There are no student loans to see us through, (especially not since Mr Meat is about to graduate, congratulations to him!), and we've shelled out for holidays, sunblock and sandals. The summer months are tight ones for us. Never mind - I suppose that this means that my posts will have to become more creative and frugal, by necessity!
I did a reasonably frugal spaghetti carbonara for dinner tonight - using up various odds and ends from the week. I chucked a courgette in there, used up the bacon that we had at the weekend, grated up some pretty hard parmesan and chopped up slices of a sprouting onion. Now my fridge is clear for the big shop tomorrow night, and I can rest peacefully in the knowledge that I have wasted nothing.
This dish is great for gather-up dinners. As long as you have two eggs, some cream, milk and some kind of cheese - as well as pasta in one shape or another - you can't go wrong. Use any cured meat instead of bacon, (ham, for example), and throw any vegetables into the sauce for bulk, mushrooms would be good, but you could also use wilted spinach, chopped green beans or even fried aubergine.
What I like about this recipe, (adapted from the Sainburys' £50 meal plan), is the use of low fat milk in place of half the cream. Adding egg yolks to the cream and milk mixture ensures that the eventual sauce is silky and rich tasting, without being quite so naughty as a sauce that uses only cream, with no milk.
This was a cheerful, tasty dinner, and one that satisfied Mr Meat's meaty cravings, (without breaking the bank or actually containing much meat).
(Adapted from the recipe included in Sainsburys' £50 meal plan)
A few rashers of bacon, chopped
A courgette, very finely sliced, (I used a potato peeler - great tip!)
A few cloves of garlic
2 egg yolks
100ml single cream
200ml skimmed milk
Some cheese, (I used a few grates of parmesan and a handful of grated mozzarella)
Enough spaghetti for your appetites
A handful of frozen peas, if you like
Get your onion and bacon frying with a glug of olive oil - you want the bacon golden and crispy and the onions golden and soft. Once that's done - about 8 or 10 minutes, on a medium/high heat - throw your courgettes in there, and any other vegetables you're going to use. Fry them until cooked through and delicious looking.
Stick your pasta on to boil with a good amount of salt and get cracking with your sauce. In a large bowl, whisk the two egg yolks with the cream, milk and cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper and wait for the pasta to cook, adding a few peas before the time is up...
Once the pasta is al-dente, pull it straight out of the pan and into your milky creamy mixture. Don't bother putting it through a colander - this just adds washing up and the pasta water actually helps the sauce to stick to the spaghetti. Add your cooked vegetables and meat to the pasta and mix it all through. I found that at this stage the sauce was still quite liquid, and so I broke the one rule of carbonara that I remember from school. I put the sauce back on the heat.
I assumed that the eggs in the sauce would scramble and go horrible, but actually the sauce thickened and coated my pasta nicely.
I make this meal out as costing £2.88 in total. Sainsbury's reckon about £5, but theirs feeds 4 people, and mine just does two. Pretty good going either way!