Thursday, 12 August 2010

Return of The Frugal Cook and some musings on veg

Well, here I am back again. You might well wonder why when I already have two other blogs (Food and Wine Finds and The Cheeselover) but the fact is that more people still visit this blog than both of the other two combined. Which some might say is an reason for not blogging at all but, ever the optimist, I'm not taking it that way.

The other reason is that we're by no means out of the woods economically. A lot of people are losing their jobs. Even more - and I'm thinking of recent graduates - are having trouble finding them. Money is tight for many people who have never had to think twice about what they spend or may never have got round to acquiring cooking or shopping skills.

I'm not going to be overly ambitious about this. I probably won't post more than two or three times a month but I hope it will be useful and occasionally inspiring - not least for the very helpful comments that visitors have always left on this blog.

So, to start with, a reminder about the virtues of farmers' markets which are at their best at this time of year. And here (above) is what I bought at ours the other day. It came to £6.60 which I think is pretty good and will certainly keep us in veg for the week. To give you a price comparison a small vegbox from Abel & Cole would cost £7.99 + 99p delivery. The 580g of runner beans I bought for £1 would have cost twice that in Tesco and I doubt would have been half as fresh. So it's a good deal.

I also like the fact that having such great produce I can build whole meals round them, cutting the costs of the other food I buy. The onions actually cost more than I'd pay in a supermarket but because they're large and sweet I can use them for an onion-based dish like Jill Dupleix's baked stuffed onions with parmesan cream or even, given this unseasonal weather, make a creamy onion soup.

The cabbage witll make a slaw and a stir-fry, the courgettes can be grilled, anointed with oil and served with feta and the beans can be cooked as a veg or sliced and frozen for less plentiful times. Or use them as I did today, to make this variation on a salade niçoise for a quick, healthy lunch for one

Mackerel, tomato and bean salad
Serves 1
150g runner beans, trimmed and sliced
4-5 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 tinned mackerel fillets, roughly broken up*
1 tbsp finely chopped onion, spring onion or chives
About 2 tbsp oil from the mackerel can or jar if it tastes nice, otherwise use olive oil
A few drops of wine vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and pepper
A heaped tablespoon of parsley or a little chopped mint if you have some

Trim and thinly slice the runner beans, put them in a saucepan and pour boiling water over them. Bring back to the boil add a little salt and cook until tender but still crunchy (about 4 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water and pat dry. Put in a bowl with the cherry tomatoes, mackerel, chopped onion or chives. Drizzle with a little oil a few drops of wine vinegar, season with salt and pepper and lightly mix together. Scatter over some parsley or other fresh herbs if you have some.

*Another economy. Mackerel is cheaper and more sustainable than tuna!

Any other good ideas as to what to do with runner beans which are at their peak - and lowest price - right now?


verity said...

Hurrah that you are back!

And Hurrah for reminding me that I quite like mackerel and haven't had it for ages - didn't know it was more sustainable.

jamesramsden said...

Second what Verity says - great to see that lime green background again. I'd missed it. J

Fiona Beckett said...

Cheeky! I might actually change it to one of the new fancy Blogger templates. You never know.

And glad you're pleased, Verity :)

notSupermum said...

Nice to see you blogging again, welcome back :-)

Fiona Beckett said...

Hiya Jean! Anything you think I ought to be tackling? (That obviously goes for the rest of you too . . .)

emily said...

Excellent stuff! I've missed this blog.

Anonymous said...

Sounds delicious! And mackerel so much better for you than tuna.

Annalisa Barbieri said...

No idea why that came out as anonymous..

Sig said...

Hurrah! Good to see you back on frugal form Fiona, this was one of my favourite blogs to follow when I first started delving into blogging and I completely agree, we're by no means out of the woods with the economy. Tough times ahead will require some inspired thinking on how to cook on a budget. Welcome back. x

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Great to see you back in this incarnation, Fiona - love the look of the new design, too.


Fiona Beckett said...

Thanks all. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside - and that I've made the right decision!

You're right about tuna, Annalisa. Only fresh tuna has the oily fish benefits of mackerel for some reason I don't fully understand

Karen Homer said...

Hi Fiona, lovely to see a fellow frugal cook back on form! You kindly sent out my real food on a budget post on Twitter ( but I quite agree about farmers' markets being good hunting ground for frugal fare - I've posted recipes using ham hock and beef shin as well as a whole 'weekly shopping list' from the Farmers' market, showing how it is certainly no more expensive than the supermarket. Looking forward to reading more!

Fiona Beckett said...

That is indeed a very useful link, Karen. Do check it out the rest of you. And thanks.

James said...

But you gave up the frugal cook blog shortly after the book was out. Lots of people would have brought the book and prob looked up the blog. Maybe you'll get ideas this time round for bk 2 - people want to save money recession or not.

Runner beans? Makes great chutney. I like adding rb to ratatouille w/ cous cous or gratinating & serving with garlic bread. RB & egg curry. Also add rb when making elderberry wine - tip from old traditional smallholder, is secret ingredient. Wrapped (blanched) runner beans in pancetta the other day & baked. Pancetta flavour infuses beans. Possibly not frugal that one though. Could try with bacon.

Fiona Beckett said...

Great ideas, James! Have never really got into chutney making but I should. That is frugal given the price of shop-bought preserves. Amazing suggestion with elderberry wine too.

I did once make a very nice purée with some, held together with a spoonful of potato flakes (the French ones which are much nicer than 'Smash' type instant mash, a good slice of butter and a little cream. Really delicious and summery - very good with grilled chicken or lamb