Economy Gastronomy Challenge

I’ve been avidly watching the TV series Economy Gastronomy on BBC Two with chefs Paul Merrett and Allegra McEvedy. If you haven’t seen it, Merrett and McEvedy visit families around the country who are spending outrageous sums on their weekly food bill or wasting food and teach them to cook delicious meals on a budget. Paul Merrett has evidently had an interest in budget cookery for some time. If you remember, I featured his family budget meal planner on the blog last year and some of you suggested alternatives. I think the show makes a refreshing change from the usual foodie programmes and, coincidentally, a family friend, Douglas, is appearing on the show this week too.

Curious about their approach, I’ve decided to carry out my own Economy Gastronomy challenge over the next week, armed with a copy of the book from the series. Feel free to join in, too, if you fancy having a go and let me know how you get on. If you don’t have the book, some of the recipes are available free online. What fires my interest is what McEvedy and Merrett call their ‘bedrock’ recipes. The idea is that you save money by cooking up one base recipe from which you make other dishes. So, for example, the chefs showed one family how to make an onion, mince and tomato base from which they make a Bolognese, chilli and cottage pie.

I’m really impressed with the cook book. It is full of tempting and unusual recipes – many of them quite different from the things DJ and I usually cook. We often eat chilli and Bolognese, so I decided to plump for some different ‘bedrock recipes’ to try out. I thought I’d go out of my comfort zone a little and go for their pork recipes. We often eat roast chicken (don’t tell Lexi and Molly our hens…) but I’ve only cooked a pork joint once before and am – stupidly really – a bit nervous of cooking pork in case I poison people. In the recipe you’re supposed to slow roast an entire pork shoulder, along with spare ribs, in a tomato sauce for 4 ½ hours and then serve with runner beans and polenta with sage and parmesan. But the recipe is for four, so I halved it for DJ and I and just bought a large pork joint. I panicked a bit as I started cooking it late as I’d been out. I put it on at 6.30 and by 9pm we were starving and couldn’t wait any longer. The pork was still delicious, although I think it would have been much more tender if I’d cooked it a bit longer. I had a lot of trouble getting the crackling to crackle too and ended up cutting it off the pork and racking up the heat to try to finish it off while the pork was resting, although it still wasn’t quite finished.

The tomato sauce was a bit plain for our tastes so I threw in some leftover home brewed red wine, Worcester sauce and balsamic vinegar which zinged it up a bit. We didn’t have runner beans so I served peas instead and it was very tasty. It was a bit of a faff but no more than a normal roast. I’d definitely cook it again – just for longer. The polenta made a nice change from potatoes or couscous too and was easy to cook. Clearing up afterwards took a while, though, especially as the idea of cooking this roast pork meal is that we have enough leftovers to make at least three more dishes during the week – a pork, tallegio cheese and broccoli lasagne (you won’t be surprised to hear we’ll be using courgettes from the garden instead of broccoli…), a gnocchi alforno dish using leftover polenta, sticky pork ribs using spare ribs roasted along with the pork joint and – if we have enough pork – pork sandwiches for lunch. So there was a lot of leftover food to wrap up and put in the fridge. I felt pretty exhausted last night so I hope it’s all worth it!

I’ll report back later in the week and let you know how we get on with the ‘leftover’ recipes.

Do you watch Economy Gastronomy? Do you think the chefs’ approach would help you save money in the kitchen or do you have other suggestions? Leave a message and let me know.

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9 Responses to Economy Gastronomy Challenge

  1. Christine says:

    It all sounds like the way I was bought up as a child. Roast lamb on Sunday with all the usual vegetables, cold with salad or whatever vegetables were available on Monday and the leftovers minced up with onion and mashed potato for lunch Tuesday. Same sort of thing with roast beef, or chicken but with the chicken on Tuesday it was picked meat off the carcass which went into the stock pot with onions, carrots, potatoes and at the end the left over meat for a broth for lunch rather than shepherds pie. At the moment I\’m doing a back of the fridge stockpot of soup which will be for later today and some for the freezer. There was a marrow sitting looking at me, two cooking apples, some summer turnips (the small white ones), some celery, some french beans, some ends of leek, some potatoes and a couple of very small peppers of the mild green variety all wanting to be used up. Had some vegetable stock cubes and am going to add a couple of tins of black eyed peas that need using up as well. Blitz in the Kenwood when cool and that should be four meals. What vegetables didn\’t come off the allotment where swaps for things. All in all very frugal.

  2. Gabrielle says:

    You do love a challenge, don\’t you?! I think it\’s brilliant, the way you push yourself to try new things and better what you\’ve already done is both admirable and inspirational.I haven\’t seen the book, can you tell me if any of the bedrock recipes are meat-free? I could make the mince, onion and tomato base using quorn instead of mince but I can\’t think of other veggie bedrock recipes. Thanks v much!

