Lifestyle

Tasty Meals on a Tight Budget - Week 1

Emma Sharp Dalton-Brown

Thursday, January 10, 2013    

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It is a difficult time for all of us, and the cost of living in Jamaica does not reflect the reality of what we can actually afford. The price of fuel and electricity drives the price of so many items, most importantly the staple foods that we need to survive. However, it does not have to be as bad as it seems. It is possible to eat well and healthily for a lot less than you may think.

We did the shopping and we did the math. And we at Thursday Life are here to tell you that each of us can eat five dinners for less than $2500 in total, and that includes splashing out on an expensive lamb dinner one night (less than $1100 per head), and an elegant sirloin (less than $450 per head) on another. Take those away, and you can eat for even less, as we've concocted one meal for under $100 (per head) and two for less than $250 each (per head).

Don't believe it's possible? Then see our recipes below, where we have given a price breakdown of each ingredient, considering GCT where necessary. We do advise, however, that you head to the market for the fresh ingredients; Empire supermarket, CPJ Market or Ramson's for your meats; MegaMart for items such as pasta, tinned salmon and butter; and any of the main supermarkets for the remaining.

MONDAY'S MEATLESS MEAL FOR UNDER $100 PER HEAD:

Callaloo, Cho Cho, Dasheen & Coco Topped with Tomatoes: Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 bunch callaloo, chopped - $50

2 cho chos, peeled & sliced into 1 inch pieces - $100

1 lb dasheen, peeled, cut in half - $60

1 lb coco, peeled, cut in half - $70

1/4 lb tomatoes, halved lengthways & sliced - $20-$50

2 tablespoons olive oil - $2

Sea salt & black pepper - $2

Method:

* Place the dasheen and coco halves in a large pot of water, bring to the boil, cover with a lid, and cook for about 30 minutes until crunchy and ready to eat. Leave in the hot water.

* Place the cho chos in a pot of boiling water over the stove, put a colander filled with the callaloo over the top, and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes.

* Drain the cho chos well.

* Pour the olive oil into the pot and heat.

* Place the cho chos back into the pot on one side and the cooked callaloo next to it. Place the tomatoes on top of the callaloo, and sprinkle everything well with salt and pepper.

* Cover with a lid and cook for a few minutes so the tomatoes are slightly cooked.

* Remove the dasheen and coco from the hot water and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

* Place the dasheen and coco on 4 plates, with the cho cho next to it, and the callaloo topped with tomatoes next to that.

* Serve immediately with more salt and pepper if desired.

TUESDAY'S DINNER WITH A TWIST FOR UNDER $250 PER HEAD:

Sun-dried Tomato Pasta with Scotch Bonnet & a Fried Egg: Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb pack spiral pasta - $165

1 pack frozen The Gourmet Touch Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, defrosted in the fridge - $530

4 eggs - $110

2 tablespoons olive oil - $2

1 Scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded finely chopped - $8

Sea salt & black pepper - $2

Method:

* Cook the pasta according to instructions on the packet.

* Drain well, return to the pot, and stir in the pesto.

* Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, and crack four eggs into the pan, next to each other.

* Turn the heat down, cover with a lid, and cook until the egg white is firm, but yolk is still runny (a few minutes). Remove from the heat.

* Divide between four pasta bowls, top each with one fried egg, chopped Scotch bonnet, sea salt and pepper.

* Pierce the yolks of each egg just before serving so the yolk starts to run out onto the pasta, and serve immediately.

WEDNESDAY'S HEALTHY & ELEGANT DINNER FOR UNDER $450 PER HEAD:

Thai Beef Salad: Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 lb sirloin beef - $1500

1 lb eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch chunks - $90

8 tablespoons olive oil - $8

1 lb tomatoes, quartered & sliced - $80

1 lb cucumber, halved & sliced - $60

1 bunch of basil, chopped - $120

1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped - $300

4 fl oz Thai Fish Sauce - $100

8 fl oz lime juice (12 limes) - $80

3 small chili peppers, finely sliced - $25

1 tablespoon brown sugar - $2

1 large box gourmet salad leaves - $800 (you can buy regular salad leaves for even less in the market)

Method:

* Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the eggplant in a roasting pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil and coat well. Roast for 20-25 minutes until softened. Remove from heat and cool.

* Heat 1tbsp olive oil on a large griddle pan, and sear the beef on all sides until a nice colour is formed all around (it will take 10 minutes altogether if pan is very hot).

