Recession cuisine [General]

2009 Jan 22
I am seriously interested in Foodies who have superlative recipes for what I call recession cuisine. That is, use the ingredients you have to best advantage, little waste, really good and nutritious food. And stupidly delicious. Remember, frugal does NOT mean cheap -- it means getting value from the products you buy.
I'm preparing a series of food articles for the Citizen, and appreciate your thoughtful input. BTW, Omnivore's Ottawa blog is more easily accessible now at (I know, it's a shameless plug, but it's also a way we can communicate.)
Kind regards ... Ron

2009 Jan 23
I recently hosted a birthday dinner for 8 and would have normally chosen a beef tenderloin or prime rib, but in order to keep cost down I found a wonderful recipe for Braised Veal Shoulder with porcini, rosemary and garlic. It turned out beautifully and cost half of what the beef would have, and you can do it the day before. Bonus! If you would like to see the recipe let me know and I will send it.

2009 Jan 23
I look at it quite simply: Some of the world's best and time-tested cuisines were developed by people who were incredibly poor by any modern standard. Particularly, (Southern)Italian, Middle Eastern, Morrocan/N. African, Spanish, most Asian cuisines and a lot of what you would call "brasserie" or "grand-mere" French style (ie: not haute cuisine).

Good food doesn't have to be expensive, but a lot of things that we take for granted as a significant meat-producing country (such as steaks the size of dinner plates, meat every day or even at every meal, only eating the priciest choice cuts that are easy to prepare by grilling) were just not realistic options throughout history for most of the world.

Therefore, I try to take inspiration from these cuisines and cultures when cooking every day (I am young and just starting out professionally so I can't say the recession really has had any affect on me personally other than the constant barrage of negative news). This means a lot of pates, stews, soups, salads and vegetable dishes using interesting ingredients that actually are Canadian winter fruits and vegetables (ie: cheap) such as cabbage, beets, apples, carrots, pears, potatoes, squash, pumpkin, turnips etc. I love organ meats so I would eat them regardless of the price, but the fact that they are generally very cheap is a nice bonus!

I crave fresh tomatoes like crazy, but i can wait until summer when they are infinitely better and far cheaper than the mealy and bland ones available now.

On that note here is a killer Mark Bittman recipe for a squash pasta sauce, try it I was amazed how simple and tasty the result was:

2009 Jan 23
I've been cooking in bulk, especially for lunches! Each week, I've made a salad with one grain, one legume, and various vegetables and cheese that are on sale. This week it was barley, chickpeas, feta, cucumber, tomato and cilantro from my windowsill. Next week, I'm thinking bulgur, beets and goat cheese (not sure which legume to add).

Definitely more potluck style dinner parties and lots of good, classic, home cooking, like Tracinho said, no more haute cuisine.

The other thing I can speak to is eating less: We really love the meats we get at Sasloves, and the produce at Farm Boy or Herb and Spice, but dang it's expensive. So, we're simply buying less of it, and supplementing with frozen produce when necessary. With the meat, it comes down to shopping around. It turns out that Saslove's bacon is only 2.99/pound, which is less than what you pay for Schneiders at the grocery store. Also, the Bulk barn has become my go-to place for lots of grains, legumes, and other yummy dried food (fruit, nuts, etc).

2009 Jan 23
Oooh, does linguine al aglio e olio count? So simple, yet so delicious: nothing but linguine, olive oil, and garlic.

If I'm feeling particularly ambitious I'll dissolve a couple of nice anchovies in it, too. Or a dried chili or two.

Recession or no, I can't get enough of it. It takes no time to make and cries out for a nice, crisp white wine.

2009 Jan 23
Very good and useful input, thank you all. Please, Foodntravel, if it's not too much bother I'd appreciate your recipe for braised veal shoulder -- anything like pot roast (one of my favs)? You could e-mail me at, or perhaps others on Ottawa Foodies would like to see it posted too ...
Also, would Tracinho and Lady who Brunches care to provide me a phone no. I can call for a brief interview about your personal experience? (e-mail above) No pressure, it just serves to flesh out the story with real day-to-day foodies (and not just the "experts" in the business).
Kind regards to all, and thanks again!

2009 Jan 23
Here is the recipe for anyone interested. Great for entertaining as it can be done ahead.
Omnivore I have emailed it to you as well.

