Book Review: The Frugal Cook by Fiona Beckett

Doesn’t that stew look comforting? And wouldn’t it feel even more so if it was easy on the wallet? Well, get ready for a big old hug on the inside, because (award-winning) food writer Fiona Beckett has just released her new book, ‘The Frugal Cook‘ and very well timed it is too. As a long-time reader of Fiona’s blog, I was keen to see how her ideas had come together, to share them with you and, importantly, to cook something from the book and tell you about it.

Many of us may be watching those pennies right now but the message here is one we would do well to keep in mind even in times of greater prosperity, the reason being this – there’s some damn good eatin’ to be had in those cheaper cuts, leftovers and general all-round stretching. Who can argue with the idea of squeezing every last drop of flavour out of your ingredients?

Fiona offers guidance for cooking cheaper cuts of meat, like the ‘scrag-end’ of lamb called for in this stew recipe (that’s neck chops to you and me). Given the right treatment, these unassuming chunks of meat can add real depth of flavour to a dish. Here for example, they are first simmered to make a stock before being de-boned and the meat added back to the pot.

You get all the unctuousness from the fat and bone marrow and, cooked together with some one-pot friendly veggies such as leeks, carrot and potato, you end up with something truly warming and flavourful (for the next two days, to feed two hungry people). I replaced parsley with mint and thyme with rosemary as those are the herbs I had to hand – you could similarly substitute vegetables (I added some mushrooms that were threatening to grow fungus of their own) and the next day we even threw in some dumplings. How fantastically old school.

Not all the recipes are time consuming slow-bubblers, of course and I have some earmarked already – warm cauliflower, egg and anchovy salad among them. Fiona says she loves anchovies and so do I. It also pleases me to find she loves ingredients such as prunes, kidneys, and rabbit – it seems we have a lot in common. There is one small thing we disagree on though and that’s the vegetable delivery box. Fiona says they don’t work for her (fair enough) while I, on the other hand, couldn’t live without mine and have absolutely no problem ripping through it. Just proves great minds can’t always think alike! That, and the whole ‘portion control’ section. She’s right though, you shouldn’t all be as greedy as me. Not being as greedy as me will definitely save you money.

Other top tips for slashing your food bill can be found in sections addressing sourcing, stretching, foraging, bargaining, storing, disposing and more – Fiona’s covered the lot. People, parents, friends – if there is a student in your life this seriously must be a Christmas gift no-brainer? Eating well while keeping food costs down (when all they do is keep rising) is a skill, and one which Fiona has clearly mastered. That aside, there is another important point here I think – that of returning to a way of eating somewhat lost over the years. Sourcing carefully, cutting down on food waste, using up leftovers and, as a result, thinking a little more creatively, all makes for meals which are not only rewarding for the soul (and the stomach) but for the wallet as well.

The Frugal Cook is available from Amazon
Fiona also writes (for more advice on how to manage your food costs).

Category: Books 13 comments »

13 Responses to “Book Review: The Frugal Cook by Fiona Beckett”

  1. Y

    Lovely stew! I hope you make that cauliflower salad soon, so that we can all see it. It sounds like just my kind of thing too!

    Ys last blog post..Cheese in Cracker

  2. Peter G

    Oh man! Neck chops prepared this way are so comforting Helen! What a great book…need to check it out!

  3. Fiona Beckett

    Hey, many thanks Helen for that terrific review! My stew looks great in your photos! Love the idea of adding mint . . .

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree about veg boxes – and portion sizes (not that I always follow my own advice about the latter ;-)

    Fiona Becketts last blog post..A Slow and frugal supper

  4. JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen

    What a great review! Sounds like a wonderful book! :)

    JennDZ_The LeftoverQueens last blog post..Pistachio-Pomegranate Chicken with Mint and The POM Wonderful Featured Blogger Contest ($5000)

  5. Angela

    The stew looks fantastic! And I could definitely do with spending less on food.

    My problem is that ‘cheap’ cuts of meat seem to have risen quite dramatically in price since celebrity chefs started pushing them. Just look at belly pork—used to be cheap as chips and now it’s on a par with fillet/tenderloin. *sigh*

  6. Christie @ fig&cherry

    Great review Helen! Mmmm lamb – I love sucking lamb meat off the bone. One of life’s simple, cheap and delicious pleasures.

  7. Fiona Beckett

    Good point, Angela. That is a problem. The price of lamb shanks, for example has gone through the roof. Oddly you can now sometimes find the prime cuts at a decent price if you hunt around. I bought a leg of pork joint this week for £1.64!

  8. Helen

    Yes, I agree too, lamb shanks being another fine example but as Fiona says, it’s all about looking around and making the most of those opportunties when they arise. I always pick up some bones from the butcher when I am there – for making stock. They are free and make the most delicious meals – you don’t get much more frugal than free!

  9. Sorina

    Hi I am new to your blog and I just wanted to say how much I’m loving it

  10. Ginger

    It’s good to read a review from someone you trust, there are so many books being released that I never really know which ones I “need”. As you said, it sounds like everyone can benefit from this one!

    Gingers last blog post..Minimalist Thin Crust Pizza

  11. Jeanne

    Great review – and what a wonderful book! I am glad that my years of stinginess have now been given new life as frugality ;-) Agree with a previous commenter though – if oxtail (which I adore) is an unloved and unpopular cut, why is it so difficult to find and pricey?!

    Jeannes last blog post..Spicy green tomato and apple chutney – move over, Mrs Ball!

  12. David Hall

    Great book Helen, good review too, one for these times alright!

    David Halls last blog post..It’s Christmas Time (honest)

  13. kookimebux

    Hello. And Bye. :)

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