A super-value feast

15th December. Just writing the date has made me realise that I've still got rather a lot of Christmas cards to write and post, not to mention a birthday present, then some Christmas gifts to finish making.
So obviously I'm making great inroads into those tasks to night by blogging instead. 10 points to me for time management!

Anyway, I'm taking part in The Buyagift £3 Challenge. It is a campaign set up between Buyagift.co.uk and The Trussell Trust who run food banks around the UK. The challenge set was to create a meal for two for £3 or less.

Food is a basic necessity, and the Trussel Trust provide emergency food for people in need via food banks. In the UK their food bank network fed 355,000 in the six months from April to September, and the number of people having to turn to their food banks is increasing as more people in the UK struggle on low incomes, face redundancy or other financial crises.

In the online world of food blogs, it's easy to get distracted by ever more fancy ingredients, techniques, etiquette, photography etc etc etc. Which is all lovely, but food doesn't have to be fancy. I performs a vital function of keeping us going, and it should provide us with most of the vitamins and good things we need to stay healthy. It is sociable, it is fun and it is relaxing. But all of these things can also be done on a budget.

The challenge specified that the meal had to be at least 1 course, but I decided to see if I could make three, and stick within the price range. So I went on a super-value spree at the supermarket to see what I could find, and what I could make with it. I'm really proud of what I've created - I've tried to use the ingredients as ingeniously as I could to make a little stretch as far as possible.

Oil, herbs and spices were 'free'

Starter: Spiced Pea Fritters with Caramelised Onions (serves 2) - £0.38
  • 1x 300g tin mushy peas (£0.15)
  • 100g SR flour (£0.03 proportionally from a 1.5kg bag at £0.45)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150ml water
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 onion (£0.15)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 6 tbsp value ketchup (£0.05 proportionally from a 550g bottle at £0.28)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Open the tin of peas. Drain if there is any excess liquid.
Mix the cumin and garam masala into the peas.
Place tablespoons of the mixture onto a plate and stick in the freezer to firm up.
In the meantime, finely slice the onion.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan and fry for about 5 mins, then add the ketchup and cook over a low heat for about 40 mins. Increase the heat for the last few minutes, stirring constantly, to help the sugars to caramelise. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Mix together the flour and salt, and whisk in the water. Leave the batter to rest for 10 mins.
Heat oil in a small saucepan or deep fryer until a cube of bread quickly floats to the surface and turns golden in a few minutes.
Take the pea fritters from the freezer.
Dunk in the batter, then fry in batches, for a few minutes at time until the batter is golden, then drain on kitchen paper.
Serve with the caramelised onions.
After cooling, you can re-bottle the frying oil for re-use.

Main Course: Tuna Carbonara (serves 2) - £1.31
  • 1x 500g tub value Natural Yoghurt (£0.45)
  • 180g value Spaghetti (£0.07 proportionally from a 500g pack at £0.20)
  • 185g tin value Tuna flakes (£0.49)
  • 1 egg yolk (1 value egg at £0.15, but save the white for the pudding)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 small onion (£0.10)
  • Pinch chilli powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp oil
The day before you want to make the dish, take the yoghurt and strain through a cheesecloth, or clean tea towel in a sieve to make a yoghurt cream cheese.
Put the pasta on to boil in salted water.
Finely chop the onion and fry in the oil in a small pan. Once the onion is soft, after 2-3 minutes, add the drained tuna and pinch of chilli, and cook for a few more minutes.
Beat together the egg yolk and strained yoghurt (the thick yoghurt cream cheese, not the drained whey).
Once the pasta is cooked, drain, then quickly return to the hot pan, add the egg yoghurt mixture and tuna.
Stirring constantly, cook over a low heat until the yolk is cooked and the sauce thickens slightly.
Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with a little more chilli if you like.

Pudding: Baked Apple Snow (serves 2) - (£0.38)
  • 2 eating apples (I used Cox) (£0.33 from a pack of six at £1)
  • 1 egg white (saved from the carbonara above)
  • 50g granulated sugar (£0.04 from a 1kg bag at £0.88)
  • pinch ground cloves
Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan)
Peel, core and roughly chop the apples.
Cook with a splash of water in the microwave to soften.
Put into a small ovenproof serving dish (or individual ramekins if you want) and sprinkle over a pinch of ground cloves.
Whisk the eggs until almost at the soft peak stage, then add the sugar and continue to whisk until stiff peaks are formed.
Top the cooked apples with the egg mixture, then bake for around 30 minutes until risen and golden brown on top.
Enjoy immediately.

So there you have it - three courses for £2.07 so well under budget, but certainly not lacking in substance or taste.

You can see my entry amongst all the others at the competition Facebook page here.