feeling autumnal and this gorgeous feast meets all those needs.

what you need:

  • sausages (as many as you like)
  • a sourdough loaf – (homemade or shop bought)
  • a couple of punnets of tomatoes, I like using different types & colours
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 finely chopped chillies seeds included
  • a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of blackstrap molasses, salt & pepper to taste.



what to do:

  • pop sausages in a large roasting tin – throw in the tomatoes, chopped or whole depending on size, whole cloves of unpeeled garlic, roughly chopped onions and finely chopped chilles, drizzle the whole lot with olive oil, two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper – mix well with your hands.
  • roast in the oven on 200C for around 30-40 minutes until sausages are cooked through and the tomatoes and onions have turned into a lovely soft squishy sauce.
  • whilst the sausages are cooking – hollow out your sourdough bread (save the bread you scoop out)
  • once cooked tip sausages and all the squishy juices into the sourdough bread & serve.

to serve:

This is perfect on it’s own but for personal preference I like it with apple cider and a warm coleslaw with crispy sourdough croutons

Warm coleslaw

what you need:

  • a medium sized red cabbage – cut into shreds
  • a large onion – sliced
  • 4 large carrots – cut into thin batons
  • 2 apples – sliced into batons or thin wedges
  • tsp of dark muscovado sugar, drizzle of olive oil

What to do:

  • using the saved sourdough bread – rip into small chunks and quickly fry with a drizzle of olive oil until crisp (you can do this in the oven – large tray, 200C drizzle with oil – bake for 10-15 minutes)
  • put the sourdough croutons to one side
  • add a drizzle of olive oil to a large frying pan or wok – add the cabbage, onion, carrot and apples – stir fry over a hot heat for 5-10 minutes – sprinkle on the sugar – cook for another minute.
  • tip into a large bowl – add the croutons – mix well – eat.