Veal Shoulder with porcini, rosemary and garlic.
1 3/4-ounce package dried porcini mushrooms
8 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 5-pound veal shoulder clod roast, tied to hold shape

1/4 cup olive oil
2 pounds meaty veal neck bones
4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup drained chopped canned tomatoes
Preheat oven to 350F. Grind mushrooms to powder in coffee or spice mill. Coarsely chop garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper in processor. Set aside 1 tablespoon garlic mixture; press remainder, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, into center of veal through openings of string (or poke holes in veal and push garlic mixture in). Coat outside of veal with mushroom powder.
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add bones and brown well, about 8 minutes. Transfer bones to bowl. Add veal to pot. Brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add reserved 1 tablespoon garlic mixture and any remaining mushroom powder to pot around veal and stir 1 minute. Arrange bones around veal. Add broth, wine, tomatoes, tomato paste and vinegar. Bring to boil. Cover; place in oven and roast until veal is tender, turning veal every 30 minutes, about 2 hours. Cool veal uncovered 1 hour. Discard bones. Refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated 1 day. Scrape off fat from surface of sauce. Transfer veal to work surface, scraping any sauce back into pot. Remove strings. Cut veal crosswise into scant 1/2-inch-thick slices. Overlap slices in large baking dish. Boil sauce until reduced to 3 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over veal. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover with foil and chill.)
Preheat oven to 350F. Bake veal covered until heated, about 35 minutes.

2009 Jan 23
Nice recipe, I will try it a.s.a.p., thank you Foodntravel.
BTW, when you talk about "4 cups canned lo-salt chicken broth" do you mean the Tetra-pak?
Also, I note use of neck bones, good idea, which would provided nice gelatin (read: smack appeal on the lips, velvety nuance). Other readers may be interested to try pig's "trotters," a.k.a. pig's feet, which are ideally sawed in half, lengthwise, to expose the bone/marrow -- great source of gelatin and texture while stewing, then discard.

2009 Jan 23
As for the chicken broth I use my homemade if I have it or the low sodium tetra pak or Pacific Organic. I should have mentioned that.

2009 Jan 23
Lately I have been making great use of my slow cooker. Just started a batch of beans and sausage, but instead of the sausage used a smoked turkey drumstick I bought at FarmBoy a while back and only discoverd yesterday, lost in the freezer.! So far the smell is driving me crazy but I have to wait the 8 hours.

Bought lamb shanks last week on sale at Loeb and they were CHEAP $ 1.65 each and they cut them into smaller pieces for me. Will make a curry next using the lamb shanks.

I try to shop for the cheaper cuts and make meals and freeze them for the days I dont feel like cooking.
Have decided to use up all the stuff in my freezer before I buy again.

Has anyone ever tried making fish pie? we had it often in the UK and it is a great way to use up smaller pieces of fish, left over peas and mashed potatoes.

2009 Jan 23
Like many others, I tend to reach for ethnic cuisines.

I love ethiopean meals such as doro wat, messir wat etc. Simple, spicy slow cooked stews.

Tagines are also great and you can use cheaper meats like chicken thighs and they tend to use a lot of root vegetables as do Couscous dishes.

Some of the cuisine from the Southern US is also tasty and inexpensive. I have a great recipe for slow cooked green beans with ham-hock/ham bone. I almost NEVER eat over cooked vegetables but this recipe is amazing.

I have always been amazed with what one can do with potatoes when willing to invest some time. Potatoes Anna, dauphinaise, lyonnaise are relatively cheap to make and just require a bit of care. It sheds new light on mashed, boiled, baked or french fried.

I usually hit the Asian grocery stores for inexpensive vegetables and Produce Depot.

Tofu is another great, inexpensive ingredient. Lots of people try it not knowing how to cook with it and immediately dislike due to its bland nature. There are some wickedly good tofu dishes at Chinese restaurants that can easily be cooked at home.

Textured Vegetable Protein is another cheap substitute that can be worked into recipes- works well in chili and the nice thing is that you can use it in combination with ground beef to reduce cost and fat content of a recipe.

2009 Jan 23
OMG, so many great ideas and food thoughts! Keep 'em coming, they're really great!
Kind regards,

2009 Jan 24
I had a few more thoughts- You can make a great variety of things with eggs-
Spanish tortilla/torta
carbonara pasta

not to mention many other obvious egg dishes.

I also like South African Bobotie as an alternative to meatloaf. I love meat loaf too, but a change is nice.

Moussaka and greek Pasticio are good cost cutting dishes when having company- serve them up with lemon roasted potatoes and salad.

