Monthly Archives: April 2013

Live Below the Line: Day 2


The second day. I had a digestive biscuit before I left for the train this morning. It helped me not feel totally starving before I got to the office.

I feel there’s something missing in my life, though. I’m used to having food to look forward to, little islands of pleasure dotted throughout the day. That isn’t here this week. The food is edible, but it doesn’t make me look forward to it with joy. Lunch is difficult. I have an upset stomach that’s lingered from the weekend. I’m sure a pile of beans and vegetables isn’t helping it calm down any. I bought some Colpermin on the way in to work. A pack was £5.99. If I was doing this for real, I’d have to choose between eating and taking medicine. I’m so glad I don’t have to make that choice.

On to the food. I thought I’d better give the recipe for the pasta sauce I made last night – just so you can avoid making it by accident.

The original idea for my dinners was to have the full kilo bag of mixed vegetables with two tins of tomatoes and two tins of kidney beans, all blended to make a pasta sauce. After the bean and vegetable curry from lunch, I found I couldn’t face beans again and I knew the full bag of vegetables was going to be way to much. I cut the amount of veg by a third and blended with the tomatoes, it makes a decent consistency for a pasta sauce. I wish I could say the same about the taste. It’s very watery. If I did it again, I’d buy another tin of tomatoes and let it reduce down before adding the vegetables. It also really needs garlic and black pepper. Even underflavoured it’s less scary that the lunchtime curry.

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2 tins plum tomatoes 62p
300g frozen mixed veg 25p
2 vegetable stock cubes 3p

Put the tomatoes, stock cubes and mixed vegetables in a saucepan.
Bring to the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Blend until smooth.
Taste and wish you had garlic, tomato puree and black pepper as a minimum.
Total cost 90p. Cost per serving 18p.

Serve over spaghetti. 4p

This isn’t just about food, though. In all of this I don’t want to lose sight of the cause I’m supporting. This is a video about what The Hunger Project do and how they approach things.

And this is my page if you want to donate.

Live Below the Line: Day 1


Yesterday I showed you the food I bought to eat this week. Today, I’m going to divulge the menu. It’s pretty simple:
Breakfast – 2 slices of bread, lemon curd
Lunch – 2 slices of bread, bean & vegetable curry, 2 digestive biscuits
Dinner – spaghetti with veg & tomato sauce, 2 digestive biscuits

That’s it. I eat that every day.

The only way I could think of getting enough to eat was to make two large pots of meals so I got some advantage of scale.

I made the curry yesterday. This is what it’s like at lunch this afternoon.

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It’s not as bad as I thought it would be after making it. There’s a definite air of the chippy about the curry sauce, though.

1kg bag of frozen vegetables – 75p
2 400g tins of kidney beans, drained – 42p
1 400g tin of new potatoes, drained – 15p
1 jar of curry sauce – 26p
3 vegetable stock cubes – 4.5p

Put the vegetables in a big saucepan.
Realise that 1 kg of vegetables is an awful lot of vegetables.
Add the beans and potatoes and watch the pile in the pan grow.
Pour over the curry sauce.
Mix the stock cubes in hot water to fill the curry sauce jar.
Add this to the vegetables and beans.
Heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Taste sauce and realise that it’s nastily weak.
Remove the vegetables from the pan and put in a (large) bowl.
Heat the remaining sauce until it has reduced by about half.
Pour the reduced sauce over the beans and vegetables.
Worry about the effect that amount of veg and beans is going to have on your digestive system.

Total cost £1.63 Cost per serving 32.5p
Serves 5 lunches, with brown bread and digestive biscuits as dessert

Joking aside, it’s been an interesting day. I really missed my morning coffee. I haven’t had a headache from caffeine withdrawal (yet), but a woman on the train had a coffee and I could smell it. It smelled wonderful, probably because I knew I couldn’t have one. Breakfast was OK. The 22p jar of lemon curd was actually quite nice. A colleague has come back off maternity leave and the team were going out to a local pizza place for lunch to welcome her back. I had to decline the invite. There was my curry to eat. It’s better than I thought it was going to be. Beans and veg in a chippy curry sauce. It was filling and tasty and that’s all I was hoping for.

