Foodbank appeal: Top chef Richard Hughes’ food box recipe ideas

Restaurateur Richard Hughes with his first ever packet of Smash, cooking for Norwich Foodbank. Photo: Bill Smith Restaurateur Richard Hughes with his first ever packet of Smash, cooking for Norwich Foodbank. Photo: Bill Smith

Monday, December 16, 2013
7:00 AM

As donations continue to arrive for Norwich Foodbank’s Christmas appeal, we asked top chef Richard Hughes what he could come up with armed only with a food parcel and a little imagination. MARK SHIELDS reports.

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Restaurateur Richard Hughes's Christmas bread pudding, using ingredients from a foodbank foodbox. Photo: Bill SmithRestaurateur Richard Hughes's Christmas bread pudding, using ingredients from a foodbank foodbox. Photo: Bill Smith

The contents of a food parcel from Norwich Foodbank are a far cry from the ingredients of the Michelin-starred kitchens where chef Richard Hughes was trained.

But, he says, there’s no reason the contents of the boxes cannot be turned in tasty and nutritious meals for families in a crisis.

Mr Hughes, the chef-proprietor at the Lavender House in Brundall, was challenged to devise some recipes using the contents of a standard food parcel and a discount food voucher from Coop, which offers £5 of goods for £3 for foodbank customers.

And there are lessons to learn for anyone looking to balance a budget and make their food go further.

Restaurateur Richard Hughes's spicy tuna chowder, using ingredients from a foodbank foodbox. Photo: Bill SmithRestaurateur Richard Hughes's spicy tuna chowder, using ingredients from a foodbank foodbox. Photo: Bill Smith

Here, he presents some quick and simple ways to make a meal greater than the sum of its parts.

“There’s a lot of snobbery in food and cooking these days, but a lot of the dishes served in top restaurants are versions of good old-fashioned peasant food,” said Mr Hughes, a patron of the EDP Adnams Norfolk Food and Drink Festival.

“I’ve tried to come up with failsafe recipes that can be put together very quickly, because when people are relying on these boxes they don’t want to have to spend hours cooking – they’ve got enough to worry about.”

As well as convenience, speedy cooking means lower fuel bills – something that’s paramount to families facing a cold winter on expensive pre-paid meters.

Recipes on a tight budget

Shepherdess Pie (serves six)

2 large tins mixed beans

900g potatoes, roughly chopped

40g margarine

3 tablespoons olive oil

3-5 tablespoons milk

125g tinned vegetables

2 tablespoons tomato purée

225g chopped tomatoes

125g cheese (optional)

Pre-heat oven to gas mark 5 or 190ºC. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water. When tender, drain and mash with the margarine and milk for creamy mashed potatoes. Season to taste. Meanwhile, fry the onions in a little oil until soft.

Add the carrots and/or peas. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato purée and herbs and cook for a few more minutes. Season to taste with soy sauce and salt and pepper. Spread out in an ovenproof dish.

Cover with 2cm-thick layer of mashed potato.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is nicely browned. Top with cheese and grill (optional).

Bread pudding

A quick and inexpensive alternative to Christmas pudding.

450g white bread, preferably stale

1pt milk

200g dried mixed fruit

100g chopped peel

100g suet

100g demerara sugar

2-3 teaspoons mixed spice

2 eggs

Nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C. Remove the crusts and break up the bread. Soak in milk for half an hour. Beat out any lumps and add all the dried ingredients, except the nutmeg. Add the beaten eggs, and a little extra milk if needed. Pour into a well-greased tin.

Grate the nutmeg over the top. Bake for 1½-2 hours. Dredge with sugar.

Spicy tuna chowder

225g tin tuna

50g margarine

100g onion

100g leek

1 litre milk

300g peeled potato, diced

1 teaspoon curry powder

Salt and ground white pepper

Wash the leek, cut into small dice, and do the same with the onion. Dice the potato to 5mm square. Gently fry the leek, onion and curry spice in the butter.

Soften, but do not colour. Add the potato dice and cook for three minutes. Add the milk, then tuna. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring gently, until the potato is cooked.

Rice pudding brulee, left

Open the tinned rice pudding, add a flavour such as a little diluted instant coffee, hot chocolate or – to make a malted milk version – add a spoon of Horlicks.

Place some tinned fruit (peaches or apricots) in the base of an ovenproof dish, spoon on the rice pudding, and bake in the oven. When hot, sprinkle the top liberally with granulated sugar and place under a hot grill to

brulee the top.

Chocolate tiffin

250g chocolate

50g broken biscuits

120g margarine

2 tbsp golden syrup

2 tbsp sugar

4 tsp cocoa

A handful of raisins (optional)

Melt margarine, sugar, syrup and cocoa in a pan. When hot and melted, add the chocolate and stir until this has also melted. Add the raisins. Crush the biscuits and add to the melted mixture. Pour the mixture into a Swiss roll-sized tin lined with baking parchment, and press down. Pop into the fridge, and leave to set for one hour. Cut into 20-24 pieces.

