I have this rather odd notion that I am generally quite good with money. A delusion I entertain for the first 3 weeks in a month. Week 4 arrives and I gingerly peek at my bank statement from behind the sofa…it’s as I feared, not great.
After letting out a high pitched squeal I start to steady myself, starting by circling “payday” on my calendar in pink highlighter. This (and a few deep breaths into a paper bag) helps me to conclude that it’s not too far away and if I just stay indoors for a week I’ll be ok.
Don’t worry, it’s not all bad, in fact there are positives to me being grounded by my finances; the kitchen has never looked cleaner, I built a couple of temporary shoe racks, cut my own hair and I may even get around to making some cushions.
Obviously there are implications for cooking when on a drastically reduced budget, I can’t just pop down to Waitrose for a few mangos, a sourdough loaf and box of nasturtium flowers this week. Nope; it’s time to see what’s in the back of that cupboard.
Pesto is a good one. Plenty of variants, very few fresh ingredients and you have a tasty, thrifty meal in minutes.
Red Pepper Pesto
1 Red Pepper
50g of nuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or a mixture
4 tablespoons of olive oil
35g of parmesan cheese (or any other hard cheese you like)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of honey, 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika, pinch of chilli flakes (all optional)
1) Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds and slice into thick strips. Place in an oven proof dish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little black pepper.
2) Cook under a hot grill or in the oven until they start to caramelise.
3) Leave the peppers to cool slightly whilst you grind the nuts and/or seeds (I used walnuts, sunflower seeds and almonds because that’s what I found in the cupboard). They want to be like breadcrumbs not dust or a paste.
4) Put the ground nuts in a bowl and add finely grated Parmesan. Blend the now slightly cooler peppers to a fine dice and stir into the nuts & cheese with the rest of the olive oil.
5) Taste. If it’s lacking in sweetness add a dash of honey. I also threw in a little smoked paprika and chilli flakes. Season.
6) I folded my pesto through cooked wholewheat spaghetti tossed in a squeeze of lemon juice. To serve I added a bit more grated cheese and a garnish of chopped fresh tarragon and parsley but basil, oregano or chives would be great too.
As a side dish I made some of my flat bread dough and used it as a sort of pizza topped with garlic, sliced onion, rosemary, olive oil and parmesan.