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.