Here’s a quick look at four cookbooks that offer very different takes on making the most of your food budget and your schedule. From true Brit to vegan to down home Southern, you’re likely to find that one of these books for cooks matches your palate and your wallet.
Poor Chef – Rich Flavors
Charles Mattocks, aka television’s The Poor Chef
, gives 120 recipes in Eat Cheap but Eat Well.
Actually, he is giving what he has and what he has received from cooks around the country. The recipes are familiar and many draw from established favorites that might be found at popular restaurants, such as Steak Fajitas, Caribbean Lime Chicken with Grilled Pineapple, E-Z Sesame-Ginger Chicken Salad, and Seafood Bisque. In some cases, cheaper but still tasty substitutions are made for expensive ingredients. In others, sticking to the traditional ingredients—such as those found in Coq au Vin and Finger-Lickin’ Pulled Pork—still makes for an inexpensive but comforting dinner. These recipes also bring in bright-colored fruits and vegetables and not-too-exotic spices to make dinners fun and memorable.
Poetic Preliminaries with Your Pie
Reading Supper for a Song: Creative Comfort Food for the Resourceful Chef
, by Tamasin Day-Lewis, is a peek inside a British foodie’s world. Some of the products which may be readily available to her at not-so-expensive prices, such as lamb and raspberries and chestnuts and very specific European cheeses, would make a number of the recipes a challenge for budget-conscious Americans. Others, such as Aloo Palak (spiced potato and spinach) and Dried Apricot Upside-Down Cake are easier to swallow for the cost-conscious. Ms. Day-Lewis—a writer, actress, television chef, and sister to Daniel Day-Lewis--is a fan of organic and free-range products, and most all of her recipes call for them. Supper for a Song
is beautifully narrated and illustrated. I would call it a cookbook for the resourceful chef who has plenty of resources. It’s definitely worth checking out for the author’s creativity and a glimpse into another way of cooking.
Back to Nature
Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook
by Carole Raymond is about as far from Supper for a Song
as the ocean that separates the authors. The format itself is economical and the recipes here are dead simple. No pheasant. No cardamom. No quince. Just things a student of meagerly means could find at the most budget of grocery stores—assuming that grocery store stocks tofu and miso, though those might be worth a special trip to somewhere more upscale. There are hearty, filling things here (Red-Bean Chili with Corn, Ratatouille, Macaroni and “Cheese”) as well as fare for lighter meals—Tropical Fruit Medley, Avocado and White Bean Burritos, Portobello Burgers. Ms. Raymond includes some simple dessert recipes as well. Students and others need not forgo brownies or chocolate pudding because they’ve decided to go vegan.
If your wallet’s a little bit thicker, you are probably still short on time. The Deen Bros. Take It Easy
is a great book to check if you like your food faster and with Southern style. Paula Deen’s sons, Jamie and Bobby, promise “quick and affordable meals the whole family will love.” These recipes are ones they use themselves. Like their silver-haired queen mother of home-style cooking, the brothers do not spare ingredients that will add significant flavor such as butter and cream. They are happy carnivores, and most of the main meal dishes place it in the starring role. They like to grill so much there’s a separate section on it with favorites including Easy After-work BBQ Chicken and Jamie and Bobby’s Fabulous Grilled Burgers with “The Deen’s List” of toppings. Perhaps this is not the most economical cookbook in the world, but the recipes are not complicated, and do not require a lot of hands-on cooking time or hard-to-find ingredients. These are recipes they cook for their own families, so these food tastes may well work for your own family. Even so, they have included a separate chapter of “kid food” called Jack’s Favorites. None of these recipes are fine dining in the sense of requiring a table set with linen, silver and fine china, but they do make for fine eating at a family meal.