I am an unashamed supporter of the Good Housekeeping Institute and their books. I have a fine collection of cookbooks, as you would expect a reviewer to have, but, with a few exceptions, I reach for a cookbook of this nature rather than that of a celebrity chef … or celebrity-turned-chef.
Family Meals for a Fiver could not have been published at a better time. Our news is filled with tales of job loss, home repossession and MPs who are self-indulgent moat-digging, duck-housing, flat-flippers. More of us are watching the pennies but we want to eat well and this book could be a welcome aid to living the low-budget high-life.
There is a generation of people that have not enjoyed the benefit of cooking lessons at school (I hated mine with a will known to few but I can now cook) and might not even have had the advantage of a parent to encourage them in any kind of kitchen escapade. Family Meals for a Fiver will be most appealing to the culinarily bewildered as it offers over 250 tried and tested recipes that are simple.
The Basics chapter will be a great help to the novice cook but perhaps some of us more practised home chefs could consider some of this advice. A well-stocked store cupboard will provide you with almost instant and economic meals. A freezer stuffed with some well-chosen ingredients will add to your repertoire of fast home-made meals, rather than resorting to frozen ready meals; you can reserve those for absolute emergencies (the dog has just had puppies or the shed has burnt down).
You won’t be feeling noble, virtuous and self-denying if you use these recipes. They don’t have that cutting corners, budgety feel of cheap and nasty food. Family Meals for a Fiver offers sound advice for making the best of the foods that you might normally buy. Why throw away food when you can turn that food into tasty meals. Meat is expensive these days so stretching it for another day will save money. The dishes here are delicious and range from the exotic and trendy to the traditional and comforting.
Risotto Milanese is a classic and sophisticated enough for an informal dinner party. It’s easier to prepare than you might imagine and you can adapt this recipe by adding peas for a bit of colour or some left over ham or chicken for a change. Bacon and Garden Vegetable Risotto has…well, bacon and garden vegetables but these can be varied with the change of season.
Desserts and puds don’t have to be relegated to memory. There is a lovely selection here of well-known favourites as well as some contemporary dishes. Treacle Tart is always on my list of sweet indulgence but I’ll include Toffee Cheesecake in future. But for a sheer “why didn’t I think of that” moment there is Cheat’s Chocolate Pots which involves only chocolate and the crafty use of a carton of fresh custard.
Family Meals for a Fiver is a lovely cookbook with food that is appetising and surprisingly thrifty. There is a picture for almost every recipe and the cooking tips and ideas will be welcomed by both the novice and the experienced cook. I recommend this one.
Family Meals for a Fiver
Author: The Good Housekeeping Institute
Published by: Collins and Brown – Anova Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018