There is a simple secret to fine frugal dining: seasonal simplicity. Eat with spring, summer, autumn and winter. My aim is to spend around a tenner a week for the upcoming months as I eagerly await the confirmation of my next work contract. The joy of being freelance (and not business inclined) is a matter of feast and famine; my bank manager is suddenly becomes friendly after my payment for project completion has been deposited. So after a ‘Ryanair-setting’ trip on a budget, sleeping on beaches, taking night trains, having wolves circling our tent (OK – it was a cane lupo as I found out after a sleepless night, but how can you tell from a shadow) and feasting on the fantastic tomatoes and olive oil that the Abruzzian countryside had to offer, it’s time to reign it in but set myself a challenge at the same time. After all this is a food blog, so the usual trick of cooking up a huge pot of dal just won’t cut the mustard… Delicious recipes on a budget? Challenge accepted. I’ve taken out £40 for the next four weeks so let’s see how we go.
It’s all about organisation and meal planning. Dull dull dull, but it really does help you to tighten the purse strings. Oh, and also what we call ‘Costcutter raids.’ We are rather limited on the shopping front in our village, but when the clock chimes 7o’clock we circle the discounted aisle to pick up any bargains. A tiny shop doesn’t yield the bounty of a supermarket, but you can often pick up loaves of fresh bread to freeze and tubs of cream for 10p. Bargain! I fear this will end up rather like an ode to Italian pasta and pizza (let’s not forget Papesse), as I get particularly peckish after a swim, and I’m not craving an al fresco curry in this lovely weather.
How gutted am I that a naughty dog dug up my tiny veg patch including my ickle courgette bush! No stuffed courgette flowers on my table – but I’m hoping they’ll be selling plants at the market next weekend, even though it’s a bit late in the season… The sprawling nasturtiums have recovered, so with the rocket, at least I’ve got lots of peppery salad leaves to munch on.
Let’s start off with a lunch of Spaghetti con zucchine e ricotta salata…
RECIPE: Spaghetti con zucchine e ricotta salata
Cost: 30p a serving
1 courgette, sliced in half lengthwise and then sliced thinly into half-moons
1 clove garlic
1 large dried chilli
The zest of half a lemon
50g ricotta salata, grated (can substitute feta or ‘Greek salad cheese’)
A pinch of nutmeg
A couple of finely shredded basil and nasturtium (optional) leaves
A sprinkle of salt and a grinding of pepper
INSTRUCTIONS: Put a large pan of water onto boil, adding salt and the pasta when it comes to a rolling boil. Fry the sliced in a tablespoon of olive oil until it begins to brown and add the garlic, chilli and lemon zest. Drain the pasta and add to the courgettes with a ladleful of cooking water, the fresh herbs, a pinch of nutmeg and two thirds of the cheese. Season – remembering that the cheese is salty – pile onto plates and top with the remaining ricotta salata, a grinding of black pepper and a drizzle of oil and enjoy.