Friday, 14 June 2013

An evening with destitute gourmet

I seem to be the only foodie on this part of the planet who had not heard of destitute gourmet before this week. Gourmet cooking and eating on a budget? Sounds good to me! Last night, I enjoyed a delightful evening with Sophie Gray of destitute gourmet fame at a fundraising event.

Sophie had the 98% female audience in the palm of her hand with her opening lines about how under resourced and unappreciated home cooks trying to feed families every day while on a tight budget are. The task is ongoing and relentless, yet necessary. So how to do it?

As a presenter, Sophie is dynamic, passionate and talks at a million miles a minute. She is full of ideas and willingly shares them. At one stage, as she was excitedly rattling off variations for one of her pastry recipes, I gave up trying to write as fast as she could talk, crossing my fingers that these variations would be somewhere on her website, rather than trying to decipher my scribbled notes later!

Sophie prepared six dishes (four savoury, two sweet) in front of us and explained the formula for creating each, rather than just giving us recipes to follow. It was refreshing to see her open tins of supermarket branded food (tomatoes, beans etc) to use as a base for cooking. After all, this is what our pantries are full of and, in reality, is what we'll use most.

Sophie's food budgeting advice is not exactly rocket science; most of it is just plain old common sense, but there were still plenty of tips and recipe variations that will make a difference. I have just borrowed Live Well, Spend Less from the library and look forward to gleaning it for tips this weekend. The main point I want to reinforce for myself is learning how to use my freezer smartly. I've had some success with this this year by making a concerted attempt to cook one meal a week that can be frozen, but freezing (and using) individual components to use again later saves so much more waste.

Here are just some of the food tips Sophie offered. [Any misquotes are my own.]
  • Buying a good chef's knife ($100-$300) costs less than a lawnmower and you will use it more often. [I totally agree!]
  • Freeze leftover tomato paste in tablespoon-sized globs wrapped in Glad wrap. Then, just drop the frozen globs into soups or sauces to as you need them. [It's better than trying to scrape the scody bits off the top of paste that you've left in the fridge for too long.]
  • Make a huge pot of soup and freeze individual portions in a muffin tray. That way, you'll always have a healthy snack-size serving that you can defrost and heat up in a cup.
  • A handful of freshly chopped herbs added while cooking doubles the amount of antioxidants in the dish. [Heck, even I can grow herbs, so this shouldn't be too hard for most.]
  • If you're freezing larger quantities of soup (for example, in an ice cream container), put a round beaker or cup in the middle of the container. This will prevent you ending up with a big frozen chunk in the middle of your soup that won't defrost as you reheat it.
You can find the destitute gourmet community everywhere online including Twitter, Facebook and on their blog. Sophie also wrote for Healthy Food Guide for a number of years.

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