Monday, 21 March 2011

Feeding your Family for a Fiver...

I'm a loyal shopper at a certain supermarket. I've been shopping at the same place for years and like their ethos regarding food and it's suppliers. So recently when they launched a series of recipe cards stating that you can feed your family for a fiver I was intrigued. There is a trend for menu planning for the week going around the various parenting sites on the web and it's something that I've always done. I love to cook and like to save money so I picked up some of the cards on my last shopping trip. Looking through the menu selections I spotted a problem instantly. Like most so called budget recipe suggestions, the week's menu relied heavily on oily fish and eggs to pad out meals. Now living on eggs and tuna is all well and good if you're a student but growing kids and their carnivorous parents need something a bit more substantial.

So I though that in true Oh Mammy fashion I'd offer my own version. Feeding your family for a week at a fiver a meal costs (counts times five...five sevens are...where's the calculator on my phone...) £35 for seven dinners which according to the cards has to at some point include an omelette, a pasta bake and tuna. Having cooked these last week and having an itemised receipt, I can confirm that in my local supermarket these seven meals cost me £19.77. Now I completely acknowledge that these things were on offer and that because I can cook, I substituted some of the ingredients for the budget version knowing that a few changes here and there wouldn't make any difference and also that I have a well stocked store cupboard and so the majority of dried herbs and spices required for these were already in my cupboards so if you had to but things like fennel seeds, it would cost you more than it cost me. Now this is my bug bear. The supermarkets and various cookery magazines and websites seem to completely ignore seasonality and availability of produce when suggesting family meal planners. Yes, irresponsibly sourced tuna and eggs are cheap all year round but I can imagine that, if like me, you're needing to tighten your belts, you could become very bored of these ingredients very quickly. Even saying the words tuna and eggs...bores me. The words pasta bake make me shudder! So people have to be creative if they are to eat well and to enjoy it. There's almost something quite condescending about the cards as well that presumes that people can't cook if they put their minds to it. Now if you go out of your way to pick up a recipe card the suppliers should at east presume that you'll give them a bash even if they require some effort.

I started off by looking at what meats were offer and built up the menu from there...

Bangers and mash with quick onion gravy

  • 500g potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 6 meaty pork sausages.
  • 4-6 tbsp caramelised red onions from a jar (such as The English Provender Co)
  • 150ml beef or chicken stock fresh, cube or concentrate
  • butter
  • milk
  1. Boil the potatoes until tender. Meanwhile, grill the sausages for about 10-15 minutes. Put the onions and stock in a pan and bring to a simmer.
  2. Mash the potatoes with a little butter and milk. Season and serve with the sausages and onion gravy.
Sausages with borlotti beans

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 onions, diced
  • 50g dry-cured bacon, diced
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 3 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 medium savoy cabbage, outer leaves and core discarded, shredded
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 110g dried borlotti beans, soaked and cooked until very tender (see tip)
  • 8 premium sausages of your choice
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Heat the olive oil in a very large, wide casserole over a medium heat. Add the onions and bacon and fry for a few minutes. Stir in the sage, garlic and some salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover and sweat for 20 minutes.
  2. Stir in the cabbage and tomato purée, cover and cook for 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add the beans and their liquor to the cabbage. Cook for 30 minutes or until some of the beans are breaking up. Season and remove from the heat.
  4. Meanwhile, griddle or fry the sausages for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through and golden.
  5. Fold the mustard and olive oil into the beans, divide between plates and lay the sausages on top.
Sausage ragu with cheesy polenta

  • 6 pork and herb sausages
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • Small handful fresh parsley leaves, plus extra to garnish
  • 200g quick-cook polenta
  • 75g mature Cheddar, finely grated
  1. Cut the sausages into large chunks. Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat – there’s no need to add any oil. When hot, add the sausages and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, until browned.
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring, to wilt down. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, until reduced and thickened slightly. Tear over the parsley leaves and season to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, bring 1 litre water to the boil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Reduce the heat to low, whisk in the polenta and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute, or as directed on the pack, until really thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the Cheddar, until melted. Season to taste and divide between 4 plates.
  4. Spoon over the sausage ragù and scatter with extra parsley leaves to serve.
One pan roast chicken