2009 Jan 25
cakelady, i love jamie oliver's recipe for fish pie. it looks long, but you can easily put it together if you already have odds pieces of fish, mashed potatoes and hardboiled eggs.

you make a vegetable sauce - i use whatever is going limp in the veggie drawer. then, in a lasagna pan, put fish, slightly wilted spinach and sliced hardboiled eggs, pour over vegetable sauce and then top with mashed potatoes. so easy. cook until fish is done, around 30 minutes (my pan is a stoneware one and takes a bit longer).

here is the proper recipe:

Jamie's recipe for Fantastic Fish Pie from his book "The Return of the Naked Chef" - serves 6.

The whole fish pie thing is one of the most homely, comforting and moreish dinners I can think of. This is a cracking recipe, which does it for me.

6 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch squares
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 free-range eggs
2 large handfuls fresh spinach, trimmed and washed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, halved and finely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pint double cream
2 good handfuls grated mature Cheddar or Parmesan
juice of 1 lemon
1 heaped teaspoon English mustard
1 large handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
455gr/1 lb haddock or fresh cod fillet, skin removed, pin-boned and sliced into strips
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Nutmeg, optional

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas6.

Put the potatoes into salted boiling water and bring back to a boil for 2 minutes. Carefully add the eggs to the pan and cook for a further 8 minutes until hard boiled, by which time the potatoes should also be cooked. At the same time, steam the spinach in a colander above the pan. This will only take a minute. When the spinach is done, remove from the colander and gently squeeze any excess moisture away. Then drain the potatoes in the colander. Remove the eggs, cool under cold water, then peel and quarter them. Place to one side.

In a separate pan slowly fry the onion and carrot in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes, then add the double cream, and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, lemon juice, mustard, and parsley.

Put the spinach, fish and eggs into an appropriately sized earthenware dish and mix together, pouring over the creamy vegetable sauce. The cooked potatoes should be drained and mashed, add a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a touch of nutmeg, if you like. Spread on top of the fish. Don't bother piping it to make it look pretty, it's a homely hearty thing. Place in the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are golden.

2009 Jan 25
Pan bagnat, thanks for reminding me of Babotie, what a great dish and so tasty.
Here is a recipe I got from " Pamela Shippels my way with food".She is a great and well known South African cook who has her own radio show on cooking.

Babotie serves 4

500 gm ground beef or lamb
2 onions chopped
4 TBs oil
1 slice of day old bread
125 ml beef stock - low sodium if not homemade
1 Tbs fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic minced
3 tsp apricot jam or a nice fruity chutney
1 small apple grated
1 Tbs curry powder
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 Tbs lemon juice
125 ml chopped dried apricots and raisins
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup milk
2 eggs
6 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 180 c
Brown the beef in the oil, remove to a dish while sauteing the onions in the pan.
Soak the bread in the beef stock and mash into the meat.
Add the rest of the ingredients into the beef and onion mixture and tranfer into a casserole dish.
Mix all the topping ingredients except the bay leaves and pour over the meat.
Push the bay leaves into the meat mixture so the stems are still seen. Place in the oven uncoverd for 40 minutes until custard has set. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

This meal is traditionally served with yellow rice, ( a teaspoon of tumeric added to the rice when cooking, plus a hand full of raisins)

2009 Jan 25
A couple of simple ones that I find stupidly delicious :

Hash on Brown Rice

To make the hash, just fry hamburger, onions (1 per lb), salt and pepper. Add some water and corn starch to make a gravy. My boys (5 and 7) love this.

Goulash (Hamburger Helper)

Um, I'll have to look up my recipe but I think I have it on here somewhere.

2009 Jan 25
Hey, this makes me think of Sloppy Joe's just add a fresh Kaiser bun!! and a salad and you have a nice easy sunday night supper to watch the football on tv with.

2009 Jan 26
I've been thinking more about this and I would probably have to go back and just re-write everything I've already written in the forums here because just about everything I do in the kitchen falls into this category - and has for years!

So, just go back and read everything I've already written :-)

Here's a quick tip, though. Keep a few large freezer bags in the freezer for collecting meat scraps - one for beef scraps : fat, bone and such; one for chicken scraps - bones, skin and so on; another for pork scraps. When you accumulate enoughs scraps, boil them down for broth. This is accomplished best of all in a pressure cooker - 30 minutes at 15 psi. Or 3 hours of boiling if you don't have one. Strain off and save the broth, then allow to cool. Pick through the scraps for usable pieces of meat if you like (optional).

