Burger Love

Burger Love

Thanks to the author of Tinned Tomatoes blog, Jacqueline Meldrum, for the creation of her article exclusively for First Home News. 

Jac is a food writer and recipe developer who specialises in vegetarian cooking and more recently vegan cooking. Her interest in food began when she became a vegetarian 24 years ago, and she’s been trying out new recipes since then. 


Everyone loves a good burger. We eat them in restaurants, from burger vans, hot from the barbecue, baked in the oven or slapped into a frying pan.

The trouble is that bought burgers aren’t always healthy or all that tasty. In fact there have been reports that say some of the poorer quality bought burgers can cause asthma in children.

The good news is burgers are easy to make, healthy and they taste amazing!

You can bind your homemade burgers together with egg, but mashed potato, mashed sweet potato and mashed beans are also good binders. Black beans are particularly good and they have a great flavour.

You could make your burger from mince, veggie mince, mushrooms, peppers, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, courgette, beetroot, aubergine, sweetcorn, a range of different cheeses, nuts, herbs and spices. Its up to you.

To make burgers with your favourite flavours, simply grab your meat, choose your binder, bulk them out with porridge oats, spice heavily, as burgers lose a lot of flavour while they are cooking, chill before cooking and remember to toast the bun for a better end product.

Top your homemade burgers with:

• burger relish
• mustard
• a fried egg
• mozzarella
• sautéed mushrooms
• caramelised onions
• hummus
• feta cheese
• slices of pickled beetroot
• melted cheddar
• slices of ripe avocado
• brie and grated apple
• pesto
• roasted peppers

Here are my absolute favourite home made burgers. They are quick to make and my family and friends love them.

Cajun Spiced Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers


• 200g (1 medium) sweet potato, baked
• 400g tin black beans
• 100g spinach
• ½ cup / 45g porridge oats
• 2 tsp Cajun spice
• 2 tsp flaxseeds (optional)
• 1 clove garlic, crushed
• a good grinding of black pepper


1. Rinse the beans and add them to a mixing bowl. Mash, but leave half of the beans whole for a bit of texture.

2. Scoop the flesh out of the baked potato with a spoon and add to the bowl.

3. Rinse your spinach in a colander then pour a kettleful of boiling water over it to wilt it. Rinse with cold water to refresh, then squeeze as much water out as you can. Chop and add to the bowl.

4. Next add the seeds, oats, spices, garlic and black pepper and mix until well combined.

5. Shape your mixture into 4 hearty balls, then flatten out into burger shapes.

6. Pop the burgers on a plate until you are ready to use them. You can bake or fry them in a little oil. I fried my burger in a little cold pressed rapeseed oil, for a few minutes on each side until brown and crisp.

7. These burgers will also freeze well. Layer them between sheets of greaseproof paper in a tupperware tub and pop in the freezer.

8. Enjoy!

Makes 4 burgers

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Pancake day perfection: A guide to cooking pancakes

Pancake day perfection: A guide to cooking pancakes

Whether you’re looking to treat your children with a mountain of pancakes, or you just want to follow tradition and enjoy a simple evening meal, pancakes are a must om 4th March. Whilst the link may seem tenuous, historically pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent as a means of eating up dairy products prior to the 40 days of Lent fasting. Whilst milk, flour and eggs might not seem like the ultimate of Lent breaking temptations, many cultures prohibit the consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs over the fasting season, meaning making pancakes is the the perfect way to use up those unwanted ingredients. Whilst these customs don’t particularly translate to the modern day, pancakes are still enjoyed by many households across the UK on Shrove Tuesday. If you’re wanting to indulge, but need pointing in the right direction recipe-wise, here is our quick and easy cooking guide.

To start, make sure that you have all your ingredients at hand. To serve four, you’ll need to make sure that you have the following quantities:

  • 200g/7oz plain flour
  • 350-400ml/12-14fl oz milk.
  • 2 large eggs, lightly whisked
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying

To begin, tip all your flour into a large bowl, with mounds around the edge and ensuring that there is a visible dip in the middle of the bowl. In this well, pour your milk and eggs. Give the mixture a relatively short whisk, starting with the liquid elements and then proceeding to mix the flour in. Continue to whisk until you have a smooth batter. Alternatively, if you’re making the recipe in larger quantities for a greater number of eaters, tip the mixture into a blender to quicken the process.

Next, simply add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and whisk thoroughly until it is no longer visible.

Select your pan – preferably something that is non-stick, so it can either be a specialised crêpe pan, or large frying pan. Swab the bottom of your pan with kitchen roll dipped in oil and, taking care to not cover any areas in excess. Heat the pan over a medium heat for a minute to warm the pan up, and then move on to the cooking process.

