Friday, 10 May 2013

Week 14- £1 a Day Challenge

Between 29th April and 3rd May this year, threw down the gauntlet to crafty cooks and savvy shoppers everywhere to see if they could feed themselves on just £1 a day- as that is what more than a billion people worldwide have to do.

I gave it a lot of thought- superscrimper supreme that I am- and came to the conclusion that it was a challenge too far even for me. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and tea- every day for 5 days on just £1- I'm not sure it's possible. Is it?

And yet- there are many, many people here in the UK trying to manage on just such small amounts, living below the poverty line.

So, it was with great interest that I read the blogs of those who took part. Some managed the challenge, others fell by the wayside. All agreed that the diet was uninteresting, repetitive ( porridge for breakfast, lentil soup for lunch...) and that it felt nutritionally poor. It was impossible to access lean meat, fresh fish, much fruit or fresh vegetables- and certainly no quality produce like free range eggs, wholemeal bread and so on.
All the participants complained of being hungry at the end of the day, feeling lethargic and lacking in energy as though they had not taken in enough calories.

Not the best physical state to be in if you need to pound the streets looking for work, or spend a day in school trying to learn.

I applaud those that managed- and so decided to make this week's blog menu as a tribute, particularly because I felt the task would have been beyond me.

I have prepared a three course dinner menu for four people, costing under £1 a head.

Starter is Carrot and Cumin Soup with homemade spicy tortilla chips, main course is Falafel Fritters with Pitta, hummus and salad and dessert is Wizard Chocolate Pud.

Total cost: £3.70.
Carrot and Cumin Soup

For the soup, chop 400g of fresh carrots and 1 small onion and place in a large pan (I use my pressure cooker). Gently soften in a tablespoon of oil and add 2 teaspoons of cumin powder, 1 teaspoon of turmeric and a vegetable stock cube. Pour on about 1and 1/2 litres of boiling water and simmer until the carrots are tender enough to puree. Blitz with a blender stick and adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve with a garnish of your choice- crispy fried onions, poppy seeds or whatever you have in the storecupboard. I used a dollop of the pea puree which makes up a part of the next course.

To make the tortillas, take the remaining 2 pittas from the pack (you will need 4 for the main course). Split them and then snip them into triangles with scissors. Lay them in a baking tray with a tablespoon of oil, chilli powder or flakes, salt and pepper. Toss them in the seasonings and oil and bake for 10 minutes or so- keeping them under close surveillance as you want them to very lightly brown but not burn and become bitter.
Pitta tortillas

For the falafel fritters you will need 1 tin of chickpeas (drained), 1 small bag of frozen peas, 2 spring onions or 1 small white onion, a clove of garlic. some cumin and chili powder and some oil. (Proper falafel use broad beans not peas, but these are much more expensive and not readily available.) Cook the peas with the onions in a little water or stock. Drain and place in the goblet of your food processor with the chickpeas and garlic, add a teaspoon of cumin and 1/2 tsp of chilli and pulse into a coarse puree. If it is too dry, add a little oil to loosen it.
With wet hands, take small balls of the mixture and shape into patties. Coat in seasoned flour or a mixture of flour and sesame seeds (for extra crunch).
Heat 1/2 cm of oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan and fry the patties in batches.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve in warmed pitta pouches, garnished with salad leaves and a spoon of hummus (if you have it.) I buy it whenever I see it in the reduced chiller, as it freezes well (even though it doesn't say so on the pack). I also make my own and the recipe is on the blog if you search the cloud at the top.

Falafel Fritters with hummus

The Wizard Chocolate Pud is truly magic.

You will need 1 bag of Basic Cake mix ( no apologies for this, it costs only 21p and is a lot cheaper than buying butter, flour, sugar etc...but make your own sponge if you wish.) You will also need some cocoa powder, some vanilla essence, sone dark brown sugar and 1 egg.

Grease a 1 litre pudding basin. Make up the cake mix according to the instructions on the packet, and add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 1 tsp of vanilla essence to the mix. Pour into the pudding basin, and if possible, allow to chill in the fridge for half an hour or so. When ready to bake, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons of dark brown or muscavado sugar over the top of the cake mix. Then pour over 300ml of boiling water, don't stir but put straight into the oven at 200 degrees. After 20 minutes or so, the cake will be risen and firm to the touch when pressed and a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean.

Wizard Chocolate Pud
However, when you spoon out the pudding, a rich chocolate sauce will have formed in the base of the dish and there will be no need for cream or custard- the pudding sauces itself. Genius!
True Chocolate Saucer-y!

As for leftovers, the pudding serves 8 people so can go round again- and the soup will serve 10 portions easily. Any leftover fritters are delicious with a little salad or in a bun for lunch.

If you make this menu- or one of your own where you spend much less than you normally would- why not put a few extra items in your shopping basket next time you are in the supermarket and donate them to your local foodbank on your way out of the store?

My local Sainsburys has a collection basket at the end of the aisles.Your supermarkets probably do too.

Or try the livebelowtheline challenge yourselves- and send me some of your recipes! Maybe next year I'll manage to do it myself.


  1. My local greengrocer sells crates of bruised / over-ripe fruit and veg for €2 (£1.69 at today's rate). Yesterday, I picked one up which had 15 cougettes (skin slightly damaged, but nothing a good wash and scrub didn't sort out), 3 ripe tomatoes and 2 globe artichokes. That works out at just 10p / vegetable! I made a great big gratin from 8 of the courgettes (3 large eggs, a cup of milk and a large tablespoon of garlic cream cheese, whipped and poured over grated courgette; baked at 200°C for about 30 mins). Made enough for 8 portions, and I reckon it cost about €2.80 to make in all - thats just €0.35 (30p) per serving! And on the side, we made a salad with the tomatoes and some endives that friends brought us as they were going away on holiday and hadn't been able to eat them up. A proper scrimper's dinner, and I've even got leftover salad in my lunchbox today!

    We'll be steaming the artichokes over tea leaves tonight and serving them with a simple mustard vinagrette, a bit of cheese and half a baguette.

    I was sorely tempted to get a box of about 20 ripe bananas, and I might go back and get it this evening. Sliced up and frozen, they could be used later for cakes, smoothies etc, and 10p bananas are not to be sniffed at...

    I definitely think that supermarkets (or at least small businesses) in the UK should cotton on to schemes such as this one - they cut down on food that ends up on a landfill, and are a godsend to low income families!

  2. Also, whilst it's really not my thing, offal is incredibly cheap here in France. Packs of things like tongue, liver, brains etc with enough to serve two can be bought for well under a euro in supermarkets, and probably for even cheaper at the butcher's. Is it the same in the UK? If so, and if you can stomach that sort of thing (I know I can't!) then dishes like liver and onions are very affordable.

    1. I love liver and bacon. I think I featured it on my blog 'pub classics'. Also I am planning to do a homemade pâté recipe using liver soon. Brains, kidneys etc I'm not so good on, but I could learn if I taste something delicious ......