Smoky, spicy, sweet, savoury and SEVENTY FIVE PENCE a portion. During a recent conversation prompted by the Jamie Oliver advert expounding his ‘feed a family of four for a fiver’ slogan I was asked if I could beat that. I said anyone could beat that if they were prepared to eat value beans on toast or similar crap but that, of course, is not the name of the game. The name of the game is to come up with something containing meat or fish, fresh vegetables, some decent fibre and which tastes good as well as being nutritious; there’s no point in coming up with a cheap meal if no-one wants to eat it. So, the gauntlet was thrown down. Jamie’s meals come in at £1.25 per head if he’s feeding a family of four for £5. My meal comes in at 75p per head, beating Jamie by a clear 50p per head. Admittedly, there is some work involved. Also, the recipe makes the assumption that certain store cupboard ingredients are in stock in your kitchen (I’m thinking specifically of the lentils here) but even if they’re not, if you’re interested in balancing your recipes between budget meals and blow-outs they are worth investing in. With regards to the gammon knuckle, most butchers sell them, either smoked or ‘green’ (unsmoked) for £1.80. Cooking this and other cheap cuts is where a slow cooker comes into its own. They use minimal electricity and sit there quietly doing their job whilst you’re out at work or overnight whilst you’re asleep. I love mine and wish I’d bought one years ago. If you don’t have one, now is a good time to invest as they seem to be on sale in lots of outlets, Robert Dyas being just one of them.
1.80 – 1 unsmoked gammon knuckle
0.62 – 2 tins tomatoes, whizzed until smooth in a blender
0.11 – 1/3 tube of tomato puree
0.10 – 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste), 2tsp dried chilli flakes, salt
0.27 – 1 cup green lentils, simmered slowly until soft, about 20 mins
0.70 – ½ kilo sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed and steamed until tender
0.05 – Garlic*
0.05 – Oil*
0.05 – Parsley – a handful from a large bunch or better still, FREE, from the garden!
This amount makes 5 portions so £3.75 divided by 5 equals 75p. Voila! Supper for 75p!!
*based on buying as recommended here
Look out for these large 2 kilo bags of green lentils in your local supermarket or better still, your local Asian grocer. This bag cost me £2.70 and it weighs 2 kilos. One American cup measurement – sufficient for most recipes – constitutes a tenth of the bag and costs, therefore 27p. They can be used in all sorts of dishes where you might perhaps otherwise use minced beef or lamb. When combined with wholegrain like, say rice or bread or pasta, pulses give us the full complement of nine amino acids provided by meat. This is surely a bargain on levels. Health-wise, it’s good to have a break from meat and finance-wise they are pretty hard to beat. Plus, they sit in your cupboard and keep for months on end. I have a cupboard specifically dedicated to pulses but these little babies have to be top contender for most versatile and best value.
Using a sharp knife skin the gammon knuckle. Cook it, immersed in water, overnight or all day while you’re out in a slow cooker set on low – say, 10 – 12 hours. Alternatively, cook it in a tightly covered pan on low heat for 4 – 5 hours. Allow the meat to cool, reserving the cooking liquor and cut into bite size pieces, discarding any fat. (And give the bone to the dog – this is a bargain that keeps on giving!). In a large pan place a tablespoon of home-made easy garlic or 4 fat cloves finely chopped. Add some extra oil and cook over a low heat until translucent and aromatic but not browned. Stir in the smoked paprika, the chilli and the tomato puree. Cook through for a few minutes and then add the tinned tomatoes. Add salt to taste and then add the cooked lentils, the gammon, the sweet potato and finally, the parsley if using.