Recipe: Very Cheap & Easy Tarka Dhal

Tarka Dhal
Tarka Dhal

I absolutely love this recipe for several reasons. Firstly, not only is it really, really delicious, but it’s so ridiculously cheap that I feel justified eating out for dinner if I’ve had this for lunch (I was obviously never meant to live life as a student). Also, forget vegetarian – this dish is vegan! So super-healthy and a step towards eating a more sustainable diet. I eat so much meat after all… Finally, the dhal takes only 40 minutes to cook, most of which time you just have to keep an eye on a boiling pot. One-pot meal = one-pot to wash up.

All in all, this recipe is a gem.

I’ll give the recipe from the original book and my alterations in brackets.

Tarka Dhal

Taken from: Kris Dhillon – The New Curry Secret

Serves 4 (as a side) or 2 (as a main)
Cooking time: 35 – 40 mins


4 heaped tbsp split red lentils
425ml water (I find 375 is adequate. Add with caution – you can always add more)
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tomato, chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped (I used ‘lazy chillies’ in a jar – I add 1 tsp but this is very mild. Experiment to find your level)
1 level tsp salt (I don’t add this at all. Season to your taste)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander (I use 2 tsp coriander paste – I think this also adds adequate salt)

Any vegetable you feel like adding. My mother recommends cauliflower. I add petit pois.


  1. Rinse the lentils thoroughly and place in pan with all ingredients, except the salt, garam masala, coriander and any extra vegetables. Be cautious with the water. Any extra veg thrown in later will add moisture.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover the pan and simmer for a further 20 minutes, stirring two or three times.  10 – 15 minutes before the end, throw in any extra veg.
  3. Stir in garam masala and half the coriander. Season to taste.

Enjoy, whilst feeling smugly healthy and thrifty.

It's dinner time!
It’s dinner time!

Butternut Squash Carbonara

Butternut squash carbonara
Butternut squash carbonara

You might remember that I got a teensy bit excited at the BBC Good Food show and bought a lot of things.

Well, one of my scrumptious purchases was a Butternut Squash and Sage Pesto from Well Seasoned – a company that creates amazing sauces/dips from seasonal ingredients. I loved the pun, but I loved the product more.

Of course, I had to decide what to do with it. Risotto? Stuff it in pork? For me, a Buttnerut Squash Carbonara recipe won out.

I should confess that, as a child, I refused to eat potatoes. Yes, that included chips (fries) and yes, that included crips. Oh, did I hate potatoes. So my mother brought me up on egg-fried rice, “chick-a-noo-noo” (the child-friendly name for chicken noodle stir-fry), and PASTA.

I’ve almost copied Well Seasoned’s recipe exactly, but I’ve changed the quantities for two people. And yes, it really did need a whole pot of pesto for two!

As a student, it’s a little too luxurious for me to buy a Little Pot of Autumn every time, so it can be replaced by mashing up some butternut squash with seasoning, garlic, sage and maybe a bit of chilli if you like spice. Also, look out for Pheebz Eatz-original butternut squash and feta pasta recipe coming soon 🙂

Butternut Squash Carbonara
Serves 2

300g dried spaghetti or tagliattelli
1 Little Pot of Autumn – Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage
3 rashers, thick-cut smoked bacon (or lardons)
Crème fraiche
Egg yolk
Sage to serve, finely sliced

1. Boil the pasta according to cooking instructions in a large saucepan of salted water.
2. Chop the bacon into small chunks, fry until crisp, and then set aside.
3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the saucepan.
4. Stir through one whole Little Pot and keep over the heat for a minute or so to warm through. Add a dollop of crème fraiche and an egg yolk.
5. Crisp up some of the chopped sage in the juices left by lardons, then throw over the pasta just before you serve. (Seriously worth doing this – bacony sage is fantastic!)

Pheebz’s Lemon Thyme Chicken Risotto

Lemon thyme chicken risotto

I was perusing the “fresh herbs” section of my local supermarket when I spotted a packet of lemon thyme. On closer examination, it recommended that I throw it into a risotto. So I did.

This risotto is simple, quick, delicious and cheap. Enjoy!

Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 25 – 30 mins

Serves two


One chicken breast, chopped
5 – 6 chestnut mushrooms, sliced (I love chestnut mushrooms for their warm, nutty flavour, but you can adapt)
One small leek, finely sliced
One clove of garlic, crushed
Parmesan shavings, ~30g
Risotto rice, 200g
Chicken stock, 500l (vegetable will do)
100ml white wine (optional)
1tbsp Lemon thyme, finally chopped
Black pepper


  1. In a large pan, fry the chicken on a medium heat until it starts to seal.
  2. Add the leek and fry until it begins to soften.
  3. Add the garlic and the mushrooms and fry until they also begin to soften.
  4. Add the rice and fry for ~2 minutes.
  5. If you are using wine, add this now and stir until the rice has absorbed it.
  6. Add ~1/3 stock and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  7. Once most of the stock has been absorbed, throw in the lemon thyme.
  8. Add a bit more stock, and stir until it is absorbed. Repeat until all the stock has been absorbed and/or the risotto is the right consistency (ie. not chewy, but not soggy).
  9. Throw in most of the Parmesan shavings, reserving a few for garnishing, and stir until melted in.
  10. Season to taste.
  11. Sprinkle the remaining Parmsean shavings on top and serve!

This makes a perfect quick lunch or dinner, especially as it’s easily re-heated the next day. I don’t drink wine so I can never justify buying a bottle just for cooking, but the risotto is still very tasty without it.

Tips: don’t overdo the Parmesan or the lemon thyme. Taste throughout the cooking process to see if you have the flavour balance to your liking.

Jamie’s Chorizo Carbonara

Jamie’s Chorizo Carbonara – Pheebz Eatz style

I was fortunate enough to receive an email from  Waterstones with a free recipe from Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals.

The phrase “15-Minute” made me very excited. The word “Chorizo” made me even more excited.

This recipe is great because it is almost that quick (I’m slow at chopping and don’t want to lose any digits…) and it’s cheap, and it’s mouthwatering, delicious and addictive. So addictive, in fact, that I’ve made it three times so far!

Here is the recipe with quantities adapted for one person, and a couple of additions/adaptations.  Enjoy!

Jamie’s Chorizo Carbonara (Pheebz Eatz style)
Serves 1 greedy person like me


Penne pasta

Chorizo (one large finger’s length)

Fresh red chilli (half)

Rosemary (one sprig)

Garlic (clove)

Red pepper (half)

Egg (one, medium-sized)

Yoghurt (natural fat-free, two tablespoons)

Lemon juice (one and a half tablespoons)

Manchego cheese (one finger)

Olive oil


  1. Boil a pan of water and start cooking the pasta.
  2. Chop the pepper and begin to fry in olive oil.
  3. Finely slice the chorizo. Finely chop the chilli and rosemary. Chop/crush garlic.
  4. When the pepper starts to soften, add the chorizo, chilli, rosemary, garlic and a good amount of black pepper, and fry until the chorizo starts to shrink. (Be careful not to burn the chorizo, but make sure it is cooked or it won’t release its wonderful flavour).
  5. Beat the egg, lemon juice and yoghurt together in a jug.
  6. Drain pasta and reserve a cup of the starchy water.
  7. Add pasta and the yoghurt mixture. Add the cooking water to loosen as necessary.
  8. Grate the manchego into the pan and mix until melted.
  9. Season to taste and serve.

The original recipe comes with a Catalan market salad, which is way beyond my budget as a student. However, some baby spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes and a little bit of manchego made a great accompaniment.

Scrummy side salad


I have moved to London. I still don’t have an oven. I am still unable to keep my place tidy, so I had a 7.20am panicked wake up on a Saturday to tidy up before my parents witnessed this:


But I am no longer dependent on the best cooks in the world AKA my parents to feed me (I may be slightly biased) or the survival canteen at my previous university.

So I’m learning to cook. Quick food. Cheap food. DELICIOUS FOOD. I am a student but there will be no compromise in taste. No excuses.

Watch out for upcoming London restaurant reviews and tips too!

Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup
— BBC Good Food


This is a winning recipe from BBC Good Food – it’s easily made from items in the store cupboard and it’s so quick and easy even I couldn’t screw it up. (Note to self: do NOT turn hand blender on when it is not fully immersed in the soup).

It’s rich, filling, healthy and spice levels can be easily moderated with yoghurt. It fed me for 3 days. Students and busy people – get on it now!