Sally Jack is a writer and poet based in Leicester. She has just completed a degree and during her time at university was the food columnist in The Demon newspaper. These are a selection of her recipes – aimed at students but suitable for all. Sally enjoys writing feature articles and fiction for children and grown ups, however, she also has a keen interest in poetry, art, theatre and local history. And food – cooking it, sharing it and writing about it.
The idea for this feature first occurred around Valentine’s Day but don’t worry, I won’t force feed you a ‘romantic meal for two’ type of food article. I will instead return to one of my favourite themes: food is best shared with those you love, whether that is friends, family, a current squeeze or someone you hope to be squeezing later (although perhaps wait until your dinner has gone down).
Eating out, like an alarming amount of things now, is expensive. Supermarkets have developed the concept of ‘enjoy a night in for a tenner’ encouraging you to purchase from their readymade ranges. I wanted to find out if I could do the same only create and cook the dishes myself, all for under £10.
Food is interesting when you contrast texture and sensation and this is very much the case with the dessert as it is all about hot and cold, crunchy and smooth, soft and hard. I hope the photo helps you imagine ice cream slowly spreading over crushed biscuit, warm blueberries tumbling onto ice cream, the sauce oozing over ice cream and biscuit, the chocolate melting (parental guidance alert: food porn). I never knew you could have so much fun so cheaply!
In the style of Ready, Steady Cook this menu assumes you have some basic kitchen essentials in stock. You can adapt depending on what you might have available and I have given some ideas for each course. The starter isn’t vegetarian so instead of the bacon, try goat’s cheese cut into thin slices – see what’s on special offer. For what it’s worth, I visited a Sainsbury’s Local and spent £9.94 and some time trying to stick within the £10 budget. The upshot is your guest will need to supply the drinks. Raise your glass to whoever you’re dining with and happy cooking.
French Style Salad
(mixed leaves with croutons and lardons or melting goat’s cheese slices)
Spaghetti with Roast Tomatoes and Peppers
Sexed Up Shortbread
– A 75g bag of mixed leaf salad – 1 pack of fresh blueberries (special offer 2 for 1)
– A pack of lardons (diced bacon) – A tub of Carte D’Or Vanilla ice cream (special offer)
– A 500g pack of spaghetti – A pack of shortbread biscuits
– A pack of cherry tomatoes – A Cadbury’s Flake
– Twin pack of peppers
Additional Ingredients (hopefully from your cupboard/fridge)
– A slice of bread, olive oil, a garlic clove, grated cheese (preferably parmesan), herbs – rosemary or oregano or dried mixed herbs, salt and pepper, a dessertspoon of sugar, preferably icing but granulated or caster is fine. If you have an onion or courgette going spare, chop that into thin slices and roast with the tomatoes and peppers.
Finally, if you don’t want to bother with a starter, just serve the salad with the main course, you could add the bacon to the spaghetti sauce if you like. I am not keen on starters, too much extra washing up!
Cooking time – approx 1 hour
- Heat oven to 200 C /Gas 7
- To make croutons for salad: rub a slice of bread with olive oil (not too much, no more than a teaspoon rubbed over both sides). If you have a garlic clove you could crush it and rub that on as well, or chop clove finely and sprinkle on top. Add a twist of salt and pepper. Put in oven until the bread has crisped up (5 -10 mins). Remove, then cut toast into little squares
- To roast vegetables: wash peppers, pat dry then place in a roasting tin. Sprinkle over a teaspoon’s worth of herbs if using. Put in oven, after about 10 mins add the tomatoes and cook for a further 20 mins until peppers have blackened in places (this is OK). The tomatoes may have burst but not collapsed (this is also OK).
- Towards the end of the pepper roasting time, cook the lardons in a frying pan or small saucepan. No oil is needed as fat comes off the bacon. Fry gently for about 5 mins then drain off on kitchen paper (save some of the juices here to drizzle on the salad as a dressing). You could heat the croutons up with the bacon if you like for extra bacon flavour – like fried bread! For the veggie version, grill your sliced goats’ cheese now – just until warm and melting.
- Remove peppers and tomatoes from the oven and cool for a few minutes. You can peel the skin off the peppers if you prefer – I leave it on as I like the roasted taste.
- Arrange a large handful of salad on each plate, top with croutons and bacon bits/goats cheese and a little drizzle of oily juice.
- Boil a kettle of water for the pasta. Measure out how much pasta you need according to packet instructions and place in a saucepan, cover with boiled water. Leave simmering whilst you eat your starter.
- Once pasta is cooked (usually up to 10 mins), drain and divide between dinner plates. Thinly slice the peppers, re-heat them and the tomatoes quickly in the frying pan if needed. Divide between the plates, the juices from the tomatoes should act as a thin sauce for the spaghetti. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan (or cheddar if you have to) and serve… and eat.
- Wash the blueberries then heat very gently in a small saucepan with a spoonful of sugar. You don’t need much as the rest of the pudding is quite sweet. Add a teaspoon of water.
- Heat for about 5 minutes until some of the blueberries have burst, releasing their juice.
- Meanwhile assemble the rest of the pudding – put 4 (2 per person is enough) shortbread fingers in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin (if you don’t have one, how about a heavy textbook?). You should have a bag of small gravel-sized bits. Divide this between two large wine glasses (or bowls, whatever you’ve got).
- Put 2 -3 scoops of ice cream on top of the crushed biscuits then pour over the hot blueberries. Break the Flake up into pieces and sprinkle over each pudding.
Recipe by Sally Jack
Photograph by Briony Latter