Two Can Dine for £10

The Marks and Spencer Offer

Mrs. Oxfood and I often take part in the Marks and Spencer’s offer “Two Can Dine for £10”. For those who aren’t familiar with the offer, on various weekends, M&S give you a choice of a main course, a side dish, a pudding, and a bottle of wine (or non-alcoholic alternative) for £10. Although the weekend is often when I do a lot of my cooking, the option to just pick the menu we fancy, with little washing up or other effort, and to try something different is often a tempting one. Don’t think the food isn’t good quality food either. We’ve had beef wellington, salmon en croute, whole roast chickens, soufflés- food that would be a real effort to match in quality at home. “Two Can Dine for £10”, or, as I used to call it as an undergraduate, “one can dine like Lucullus for £10”, would be a good offer on the basis of the food alone.

So, given that you always pay more for pre-prepared food, I wanted to see if I could beat the M&S offer at home, trying to match the quality and price. I usually pay attention to the cost of food and where money can be saved, so hoped I could make the most of my £10. The first question was then how to divide up the £10 among the food I had to produce. A bottle of wine was clearly going to be the most expensive item. The M&S wines I’ve had have been pretty reasonable, and nowadays it’s hard to find a reasonable bottle of wine under £5, so half of the money would have to go on wine. After that, things get tricky. To match the M&S quality, I could have just make a simple stew, which would have been very cheap, but anything ‘exciting’ with meat in would just ruin the budget. So meat and fish were pretty much out.

However I tried to go about designing a menu, the lesson was very clear: you need to have a well stocked store-cupboard. Every recipe idea I came up with involved “a third of x” or “a coating of y”, which would bring the cost way over £10 if you had to buy all the ingredients, but if you have them already in stock, your cooking becomes cost-effective. Whenever I use a recipe with a new ingredient- even something obscure like pomegranate molasses- I’ll buy it, just so I have it for next time. Here, I’ve made use of a large bag of dried porcini mushrooms I bought, which were expensive at the time, but used in small amounts over many meals they have gone a long way. I would really recommend having a well stocked kitchen, it takes a while to set up, but will make your cooking a lot more economical.

With no meat or fish, I went for a mushroom risotto, which is one of the few vegetarian dishes I’ll often order. You only need a few ingredients, and it is easy to make, albeit not simply putting things in the oven like the M&S menu. However, it was still difficult to get a high-quality risotto to come in for much less than £5. I had to give up on the side dish, and really skimp on the pudding, going for a “posh jelly”, which looked and tasted nice, but wasn’t much more exciting than fruit and jelly. Enjoyed with a northern Italian white, the meal we had was very nice. But with all the time and effort put into it, it wasn’t a contest between my attempt and what we could have had from Marks and Spencer’s. It’s a brilliant offer, great value for money, and comes highly recommended from the Oxfood household.

Physalis and Tangerine Jellies

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients:
20g dried porcini mushrooms (cost £1.25)
200g risotto rice (cost 50p)
200g closed cup mushrooms (cost 85p)
100g mascarpone (cost £1)
1 tbsp mixed herbs (cost NA)

Recipe:
1. Make the risotto. Soak the mushrooms for 15 minutes in 800g water. Strain the water through a muslin into a pan. Heat the mushroom stock, and add the risotto rice and herbs, and simmer until the rice has absorbed all of the stock. Pan fry all of the mushrooms, and add to the risotto. Finally, stir in the mascarpone.

Physalis and Tangerine Jellies

Ingredients:
1 pack tangerine jelly (cost 40p)
1 pack physalis (cost £1)
whipped cream to garnish (optional)

Recipe:
1. Make the jelly. Peel the physalis, leaving two left over to garnish. Put them into the bottom of a glass. Make the jelly according to the packet instructions, and pour on the physalis. Leave to set for 4-5 hours. Garnish with the remaining physalis and whipped cream if using.

Wild Mushroom Risotto

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Foodmouth
    Feb 11, 2013 @ 12:44:33

    Whilst I agree that the M&S deal is great, I decided to take up your challenge and have a suggested menu below which is tasty and is a similar cost (shopping at Sainsbury’s) using a well stocked kitchen:

    Main: Tarragon Chicken with Mash (side dish) & Carrots

    Ingredients:
    Oil and butter for frying – already have
    250-300g chicken breast – ~£1.50 (using reasonable quality frozen chicken)
    1 onion – ~20p
    1 tbsp plain flour – already have
    300ml chicken stock – already have
    4 tbsp white wine – taking this from the bottle of wine for the meal
    2-3 tsp dried tarragon – already have
    3 tbsp double cream – 85p for Elmlea light 284ml
    Carrots – ~30p for 2 people
    Potatoes – usually have but proportionally ~50p from a bag of potatoes

    Method for tarragon chicken:
    1. Fry chicken & onions in pan on high heat until golden on both sides
    2. Add the flour and stir to absorb the juices. Place chicken/ onion in slow cooker
    3. Add stock, wine & tarragon to slow cooker, season, and turn on high
    4. Slow-cook for 3-4 hours
    5. When ready to serve, stir the cream into the sauce

    Pudding: Treacle Tart with cream

    Ingredients:
    Sweet pastry case – 79p (you can make your own but I’m lazy)
    260g golden syrup – 65p for 454g
    Rind and juice of a lemon – 35p
    75g breadcrumbs – have bread (usually 2-3 slices)
    Double cream to serve – leftover from main course

    Method:
    1. Use blender to turn bread into breadcrumbs
    2. Warm the golden syrup in a pan, stir in breadcrumbs & lemon rind/ juice
    3. Put syrup / breadcrumbs mix into pastry case
    4. Bake for 10mins at 200C / Gas6.
    5. Lower temp. to 190C and bake for further 10-15 mins
    6. Serve with double cream

    The ingredients for this cost just over £5 leaving ~£5 for a bottle of white wine.
    It is quite a challenge to meet the price budget without using food from the reduced counter though!

    What might be an even harder challenge is matching Sainsbury’s pizza deal – a freshly made 14 inch pizza with 3 toppings of your choice (I would recommend chicken, spicy beef and mixed peppers) for £3.29!

    Reply

    • oxfoodblog
      Feb 11, 2013 @ 16:08:20

      Interesting stuff, thanks Pete. Good to see you managed to get some meat in there, and the pudding looks good- not one I’ve tried before, but I will do soon. I’m not sure how much I approve of taking wine out of the bottle for cooking though…

      Surprisingly, the pizza challenge is much easier than you would think- making the base from scratch costs practically nothing, and tomato purée is very cheap. Pretty much all you are paying for are the toppings, not cheap, I’ll admit, but you should be able to do that comfortably for £3.

      Reply

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