Economy Gastronomy – Day Five

I’ve been ploughing on with my challenge to save on our food bill by adopting the principles of BBC2 show Economy Gastronomy. It was quite surreal on Tuesday night watching my Mum’s friend Douglas Rae and his partner Jonathan on the show, plus their cute daughter Ellen, because I was actually cooking one of the show’s recipes myself in our kitchen! I kept looking out for clips of my old primary school too where Douglas was headmaster, but unfortunately they didn’t show much of it. I was shocked when he admitted to only eating the breast meat on a whole chicken and throwing the rest out. I feel guilty if I can’t be bothered to make stock and throw the carcass away. But hopefully he has since mended his ways.

I’d forgotten to give you a list of our shopping so far for the Economy Gastronomy book recipes. Some of the items we already had at home, so these are the things we had to buy (as well as the pork recipes, we will be using one of my garden pumpkins to do some ‘bedrock’ pumpkin recipes using the coconut milk and dolcelatte cheese):

Crème Fraiche – £1.79

Spare ribs – £2.89

Instant polenta – £1.39

Pork half shoulder – £6.58

Gran padano – £3.49

Taleggio cheese – £3.96

Dolcelatte cheese – £1.88

Coconut milk – £1.29

Total: £23.27

As you can see, there’s an awful lot of cheese involved and some surprisingly expensive ingredients, so I was scratching my head as to whether chefs Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett’s approach is really a frugal one. However, I will keep an open mind and reserve judgement until I have cooked more of the recipes.

After making the delicious roast pork in tomato sauce and polenta dish we had tonnes of leftovers, and have been turning these into other ‘tumbledown’ meals. We made some bread in our bread maker on Monday and used it to make some tasty pork sarnies. McEvedy says beetroot goes well with the pork, so we put in some of DJ’s homemade beetroot chutney and it was a good match. DJ was a bit greedy with the pork in his sandwich if you ask me, but there was just about enough meat spare to go in the next meal – a lasagne using the pork, half the leftover tomato sauce from the roast and the taleggio cheese.

I was a bit sceptical as I’m used to beef or vegetarian lasagne and, not being a cheese aficionado, I’d never heard of taleggio cheese. I worried I wouldn’t find it in the supermarket but I managed to track it down. It wasn’t cheap, though, and when I got home I realised I’d only bought 200g and not the 400g required in the recipe. Making the béchamel sauce to go with it was a bit fiddly and I was a bit concerned it wasn’t thickening up, although the recipe didn’t say whether it needed to or not. Luckily we already had lasagne sheets so we didn’t have to buy them. Then I found that because there was less meat (thanks, DJ!) I had to use more tomato sauce. In the end, I used all of the leftover sauce rather than just half, so I will have to make more for the next tumbledown recipe – a gnocci alforno using the polenta. Another thing that worried me was the large amount of parmesan I had to use. But despite my misgivings, it worked beautifully and the lasagne was stonking. I think I actually enjoyed it more than the roast pork, and substituting home-grown courgettes for the broccoli in the recipe worked well.

Next we tried the pork spare ribs. The idea is that you buy them and roast them along with the pork shoulder, then put aside to cook later as a snack. I couldn’t see when we’d use them as a snack, so I thought I’d serve them with my own fried rice recipe. You heat up a marinade of runny honey, red wine vinegar and chilli sauce (I didn’t have chilli sauce so I substituted some chilli powder) in a pan for 10 minutes, cool it and then marinate the ribs in it for 20 minutes before baking in the oven at 240 degrees for 15 minutes. Now, I thought the lasagne recipe was a winner, but this was the most mouth-watering one so far! I love Chinese spare ribs but I’ve never dared make my own. We were knocked out by how authentic it was. DJ liked it so much that he said the only downside was having to let go of the ribs to eat the rice!

Next we’re going to make the final dish – a gnocchi alforno – from the leftover polenta and try out some other ‘bedrock’ recipes from the book using pumpkin. I’ll report back next week on our progress and whether I think this approach has saved us money.

What are your favourite frugal recipes? Do leave a message and let me know as I am always looking for tasty new meals to try out, especially if they help me save money.

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7 Responses to Economy Gastronomy – Day Five

  1. Christine says:

    Frugal comes in many degrees. For some frugal is chasing the best bargains in Lidl/Aldi/Asda/Tesco/Sainsbury/Waitrose and knowing which of the cheap/own brands they can use and not hate. For others frugal is is cooking and eating well using good ingredients within their own food budget. Emma\’s comment about frugal rather than good food on the last topic earlier this week is an interesting one. Eating well affects your health and your ability to do so many things that cutting corners on buying cheap, processed and convenience is maybe not the best for you. People are beginning to notice and take an interest in labelling of convenience food, what is in it, how much salt, how much sugar and whether it is actually good for them. You have to weigh up whether you saved money and whether it was frugal against the standard of your menu over the week. You may not be comparing like with like you see. But on the other hand, if you learn to buy quality items in bulk, and learn from this programme and the book how to use them over the week in related meals and freeze for later when boredom sets in then you may well have found out how to make your money go further whilst eating very well indeed. Aren\’t there a lot of factors in eating well? You and I are both lucky in that we have access to fresh products from garden or allotment and can use these in our cooking. It may be a little more expensive and a lot more effort to grow your own but if you factor into the equation your time spent in the garden against what it would cost you to do other things, it does balance out in so many ways. TV programmes on food are a good idea if it shows people other ways of eating that open the packet and shove it in the microwave and excites them enough to turn to cooking.

