Plum and Date Chutney

Hello food lovers! Here is a chutney which is a perfect partnership of sweet dates and tart plums.  It is unusual in that is preserved with balsamic vinegar.  Fear not about the cost!  The Pound Shop sell it for – no! – a pound and the chutney will taste just as good.



2 onions, finely chopped

4 apples, chopped

300g chopped dates

4 kg plums, washed, chopped and stoned

4 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp ground cloves

6 star anise

500ml balsamic vinegar

500g soft brown sugar



  1. Slowly saute the onion until translucent.  Add the spices and cook for about half a minute, stirring gently, just enough to allow them to be incorporated.
  2. Add the apples and dates, stir well, then put in the sugar, plums, and balsamic vinegar.  Stir gingerly, but well.
  3. Bring the chutney to the boil.  Simmer for two hours, stirring now and then, until the mixture is thickened but not runny.  About three quarters of an hour before the mixture is ready, put the oven on Gas Mark 2/150C/300F, then wash some jars in very hot soapy water.  Rinse and dry well, then put them on a baking sheet.  Add this to the preheated oven.  This will give them enough time to sterilise.
  4. When the mixture is done, take out the trays jars with oven gloves, then carefully spoon in the chutney (both need to be hot or the glass will crack) and put on the lids.  If it is easier, you can tighten them properly when the glass has cooled.
  5. Wait for at least a month before trying the chutney; the flavours need time to mature.
  6. Enjoy with salads, curries, ploughman’s or buddha bowls.  A jar of homemade chutney also makes a lovely gift!

If you’re lucky, you may find a plum tree and save a lot of money.  But if not, this will cost around £12.68, if you get the apples and sugar from Aldi and the rest from ASDA, excepting the balsamic vinegar from The Pound Shop. However, if you know anyone with a plum tree you’ll save £7.50!  I have factored in the cost of the spices, so if you have any at home you’ll be up on the deal.







Spaghetti Chow Mein

A Chinese friend of mine gave me spaghetti in a chow mein because she only had egg noodles in.  It worked very well, so I often copy her idea if I don’t have any vegan noodles.  Of course, you can use any vegetables you wish, but here’s a frugal one for those slim wallet days, using a 20p pack of spaghetti.



1 red pepper, chopped

1 bunch of spring onions, sliced

500g chestnut mushrooms

1 bag bean sprouts

340g spaghetti

1 tbs vegan Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp cornflour

2 tbs soy sauce

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp sugar

1 tbs olive oil


  1. Mix together vigorously the cornflour, soy sauce, garlic, sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the mushrooms and set aside for half an hour (or the night before if you wish). Boil the spaghetti for one minute less than the packet instructions advise.
  2. Lightly fry the spring onions for two minutes in the wok, followed by the red pepper for another two minutes, then finally add the mushrooms in their marinade and stir fry until they are tender but firm.
  3. Add the spaghetti and the bean sprouts, and heat until the bean sprouts are cooked but retain some crunch; this should only take about a minute. 

If you have sugar and oil in the house, you can do this for around £5.28, based on an ASDA shop using the cheapest versions available.


The Versatility of Ratatouille

Do you enjoy batch cooking? I love the freedom of having most of the meal prepared in advance, with a few tweaks required. Big pots of curry are brilliant for that, don’t you find?  They’re even better with keeping, so I often find I serve them with rice one day, jacket potatoes the next, or sometimes just chapatis.  Similarly with ratatouille. Ratatouille is the culinary equivalent of a well-mannered guest; you can take it anywhere.  It benefits from a long slow cook and tastes even better after a day’s keeping, so you will get the best bang for your buck if you make a huge pot and serve it in different ways because its ingredients are cheap and plentiful in the summer.   What follows will give you enough to put in a pie one day, and serve with couscous the next.




6 tbs olive oil

4 red onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

4 red peppers, deseeded (including the white part) and roughly chopped

500g aubergines, roughly cubed – the weight doesn’t have to be precise though; Sainsbury’s Basics bag is ideal, or otherwise just work on the premise of using three medium aubergines

4 courgettes, roughly chopped

3 tins chopped tomatoes

1 red chilli (or more if you like a bigger kick)

500ml water

4 tbs tomato puree

2 tsp dried Herbes de Provence

30g (ish) pack of flat leaf parsley

1sp sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

small jar (about 330-340g) of pitted green olives in brine, drained and rinsed – all supermarkets sell a cheap pot or jar, ranging from 45p at ALDI to about £1 at the higher end


  1. Fry the onions in the olive oil until they turn a translucent pink colour.
  2. Add the peppers, courgettes, aubergines and garlic and fry gently for another five minutes, taking care that the garlic doesn’t burn.
  3. Add all the rest of the ingredients, except the remaining olive oil, bring to the boil, then summer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally.  Longer won’t hurt it, but obviously don’t let it boil dry.
  4. Stir in the remaining olive oil, taste, then add salt and pepper to suit you.

Midsummer Pie: Ratatouillekopita


“Koptita” means “pie” in Greek – perhaps the most famous example is Spanakopita, spinach pie.  But we all now how adaptable filo pastry is, so here is a ratatouille pie.



Enough ratatouille to fill a 7in springform tin (drain off any excess liquid; you want a moist but firm mixture, otherwise your pie will leak)

8 sheets long filo pastry, plus a spare for garnish

30g vegan margarine, melted

a single courgette for garnish, sliced


  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/220c/430F.  Brush a 20cm springform pan with melted marg, then add the sheets one at a time, overlapping them as you go and painting with melted marg before each addition. Place them across each other, with a generous margin of pastry hanging over either side.  Make sure the bottom of the tin is completely covered, with no gaps.
  2. Add the ratatouille filling with care and spread it across the bottom.
  3. Bring up the edges of pie one by one so that they lie across the filling, brushing each sheet with melted marg before adding another the next one.  Cut out a few flower shapes to garnish your pie, and brush these with melted marg too.
  4. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until nut brown.  Towards the end of the cooking time, saute a courgette and use it to decorate the edge of your pie.

Ratatouille with Giant Couscous

Couscous is as popular in France as Indian restaurant food is here (both sadly beginning with colonisation; Algeria in France’s case).  It is almost as commonly cooked in France as it is in North Africa.  As far as I know, though, although they serve it with a vegetable or meat stew Berber-style, they don’t usually fuse French and African and serve it with the famous French country stew, ratatouille.  It must be only a matter of time though, because the couscous soaks up the flavour and sauce of the ratatouille without losing its own texture, creating that rare combination of light but satisfying eating. 



1 portion of ratatouille, reserved from yesterday’s recipe.  Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.  (If you didn’t cook this, follow the ratatouille recipe, but halve the ingredients).

250g giant couscous (ordinary couscous doesn’t affect the taste, but the texture and look is improved with giant couscous).

30g vegan margarine


  1. Boil the giant couscous for 6 – 8 minutes, or according to the instructions on the packet.
  2. While this is simmering, reheat the ratatouille gently, until bubbling.
  3. Fork the marg into the cooked couscous, then mix with the ratatouille.

Based on a Sainsbury’s shop (minus the oil), this will cost about £13.55 for both meals (using the Basics range wherever possible) but you will have chillies, garlic cloves, vegan margarine, tomato puree and Herbes de Provence left over.