If you have a pressure canner, then can the broth. Otherwise you can freeze it for later use. Or use it immediately.

2009 Jan 27
along with zym's suggestions on keeping all the odds and ends, i just want to expand that to include the rinds of parmessan and asiago cheese. you can freeze the ends and then use them in soups. mark bitten does this all the time. also stale bread - bread crumbs, croutons, or put it in soup.

my cheap eats always includes some kind of soup. you can start with water if you have nothing else and work from there. broth takes no time to make and is a great way to use vegetable scraps, especially if your compost is full until spring!

2009 Feb 6
This isn't a recipe, but a tip.

Everyone knows that things are cheaper in bulk. But often what happens is you buy more, and then you consume more. So the thing to do is buy in bulk, but have a kitchen scale to portion it out.

For example I went to Costco tonight and got one of the 2.5kg packages of grated Mozza. Which incidentally is cheaper than any Mozza I can find - grated or not. I portion it out into 10 x 250g ziplock bags and then freeze it. Each bag is good for one pizza the size of one of those pizza stones (I also add a bit of freshly grated parmasan)

If we didn't do it this way I'm sure that bag would only end up making 6 or 7 pizzas at most - especially where my wife is a cheese hound.

2009 Feb 8
Here's one I just whipped up. Turkey Casserole.

1 package (375g) of PC Whole Wheat Rotini
1500 ml mason jars canned turkey and chicken
corn starch

Cook the pasta as per instructions, then drain.

I drained the chicken and turkey and saved the liquid and fat in a 1.5L saucepan. I topped it up to about a litre, added salt and pepper to taste, then 1 to 2 tsp rosemary and 1 to 2 tsp thyme. Both dried. I added 4 or 5 tablespoons of corn starch and buzzed it all with a hand blender. I brought it to a boil and boiled gently 4 or 5 minutes to make sort of a thick gravy out of it.

I then mixed the pasta, gravy, and chicken/turkey into a 3L saucepan, put the lid on it, and baked it for 35 minutes at 325F

The chicken and turkey is of course stuff that I canned myself. If you don't have your own canned stuff, then use about 5 cups of cooked and chopped chicken/turkey, and just make the gravy with water - no broth required.

The boys (5 and 7) loved it.

2009 Feb 9
Just had some of that casserole for lunch and I have to pat myself on the back for it! Wow, that's the best casserole I've ever made - will definitely be using this simple recipe a lot! I"m going to also try it with the bottled up pork I have from BSNBB last year.

If making it you may want to start on the low end with rosemary and thyme - maybe even 1/2 tsp of each the first time. I probably overdid it a bit and will adjust down next time.

2009 Mar 19
Pot Roast ( 4 lbs )

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rub outside of roast with Dijon mustard and cracked black pepper.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in roasting pan or large casserole dish on top of stove.
Sear roast on all sides. (This will keep juices in the roast while it cooks.)

Remove pot roast. Tent with foil. Set aside.

Add to roasting pan along with existing olive oil:

1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 green pepper, diced finely
1 turnip, diced
1 whole bay leaf
4 cloves, whole
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon sea salt

Saute 10 minutes.

Add 4 cups low sodium beef broth and 1 cup dry red wine to roasting pan with vegetables.
Add 1 bunch of fresh thyme .

Add pot roast to roasting pan.
Cover .

Cook in pre-heated oven for 2 hours or until roast is tender.

Let pot roast sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

2009 Mar 20
I have been making what I like to call Quick and Dirty pho, I use a recipe from planetgreen and then just add slices of whatever meat that in the fridge/freezer that i need to cook or even sometimes the drier parts of a roast or something.
It generally takes less than 30 minutes and makes enough for a few meals if you keep the ingredients separate from the broth ( just chunk them in before you eat it)

heres the recipe:

oh yea i generally add a cup or two more water than it calls for depending on it is low sodium broth or not that i get (i use the tetrapak ones generally)

2009 Mar 22
I just whipped up a goulash and recorded it all for the first time. Have a Youtube video uploading at the moment as well - will post a link when it is done. Note that I'm using a deep skillet.


Part 1 :

Part 2 :

Verbatim from my website :

Two of the main ingredients are beef and diced tomatoes. For the former we are using ground beef from one of the local farmers that we deal with. It is non-certified organic, and absolutely fantastic tasting! For the tomatoes we are using a pint / 500ml jar of diced roma tomatoes that we put down in the fall of 2006. We do a lot of tomatoes every year - buy them by the bushel at the farmers' market at the end of our street, and process and can them up.

