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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