I love entertaining and feeding people. If I had my way we’d be dining on lobsters and venison and all sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients because I like to try new recipes and experiment. But invariably they come with a hefty price tag and at the moment that’s not a price tag we can afford.
So I wanted to write a few entries here and there about entertaining on a budget, and how by utilising things you already have in your fridge/freezer/store cupboard it’s possible to put together menus that are tasty but don’t break the bank. Obviously these are based on what I already have in MY house, but hopefully they might provide some inspiration (as well as some favourite recipes).
The first is for a dinner party for 6 people, achieved on just £20, with some extras for my toddler.
Canapé – Meatballs with spicy tomato sauce, grated parmesan and basil on canapé spoons.
Starter – Pesto and mozzarella bruschetta with watercress and a honey and balsamic drizzle.
Main – Fennel and chilli roast pork with butternut squash pureé, olive oil roasted potatoes and a watercress, pistachio, chive flower and viola salad.
Pudding – Vanilla panna cotta with stewed rhubarb and crystallised ginger.
Easy peasy. Buy mini ready made beef meatballs – Sainsburys sell a pack of 20 for £2.85, cook as per instrictions – http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shop/gb/groceries/sainsburys-beef-meatballs–8%25-fat-400g
For the sauce just roast cherry tomatoes (I’d stuck some in the freezer before we went on holiday or they’d have gone off), along with some red onion and garlic from the fridge, until soft. Blitz in a blender with some fresh basil (we always have a pot growing on our window sill) and taste. Season and add some spice from your store cupboard if you like – perhaps a little paprika and cumin.
Put a meatball on each serving spoon, trickle the sauce over and top with grated parmesan and a small basil leaf.
I actually cooked 40 meatballs and mixed the majority with the sauce and froze into portions for my toddler (or an easy supper for grown-ups works too). Serve with pasta – they are delicious!
Easy peasy. Make your own pesto – http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2494/pesto-sauce
You can make a big batch and freeze little portions in an ice cube tray for future use too (again perfect for toddler portions or use a few for bigger ones).
Buy some bread of your choosing, something that will slice nicely, and toast lightly. Top with mozzarella and melt under the grill. Drizzle with the pesto.
This is lovely with a few salad leaves on the side, topped with a honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing – if you’re serving a salad with the main you don’t even need to buy separate salad! We usually have pesto and salad dressing ingredients in the cupboard so this was just mozzarella and bread for the shopping list.
I used this lovely House and Garden recipe, substituting butternut squash for the pumpkin. This was my best utilisation of stuff already in the house with a big loin of pork my parents had brought up on one for their visits from a farm in Kent – which went straight in the freezer for such an occasion! Otherwise I’m always looking for deals on meat at the supermarket for things I can buy on offer and freeze to be used for an appropriate meal – and it always spreads the cost then if you’re cooking for a few.
I served it with some lovely new potatoes roasted in their skins in olive oil and some salt, and a salad of watercress, pistachios from the cupboard, and some home-grown chive flowers and violas. Drizzle with a salad dressing of your choice – something that will cut through the richness of the squash puree. I used olive oil, white wine vinegar, freshly squeezed orange juice and a little sugar.
Easy – honest!
I usually have some vanilla pods and gelatine leaves in the cupboard as panna cotta is a favourite in our house. It’s really quick and easy to make and looks pretty impressive. Other ingredients are just double cream, milk and sugar.
My fail safe recipe is always this one from Simon Rimmer – http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/vanillapannacotta_87907
We are lucky to grown some of our own fruit, and I am spoilt by a very green-fingered father-in-law and his allotments that send fresh fruit and veg our way for most of the year.
I had some lovely rhubarb in the freezer from the most recent crop which just needed thawing and warming with some sugar to make a sauce – but you could use whatever fruit you like. Serve with the panna cotta. I added a sprinkling of crystalised ginger from my baking cupboard, just for a little crunch.
I only needed to buy the double cream on this occasion.
I hope this just shows what you can pull together on a budget when you raid your cupboards!
Total ingredients needed (* indicates what I didn’t have in the house and needed to buy):