Thursday, August 20, 2009

The credit munch

The number of calls I got from radio stations looking to get in touch with the woman I interview in the article below is a pretty strong indication of what people are obsessing over at the moment. (Money, or the lack of it). Or, it could be that we media are obsessed with the idea that it's what people want to hear...

Here it is anyway - from Tuesday's Indo:

How I can feed a family of five on less than €100 a week
This mum knows how to plan ahead, writes Susan Daly

Tuesday August 18 2009

Cooking has become a spectator sport. At a time when we are being advised to cook purse-friendly meals at home to beat the pinch, celebrity chefs are still crowding our TV screens.

Even Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep has gotten in on the act, with her turn as Julia Childs in new movie Julie and Julia. Childs was a TV chef credited with popularising sophisticated French cooking among convenience food-obsessed Americans of the 1960s.

Food campaigner Michael Pollan has pointed out it is ironic that Streep resurrects Childs' achievements at a time when the art of home cooking has almost died out.

"How is it that we are so eager to watch other people browning beef cubes on screen, but so much less eager to brown them ourselves?" he asked.

Other foodies are taking a more constructive attitude to the loss of cooking skills. The BBC has begun a new series called Economy Gastronomy (BBC2, Wednesdays, 8pm). The aim of the series is to show families how to assemble simple, nourishing dishes using good-quality, affordable ingredients. Waste nothing is the key phrase.

Yvonne Rosenkrantz, who runs a cookery school for children from her house in Blackrock, Co Dublin, is a keen advocate of cheap and healthy family cooking. She and her husband have a 12-year-old son, Caelum. They also take in Spanish students for the summer. Here Yvonne makes a menu she would use to keep her food bill under €100, feeding 4 to 5.


"Porridge is my cupboard staple, nutritious and cheap. I sometimes make pancakes using brown flour and if you make muffins, they can be used again for lunch. Once a week, we might have a special breakfast, honey, yoghurts, small Canadian pancakes -- it's not much effort and it breaks up the rest of the week."


"Half-brown and half-white bread sandwiches cost no more than usual but look more interesting to kids. It doesn't blow the budget to use little pitta breads from time to time. I toast them, fill them with leftover chicken and wrap in foil. I empty a fruit yoghurt into a bigger spill-proof cup and add chopped fruit. Homemade fruit cake is a big hit with us, as are homemade crisps -- just throw some thinly sliced root veg on a roasting tray with olive oil and a pinch of salt."


"Fizzy drinks are a waste of money. I keep squash concentrates like Robinson's, where a little goes a long way when diluted with water. Kids get used to what they are given. I make a batch of flapjack bars at the start of the week and keep in an airtight container. They are a doddle and full of things in your cupboard; nuts, oats, honey, seeds."



"It's normally a roast on Sunday so I make a white sauce, add mushrooms and the leftover chicken to pasta for an easy carbonara.

Chicken pies are good too -- puff pastry is tricky to make so I don't mind buying frozen. It's only an expensive option when people roll it out too thickly. I get 14 squares (one square per little pie) out of one roll of pastry. It's only really a cover for the pie. Leftover pies can be kept frozen."


"I never buy vegetables on a Monday because most fresh ingredients don't go into the shops until Monday evening. Do a shop then if you can because your veg will last much longer at home. It's a mince day today. Irish people tend to use too much meat in our mince dishes like spaghetti bolognese, so I would bulk up the veg content with celery, onion and garlic and stretch the mince over two days, maybe to a lasagne."


"The other half of the mince is gorgeous in tortilla wraps -- kids always love this meal. Use the same spag bol sauce, stuff your wraps, top off with a little cheese in the oven and it's just divine. I give the mix an edge with different spices I keep in the store cupboard."


"If my son has had meat at lunch, I would maybe use up eggs in a Spanish omelette. You can throw anything into it you want so that nothing goes to waste at the bottom of the fridge -- potatoes, onions, bits of rashers, carrots, and so on."


"Salmon is expensive but there are lots of cheap fish out there. I like hoki, which is very good value and has no bones, so it's great for family meals. I make homemade fish and chips by cutting the fish fillets into strips, rolling them in flour, egg and breadcrumbs (or I use up stale cream crackers by crumbling them up very finely) and frying.

"Forget bags of oven chips -- it only takes a minute to scrub a few spuds, chop them in eighths, toss in olive oil and mixed herbs, roast, and you have lovely potato wedges."


"Instead of a takeaway, there is a simple sweet and sour chow mein that I get kids making from the age of four up. You stir fry chicken and whatever veg you have -- frozen or fresh, I always have a bag of peas in the freezer.

"For the sauce, mix a tablespoon of runny honey, garlic and ginger, 2tbs soy sauce, juice of half an orange, 1tsp of cornflour, and a little chicken stock and toss everything in it before cooking. It's a cheat Chinese. I really begrudge paying €40 or €50 a head to eat out these days."


"Generally, I have potatoes left over for the roast so this is just the price of a good chicken or meat joint, and a few veg."

For information on courses at Yvonne's Junior Chef cookery school, visit or ring 01 2780382.

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