For a traditional crispy and thin pancake, add between three quarters and a full ladel of the batter to your pan. Immediately begin to ‘swirl’ your pan, in order to level out the mixture and cover the base of your pan.

Cook the pancake for approximately 30-40 seconds. After a quick flash cooking, check the underside of the pancake to ensure it is cooking and not beginning to blacken.  Cook until golden brown and then proceed to flip. Cook the other side similarly for around 40 seconds, before checking to see if cooked.

Photo Credit: chestnutgrey via Compfight cc

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Cooking for a dinner party

Cooking for a dinner party

When hosting a dinner party, your mind is occupied with hundreds of thoughts, doubts and worries. It’s only natural to panic and want the whole experience of cooking to be over; however don’t fret, as these three quick and easy recipes are sure to leave your guests impressed come the end of the evening.

Super tasty Spanish roast chicken with chorizo and potatoes

Chorizo is so versatile it can be utilised in an abundance of recipes, but we’ve just picked out one for you. This dish is sure to get everyone salivating and, as an added bonus, it fills the house with fantastic smells.

Ingredients include:

1.6 kg potatoes, 4 lemons, 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, 2 kg higher-welfare chicken, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, chorizo sausage, olive oil, 2 cloves garlic.

The Method

Preheat your oven to 220ºC and proceed to place potatoes and 2 lemons into a small pan of water before boiling for 5 minutes. After this, drain and then prick the lemons with a knife so that when you put them inside the chicken later, the juices will be released. Remove the parsley leaves from their stalks. Fill the chicken with the stalks and the hot lemons, then season the chicken and potatoes with a pinch of salt and pepper and slice your chorizo.

Lay out a piece of grease proofing paper on a baking tray. Place the potatoes in the centre of the tray followed by the chicken on top and sprinkle the chorizo with some of the chopped parsley. Put in the oven and leave for just under an hour and a half.

While you are waiting for the chicken and potatoes to cook, finely chop the two remaining lemons and mix them with the chopped parsley and garlic. You can also season this with a pinch of salt and pepper to create a fragrant, seasoning garnish. Remove the tray from the oven, take the chicken out and put to one side to rest. Give the potatoes a shake about and put them back in the oven for a few minutes until they are crispy.

When everything is cooked, carve the chicken and enjoy the smoky paprika flavour from the chorizo. Rocket salad goes well with this aswell.

Chilli Con Carne

There are many myths and rumours about the origins of a classic chilli, but all we can be sure of is that the classic dish that will have everyone asking for seconds. You can alter the portions of chilli depending on your taste. This recipe will make enough for six people.

Ingredients include:

2 medium onions, 2 cloves garlic, 2 medium carrots, 2 sticks celery, 2 red peppers, olive oil, 1 heaped teaspoon chilli powder, 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin, 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 400g tinned chickpeas, 400g tinned red kidney beans, 800g tinned chopped tomatoes, 500g quality minced beef, 1 small bunch fresh coriander, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 400g basmati rice, 500g natural yoghurt, 230g guacamole, 1 lime


Peel and finely chop the carrots, onions, garlic and celery. Halve the red peppers, removing the seeds and stalks along the way. Place your largest casserole type pan on a medium to high heat. Add two swigs of olive oil and all your chopped vegetables. Throw in the chilli powder, cumin, cinnamon and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir the pan every 30 seconds for 7 minutes or until the mixture is softened and lightly coloured.

After this, add the drained chickpeas, kidney beans and the tinned tomatoes. Then add the minced beef, breaking up large chunks with a wooden spoon. Add a small cup of water to the pan.

Place the coriander leaves in the fridge and finely chop the washed stalks and stir them into the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil and turn the heat down to a simmer for about an hour. Don’t forget to stir every now and then.

Divide the rice and chilli into bowls or serve the two in the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves. Instead of rice, you can also try fresh, crusty bread or a jacket potato.


Fish baps with mushy peas and tartare sauce

This special twist on a fish finger sandwich is a recipe that will surprise and delight any guest.

Ingredients include:

For the baps

4 nice soft whole wheat baps,4 large (halved) or 8 small (roughly 480g in total) flat-fish fillets (such as plaice, lemon sole, megrim or dab), 1 pinch cayenne pepper, ½ a mug plain flour, olive oil, 25g Parmesan cheese, 1 punnet cress, 1 lemon

For the peas

1 medium potato, 500g frozen peas, ½ a bunch of fresh mint

For the sauce

6 gherkins, 1 tablespoon capers, 1 little gem lettuce, 250g fat-free natural yoghurt, ¼ a bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 lemon


Preheat the oven at 130°C/250°F/gas ½. Put the baps in the oven. Slice the potato to half centimetre thickness, place into a small pan with boiling water and place a lid over it and let it come to the boil.