But this isn’t about what I can buy and cook for £5. It’s about raising awareness about extreme poverty. To that end compare and contrast the weekly grocery shopping of families around the world. I am so grateful not to be spending $1.23 for the whole week.

Live Below the Line: Preparation


Tomorrow I start my Live Below the Line Challenge. Before I start on that I have to do the shopping (obviously), but it also seemed a good place to stop and take stock of what is a normal food week for me.

Taking last week as a model. I did my normal grocery shop and the total for food (not including toiletries etc) came to £31.30. I do try and take a packed lunch with me, but only managed one day last week, so averaging about £5 a day for lunch, that’s £20. I have a daily Starbucks’ habit that comes to £12 a week. I also eat out about every other week so that’s £15 a week.

Groceries    £31.30
Lunch         £25.00
Starbucks   £12.00
Eating out  £15.00
Total            £78.30

That’s a scary figure for one person, even when I make the excuse that food is a major hobby of mine.

Anyway, for 5 days this week, the bill can only reach £5 in total.

This is what £5 of food looks like:

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This is what I bought:
Wholemeal bread, 1 800g loaf @ £0.50/loaf      £0.50
Lemon curd, 1 jar @ £0.22/tin                              £0.22
Frozen veg, 2kg @ £0.75/kg                                 £1.50
Tinned tomatoes, 2 tins @ £0.31/tin                   £0.62
Tinned kidney beans, 4 tins @ £0.21/tin            £0.84
New potatoes, 1 tin @ £0.15/tin                         £0.15
Curry sauce, 1 jar @ £0.26/jar                              £0.26
Stock cubes, 1 pack @ £0.15/pack                      £0.15
Spaghetti, 1 pack @ £0.19/pack                          £0.19
Digestive biscuits, 1 pack @ £0.30/pack            £0.30
Total                                                                          £4.73

I hope that’s enough to keep me fed and satisfied over the five days. There may seem to be some odd choices in there, but I’ll explain more when I do the nutrition calculations later in the week. Bear in mind that I’ve taken the challenge as not spending more than £5 on food for the five days, unlike this idiot at the BBC who only ate £1 of food a day but spent £30+.

Coming tomorrow – the menu, and recipes.

Linda’s spicy potatoes


I could just about do without rice (wot, no risotto? Eek!), probably manage OK without pasta, but no potatoes would be the end of the world. You are looking at the woman who survived on mashed potato and assorted vegetables for six months when I went down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome about 15 years ago. And the search continues for the ultimate mashed potatoes …

So there was no contest when Anth’s and my domestic goddess friend Linda offered her spicy potatoes as an accompaniment to both an Indian feast (her hubby’s not a big fan of rice) and stuffed peppers.

And they went brilliantly with both. I adore Indian food and would probably eat it every day, given the chance, but I’ve always been a tad underwhelmed by the bland potatoes arriving buried in spinach that you get in restaurants. But the spices here make the difference. And as for the amounts, adapt according to your taste.


Garam masala
Freshly ground black pepper
Ground sea salt

Parboil the potatoes and dice them.

Fry a couple of cloves of chopped garlic in some olive oil, add the spices and stir on the heat until they’re all mixed and bubbling slightly.

Add the potatoes, stir well to coat them in the spices, then fry for a couple of minutes until they’re browned and cooked right through.


Live Below the Line – 5 Days, £1 a Day


As you know if you’re reading this blog, food is a major preoccupation of mine. I cook it, I eat it, I think about it, I read about it, I watch tv programmes about it, I take pictures of it, I write about it. Because it it such a large part of my life, I prioritise my spending on it. I am in the incredibly privileged position of not having to worry how much I spend on food. That’s not true for the majority of people in the UK and it certainly not true for the vast majority of people living on this planet.