  2. Bill says:

    B. J. Books LTD, are currently marketing a "bundle" of paperbacks, "At home in WW2" by Stuart Ross. The section "Rationing" is extremely fascinating, complete with many cartoons such as Dr. Carrot & Potatoe Pete. Not so many recipes, but some good further reading. I still yet remember the final few years of the rationing, when it was still yet legal to keep pigs & poultry in the rear gardens of the 2 up, 2 down, mid-terrace council houses in urban areas. We were oft told to peel spuds a little thicker, in order to feed the livestock better!Even they had a better life back then, the neighbours never complained, but assisted with the feeding, & then claimed their share of the spoils. Obviously, those with livestock had no space for fruit or veg, but simply claimed free samples from the nieghbours, in at least part payment for the meat & offal. No one was evicted for throwing edible rubbish over the garden fence, or for dumping less edible garbage in a nieghbours bin.Garbage bins were oft labelled PS (pig swill) or CF (chick feed) etc. The much more efficient precursor of the modern recycling system. The bins were emptied & washed at least once, even twice/day, the material always consumed as fresh as possible. Most of the garbage would be cooked (boiled), to improve both digestability & hygiene.Absolutely nothing was wasted.Such a system is no longer possible, oweing to an ocean of red tape, & under-educated neighbours. Shame on the civil service!

  3. Viviana says:

    I am not convinced by Economy Gastronomy. I have watched all the programmes so far but feel it could better executed by some frugal bloggers giving tips. I wish they would at least mention freezing some portions so you are not eating the same \’Bedrock\’ everyday. I also think some of their cooking tips are not the most frugal and the ingredients quite pricey. It is great to get people back cooking and saving money but I do think it could be better executed. I can\’t wait to read how you get on with the pumpkin. Do you think the book is worth buying or just taking out of the library to note a few recipes?

  4. Lavinia says:

    I have watched the program with interest and cannot believe how much some people spent a week on food – £450.00 !!!. I have bought the book after some trepidation as it seems after reading peoples reviews of it to be a marmite book – you either love it or hate it. We tried the slow roasted shoulder of lamb (although I served with traditional roast veg and potatoes as my children hate aubergine) and made the shepherds pie with the leftovers. If I had had more potatoes I think I could have actually made 2 shepherds pies from the leftovers. Both recipes were very tasty and we will be having it again this week. I plan to try out some of the other recipes too. I do think the advice about planning out your menus for the week is sound advice, something I am often guilty of not doing hence always missing a vital or basic ingrediant.

  5. Kerri says:

    I watched the episode of Economy Gastronomy with Dougie and Jonathan in a slight surreal state too knowing that you know them Piper. Ellen is adorable (she reminds me of one of my friends little girls when she was Ellen\’s age). I love the way Dougie and Jonathan involved her with the cooking as I am sure many kids would be less fussy eaters if they were involved in preparation of food (I did love the \’I don\’t like broccoli\’ moment though 🙂 Although saying that, I was never a fussy eater but don\’t recall cooking much with my mum, most of my cooking was done at school, my mum wasn\’t particually keen on the mess cooking with kids can make (i think she still has nightmares about my Topsy and Tim Chocolate cook book lol!)Viviana, I agree that some of the recipies do seem to have some rather pricey ingredients. Esp Allegra\’s \’store cupboard cooking\’ I think if she tried to make dinner from my store cupboard she\’d have a bit of a shock! I deff don\’t have a collection of parmesan cheese rinds at the back of my fridge.However, I guess some of the point of the programme isn\’t about frugal cooking per-se but showing families who spend X amont where their money is going and how they can make better use of it or indeed make a saving while improving their eating habits and expanding their recipie skills. Perhaps we should all contact the BBC about making a series about proper frugal cooking/living. Perhaps we could call it \’Frugal Food and Freezing\’ lol :-)Lavinia, I would love to be the type of person to plan my meals a week ahead but tbh, I don\’t know on a Monday what I am going to want to eat the following Thursday (and I\’m sure I am not alone there). What I think is a better way of thinking for people who don\’t want to plan ahead is to have a good check of the cupboards/fridge/freezer to see what can be made before heading to the shop for a stock up. From our \’empty\’ cupboards I have worked out I have more than enough for meals until I need to go shopping next weekend.

  6. piper says:

    Thanks for the comments ladies and gents. Will give my full considered opinion on the programme & book later this week when I\’ve finished all my cooking, but I agree that some of the recipes do seem to have very expensive ingredients. I was very surprised by that. The food is definitely gastronomical and delicious but I\’m not sure its frugal. Although of course, frugality is all relative. If you\’re spending £450 a week on food (some of these people must be mad) then I guess it is. Yes, Kerri, the \’this isn\’t broccoli, honest\’ thing was very amusing! Very sweet.

  7. Humph says:

    I liked the economy gastronomy episode with the mince tumbledown and chilli con carne. – although if you add up how long it took to make that massive first batch, then use it immediately to make the chilli it did start to be too long. Economy Gastronomy was about people who spend a lot of money on food eating roughly the same sort of things, but doing it cheaper. It\’s unfortunate that it actually took so long (plus a whole new load of equipment) to even try to mirror their efforts.One mistake that\’s often made is that it was entirely about frugal living, it wasn\’t, it was about being more frugal when you have too much money to waste in the first instance.I think the thing that struck me most was just how much money some people have. All the people on the show were actually loaded.One thing I did like on the programme was where Allegra gave cupboard basics tips, although mostly they were "too posh" for me. Her tips for all the oils was interesting, except I only get through about one small bottle of oil per year – and her tips meant you\’d need about four.P.S. That Paul\’s a bit hot 🙂

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