Monday, 8 July 2013

A Very Special Summer Menu... for £10

love a food challenge. I still like to imagine I'm on Ready, Steady, Cook when I’m faced with a depleted fridge. So, when I saw this ‘Dinner for a Tenner’ shop, I had my hand in the air, yelling ‘me, me, me’ at my computer. I am a member of CollectiveBias and Social Fabricwhich is a very good thing to be, because I got to do this sponsored blog post as part of a shopping insights surevey and had a jolly good time doing it too.

And the menu I ended up making was:

Tomato Bruschetta


Salmon & Dill Fishcakes
Rocket & Slow-Roast Tomatoes


Baked Lemon Custard
Lavender Shortbreads

Often budget cooking uses a bit of trickery to come in on target. A good example is the egg. You don’t calculate the cost of the whole box, you divide it by six. I’m not saying this doesn’t make sense, I’ve done it myself and an awful lot of my thrifty home-cooking is based on the bulk-buy and the chest-freezer. But what I really wanted to try for this challenge was to make a meal, a lovely, fancy, summery, 3-course meal for an actual ten pound note. I wanted to buy everything I needed and NOT work it out by price-per-egg or fraction-of-a-packet. In many ways, this is a more accurate way to look at a thrifty dinner, because in order to have that one egg for 26p you need to have had the cash to buy the whole box. No-one will sell you one egg. And I liked the idea of creating something you could happily serve to three friends, feel you'd given them a lovely dinner, but know it had only cost you £10.

The other thing I wanted to do was to choose my food responsibly. I know I've only got £10, but surely I don't need to resort to Turkey Twizzlers... Dinner for a tenner is not hard, if you’re happy to leave you food-morals at the door. It’s also probably cheap to buy everything pre-made – I’m sure you can get garlic bread, pizza and a tub of ice-cream for a tenner, and that's perfectly fine for a quick family meal. But I wanted to see if I could cook something special and use some ethically sourced ingredients at the same time. For this reason I wanted to use MSC Certified fish. Sustainable fish is a topic I've banged on about before. And I won't get on my soapbox again, but I will say this, tinned fish and frozen fish are great options for those wanting ease and sustainability, and if you click those links you'll find my recipe collections using both.

So, to plan this lovely dinner I did some online research and drafted out a few different menus. You can read a bit more about my shopping decisions here. You can also see some of the product decisions I made in more detail, including the fact that if I'd have decided to go just 10p over budget, I could have bought organic milk and upped the ethical stakes another notch. Still it was deeply satisfying seeing 'TOTAL: £10.00' on the till.

So that's the menu. And it really, really did cost a tenner. I was 11p over, but I put back my red onion and came in at exactly £10. The only things I used from home were salt, pepper and some lavender flowers from my garden – that’s it. No store-cupboard cheating. 

The menu makes the best of everything I bought; the lemon is zested and the zest used for the fishcakes and the custard; it's then cut into 6 wedges - 4 to be served with the salad, one squeezed over the bruschetta and the last one chopped into slices for the drinks.

The tomatoes were warmed in the sun to try to counteract the fact they weren't the best tomatoes I've ever bought. They were finely chopped for the starter and slowly roasted for the main. 

The baguette becomes Bruschetta and then breadcrumbs for the fishcakes.

The eggs are used to coat the fishcakes and then to make beautiful Lemon Custards.

And left over I have: plain flour, sugar, dill for tonight's chicken and the freezer, a bit of milk for a cup of tea and plenty of lavender biscuits to have with that tea. If I'd had another £1, I'd have bought another lemon, some spring onions for the fishcakes and salad, and a bottle of fizzy water to drink with it all.

I’m pretty proud of this; 3 courses, a beautiful summer menu and sustainable fish – not a lot more you could expect for ten quid is there? What do you think? Would you serve this up for a special lunch or dinner?

Here is the shopping list and all the recipes to create this Summer Menu, if you want to print this word document please click here


  1. This sounds delicious and is something I am going to have to try! And might I add, I am a new reader who will be back. I couldn't help but read your post with an English accent! It was pure delight to read this!

    1. Thank you so much! It is all a bit English this one isn't it? :) I think it's the baked custards... :)

  2. I love this, will be trying the lavender shortbread with baked lemon custard the sounds like the perfect desert for summer! x

    1. Thank you! It is very summery - and pretty thrifty too, especially as the recipe would make 6 smaller servings :)