YOU DON’T have to spend a fortune to eat well – and here’s how. By Carina Contini
I was watching some late night telly the other day and flicking through the channels, I came across a face from the past. With her curls and crystals, Fanny Cradock was well worth the watch. They really don’t make them like that any more.
I was fascinated by how often she spoke of the cost of raw ingredients and how clever you can be with a little imagination and thrift.
Fanny and my mother Gertrude were cut from the same cloth. Both had skills that were handed down, knowledge of the seasons and the creativity to be able to prepare good wholesome food on a budget when required. When I was born – child number eight – my grandmother asked my mother how she’d mange to feed the family? Mother replied, “An extra ladle of water in the soup and the job will be done.”
Research has shown that if food prices had increased from the Seventies in line with house price inflation, a chicken could be as much as £50 in today’s money. We all agree house prices are too high. But, equally, is our food too cheap?
Forty years ago we would have spent about 25 per cent of our income on food. Today it’s only about 10 per cent. Maybe that is just too little?
In the supermarkets, produce is available all year round, but our kitchen garden constantly reminds us how valuable and vulnerable our food is. The time and skill required to harvest a successful crop, and the luck needed around the weather really make growers value their produce. Just like good cooks value sharing a good meal with family and friends.
ONE POT CHILLI
I really value the skills my mother has passed to me and through me, to my children. After a week’s holiday abroad last month the kids said the best meal they had on their holiday was the bowl of chilli I made when we got home from the airport. In short home-cooked food, made with often the cheapest ingredients, but choosing the best quality you can is always worth it.
1 In a large heavy based casserole, fry the onion and garlic in the oil until soft.
2 Add the spices and fry to release the flavours, then add the mince and cook until browned. Season well.
3 Add the tomatoes and mash until smooth, then add the carrots, capsicums, chilli and beans.
4 Transfer to a medium oven and cook for one and a half hours. Serve with steamed rice.
PANCAKES (OR WAFFLES)
This pancake mixture can also be used to make waffles. In the Seventies my Glasgow Nonna brought home a waffle machine from America. It was worth it. Two tips for frying pancakes: 1) use a good non-stick griddle pan and, 2) have a clean tea towel to hand to cover the pancakes once cooked.
1 Put the flour, baking powder and sugar in a glass bowl. Slowly blend in the milk, vanilla extract and eggs with a balloon whisk. Add the salt. The mixture should be wet, but not too runny. Add this to your waffle machine, or place your pan over a medium heat.
2 When it is hot to the touch (be careful not to burn yourself), add 1 tbsp of the batter at a time. The mixture will spread a little but it shouldn’t run. After a few moments, you’ll see tiny bubbles appearing on the surface of the pancake.
3 As soon as 8 or 10 bubbles appear, quickly flip the pancake over. It should be a lovely light golden colour on the underside. Cook for another 10-15 seconds then remove to a plate covered by a clean tea towel.
4 Continue until all the batter is used up. Serve with bananas, whipped cream and toasted almonds.
CRAB APPLE JELLY:
Instead of jam or cream, try serving your waffles or pancakes with lashings of homemade crab apple jelly. I remember making it at school and have loved it ever since. A bit of patience is required as it’s not like most jams that you can make and eat the same day. Leave it overnight and you get a lovely clear jelly that will give your pancakes or waffles a lovely lift.
ENOUGH TO FILL TWO 500G JARS
1 Remove the stalks, wash the crab apples and place them in a large preserving pan with enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the crab apples are soft. Don’t stir or squash them as this will make the jelly cloudy and it’ll lose its sparkle.
2 Set up a muslin strainer over a large jug or pan and pour the soft crab apples into it and allow the liquid to strain through the muslin. This will take 12-14 hours.
3 Measure the strained liquid and add 70g of sugar to every 100ml of liquid. Place the strained liquid with its sugar and the lemon juice in a clean preserving pan. Bring the liquid to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the jelly starts to thicken. Skim off any foam while it simmers as this will also make the jelly cloudy.
4 Test the jelly has set by placing a spoonful on a chilled saucer. It will wrinkle when you run your finger through it. When it has set, transfer the jelly to sterilised jars and seal while warm. It will keep for six months.
1 large onion
1 inch fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2-4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
6 cardamom pods
500g ground Scotch mince
salt and pepper
2 tins plum tomatoes
2 capsicum peppers, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 fresh chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 tin kidney beans in water, drained and rinsed
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
180ml full-fat milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
CRAB APPLE JELLY
2kg crab apples
1kg caster sugar
juice of half an unwaxed lemon