  3. Bill says:

    In Europe, the surplus sauce from venison or Hungarian goulash is served the following morning as a Viena Breakfast, with fresh grilled Franfurters, & a white Vienna roll with low fat (vegan?) marj. Quite tasty on a cold & frosty morning. Sadly, it is always washed down by a very large & cold hair of t\’ dog, possibly defeating the object.Most left-over salad can go in the fresh new goulash of the following day. We also make a fantastic consommee from the bones of Brown Bear. Wid Pork, Venison, Wild Duck, & Wood Pigeon are extremely common fare in large rural beer gardens & restaurants throughout Europe, where nothing appears to be wasted, & is well within the price of the common man. A tip for pigeons & wild ducks, either top & remove the feet, remembering to take the 5 tendons with them. Then wrap in clay for "steam baking" in any radiant oven. Or simply top & feet, remove drumsticks through the hip joint, complete with feathers, then remove each breast from the rib cage, also with feathers. Now take all 4 peices, insert knife along drum stick from top (hip) peeling all from bone, then lay feathers down on surface, to skin the corpus delectum as a fish filet. The wing tips are removed, through joint, for use in stockpot, the wings are split open from inside, through the top (shoulder) joint, the bone removed, & the corpus delectum is skinned as above. The meat can be poached, sauteed, or even grilled, battered, even viennese.The entire dressing & plucking has been avoided. Much quicker to demonstrate than to type, or read!!!Unfortunately, the copious booze consume by some is an extreme waste of hard earned groats, as also top quality grain, but it does yield fantastic tax revenue for the civil service.

  4. Kerri says:

    I stumbled on the programme by accident and now watch it every week (did a catch up online of the first two episodes). I\’m a bit of a sucker for money saving programmes and this is no exception. I haven\’t tried any of the recipies so far, although I like the idea of a bedrock recipie with tunbledowns to follw, I\’m not sure I could essentially eat the same thing for 5 meals in a row (remember the salmon episode anybody?) – though I guess you could freeze portions of the bedrock and mix it up a bit. What really gets me though is that some of the people on the show seem genuinely surprised about using up leftovers for other meals? Is this really such an alien concept for them? Aside from the fact of saving money, isn\’t it obvious to them how wasteful it is just throwing perfectly good food away, and don\’t they have the kitchen sense/imagination to make something out of leftovers from a sunday roast (or even just have another portion of the same). One family seemed shocked at the idea of taking a leftover portion of lasagne to work for lunch the next day!!! Is this the convenience food generation gone mad? (btw, i remember my mum getting a mircowave when I was about 6… yet I can still manage to cook something other than food in plastic trays)

  5. Christine says:

    I\’d think that three variations on the same theme is quite enough for one week. However Kerri\’s idea of freezing portions is quite common in some households I know. It allows them to start maybe on a Sunday and have ready meals from the freezer for later in the week that just need a quick tweak – a great idea if you have to go to work. So much nicer than buying some of the convenience foods from the supermarket at a price that reflects in the price the fact that it has all been cooked, packed, frozen and transported. My bedrock recipe at the moment is the standard vegetable soup recipe using up the vegetables from the allotment as the gluts happen. Large pot of soup – helping for the day and the rest frozen down. When defrosted you can tweak it with a dash of sauce, herbs or available spices, add a different can of beans. As I use vegetable stock cubes that are suitable for vegans, this would work for Gabrielle and she could add whatever suits her to change the recipe for the day.

  6. emma says:

    I think you can turn it in every way you want food is too expensive, too many greedy people helping themselves between the producer and us. How come fruit and veg are the same price all year??? Why come in the summer, booming time for some nice english beans, why do we have to pay them the same price as the one coming from Kenya, Tanzania…? I do not buy altered transformed product, i have time to cook for my family, i am a good chef and i enjoy my food and it does cost me dear. The difference in price is not much in the recipes but also in the quality of the product you buy to make that recipes. Ocean admiral pie 800g is £1.99 you don\’t do yourself a fish pie for that price! I am a quiche pro so i make my own lovely delicious quiche lorraine lardon cream milk egg flour cheese…. very expensive top market waitrose quiche or higiddy £3.99 i am well over it doing it myself plus the time of my labour!!! So the do it yourself it is cheaper really that is a joke!! Why in those difficult and very pricey time for food, why cannot we see other cheaper cut of meat. It would also put a bit of variety in the weekly meal planner. Take the beef for exemple loin, fillet sirloin, rib ribeye, minced and diced, we are really spoilt with choice!!!! (that was sarcastic! i am french sorry!) i could get you another 10 differents part of beef as delicious and so much cheaper!To make it short i really think we should stop messing around with economic recipes and all…. it is all about products and at the moment it is much too expensive, and we won\’t talk quality if not we are not sorted!!!

  7. piper says:

    Freezing is a good idea. We didn\’t manage to eat all of the pork lasagne so I froze a portion of it to enjoy later and 3 variations on a theme is more than enough. I like chicken but even I get bored of eating leftover roast chicken day four after a roast dinner. And I agree, Kerri, it\’s frightening how ignorant a lot of us seem to be – or at least people on the programme – about food – how much of a chicken we can eat etc. and using up leftovers. Why is that when there seem to be an increasing no. of shows on TV about food?! Do we just like to watch \’food porn\’ and then order a kebab instead of cooking?!

  8. Gabrielle says:

    Thanks Christine! The main thing we do to try to cut down on food waste and spending money on prepackaged food is to cook one or two extra portions for every dinner we make. Then I have that for the next day\’s lunch or we freeze it for a future dinner.

  9. Pingback: Berock recipe | Imagearmy

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