  • 1½ kg chicken
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 50g softened butter
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 750g potatoes, chopped into roastie size
  • about 7 carrots, roughly 500g, each chopped into 2-3 chunks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 tsp Marmite                    
  1. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Snip the string or elastic off the chicken if it's tied up, then place in a big roasting tin. Shove the lemon halves into the cavity. Rub the butter, herbs and seasoning all over the chicken. Put the potatoes and carrots around it, drizzle everything with oil, season and toss together.
  2. Roast for 20 mins, then turn the oven down to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and roast for 50 mins more. Stir the peas, stock and Marmite into the veg in the tin, then return to the oven for 10 mins more.
Roast chicken soup

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1.4l chicken stock
  • 300g leftover roast chicken , shredded and skin removed
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • squeeze lemon juice
  1. Heat oil in a large heavy-based pan. Add onions, carrots and thyme, then gently fry for 15 mins. Stir in stock, bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for 10 mins.
  2. Add the chicken, remove half the mixture, then purée with a stick blender. Tip back into the pan with the rest of the soup, peas and seasoning, then simmer for 5 mins until hot through.
  3. Mix the yogurt, garlic and lemon juice, swirl into the soup in bowls, then serve.
Slow roast pork rolls with chutney

  • 2.5kg/5lb 8oz pork shoulder joint, scored and tied (we used a tied carvery joint from Sainsburys, bone in one end and rolled and tied at other end)
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • buttered soft bread rolls, to serve


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 4 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
  • 4 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 thyme sprig, leaves picked                                                 
  1.  Heat oven to 240C/220C fan/gas 9. Sit the pork in a large roasting tin. If the skin isn't already scored for you, score it with a small, sharp knife. Mix together the thyme, fennel seeds, oil and 1 tsp salt with a good grinding of black pepper. Rub this over the top and ends of the pork. Roast for 30 mins, then cover the whole tin with a large sheet of foil, reduce the oven temperature to 140C/120C fan/gas 1 and return the pork to the oven for a further 5 hrs.
  2. While the pork is cooking, make the chutney. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Soften the onion and chilli together for 10-15 mins. Once soft, stir in the apple chunks, vinegar and sugar with 50ml water. Cover and cook over a low heat for 15-20 mins, stirring occasionally, until the apple is very soft. Blitz half the apple mixture with a hand blender, or scoop half into a food processor and whizz until smooth, before stirring back into the pan with the leaves from the thyme sprig.
  3. Take the pork from the oven - the meat should be very tender - and increase the temperature to 240C/220C fan/gas 9. When the oven has reached temperature, discard the foil and put the pork back in for 30 mins to crisp up the skin a little. For really crisp crackling, remove the skin from the meat, wrap the meat in foil to keep warm, and return only the skin to the oven for 30 mins. Use a couple of forks to shred the pork from the joint. Sandwich in soft buttered rolls with apple chilli chutney, warm or at room temperature. Serve with pieces of crisp crackling on the side.
Warm puy salad with pulled pork

  •  225g Puy lentils
  • Leftover pork
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • Bouquet garni: thyme, parsley, bay leaf
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons well-matured balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ red onion, finely sliced
  • 3-4 handfuls mixed young herbs and salad leaves (see above)
  • 250g baby plum tomatoes, halved
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1.  Pour the lentils onto a plate and check for any tiny stones. Wash thoroughly and put in a saucepan with the onion, bouquet garni and carrot. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, by which time the water should be almost completely absorbed. Remove the onion, bouquet garni and carrot, and tip the lentils into a mixing bowl.
  2. Quickly whisk together the vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste and add half of the dressing to the warm lentils with the onions and the leftover pork. Toss thoroughly. Take 4 large, warm plates and arrange the herb salad and tomatoes in an informal ring on each plate. Spoon the lentil mixture into the middle. Whisk the remaining vinaigrette once more and drizzle over the salad leaves and tomatoes. Serve immediately with crusty bread.




    1. These look really quite nice. Were they jamie Olivers? Would you make them again?

    2. Thanks Sheffy! No, just a collection of things I've picked up over the years. Jamie Oliver's stuff can be quick pricey with all of his short cuts. These are stock recipes I pull out occasionally.


    Thanks for taking the time to comment!