On some greaseproof paper, season the fish with salt, pepper and the cayenne. Then sprinkle flour over it as a coating.

Pour 2 tablespoons of oil into a frying pan and add the fish. Cook the fish until golden and grate the Parmesan finely over the top when you flip it over. Tip the frozen peas into the small pan with the potato and then add in the leafy top half of the mint and replace the lid.

Put the gherkin, capers, lettuce and yoghurt into a food processor. Add shreds of half the parsley, squeeze in the lemon juice, blend and pour into a bowl.

Drain the peas and potatoes. Once the fish is cooked, get the baps out of the oven and serve with the peas and tartare sauce alongside pinches of cress and lemon wedges.


These three recipes can easily be made by a cooking novice, and are sure to leave your guests impressed. If you have a favourite ‘go-to’ meal for a dinner party, let us know in the comments section below.


Photo Credit: such pretty things via Compfight cc

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How To Be A Savvy Shopper

How To Be A Savvy Shopper

First Home News would like to thank Lis Ries for writing this blog post exclusively for us.

Lis is the editor of food blog Foodstuff Finds. The guys at Foodstuff Finds review all those great ‘new’ items you find in the supermarket, as well as interesting items from import shops, chocolates that are a bit different, and essentially anything we simply haven’t tried before. They are also keen cooks and enjoy all things foodie!


The price of groceries always seems to keep on rising, so it pays to be savvy with your shopping. There are a few tips and tricks to keeping the weekly grocery bill at a manageable level. First things first; make sure you make the most of own brand goods. Don’t have any qualms about trying them, particularly the lower priced ranges as they are lots cheaper and on many occasions you probably won’t be able to tell much difference. That’s the key really; give them a try and if you don’t notice the change, make the switch. You may have to look for them, as they are often on the lower shelves in the supermarket hidden away as the store receives the least profit from them, so the store won’t want your eye drawn to them naturally. A savvy shopper doesn’t fall for such tricks.

I felt obliged to put an example down here of paracetamol. I’d bought a leading brand of pain killer for years at £3 a box until a pharmacist confirmed the 19p own brand packet had exactly the same ingredients and strength despite their reduced cost.

Changing your supermarket should be a consideration too. You may think that the cheaper stores don’t stock what you need, but do take a look. The prices are low and the ranges on offer can be impressive. You’ll be able to pick up most, if not all of your groceries, and the lower cost will be put a big smile on your face.

Don’t always assume that you’ll need to spend a lot of money to make a good meal. Be sensible, look for bargains and buy in bulk if it works out cheaper – you’ll use up the extra items eventually..

Here is a favourite budget recipe of mine;

Tasty Tomato & Sausage Pasta (Serves 4)


  • Sausages x 4 [70p based on 8 for £1.40]
  • Onion – chopped [33p based on 3 for £1]
  • Green Pepper – chopped [35p based on 4 for £1.45]
  • Mushrooms (4 medium sized) – sliced [50p based on 8 for £1]
  • One clove of garlic (crushed) [6p based on 1 bulb for 35p]
  • Passata – 500g carton [80p don’t be tempted by expensive jars]
  • Beef stock cube [10p based on 12 for £1.20]
  • Dried Italian herbs (or Oregano) [10p based on £1 jar]
  • Cheese (grated, any variety will do) [60p based on £1.70 for 300g]
  • Dried crushed chillies (optional) [16p based on 29g jar for £1.60]
  • Half a teaspoon of sugar [already in your cupboard]
  • Salt/pepper to taste [already in your cupboard]
  • A drop of vegetable oil for frying [already in your cupboard]

Cost approximately: £3.70


  • Fry the sausages until cooked and golden brown, then slice thinly and set aside.
  • Prepare the vegetables as above.
  • Fry the onions, peppers, mushrooms and the garlic until softened.
  • Add the sausages back into the pan and stir in along with the passata. Crumble in a stock cube and add in the sugar, as well as salt and pepper to taste. At this point also add in a large pinch of dried herbs, and if you like heat add a pinch of dried chilli. Simmer this mixture for 10 minutes and taste to check the seasoning.
  • Meanwhile boil the dried pasta until al dente or softer if preferred. Drain the pasta and serve with the sauce over it. Add some grated cheese, it doesn’t have to be expensive Italian, cheddar works well.
  • Enjoy! Cheap and cheerful food, that tastes fantastic!

