Following our recent Vintage Fair at York University, The Barefoot Baker, (Natasha O’Neill), was inspired by the constraints of the dreaded student budget cooking and its parallels to wartime rationing. Her retro, purse-friendly meals will certainly be gracing our plates as the Christmas shopping season squeeze descends on our bank accounts! Over to you Natasha!
Having graduated this past summer I am only too aware that, as a student, money sometimes finds itself being spent on a new lipstick, a cheeky gin and tonic (or three) or – perish the thought – school supplies. And, even as someone who loves cooking, I often found it difficult to part with most of my weekly budget just for a couple of fancy meals. Considering this, I began to think about times in the past when money, or food supplies, had been sparse and how we coped and improvised then. Many regional cakes, pies and dishes are based upon what locals had available to them at the time and this ability to create and invent tasty new recipes was tested to the limits during wartime.
It was incredibly important to make the little rationed food and fuel families were allotted to, to go as far as possible and this generally meant cooking everything in one pot and saving leftovers and cast-offs to make other meals was essential. For example, the juice from boiled vegetables and potatoes was saved to create stockpots and the fat from boiled meats was kept and reused. Now, I’m not saying every first year student should be hoarding their broccoli juice for a rainy day, however, I am saying an awful lot of tricks can be learnt from looking at the past.
Economical cuts of meat cooked incredibly slowly and seasoned well can be just as beautiful as a choice piece of steak and they tend to go further too. Stews, tagines and chillis are delicious and wholesome and always taste even better the next day. Furthermore, choosing vegetables and fruits that are in-season and sold at local markets is always an incredibly wise decision. Fruit pies and crumbles are also excellent ways to cook for a number of people without breaking your bank account, especially when the fruits could be picked in the garden or nearby woodland! Thankfully, we are not living in a country that is rationing what we can buy! A great (and easy) way to add in instant flavour is by adding dried spices and herbs which are absurdly easy and cheap to purchase, and incredibly smart kitchen investments. (Perfect for students looking to impress….on a budget of course!)
Below are two recipes that are both not too expensive and able to feed three or four people (or yourself for a few meals!)
Sweet and Spicy Lamb Stew
1 large potato (peeled and grated)
4 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp thyme
600g chicken or vegetable stock
500g lamb (chopped into chunks)
- Chop your onions and fry until translucent then pop in the lamb until it’s nicely browned and the juices are leaking out. To this add your spices, herbs and puree.
- Finally slice the leek and roughly chop the carrots and parsnips (nice big chunks, you don’t want to lose the texture) and add, with the grated potato, into the pot. Sweat out the veg for a few minutes before pouring in the stock.
- Leave to simmer for an hour or two (the longer the better really) and season with salt and pepper. Serve with bread and enjoy!
Absurdly Easy Apple Crumble
Crumble really is my go-to dessert on a lazy Sunday afternoon if I have family or friends to feed. And, as I said before, a little goes a long way!
6 apples (cored and peeled)
2 tbsp cinnamon
5 tbsp dark brown sugar
250g plain flour
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
A handful of porridge oats
- Chop apples into chunks and mix with sultanas, cinnamon and sugar. Place in an oven-proof dish.
- Rub together butter, cinnamon, sugar and flour and sprinkle in the oats. Lay on top of the apples and place into the oven for forty minutes! Voila!
Oh we’re feeling very thrifty now. Time to get our ration books out and save a few pennies while we indulge! For more student budget cooking ideas pop over to Natasha’s blog – she has some real delights! Pass us a spoon!
We’ll be back soon with more pre-loved inspiration and humbling stories! Alex and Sam x