Note we are using a deep skillet which is like a frying pan that is 4 or 5 inches deep. If you do not have one, use a dutch oven or a casserole dish that is suitable for stove top.

Here is what we put into ours :

* about a pound of ground beef (OK, we used 612g which is a bit more than a pound - maybe 1 and a quarter)
* 2 good sized onions, pureed
* 1 pint / 500ml diced tomato (go ahead and use a 750ml can if you like)
* 1 tablespoon thyme
* 1 tablespoon oregano
* 1 tablespoon parsley
* 1 teaspoon rosemary
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon pepper
* 2 cups Macaroni (uncooked)
* 2 tablespoons corn starch
* 2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil

We puree the onion because while our boys like the taste of onion when they do not know it is in something, if they see it in there they will not eat it. I actually prefer my onions cut fairly large but have come to do it this way mainly because of the boys.

Our beef is frozen so we put it into the skillet that way, on low heat for 20 or 30 minutes with the cover on. Every 5 minutes we take the cover off and scrape off any meat that has thawed enough, and chunk it up to fry. The beef from our local farmer is incredibly lean - so lean in fact that we normally have to add a few tablespoons of oil when frying it.

While the beef is cooking, puree the onion, and measure out all of the herbs and spices into a little bowl. You should also put 2 cups / 500ml of water into a pyrex container and nuke it long enough to boil it. We'll be cooking the macaroni directly in the skillet, and using water that is just off the boil will speed things up quite a bit for us.

When the beef is all thawed out, add the onion and spices, give it a good stir, and then add the macaroni and the 2 cups of water that is just off the boil. Now add your corn starch and give it all a good stir. Finally, add the diced tomatoes and let it come back up to the boil. Put the lid back on, and go put another 2 cups of water into the microwave to boil.

Start timing 10 minutes from this point, or whatever the cooking time is for the pasta you used. If you are using whole wheat pasta it may require more time.

Every minute or two, remove the lid and give everything a good, deep stir, ensuring that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the skillet. When the water is boiled, add 1 cup more and give it another good stir. When your 10 minutes is up, turn the heat off and cover for 5 minutes to let thicken more.

Serve and enjoy!

2009 Mar 23
Zym - Sounds like a great recipe... just curious though, how much pasta do you use? Do you measure it (say macaroni in the pyrex measuring cup) or just eyeball it and toss it in?

I apologize if the "Answer" to my Question is in the YouTube piece, I just haven't looked at it as of yet.

2009 Mar 23
Ha! Whoops! I went over that recipe a few times to make sure I did not omit anything! Guess I missed one of the obvious things!

I used just over 2 cups

2009 Mar 23
Zym - Thanks... believe I am going to try this one.

2009 Mar 23
I think it probably needs a bit more water - go for the full extra cup instead of the 2/3 I added. Or if you are using a standard 790ml can of diced tomatoes that will probably be enough extra liquid over what I had.

2009 Mar 23
I've updated zym's recipe accordingly.

2009 Mar 23
BTW, my wife just had some a few moments ago, and she says that the recipe needs more tomato in general. I don't agree or disagree - it is just different either way. So feel free to replace more water with diced tomato as you see fit.

Jun 7
Everything old is New again. I'm so glad I put so many of my recipes into this site. Just looking up my goulash and this old recession thread seems to be new again.

Jun 8
But, also new things are availible. Like, if you have a instantpot, you can make a heck of a lot of dishes that keep well, like I make a decent cheap thai green curry in it that can serve for multiple meals, and freezes well.

Also, I've been making big batches of red beans and rice too.

Jun 8
James, have a couple recipes to share? I just added green curry paste to my next grocery order..

Jun 9
Thai Green Curry.

1 onion chopped, 6 cloves of garlic smashed, 1/4 cup soy suace, 1tbps Sugar, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs chopped, 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut cream, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 water, 2tbsp green curry paste.

1. Combine onion, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, pepper, 1/4 cup water and 1tbps spoon of green curry paste in Instant Pot
2. Stir in chicken. Seal and set poot to cook on high pressure for 8 minutes.
3. When time is up, manually release pressure, then remove the chicken.
4. Change cooker to high saute setting and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, 12-15 minutes
5. Stir in coconut cream and remaining curry paste. Add chicken back in.
6. Serve over rice.