Monday, 1 March 2010

The Budget Lunch Exam

Your idea of a budget lunch???

Its exam time again at Tante Marie and this time we, the students, get to choose what to cook for it. The task is designed to test our budgeting skills, and how we need plenty of that skill when trying to cook a three course family meal for four people, total budget being £8 and not a penny more or a penny less. Yes you read it correctly, eight pounds sterling, and to make sure it is a test we have 2hrs 45mins in which to serve it all... sounds like a challenge more than a test to me though... and boy do I love a good challenge!

So its a 'family meal' meaning a starter of “Free-range 'Woking' Escargots à la Bourguignonne” which I collected from the car lot behind where I am staying, is off the menu as those picky kids would probably find snails a little 'out there'. A condition of the the task is that we have to pay a fair price for everything we use, so if I were to go and 'collect' a couple of Pheasants or a Pig for free, I would still have to cost it at a price I could reasonably purchase it for from a butcher or supermarket.... hmmmm that's that idea out the window then!

I had to fight every bone in my body to stick with the 'family' theme, a task made easier a few weeks ago when briefly speaking with 'Al' one of the teachers at Tante Marie. He advised me not to try and go all fancy, but to make sure it was tasty, “remember its a family meal” he said. He went on to say that if he was doing the task he would make a Cottage Pie, and that with the budget we had he could make the best version in the world... a tall claim methinks! But forget whether his claim is full of hubris or not... the important thing here is that his statement sounds very much like a challenge to me.... and boy do I love a good challenge! (déjà vu anyone...?)

Going back to a previous post on “Underselling and Over-delivering” my menu is as follows;

Pea Soup
with bread rolls

Shepherds Shepherd Pie

Mango Rice Pudding

There was a prime example on Masterchef last week of doing the opposite of what I like, and am trying to do with the above menu. This particular gent “oversold and under-delivered” by producing dishes for the judges which were visually amazing, yet failed to live up to the expectation in the flavour department... the MOST crucial department surely!.

So.... my selection is a very family friendly in my opinion, comes in at £8 exactly, all that remains is for me to execute it as well as I can. I maybe pushing myself a little as there are a few little extras not mentioned above that will be appearing on the dish... you will have to come back another time and see how I got on and what they are! One mistake will throw me off my time plan so it needs to be a faultless performance... a tall order but I know I can do it, whether the occasion gets the best of me remains to be seen, I just hope the gas ovens treat me well and that the bread comes out well!  What could possibly go wrong....

What do you think of my menu, over unsimplified? Mango in the winter? Let me know any thoughts below in the comments section.



  1. Hi. What a challenge! I like the menu and I don't know how you manage to cook everything, £8 exactly. There's nothing wrong about mango in the winter. Would it be a cold or warm rice pudding?

    Good luck with the exam.

    ps. I also like a PB & J every now and then.

  2. Hi Micheael, to get £8 we have to cost everything by the gram in most cases, so 100g of the cheapest frozen peas I could fine was 10p, salt and pepper are a penny per dish etc etc had to tweak butter and cream/milk quantities to get £8 and hopefully there will not be much difference.

    It will be a cold rice pudding with whipped cream folded through and set with a little gelatin... cant give too mucg else away... and it will be lighter than it sounds!

  3. Hi Dylan
    The menu is very simple and traditional and maybe that's what you are after to succeed in this challenge. A tad too British for my liking :) I'd prefer chicken in the main (maybe grilled with some mediterranean spices: oregano, cumin etc or even curry and paprika) served with rice (cardamon goes really nice with it - you could add some of those peas and carrots in it as well) or some new potatoes with parsley and a bit of olive oil (or butter).

    Instead of bread rolls you could go for yorkshire pudding - bit more adventerous I think.

    Of course all of my above suggestions might break the budget, in which case feel free to disregard them :)

    Bon courage :)

  4. I think it is a great menu, given that you will be making such a lovely version of every component! Good luck! (PS It would all go well in a YamDaisy Menu)

  5. Thanks for the comments guys.

    @Yiorgos, you didn't read my blog on Underselling & Overdelivering did you??? :-D

    I cant get too adventourous but I have simpliefired the menu a little to leave a couple of "surprises", the Mango Ricepudding is def not what it seems... and would go very well with a curry. For this menu I wanted to do simple, but simple packed with oodles of flavour!

    We shall see... the big day is tomorrow!

  6. I like your menu Dylan. Nicely understated. I will be very interested to see how you put your own touch to it. Good luck.

    Have to say I hate mango but I am in a definite minority.


I look forward to reading your comments whether they are good, bad or indifferent!