I thought I’d try Miguel Barclay’s One Pound Meals. I’m quite excited about this book, not only does it have a very high proportion of ‘recipes I would like to try’ and is money saving, what really sold me, is that all the recipes are for one portion (but are really easy scale-up-able). I know, on the face of it, that’s a bit of a silly thing for someone who lives in a household of four to get excited about but I work from home, so more often than not cook and eat lunch just for one, so a one portion recipe book is perfect for me. It’s particularly perfect for me, in that, as the kids have their main meal of the day at lunch time, at school and normally have sandwiches at tea time and as I try really, really hard not to cook multiple different meals when I’m cooking for everybody, I normally end up having sandwiches for tea too, which isn’t great if I didn’t exactly eat that much for lunch, so I’m going to make more of an effort to cook myself ‘proper food’ at lunch times.
All the recipes in the book are meant to come in at one pound or under. Miguel does say in his intro that he depends on the bargain supermarkets quite a lot for that, whereas (oh I sound so Surrey), shop largely at Waitrose, so even though I’m all enthusiastic about this book, I am a feeling rather realistic in that when I cook these recipes, they’re going to come to more than a pound. But as Miguel also says in his introduction, even if you’re not shopping in the bargain supermarkets or you’re substituting chicken breast for chicken thighs (there are a lot of chicken thighs in this book), you’re still, probably, going to save a bit of money.
The first recipe I tried was chicken tartiflette; I did make some substitutions, I had some frozen ready chopped shallots in the freezer, so I used those instead of onion and instead of the streaky bacon I used pancetta (honestly, I’m not that Surrey), as I already had some in the fridge. Obviously using pancetta pushed the cost of the meal right up, I priced all the ingredients I used (the nerd in me is finding this bit fascinating) and the entire dish came to a rather embarrassing £3.39. Other than the pancetta, what really (surprisingly, for me at least) pushed the price of the dish up was the new potatoes, I guess because they’re not quite in season yet. But was the £3.39 worth it? Absolutely yes! (And I’m pretty sure if I had used streaky bacon, it would still have tasted as good). The whole thing was absolutely gorgeous and a real treat for a weekday lunch, this may be an economy recipe book but the recipes certainly don’t seem to skimp on taste and style.
I am definitely looking forward to cooking more from this.
On Wednesday I made chicken and lentil korma, it turned out to not be in quite the same league as the chicken tartiflette but it still managed to beat a sandwich and was obviously a lot healthier for me! Although note for anyone cooking this recipe, if they have the book, I had to add way more water than the recipe suggested.
This time the recipe came to £1.55.
And today I made huevo-less con chorizo (I’m not a big fan of eggs). Again, it was okay but nowhere near as nice as that chicken tartiflette still. I increased the amount of red pepper slightly and went a bit mad with the chorizo, so it came to £2.32.
So, three days cooking ‘one pound meals’ and yes none of them actually made it to under one pound and I have a sneaking suspicion that a sandwich and a packet of crisps (yep, sometimes I have days when it’s a sandwich for lunch or tea) or even some pasta and sauce, may actually be cheaper, I think that cooking myself proper lunches at lunch time, still manages to save money because it stops me snacking in the afternoon and of course, it is healthier.
Taking time out to cook properly has also been good. None of the recipes in the book look particularly time consuming and although, yes, obviously, making a sandwich would be quicker, the hands on cooking time for these recipes isn’t actually that much and you can get small chores done whilst you’re waiting for stuff to cook. It’s also good just to get a proper break in the middle of the day too.
This book has also managed to get me to appreciate chicken thighs, I don’t know, maybe I was cooking them badly before but in the korma and particularly the tartiflette, where the chicken was melt in the mouth, the chicken tasted a lot nicer than I normally equate chicken thighs with. I don’t eat that much meat and although I certainly don’t want to ramp my diet up to steaks and hamburgers every day (bleurgh), I do think it would be good for me to eat a little more of the stuff (as well as trying to get more vegetable sources of protein in). Chicken thighs are perfect for me, as they’re smaller than chicken breasts (I don’t think I could get through a whole one of those these days) and they’re much cheaper. They also defrost quite quickly. Animal welfare is important to me though and so I always try and make sure any meat that I do buy, is from farms where the poor animals haven’t been crammed into cages and stuff, so I think that alone will always push the cost of my meals up.