April 13, 2020
During this isolation time, when shopping trips are extremely limited, I find myself reminiscing about how my mum used to shop and cook for us as a family. Back then she was juggling three children and a full-time teaching post, with a car shared with my dad and without the luxury of online deliveries. For Mum, shopping lists and meal planning were essential, whereas I’m used to being more spontaneous when it comes to providing for my daughter Maya and myself. We live deep in the Rutland countryside, so pre-lockdown, I was used to popping into small farm shops for fruit and vegetables, cuts of meat and dairy products, and enjoying the flexibility of making a meal out of whatever seasonal ingredients were available. Or I’d call at an M&S service station for a tin of tomatoes or fresh pasta on the way back from trips to London to see my patients. In the current situation that’s no longer possible, so I’m planning meals ahead and, like Mum, thinking hard about how to make the most of the ingredients I have to hand.
Mum primarily used to keep meals beautifully simple – egg on toast for tea or cheese fluff, a childhood favourite that has proven popular with many of my patients, as it’s light and fluffy, moreish and satisfying. (My tip is to have it with HP sauce, as I love the sour tang against the sweet melted cheese.) Cheese fluff is an economical way of making eggs and cheese – two cupboard staples – go a long way for a hungry family, and that’s important at a time when we may be earning less or simply can’t get to the shops as often.
When I was growing up, we would have a roast at the weekend – typically, a piece of brisket that Mum had slowly casseroled with root vegetables, so that it was meltingly soft and mouthwateringly tasty. Served with gravy and lots of root veggies, a little would go a long way, but then Monday tea would stretch the meal further. The leftover meat would be minced and used either for a shepherds pie or to make savoury pancakes, with the pancakes stuffed with the minced meat and vegetable filling, then baked in the oven with a béchamel sauce topping. Wednesday tea would be lobby – a traditional hearty Staffordshire hearty stew/soup using the last of the meat and vegetables.
As we approach another week of physical distancing, thrifty meals from our childhood can be a source of emotional comfort as well as sustenance. And we can pass on these remembered recipes and mealtime rituals to a new generation.
3 tips to make meals stretch further
1 Bulk out meat dishes such as casseroles and Bolognese sauce with extra vegetables and pulses such as lentils and chickpeas. As well ask making the meat go further, you’ll add valuable fibre and nutrients to the dish. Or skip the meat altogether and make a vegetarian version, being sure to include pulses for essential protein.
2 Be creative with leftovers. Keep back a little tomato pasta sauce to spread on a pizza base the following day; pick the meat from a roast chicken to use as a pie filling; use stalks and vegetable trimmings to make soup.
3 Use small amounts of flavoursome ingredients to add punch to staples such as rice and pasta. If you have jars of spices in our fridge, fresh or frozen ginger, garlic and fresh or dried herbs, add them to leftover meat and vegetables in stir-fries with rice or noodles.