West Country Gratin: Budget Meal time

Great British Budget Menu – West Country Gratin

Budget cooking: West Country Gratin

The BBC has run several programs recently about the state of food, diets and attitudes to eating recently. I have been trying to keep up with them when I can. Last week they ran a program based on a long running series, it was called Great British Budget Menu. I don’t think it is on the iPlayer but if you can find a copy it’s quite an illuminating program. The premise of the show was highlighting food poverty in Britain today. Three chefs were taken to live with a family or individual living on somewhere around £1 a day per person on food. Not much when you look at the fact that food prices have risen 25% in the past year!  And not much if you want to buy any meat or fresh vegetables at supermarket prices.

After seeing what the people would normally eat for dinner the chefs were given a budget and told to shop for a meal for the family. These were three top chefs with years of experience and a lot of creativity and they found it almost impossible to cook for the families on their budget, two of them did go quite a bit over. The families and people they visited weren’t work shy, all worked hard full time apart from one gentleman who was retired and trying to live on his pension after a lifetime of work. Upon leaving the chefs left a starter kit of ingredients from which to cook. We take for granted buying jars of spices and herbs or big bags of dried food but it’s out of the reach of some people.

Later they cooked a banquet for prominent MP, campaigners and supermarket bosses with a budget of £1 per head. Each chef invited the family back to help with their recipe, and to meet with those people to try and get the message across that something has to be done to manage food prices; whether that is more offers on fruit and veg or more food production in the UK.

When the chefs finally said goodbye to their hosts they left each one with a collection of budget recipes which had been put together by the countries top chefs. Each recipe could be cooked for £1 a head and was costed out for them. These recipes are also available on the BBC Food site here. I thought I would try some of them out as lets face it, if you can cook tasty and healthy food for less then it really is a no brainer to add even just one or two of these dishes to your repertoire.

West Country Gratin

Cooking on a budget doesn’t have to be bland or tasteless

I went for this West Country Gratin as the first recipe I tried. It’s a pretty standard sort of dish. I found it really filling. You have your carbs and veggies all in one. It was dead easy to make, taking very little time to do. I’d say it is a good mid-week meal. We got three serving out of the recipe which does mean the cost per serving goes up a little. Not an issue unless you are living on that strict a budget. But having said that we didn’t have add Bacon which is in the original recipe on the site. We’d had meat the day before and were going to have chicken the next day so it was a veggie day. My pictures of this weren’t very good, I have to hold my hands up on that. I was too intent on eating it. But trust me when I say it tastes better than it looks.

Ingredients

250g potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into similar sized rounds
50g butter
1 leek, thinly sliced
50g plain flour
200ml apple juice
300ml milk
Pinch of black pepper
1tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp olive oil

Recipe

Budget cooking: West Country Gratin

Prepare your ingredients as above. Boil the potatoes for about seven minutes then add the carrots and continue to boil for a further 7-8 minutes. When both are tender drain and put to one side.

Preheat your grill
In another pan heat the butter and once melted, gently fry the leek with the dried thyme till soft, about 5 mins. If you have a sturdy oven-proof dish your will use later when you grill it you can fry the leek in that.

Sprinkle the flour onto the leeks, stir and cook on the heat for one minute. Slowly pour in the apple juice and milk, stirring as you add until you have a smooth sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer for two minutes.

Add the cooked potatoes and carrots to the pan and mix well so that everything is coated in the sauce. Taste and add pepper to taste.

Tip into an ovenproof baking dish (if you didn’t before). Drizzle a little olive oil. Place under the preheated grill for 10 minutes, or until golden. It would go nicely with a green salad.

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