Photo Credit: Tomas Adam via Compfight cc

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How to save money and reduce food waste with simple planning

How to save money and reduce food waste with simple planning

First Home News would like to thank Laura Agar Wilson for writing this blog post exclusively for us.

Laura is the author of healthy living blog Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish. She also does health coaching, writing, working with charities and communities, spreading the love of healthy habits and hopes to inspire others along the way! 

When you get your first home of your own, it might well be the first time you’ve ever had to shop for groceries and prepare all your own meals. Takeaways and ready meals can be a tempting choice but aren’t best for your budget or your health. A really easy way to save money and eat more healthily is through meal planning. I know that might sound a bit boring, but you can reduce a lot of food waste and money when you know what you will be eating for dinner! Here’s a few simple tips to get you started:

  • Set aside 30 minutes a week to plan for the following weeks meals. Add it to a calendar or diary so you don’t forget!
  • Assess what you have in your fridge, freezer and cupboards. Make a list of anything that needs to be used up before it is past it’s best.
  • Start writing your meal plan. You can get a free downloadable printable meal planner from the free resources section at Uniquely Healthy.
  • Think about what meals you can make using the food you have to be use up, then think about the other meals you would like to have. Have a look in any favourite recipe books or online for ideas.
  • In case you struggle for ideas, have a short list of ‘staple’ meals that you know you and the rest of your family enjoy enough to eat often.
  • Once you have filled your meal plan make a list of any ingredients you need to purchase and create your shopping list to take to the supermarket.
  • I also find it useful to make a note if anything is going to take some time to prepare. Spending an hour on the weekend to make up some batch meals to keep in the fridge or freeze for later in the week is a great way to avoid that temptation of the expensive takeaway when you can’t be bothered to cook.
  • Try online grocery shopping. By planning your meals and having a shopping list you could take advantage of MySupermarket which will compare prices for you so you get the best deal.
  • Make sure you have some glass or plastic containers and some freezer bags which are handy for storing leftovers or freezing food in portions.
  • Remember it’s ok to be flexible, your plans might change during the week, but just amend your plan to fit.
  • If the idea of planning every single meal doesn’t appeal, just try planning for meals Monday – Friday, or just plan evening meals. Even that will make a huge difference to your budget and the amount of food you waste!

When you meal plan, food doesn’t get taken out of the freezer to be forgotten about, veggies don’t end up having to be chucked away because they have wilted and less food is thrown away because it exceeds it use by date. For just a few minutes a week you can save money and eat a little healthier – give it a try!

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Handy kitchen accessories

Handy kitchen accessories

If your resolution this January is to improve your culinary skills, and to ditch the takeaway on a Saturday night in favour of something fresh, healthy and home cooked, then you may feel overwhelmed at where to start. A chef is only as good as his tools, and if you’re truly dedicated to developing your culinary skills, you might need to invest in some new cutlery and utensils. Here are some of the handiest items:

Pasta server

To a novice chef, pasta dishes can become your new best friend. An extremely versatile food, which can be coupled with dozens of different options, meals can be made with consummate ease and require very little time. Whether you’re making your own fresh egg pasta from scratch, or just cooking from a packet, the scourge of a pasta mealtime is the moment you’re stuck trying to serve your meal with a spoon with appallingly poor results. The likes of spaghetti and tagliatelle are long and awkward to serve. Make your life easier with a specialised pasta serving spoon; it has raised edges to snag even the slippiest of spaghetti, and the small holes in the bottom are perfect for draining excess water. For all the time and effort it will save you, the expense of just £12.95 from House of Fraser makes this item a shrewd purchase.


If you plan on entertaining more guests over the course of 2014, or simply want to smarten up the appearance of your table top, then drizzler bottles can be a great option for storing the likes of extra virgin olive oil if you use it regularly at your table. It might not be to the taste of everyone, but if you like to put on an Italian spread, the use of extra virgin olive oil at the table will be a frequent occurrence. Having a shop bought bottle sitting on your table, be it of an oil or a simple vinegar, can look untidy. Put that right with these versatile storage bottles from John Lewis.

Chopping board

Chopping is an integral facet of home cooking, and if you have worktops to protect, a chopping board is vital. Wood is all the rage at the minute, even in kitchens, with oiled worktops and dining flooring looking great. If you have other wooden features in the kitchen, then match this chunky chopping board with it to add a co-ordinated and elegant feel to your kitchen utensils. Perfect for preparing fruits, vegetables or foods that are a little tougher, the chunky wooden build of this chopping board makes it durable and very hard wearing.

Photo Credit: antigraphic via Compfight cc

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