* Remove from heat and leave to rest on a chopping board.

* Half an hour before serving, mix the Thai fish sauce with the lime juice in a large bowl, and stir in the sliced chili peppers and brown sugar. Slice the beef thinly and toss in this mixture. Leave to 'cook' for 30 minutes in the lime juice.

* When ready to serve, place the salad leaves in a very large mixing bowl, along with the tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, basil and cilantro. Add the beef and dressing, along with the remaining olive oil, and toss well.

* Serve very generous portions between six large plates for a main course meal.

THURSDAY'S DECADENT DINNER FOR UNDER $1100 PER HEAD:

Roasted Garlic Butter Lamb Chops with Roasted French Fries & Steamed Callaloo: Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 x rack of lamb (10 chops each) - $6000

6 garlic cloves, peeled & sliced into wide slivers - $10 (half a head)

5 oz salted butter - $200

Sea salt & black pepper - $2

Roasted French Fries

1 lb Irish potatoes, washed & cut into French fries - $70

1 lb 'white' sweet potatoes, washed & cut into French fries - $80

2 tablespoons olive oil - $2

Sea salt - $1

To Serve:

1 bundle of callaloo, chopped - $50

Method:

* Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

* Place the potatoes in a large roasting pan with the olive oil and sea salt, stir to coat the potatoes well.

* Roast in the oven for 20 minutes (after 10 minutes, add the lamb).

* Use a sharp knife to remove most of the hard fat on the top of the lamb racks, and slit small holes all over the lamb.

* Stick about 1/3 of the garlic slivers into the slits you have made in the lamb. Rub the lamb with 1/4 of the butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

* Grease a roasting dish with a little of the butter.

* Place the lamb racks in the roasting dish and roast for 10 minutes.

* Meanwhile, steam the callaloo in a colander over boiling water, with a lid on top.

* Also, place the remaining butter and garlic in a small pot over low heat. Once the butter is melted, cook for a couple minutes and remove from heat. Reheat gently when ready to serve.

* Turn the heat up to 400F and roast the lamb and French fries for another 10-15 minutes, depending on how well-done you like lamb and fries.

* Remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes. The fries can stay in the oven to keep warm, so you may want to turn the oven down if the fries are a nice golden colour.

* Slice the racks of lamb between each chop.

* Divide the steamed callaloo between six plates, top with 3 chops each, pour the garlic butter over the lamb and the callaloo, and place some roasted French fries on each plate.

* Serve immediately.

FRIDAY'S CASUAL FISH DINNER FOR UNDER $250 PER HEAD:

Salmon Pasta Salad with Carrots, Cucumbers & Sweet Peppers: Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb pack bow tie pasta - $165

2 carrots, peeled & cut into matchsticks - $50

1 medium cucumber, halved lengthways, seeded & sliced crossways - $60

2 green sweet peppers, sliced finely - $150

1 large can of pink salmon, drained & flesh flaked - $380

1 large juicy lime - $10

5-6 tablespoons olive oil - $6

1 Scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded, finely chopped - $8

Sea salt & black pepper - $2

Method:

* Cook the pasta according to instructions on the packet. Drain well and cool.

* Place the carrot matchsticks, cucumber slices, sweet pepper slices, salmon, lime juice, olive oil, scotch bonnet pepper and pasta in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with a large fork and spoon, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

* Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

* Use a sharp knife to remove most of the hard fat on the top of the lamb racks, and slit small holes all over the lamb.

* Stick about 1/3 of the garlic slivers into the slits you have made in the lamb. Rub the lamb with 1/4 of the butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

* Grease a roasting dish with a little of the butter.

* Place the lamb racks in the roasting dish and roast for 10 minutes.

* Meanwhile, steam the callaloo in a colander over boiling water, with a lid on top.

* Place the remaining butter and garlic in a small pot over low heat. Once the butter is melted, cook for a couple of minutes and remove from heat. Reheat gently when ready to serve.

* Turn the heat up to 400ºF and roast the lamb and French fries for another 10-15 minutes, depending on how well-done you like lamb and fries.

* Remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes. The fries can stay in the oven to keep warm, so you may want to turn the oven down if the fries are a nice golden colour.

* Slice the racks of lamb between each chop.

* Divide the steamed callaloo between six plates, top with three chops each, pour the garlic butter over the lamb and the callaloo, and place some roasted French fries on each plate.

* Serve immediately.

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