Friday, 19 December 2008

My You and Yours chicken curry

If you were listening to You and Yours yesterday you'll have heard me making a chicken curry. It's an odd idea when you come to think of it, cooking on radio. There you are in the studio with a two ring Baby Belling - and a Fire Officer, in case the whole place goes up in flames. (You have to sign a contract which includes an undertaking to use no more than 1 tablespoon of oil!)

The Belling takes a painfully long time to heat up. I turned it on 20 minutes before the programme started and added the oil 10 minutes before we went on air but the chicken still didn't sizzle when it hit the pan. (Sound effects, as you can imagine, are critical. The rest of the time you have to tiptoe round trying not to make too much cooking noise during earnest discussions on more serious topics such as airport expansion)

The point of the exercise was to question whether it was cheaper to cook home made food than to buy it. The agenda of the programme seemed to be that it wasn't. I carefully costed my curry which came to £3.33 for two portions. The presenter pointed out that you could buy a ready made curry more cheaply in Waitrose, let alone a budget ready meal (75p) or a curry in a can (49p)

It was a curious attitude for such a programme to take. I would have thought, like Jamie, they would be all for encouraging people to cook from scratch. The point I made was that there was not only more meat in my curry but that it it tasted fresher and was healthier than most shop-bought versions. At least they admitted the end result was delicious!

The point I didn't have time to expand on is that it's a recipe that you could easily run up with leftovers (do try it with the Christmas turkey). If you're going to cook frugally you need to be flexible, cooking with what you have rather than going out to buy new ingredients. You could use an ordinary onion, for example, rather than spring onions or a combination of double cream and yoghurt rather than creme fraiche. You don't have to use turmeric if you don't have any though if you do it improves the colour. You could use another kind of curry paste - it doesn't have to be korma. And you can pay less for the coriander than I did if you buy it in an ethnic shop and still have plenty over for the rest of the week's cooking. Frugal cooking is all about improvisation.

Anyway if you want to have a crack at the recipe you'll find it on the You & Yours website, along with some other thrifty recipes from You & Yours listeners. I think I can safely say you'll find it better than a can ;-)


Unknown said...

I agree, I listened and thought it was downright peculiar that the focus of the presenter's questions was on the cost, not on the cost related to the nutritional value and taste of the meal. Also, you said at the top of the programme that you would make this dish from leftover chicken, and there can't be anything cheaper than using up food that could otherwise be thrown away!

Anonymous said...

The comparison I would have heard was: If you wanted to buy this plate of food from a supermarket how much would they charge?

I waited in some frustration as the supermarkets got the BBC price endorsement on the basis of a false comparison


Fiona Beckett said...

I should probably have guessed what they were driving at and shouldn't have been so scrupulously honest. I even costed in cooking oil and salt and carefully worked out exactly how much I'd used of each ingredient. I'll know another time ;-)

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, the BBC still allow some public feedback. Try the following address:

Fiona Beckett said...

Many thanks but best to let it drop now, I reckon!

Career Misfit said...

I've just Listened Again (when did those words become a trademark?) to the podcast and I thought you did a great job. I'm quite sure I couldn't cook and try to make a point on the radio at the same time. :o)

Radio shows and presenters (particularly ones on more exploratory stations like Radio 4) feel a need to challenge view points even when its wisdom is self-evident. I remember being involved in a live BBC Radio show a couple of years back in which I kept being asked "So, Misfit, are we covering the stories our listeners want to hear?" How should I know, I don't work here and I don't know them all?!

Winifred did make a good point about you suggesting a change in the mindset of shoppers and family food 'providers' which is, I think, where the Frugal mentality starts to take hold. It's about knowing the skills of cooking, knowing about nutrition and seasonal produce, and eating well without becoming dependent on tins of supermarket curry. That came across very clearly.

Fiona Beckett said...

Thanks, career misfit and thank you all for being so supportive.

I guess the reason I feel a bit put out about this is that I have spent the best part of a year thinking about how best to shop and eat frugally and have tried my very best to help people achieve that.

It does involve - as Winifred did acknowledge - a change of mindset just as it does if you resolve to try and lose weight or eat more healthily but there's also a pleasure to be gained which perhaps didn't come across in the discussion - of being creating something delicious from humble ingredients. As I quote at the beginning of the book "necessity is the mother of invention" . .