Steven Saunders’ brilliant Thrifty 50 recipes: Delicious, low-cost food for less than £1 a portion – Cambridge Independent

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SINCE 1819
SINCE 1819
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This week, celebrity chef Steven Saunders tackles the cost of living challenge with a first selection from his new ‘Thrifty 50’ recipes of low-cost, nourishing food. He shows us how to shrink our shopping lists by buying more smartly this winter – and he cooks some dishes at home with his girlfriend.
Wow. What a few weeks it has been. A new PM, the death of our Queen, a new King, a mini budget, some interesting new politics, some tax reductions, some energy price caps. But does any of that affect the cost-of-living crisis?
It doesn’t change the cost of using the electric oven, which is about £5 every time you roast a chicken, nor will it change the price of a roast joint on Sunday or the price of eating out.
Whoever you are, wherever you are in the UK, the cost of living is more than a crisis, it’s a catastrophic reality.
Food prices are not going down, energy is still the most expensive it has ever been, the war in Ukraine still goes on, helping to keep costs high.
When you think that we may be OK, along comes Mr Winter, who will hit us hard with a sharp chill and suddenly we all want to eat homely food.
Always trying to help, I have created and funded what I have called FeedtheUK. It’s a project born out of a passion to ensure that while we may be cold this winter, with some not able to heat their homes, we won’t go hungry!
I sat for weeks working on a list of 50 low-cost meals. I called it my Thifty 50 on Sky TV, because it is. I created it to help shrink your shopping list, but not your waistline or your sanity.
It’s exclusively to the Cambridge Independent, with many more recipes coming online soon.
The objective is simple. Fresh, homemade meals that will reduce your food costs significantly, saving us all money. Chicken thighs are a fraction of the cost of chicken breasts and taste better, sweeter and juicier. Minced turkey makes a pleasant change from minced beef. Corned beef makes amazing chilli con carne. Pork knuckles taste delicious when slow-cooked by almost forgetting about them and making pancakes at home is more fun than watching TV.
All of these dishes are guaranteed to warm you up and give you some essential nutrition ready to defend us against Mr Winter and the cold nights that are looming.
Some recipes have been adapted from old war-time favourites, with modern-day twists. Some have been forgotten and have been resurrected, some are modern and new, and some are essential, but all are available and in season.
Let’s not forget vegetarians and vegans. It’s all part of the DNA of a modern society. So when your daughter says she is a vegan, you have to react with joy, as if she has just announced her engagement, or she may never eat with you again!
Back at home, I have been teaching my girlfriend to cook. Letting her loose in the kitchen with the cooker, the fryer and the chef’s knives.
Tea towels have gone up in flames, meat has been carbonised (she calls it caramelised), fish has ended up looking like porridge and some meat dishes have looked like the food the pooches eat, but I love her, so it doesn’t really matter.
Which brings me to some of our cookery sessions at home, which have been filmed and will be available for you to watch soon on YouTube, social media and at cambridgeindependent.co.uk.
They are amusing, but they focus on cooking on a budget using simple methods like spoons of ingredients rather than weighing anything out. Let’s don our aprons and get cooking this winter!
And some breaking news…I am delighted to inform you that I have joined forces with Dr Alex Davidson, an NHS GP from Cambridge.
Alex is an exceptional, highly qualified nutrition and gut specialist. She will examine the recipes, then season them with a sprinkling of nutrients, and offer us health advice, to keep us well-nourished, fit and healthy this winter. Without Alex, I can only do so much. With her, I can do much more!
Steven’s Spanish meatballs with spiced tomato sauce (Albondigas)


I had a restaurant in Spain for eight years and this dish was a favourite Tapas at lunchtime. It is delicious with some grated manchego cheese served on top, but that all adds cost so I have avoided it in the recipe below. Enjoy with rice or pasta.
Ingredients (serves 8)
For the meatballs
For the sauce
Method for the meatball mixture:
Mix all the ingredients with your hand in a large mixing bowl.
Roll between 30 and 35 small meatballs out of the meat mixture, about the size of a walnut. Wet your hands from time to time. it will be easier to form the balls.
Fry them in a frying pan on medium-high heat in a little olive oil for about five minutes, until brown on all sides, turning them often with a plastic spatula or a wooden spoon.
It is better to fry the balls in two batches rather than frying too many at once, to avoid the pan being overcrowded.
They will not be completely cooked through at this stage; you will continue cooking them in the sauce later.

Method for the sauce:
They are ideal for freezing which is why we are making more than we need. They will keep for three days in the fridge in the sauce.
Cost: 84p per portion
Steven’s vegetarian cottage pie (serves 4-6)
You can change this dish up by adding minced beef or even minced turkey. If you do that you won’t need the beans.
Ingredients
Method

Cost: 95p per portion
Chilli con carne made with corned beef (serves 8)


It’s amazing how far a tin of corned beef goes when mixed with tomatoes and the beans. Make a lot and then freeze.
Ingredients
Method
Cost: 93p per person
Tuna fishcakes with spicy sweetcorn salsa (serves 8)


Ingredients
Method
Sweetcorn salsa
Mix all these ingredients together and serve with the fish cakes:
Cost: 75p per serving
Banana pancakes with chocolate sauce
Ingredients for the pancake batter – makes 12 pancakes (serves 6)
Method
Simple chocolate sauce
Method

Cost: 55p per portion
Parsnip and pear soup (serves 6)


Ingredients
Method
Cost: 40p per portion, including bread

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