Author of Tiny Budget Cooking Limahl Asmall shares the ingredients you should stock up on this winter to make gorgeous comfort food without breaking the bank.
As the weather cools, and the darker nights draw in, it can only mean one thing: that we’re all in need of an a warming bowl full of comforting goodness to ease us into the change of season. The good news is that autumn or winter food doesn’t have to cost the earth. My 5 top budget ingredients open up a world of warming risottos, rich beef stews and French inspired bacon & lentil hot-pots, which take minimal preparation and deliver bags of flavour.
Try the creamy Orzo, Pork and Peas recipe (below) from my book, Tiny Budget Cooking.
Big love, Limahl Xx
If you’ve never tried Orzo you’re in for a treat. It looks like risotto but is really a short grain type of pasta. Orzo cooks faster than risotto and soaks up massive flavour too, and the best thing about it is that it is far more versatile than risotto rice. It costs around £0.65 per 500g and is available in most supermarkets.
How to use orzo:
You can easily throw it into stews and soups or cook it like a risotto with onions, garlic and stock. Use it to bulk out chicken & leek pies or make a one-pot paella style dish. Try this budget friendly versatile ingredient in the Orzo, Pork and Peas recipe below.
Nothing eases you into the colder months better than a beef stew. Yes, it takes a while to cook but it only takes minutes to prepare before you can let it do its thing on the hob or in the slow cooket. Brisket is one the workhorse, (or work-cattle if you will) cuts of beef that is perfect for stews due to it’s higher collagen and fat content, which keeps the meat nice and tender. It’s also one of the cheaper cuts you can find, making it a win-win for budget cooking, but cheap definitely doesn’t mean loss of flavour or quality. The key point to remember is that when choosing beef for stews, steer clear of the lean cuts as they will dry out quickly.
There is one squash in particular that repeatedly makes the shopping list at my house, and that is butternut squash. It’s flesh is firm and packed with flavour making it a perfect candidate for roasting, boiling, and even mashing. The skin can be peeled, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for a snack, and the seeds can be washed, dried and roasted too. They go light and crispy and are completely moreish. The main event, however, is the flesh.
How to use squash:
The flesh of the butternut squash is best cut into chunks and roasted in the oven with big flavours like sundried tomatoes, cooking bacon (see below) or a sprinkling or dried herbs or chilli flakes. Once cooked it can be added to salads, blended into a soup or mixed through to make my favourite butternut squash and bacon risotto.
If you’re going to make the butternut squash and bacon risotto, a handy money saving tip is to buy cooking bacon. ‘What is that?’ I hear you say. Well it’s simply the bits of bacon that aren’t the right size to be packaged as ‘bacon’. I.e it’s been cut the wrong size. In terms of price cooking back costs approx. £1.14 per kilo vs £6.18 per kilo of standard bacon rashers. As it is usually sold in big 500g+ packs, a good tip is to cut it into usable pieces and freeze portions. This way you’ll have bacon on hand to add to recipes at all times. Which sounds pretty ideal to me.
The humble lentil doesn’t get much love these days but what it lacks in popularity it makes up for in nutrition, cost and most importantly, taste. There are many types of lentil and they usually fit into two categories. It boils down to preference, but for this list we’ll settle on the puy, green, or speckled lentils which hold their shape and have a delectable bite!
How to use lentils:
Those that break apart when cooked to create beautiful Dhals and thick luxurious soups, and those that hold their shape making them perfect for winter salads and lentil hotpots. Head to my website, Tiny Budget Cooking for my lentil & bacon hotpot recipe.
Recipe: Orzo, Pork and Peas
Ready in 15 minutes
1½ tbsp butter
1 bay leaf
3 pork shoulder steaks (about 250–300g), cut into 2–3cm pieces 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chicken stock cube
75g frozen peas
handful of spinach leaves black pepper
3 tbsp grated cheddar
1. Bring a saucepan of 600ml water to the boil and add the orzo to the pan. Allow it to bubble away for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, add the butter, pork and bay leaf to a non-stick frying pan. Stir-fry over a medium heat for 3 minutes.
3. Add the garlic to the pan and fry for another 3 minutes. Pour in 100ml boiling water and dissolve the chicken stock cube in the pan. Cover with a lid or plate and cook over a low temperature for 7 minutes.
4. One minute before the orzo is ready, add the frozen peas to the saucepan and continue to cook, then drain the orzo and peas and add both to the frying pan with the pork.
5. Add the spinach and stir through until it has wilted. Season with a pinch of pepper, top with the grated cheddar and serve.