1.4 billion of us live on just £1 a day.

That’s a level of poverty I can’t imagine.

Live Below the Line is a charity dedicated to raising awareness about this. They have a challenge to live for 5 days on £1 of food a day. The challenge runs from 29 April to 3 May 2013. And this year I’m taking it on.

The charity I’m supporting is The Hunger Project UK . They’re a charity dedicated to the sustainable end of world hunger. I’m aiming to raise £100 over the week. I’ll be donating what I would normally spend on food that week. That puts it a considerable way towards £100, but if you’d like to support me in this effort, my donation page is here:

Anything you can spare, however small, will be gratefully received.

I will be (inevitably) blogging about this her throughout the week of 29/4 so you can read how I’m finding it.

Thank you, in advance, for your generosity.

Recipe: Creamy Cauliflower Soup


Every so often you come across a recipe idea that sounds so bonkers you have to try it. Indeed, one of these days I hope to convert the food blogging universe to my baked beans and sweetcorn recipe (really it’s great!). This recipe for cauliflower soup is one of those. I mean the ingredients list consists of onions and cauliflower, no stock, no seasoning beyond salt and pepper. That’s a disaster. Or it’s a work of genius.

I had to try it.

The good news it’s a really easy recipe. The bad news is that it’s really frustrating because every instinct in me wanted to add something to it. Nutmeg, or parsley, or lemon juice. Something. ANYTHING! I had to go and sit on my hands in the living room so I didn’t weaken and fiddle with the recipe.

And I’m very glad I didn’t. This soup has great, delicate flavour. And a wonderfully creamy texture. You won’t believe there’s no cream in this.

I can’t wait to make this again. But I know I’m going to add something – a couple of rasps of nutmeg, a squeeze of lemon juice, some smoked salt – and it won’t improve it!

Cauliflower Soup photo DSCN0705_zpsd9665f44.jpg

1 onion, finely sliced
1 medium cauliflower, chopped into pieces

Soften the onions in a little oil until they are translucent but not coloured.
Add the cauliflower to the pan.
Cover with 650ml of water.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Take off the heat and blend to a smooth consistency.
Season with salt and (white) pepper.

Serves 2

Recipe: Vegan Tofu Kedgeree


When you think about it kedgeree is one of the stranger products of the British Empire. It’s one of the original ‘fusion foods’, although I do have to wonder about the thought processes that came up with smoked haddock as a suitable substitute for lentils and vegetables. I was going to try to make the original authentic khichri but then I found this Taifun Smoked Tofu and thought it would be a good substitute for smoked haddock.

The tofu works well here. It has a light smoked taste that lets the flavour of the basmati rice shine even with spice of the curry. This is also one of the few recipes where curry powder is the correct ingredient to use so you can relax and enjoy being authentically inauthentic! And don’t use too much of it either, you don’t want to excite the memsahib!

Vegan kedgeree photo DSCN0699_zpse59d739f.jpg

150g basmati rice
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp curry powder/paste
200g smoked tofu
50g frozen peas
fresh coriander, chopped

Wash the rice thoroughly to get rid of as much of the starch as possible.
Put it in a saucepan and pour on enough water to cover it to a depth of 2cm.
Boil until the water is no longer visible and there are deep pits in the surface of the rice.
Cover with a damp cloth and put the saucepan lid on.
Turn the heat down low and cook for 10 minutes.
Then turn the heat off and leave for 5 for minutes.
After that remove the lid and cloth and fluff the rice up with a fork.

While the rice is cooking, fry the onion in a little oil until it is golden brown.
Remove half the onion and reserve for later.
Add the curry powder to the onion in the pan and cook for about a minute.
Add the tofu and the peas and heat through until both are cooked. If the mixture gets dry add some water to moisten it.

When the tofu and peas are cooked add them to the cooked basmati rice and stir thoroughly to combine them.
Serve with the reserved onion and chopped coriander sprinkled on top.

Serves 2 as a hearty meal