Foodbank volunteers have dealt with clients who do not have the gas or electric to cook the food they are given, and the charity has since developed a box of food that doesn’t need cooking.

Mr Hughes, who also runs the Assembly Rooms in Norwich, said: “People are caught between a rock and a hard place. Traditionally, the cheaper cuts of meat are the ones that need cooking longer, but that in itself costs money.

“These recipes are adaptable, so you can swap ingredients if you have other things in the food box or cupboard. You don’t have to stick to the recipes strictly .”

With food prices rising steadily, Mr Hughes said the same principles applied for anyone looking to make their food stretch further on a budget – adding vegetables to recipes, and cooking in batch where possible. The horse meat scandal has also shown the risks of looking for ever-cheaper meat, he added.

“We have an idea in this country that it isn’t a proper meal unless you have meat in it, but the continental technique is different,” he said.

“In Italy, you might have a bowl of polenta – which is pennies – and grate some cheese on top, or a bowl of pasta, salt, pepper and oil.

“There’s nothing important than food, and I can’t imagine anything worse than going hungry, so I am happy to support the foodbank in any way I can.”

12 comments

  • Lucy and Jen - believe me, you do not want to qualify for a foodbank handout. I agree with Richard Slipper - this article is in dubious taste. It trivialises what for most is a very difficult time of their lives and demonstrates a complete lack of awareness on the part of our local media. Cheap shot journalism at it worst. No worries though, Richard Hughes managed to get his festive column inches on the back of other people's misery.

    Report this comment

    flatliner

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • sorry Flatliner, I would be gratefull for a food donation, Itis hard work trying balance a very low budget.

    Report this comment

    lucy

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • Tin peaches, horlicks.... Please could I have a food parcel... I live on a very low income, Cannot afford these items I consider these to be a luxery item

    Report this comment

    lucy

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • Why would anyone want a £3 voucher for co-op?, The people who decide that you can't be trusted with strong lager, just go to LIDL or ALDI, and get more for your £3 in the first place.

    Report this comment

    inactive user

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • Lucy and Jen - believe me, you do not want to qualify for a foodbank handout. I agree with Richard Slipper - this article is in dubious taste. It trivialises what for most is a very difficult time of their lives and demonstrates a complete lack of awareness on the part of our local media. Cheap shot journalism at it worst. No worries though, Richard Hughes managed to get his festive column inches on the back of other people's misery.

    Report this comment

    flatliner

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • the goverment cannot ignore the fact that 500 000 thousand plus are using foodbanks now and many more are on the verge of going there . This is a nation unable to feed its own people . Yet the other day funded hundreds of asylum seekers in a luxury hotel used by premiership footballers in 48 hours . to the sum of 400 000 thousand pounds. There are many more examples of this goverment madness.While british people suffer their goverment borrows billions from the banks at high interest to waste on others . You only get what you vote for

    Report this comment

    milecross

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • I-have-reservations-about-this-article.Much-doubt-that-those-qualifying-for-a-food-parcel-will-be-too-bothered-about-fancy-cooking.Perhaps-a-little-patronising?

    Report this comment

    Richard Slipper

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • Lucy and Jen - believe me, you do not want to qualify for a foodbank handout. I agree with Richard Slipper - this article is in dubious taste. It trivialises what for most is a very difficult time of their lives and demonstrates a complete lack of awareness on the part of our local media. Cheap shot journalism at it worst. No worries though, Richard Hughes managed to get his festive column inches on the back of other people's misery.

    Report this comment

    flatliner

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • Milecross, you must be right. Nobody could quote figures like "400 000 thousand" without having thoroughly researched the subject. You've got the Chancellor on the ropes with your maths there boy, well done.

    Report this comment

    Capac Raimi

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • I am confused, I thought this article was making meals from food parcels? The recipes are titled |"recipes on a tight budget" not the same unless potatoes and carrots are included in a food parcel.Just for clarification what is in a food parcel?

    Report this comment

    lucy

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • Benefits for foodbank customers...Coop, which offers £5 of goods for £3 for foodbank customers. That is just over half price. Now how can I become a foodbank customer?

    Report this comment

    JEN

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • the goverment cannot ignore the fact that 500 000 thousand plus are using foodbanks now and many more are on the verge of going there . This is a nation unable to feed its own people . Yet the other day funded hundreds of asylum seekers in a luxury hotel used by premiership footballers in 48 hours . to the sum of 400 000 thousand pounds. There are many more examples of this goverment madness.While british people suffer their goverment borrows billions from the banks at high interest to waste on others . You only get what you vote for

    Report this comment

    milecross

    Monday, December 16, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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