Millions of cookbooks are sold every year, but most of those book owners are probably a lot like me and leave these recipe books decorating a shelf, rarely opened.
As I love to cook but have been struggling for ideas recently, I’ve decided to turn to some of the cookbooks I have for inspiration. To kick off this blog series – A week of eats – I’ve picked GoodFood 101 Budget Dishes to use for a week of dinners and a treat too.
It’s pay day this week so my grocery shop last week needed to be quite restrained as there wasn’t much left in my monthly budget to spend! So, not only is the BBC GoodFood website my frequent go-to for recipe ideas but the ‘budget dishes’ book title grabbed me as a good place to start from this week. I only need to cook for me so I’ve amended some of the ingredient amounts from the book and included them below. I’ve also added costs for what I paid (in €, bought from Albert Heijn and Lidl, and also a comparison in £ calculated from the Tesco website) so we can see if these dishes really are budget-friendly.
Chicken with roots and chickpeas (p.16 and online here)
Prep Time – 10 mins (actual: 9 mins)
Cook Time – 50 mins (actual: 40 mins – my chicken was only small skinless thighs so didn’t need as long)
Amended Ingredients – 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 carrot, 1 small parsnip, 1/2 onion, 1/2 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander and cinnamon, 125g chickpeas, 200g tinned tomatoes, 1cm grated ginger (I used this because the recipe calls for Moroccan seasoning/mix but the only one I found in the supermarket contained cumin, coriander and ginger so as the other two of these are already included in the recipe, I just added a bit of fresh ginger)
Cost – €3,48 (£2.20) – note: the cost doesn’t include the olive oil or dried spices as I have these already as kitchen staples Verdict – This smelt amazing when cooking and tasted great too. I really liked this, it was hearty and comforting on a dark, cold evening, and as I’m always looking for different ways to cook chicken, I think this will become a regular feature in my quick-and-easy dinner repertoire.
Braised chicken and beans (p.44 and online here)
Prep Time – 10 mins (actual: 6 mins)
Cook Time – 30 mins (actual: 25 mins)
(these are the times shown online; the book says ‘takes 1 hour’)
Amended Ingredients – 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 1/2 onion, 1 garlic clove, 1tsp dried thyme, 350ml chicken stock, 125g cannellini beans
Cost – €3,02 (£1.68) Verdict – Apart from the fact I over salted this, not taking into account how salty the stock (from a stock cube) would be, it was tasty. I think a bit of bacon chopped in to this dish would just give it something a bit more and maybe some rice.
Gnocchi and tomato bake (p.52 and online here)
Prep Time – 5 mins (actual: 5 mins)
Cook Time – 25 mins (actual: 15 mins)
Amended Ingredients – 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 onion, 1/2 red pepper, 1 garlic clove, 200g tinned tomatoes, 200g gnocchi, 5 mini mozzarella balls, few fresh basil leaves
Cost – €2,21 (£2.23) Verdict – I often think just a simple but delicious tomato sauce is a great choice for pasta and gnocchi and I really liked this meal. I never know what to do with gnocchi so this was a lovely recipe to try and I’ll make it again for sure.
Tuna and caper panzanella (p.132 and online here)
Prep Time – 15 mins (actual: 12 mins)
Cook Time – none
Amended Ingredients – 2 slices ciabatta, 1 large tomato, 2 snack cucumbers, few fresh basil leaves, 80g tuna, 2 tsp capers, 2 tsp white wine vinegar, 2 tsp olive oil
Cost – €2,25 (£1.51)Verdict – Fresh and delicious, I loved this so much that I made extra for lunch the next day!
Smarties cookies (p.208 – not online)
Prep Time – not stated in book (actual: 14 mins)
Cook Time – 15 mins (actual: 15 mins)
Amended Ingredients – (not changed from list in the book) 350g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 250g butter, 300g caster sugar, 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 80g Smarties
Cost – €2,83 (£4.28)Verdict – a standard cookie recipe which baked well. I can’t get chocolate chips in the Netherlands so Smarties are a good alternative and the crunch of the shells adds something a bit different to a regular choc chip cookie.
Monday & Tuesday (I’m out of the house coaching on a Tuesday so always double up what I cook on a Monday so I can have a quick dinner before leaving for the rugby club)
Sticky apple, sausage & bacon (p.12 and online here)
Prep Time – (actual: 5 mins)
Cook Time – (actual: 40 mins)
Amended Ingredients – 5 sausages, 1 red apple, 5 strips of bacon (or as close to bacon as I can find in a Dutch supermarket!)
Cost – €3,92 (£2.13) Verdict – Pork and apple is always going to be a great combo and this was no different. I don’t often bake apples though so I’m sure I chose the wrong kind as it turned to mush rather than caramelised nicely – still tasted good though. The ‘sort-of’ bacon I used was actually pretty nice too so that was a bonus as I’ll definitely buy the same to use again for brunch and other meals.
Toad in the hole (p.32 and online here)
Prep Time – 20 mins (actual: 10 mins)
Cook Time – 40 mins, not sure how they get to this when in stage 2 it says “roast in the oven for 15 minutes”and then in stage 3 it says “bake for 40 minutes” (actual: 55 mins – as per the stages!)
Amended Ingredients – same as listed except I used 5 sausages not 8 (purely because the packet had 5 in) and dried thyme instead of thyme sprigs
Cost – €3,32 (£1.66) Verdict – I was dubious with this recipe as it says to only use 1 tablespoon of oil in the oven dish that you’ll pour the batter in to… and sure enough things were a little stuck after cooking for 40 minutes so I’ll definitely use my normal measurements next time (3-4 tablespoons depending on the size of the dish). It’s such a classic dish though that it’ll always put a smile on my face and I loved making onion gravy from scratch – something I’d usually only bother doing for a roast.
It took so much pressure off me to pick recipes from a book and just go with it for a whole week. None of these took long to prepare and I would definitely say they are ‘budget’ (I think if you sized these as per the exact recipes to serve 4 they would still be really cost-effective). They were tasty and filling and a nice change to the standard repertoire of dishes I go to each week because I’m too tired to think of anything else when I get home from work and just want to eat.
Keep an eye out for the next “A week of eats”…