Delicious food needn’t be extravagant, and there are multiple ways to further your meals while still sticking to a budget. That can mean using up the tins and spices you already have in the house, rather than heading to the shops, or finding savvy swaps: tinned tuna instead of sardines, say, or chilli flakes instead of fresh chilli.
Another approach that’s really effective is to take the time to try out a new cooking technique: they may seem only slight tweaks, but the effect of adding a few slivers of fried garlic, for example, or stirring lightly pickled vegetables or fresh herbs through a sauce can take a dish to wonderful new heights at little extra cost.
Sardine curry with ginger and chilli
This is one of my go-to dishes whenever my fridge is empty and I’m rustling through the tins and spices in the cupboard. If you like, swap the cavolo nero for another hardy leaf such as chard. Serve with a bowl of rice.
Prep 10 min
Cook 15 min
1 cinnamon stick
4 x 120g tins of sardines in oil, drained (336g net weight), 3 tbsp of their oil reserved
1½ tsp black mustard seeds
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped (140g)
35g fresh ginger, peeled, half grated, the rest cut into fine julienne strips
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Fine sea salt
2½ tsp tomato paste
1½ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp ground turmeric
400ml coconut milk
60g cavolo nero, leaves stripped off stalks and roughly chopped (40g)
3 tbsp fresh lime juice (ie, from 1½ limes)
2 red chillies, cut into thin rounds, or 1 tsp chilli flakes
Put the cinnamon and two tablespoons of the sardine oil in a large non-stick saute pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the mustard seeds and cook for a minute, just until they start to pop. Stir in the onion, grated ginger, garlic and a teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring continuously, until the onion has softened but not coloured.
Mix in the tomato paste, garam masala, turmeric and two of the sardines (ie, 70g) and cook, stirring, for two minutes more, until the sardines have broken down into small pieces and the spices are fragrant. Pour in the coconut milk, simmer for three minutes, until it has thickened slightly, then stir in the cavolo nero and cook for a minute, until just wilted.
Nestle the remaining sardines in the sauce, spooning some of it over the top to cover, leaving to cook for a minute more, then take off the heat. Add two teaspoons of the lime juice and gently swirl the pan around to mix it into the sauce without breaking up the fish, then set aside.
Put the remaining tablespoon of sardine oil in a small pan on medium heat. Once hot, add the sliced ginger and chilli and fry for two minutes until slightly golden.
Gently pour the curry into a serving bowl, drizzle over the remaining teaspoon of lime juice, spoon the ginger and chilli oil on top, and serve with a bowl of rice alongside.
Glossy pork with green beans, crispy chilli and garlic
This one-pan dish makes for a great midweek meal and needs nothing more by way of an accompaniment than some steamed sticky rice. If you like, swap the pork for chicken or turkey thigh mince.
Prep 20 min
Cook 20 min
60ml sunflower oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled, half thinly sliced, the rest finely chopped
2 red chillies (20g), 1 cut into thin rounds, the other finely chopped
500g pork mince
150g unsmoked lardons, roughly chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar
200g frozen (or fresh) fine green beans, defrosted and cut in half widthways
3½ tbsp oyster sauce
25g Thai or regular basil, hard stems discarded
1 lime, cut into quarters
Put the oil in a large saute pan on medium heat and, once hot, add the sliced garlic and chilli, and fry, stirring frequently, for four to five minutes, until lightly golden. Take off the heat and pour through a heat-proof sieve into a small bowl. Set aside the pan and keep the oil and solids for later.
Put the mince in a medium bowl with the chopped chilli, lardons, fennel and a good grind of black pepper, and mix until it goes sticky. Put the pan back on high heat and, once it’s hot, pour in half the reserved oil and the pork mixture. Cook for eight to 10 minutes, stirring to break up the mince into smaller pieces, until lightly coloured and slightly crisp in places, then tip into a medium bowl.
Return the pan to high heat, add the remaining reserved oil and the green beans, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, until nicely blistered. Return the pork mixture to the pan, stir to combine, then stir in the oyster sauce and a tablespoon of water, and cook for a minute longer, until everything is well coated and glossy.
Turn off the heat, stir in the basil, then spoon into a lipped shallow bowl. Scatter the crispy chilli and garlic on top and serve with the lime and some sticky rice on the side.
Frittata with pickled celeriac and paprika aïoli
Eggs make such quick and satisfying meals, and even more so when they’re bulked out into a frittata. Any leftovers make a great lunch the next day, too.
Prep 30 min
Cook 45 min
1 medium celeriac (1kg), peeled (to get 800g)
3 small butter gold or russet potatoes, or other yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm-thick rounds
120ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 tsp caraway seeds, toasted and lightly ground in a mortar
7 spring onions (80g), thinly sliced – set aside 20g of the greens for the pickle
45g parsley, soft stems and leaves, roughly chopped
8 large eggs
For the aïoli
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp dijon mustard
¾ tsp smoked paprika
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk (use the excess white in the frittata)
1½ tsp lemon juice
200ml sunflower oil, or other neutral oil
For the pickle
1 red chilli (10g), thinly sliced (if you like less heat, remove and discard the pith and seeds)
1¼ tsp caster sugar
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9 and line a large oven tray with baking paper. Cut the celeriac in half lengthways through the root, then cut each half into three 4cm-wide wedges. Set aside 300g for the pickle, then cut the rest into 1cm-thick slices and put in a large bowl with the potatoes, 75ml oil, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Toss to combine, put in a single layer on the lined tray, cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes, until tender. Remove and set aside, then turn down the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6.
Put the caraway seeds, spring onions, parsley, eggs, extra egg white (from the aïoli ingredients), half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper in a large bowl. Whisk to break down the eggs, then stir in the warm roast vegetables and any oil from the tray.
Put a 22cm, high-sided, nonstick saute pan on medium-high heat and, once hot, add the remaining 45ml oil. Take off the heat, pour in the egg mixture, then bake for 17 minutes for a slightly runny centre or for 20 minutes if you prefer a firmer set. Remove and set aside for 15 minutes, then use a spatula or palette knife to loosen the edges. Put a dinner plate on top of the pan, then flip to turn out the frittata.
Once the frittata is in the oven, make the aïoli and pickle. Put the garlic, mustard, paprika, egg, egg yolk and lemon juice in a food processor, blitz to combine, then, with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the 200ml oil until smooth and mayonnaise-like. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill until needed.
For the pickle, cut the reserved 300g peeled celeriac into 2mm-thick slices (use a mandoline, ideally) and put in a bowl with the chilli, caster sugar, vinegar and a teaspoon of salt. Toss to combine, then set aside for 15-20 minutes.
Just before serving, mix the reserved spring onion greens into the pickle, then arrange half of it directly on top of the frittata. Serve warm with the aïoli and remaining pickle in bowls alongside.