I think it’s fair to say that Save with Jamie hasn’t received quite the same unanimous praise as Jamie Oliver’s previous publications. He’s been criticised for not understanding real food poverty in the UK, but I think this book, and related TV series, are being judged by standards they were never meant to meet. In his introduction to Save with Jamie he writes that he was asked to produce a book by his social media followers on how to eat a bit cheaper – which he has done. He never set out to make a cookbook for those on the breadline. There has, quite rightly, been a lot of talk in the media recently about real food poverty in the UK, about people who have to resort to food banks and feed their families on a pittance. This is clearly a massive social problem, and people like Jack Monroe (A Girl Called Jack) are doing a great job at raising awareness of it. Is Jamie’s book going to help them? No, probably not. But then I don’t think it was ever really meant to. I think it is aimed at people who are trying to cut back on how much they spend on food, but can still afford a few luxuries.
My flatmates and I are regular users of Jamie’s 30 and 15 minute meal cookbooks, but often find the ingredient lists rather long and expensive. So the first thing I noticed when I opened Save with Jamie, was that the lists are considerably shorter. Phew. I was, however, surprised at how many chapters were dedicated to meat and fish – when I’ve spent all my money on flights and shoes, I tend to reach for a can of chickpeas. But I think this proves my earlier point – this isn’t a book of cheap meals, but of cheaper meals. The idea that I really like in it is ‘motherships’ – cooking one big dish, and then using the leftovers to make several other meals over the next few days. I was less keen on his idea of using half drunk bottles of wine to make vinegar – who ever has leftover wine??? Our flat certainly doesn’t.
So when someone from Jamie’s team emailed me asking if I would write about money saving meals with beef (and telling me he shared my love of kedgeree), I thought I would invite a few friends over for his roast brisket on Saturday night, and then see what I could make from the leftovers over the next few days.
I would love to say that I went to my local butchers for my brisket but unfortunately we don’t have one in my part of London, so Sainsburys it was. Brisket really is the cheapest cut of meat, it was just 83p for 100 grams, as supposed to £2.10 for the same amount of Scotch rib-eye. I purchased the biggest piece they had, about 1.7 kilos, and it came in at just under £15. This is quite a galling amount of money to spend on one piece of meat, but I reminded myself that it would do several meals. I got all the vegetables I needed from our exceptionally good local shop (Where 2 Save on Kilburn High Road). They had everything bar a bloody swede, so on Saturday I had to get my flatmate to drive me back to the big Sainsburys to pick one up (in his baby blue convertible. A manly car *cough*). The cost of all the ingredients for the roast beef, and the two other dishes I planned to create with the leftovers, came to just under £40.
Roast Beef Brisket
Brisket is a pretty tough piece of meat that needs a long time in the oven, so I popped it in the oven at about 3pm. Having found a pot big enough (it took a bit of time and a great deal of clattering) I browned the brisket on the hob, tucked some chopped onions underneath it, smoothered the fat in mustard and rosemary and then put it in the oven on gas mark 3.
Jamie says you can either cook it for 4ish hours for carvable meat, or 5ish hours for pulled meat. As I was serving a roast I decided to leave it carvable, and took it out about 7pm. I also made his roast potatoes, mashed root vegetables and Yorkshire puddings. It was the first time I had made Yorkshires so I was slightly scepticle as to whether they were going to puff or not, but they turned out remarkably well *proud face*.
Mouths fed: 4
The next night I followed one of Jamie’s leftover recipes – Beef Rendang. I blended onions, ginger, garlic, coriander, a chili, turmeric and cinnamon in our food processor to make a paste.
I then fried the paste for 10 minutes before adding coconut milk and the chopped up beef. As it was cooking I realised that the dish doesn’t have a single vegetable in it (*wags finger at Jamie*) so at the last minute I added some spinach we had languishing in our fridge and a couple of handful of frozen peas. I also followed Jamie’s recipe for chapatis. I used to make these with local women when I was volunteering in Kenya, spending hours stretching out the dough and frying them on iron skillets over open fires. Jamie’s way is, unsurprisingly, much easier. You add olive oil and a bit of water to wholemeal flour, mix, kneed, separate into balls, and roll out as thin as you can. You then dry fry them in a pan for a couple of minutes on each side.
The end result was pretty good, although I do think the Rendang could have done with a bit more heat and the chunks of beef were still a bit tough. Flatmate 2’s favourite part of it was the yoghurt. Thanks mate, the part of the meal I did the least with (I seasoned it).
Mouths fed: 3
On Monday night I was beginning to come down with a bit of a cold, so decided to use the reminder of the meat to make some healing soup. I based it on a recipe I found on Jamie Oliver’s website for brown Windsor Soup, but bastardised it by adding some leftover mashed carrot and swede, and obviously using pre-cooked meat rather than fresh stewing steak. I chose the recipe as it has Marmite in it. I adore Marmite in soups; every Christmas when I was growing up my dad would make turkey soup with about half a jar in it (I seem to remember my mum frequently telling him off for putting too much in) and it is one of my strongest childhood food memories.
I fried the vegetables first, then added the Marmite and Lea and Perrins (only a couple of dashes Jamie? I used a good couple of finger widths), the mashed carrot and swede and leftover meat chopped up into chunks. I poured in the rest of the gravy and a jug and a half of beef stock, added a couple of handfuls of pearl barley, and left it to simmer while I caught up on Downton Abbey.
45 minutes later, and with Lady Mary still refusing to crack a smile, I came back to help myself to a bowl. It was so rich and thick (the mashed vegetables helped with this), and the extra cooking seemed to have finally softened the meat so that it fell apart easily. It was just what I needed, and absolutely delicious (although admittedly, not a looker).
What I learnt
Cooking for me is still very much a learning process, so here is what I would do differently next time:
– Cook the meat until it is ‘pulled’. This would work much better with the leftover dishes, and I think be a bit less chewy.
– Add another chilli to the paste for the Rendang, it was too mild.
– Buy some Asian greens to serve with the Rendang.
– If possible buy an even bigger bit of meat, but freeze a large chunk after cooking. I did feel like I was sweating a cow.
So overall I made 13 hearty platefuls of food. That works out about £3 a portion, and just over a pound for each portion of meat, which is pretty good value I reckon. It wasn’t the best bit of beef I have ever eaten, and I think a roast is pretty unforgiving for cheap cuts as the meat has no sauce (besides the gravy) to hide in, but there is no doubting how cheap it was. But for me, the real eye opener was how versatile beef is, and how eating leftovers doesn’t have to mean eating the same dish for days on end. I will definitely use this technique of motherships next time I cook a roast. There are many more ideas of what you can do with beef on jamieoliver.com. Now, how a big a piece of pork can I buy?