Monthly Archives: October 2009

‘Making do’ cuisine

Although the supper club is about extravagant, experimental, top quality food that has taken time and effort to prepare, generally my cooking falls into the ‘making do’ bracket. This week having found myself totally skint and having to feed a variety of extra mouths, I had to resort to budget cooking.

Fortunes in this house have, like most families I guess, peaked and troughed over the years. Since going freelance i’ve hit a bit of an all time low. In accordance with this ebb and flow I have become a mistress of ‘making do’. I’ve almost turned it into an art form. So armed with a budget of £50 and 7 days worth of meals to plan for anything between 5 and 7 people I embarked on my mission.

I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should teach others to do this…basically, I receive an veg box once a week (£10)…I guess thats cheating because that’s paid for up front, so my £50 was on top of that. My quick, half term, healthy budget menu consisted of

Lamb meat balls in tomato sauce, with spaghetti and green salad

This is a seriously easy dish to make. Take one thick slice of bread and cut the crusts off. Pull it to pieces and place in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of milk. After about 10 mins mix in 500g lamb mince with your hands. Add a crushed clove of garlic, some Italian herbs (Marjoram, Oregano) and a bit of finely chopped parsley. Mix together more and then add a beaten egg. Shape into small balls. Fry in a drop of olive oil until browned then add a time of chopped tomatoes, another crushed clove of garlic, a sprinkle of oregano, a tablespoon of tomato puree and about 150ml of chicken stock. Simmer for about 20mins or so, until the sauce has thickened. Serve with spaghetti or tagliatelle sprinkled with Parmesan cheese (or in our case Pecorino, which I like to call poor mans Parmesan).  It’s lovely!!!!

Vichyssoise (but eaten hot, the kids won’t entertain the idea of cold soup)…home-made bread

Macaroni and cheese of course!! But tarted up with some seriously strong cheddar (Snowdonia Black Bomber) and some salad and chutney on the side

Broccoli and cheddar cheese tart with baked potato and grated carrot salad and a big dollop of mayo

Minestrone soup and bread

Minestrone is great as you can pretty much put what you want in it. I usually fry an onion gently, then add chopped carrots, leek, celery and sweat until soft but not browned. Then I add either curly Kale, or green cabbage (about 150g or so), a few skinned chopped tomatoes, a bouquet garni, maybe some tinned Cannellini beans (i’ve even used a tin of baked beans in emergency), tablespoon or two of tomato puree, and about three pints of water or vege stock if you want it slightly richer, 50g or so of soup pasta (or whatever pasta you want) and a handful of finely chopped parsley.  Simmer til the veg and pasta is cooked, check the seasoning and again serve with Parmesan.


Big pot of minestrone











Sausage and bacon toad (made with grain mustard in the batter mix) with mash and veg

Cauliflower cheese and salad (for the kids) while we had Risotto with sage, squash and pancetta

For sweet treats we had Apple crumble that lasted two days with a bit of whipped cream, a chocolate loaf cake and home-made Welsh cakes.

All of these things made great dinners, but would also make great quick, cheap, healthy and hearty lunches, feed kids without arguments (well mine anyway) and most take less than an hour to prepare and cook from scratch.

I reckon they should still be teaching these things in schools. That’s the place where I developed the skills that made me able to ‘make do’ . Independent living skills, budgeting skills, basic cooking skills, nutrition and so on. These are now abilities that are being lost to whole generations of kids.


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Filed under cookery skills learnt at school, family budget cooking, home cooking, local produce

Food, sun, rain, cider, mussels, tv chefs and local produce: the weekend had it all


View of the quayside and the food festival marquees from the top of Conwy Castle

Conwy feast; two days of food, changeable weather, tv chefs and a variety of activities. Generally I love the Conwy feast but this year it felt a bit of  a scrum. I don’t know if it was because some of the marquees had moved from their previous location (squeezing in beside the rest on the quayside) or that there were just more people there, but it felt too crowded, which made it almost impossible for me to see or do half of the things I wanted to.

The weather didn’t bode well on the Saturday morning with lashing rain and sideways wind. Thankfully and against expectation it had cleared up by midday. This was also the time that I managed to get the teenagers out of bed and ready to leave. So much for the early start! I’d also had to make a last-minute dash to my neighbours who were checking the Welsh translation on my flyers, he’d lost the flyer so the pair of them had to do a quick run through in order for me to make some corrections. There were a few…Welsh mutations are baffling if you ask me!!!


Conwy Castle

Giant pumpkin

By the time we arrived the festival was packed. Although it was good to see so many people there supporting local producers and having a great time, it was impossible with kids to get through the crowds. We all lost each other, my mate couldn’t find us and the kids started to moan, they were hungry, it was too busy, they wanted to sit down, they wanted to meet friends, it was boring. I found it rather stressful too as I obviously had too many priorities, kids, meeting producers and tasting, making contacts and so on. With hindsight I should have had a ‘me’ day and a family day. Oh well we live and learn! All in all Saturday was a wee bit stressful, but we did get to do a bit of tasting. Conwy mussels for lunch, nice but a bit too salty and buttery.

The favourites of the day were the Anglesey apple juice, chocolate pudding from the pudding compartment , the usual cheeses from Y Cwt Caws and Derimon and from the Snowdonia Cheese Company plus various alcoholic beverages from Condessa and plenty of spiced cider!!

We also chatted to Ian Sturrock, who provided us with our organic apple tress and signed up to receive our weekly bread supplies (including speciality sourdough bread for supper club) from local artisan baker Mick Hartley of Bethesda Bakers . I believe he has been mentioned in the Guardian and he does pretty much the same as us in the ‘pop-up restaurant’ world except he has a ‘pop-up’ bakery. For those in the Conwy Llanrwst area we found out that Conwy food direct are planning a local food delivery service.


Conwy mussels (mine are better though; these were too buttery and salty)

Apple juice and local apples


the lovely, helpful assistant at the Condessa stall


Medieval food

Sunday was better. The teens decided not to come, so did the other half. I ended up going back to the festival with my friend, her daughter and the little un. We hung out in the castle looking at  medieval food, tasting medieval recipes and doing kid stuff. We then went off to the quayside and watched Bryn Williams (of Odettes restaurant in London) poncing around with umpteen film crews around. But i did manage to do a bit more tasting and some shopping in the farmers market. While doing so Bryn and his film crew turned up again causing maximum chaos in the packed out marquee as he ostentatiously sniffed at the vegetables (while I tried to hide from the camera. I’m sure they thought I was a stalker). Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to see any of his demonstrations, or those by Colin Presdee (author of Food Wales), or hand out that many flyers due to the masses of people and the stroppy kids. But it was a good weekend even if i’m skint now!!


Bryn Williams doing his thing

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Filed under festival food, Food festival, local produce, produce markets, Sources and suppliers