March 10 2014 Latest news:
Monday, December 16, 2013
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.
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.
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.
Shepherdess Pie (serves six)
2 large tins mixed beans
900g potatoes, roughly chopped
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).
A quick and inexpensive alternative to Christmas pudding.
450g white bread, preferably stale
200g dried mixed fruit
100g chopped peel
100g demerara sugar
2-3 teaspoons mixed spice
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
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.
50g broken biscuits
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.”