When I was invited to take part in a Come Dine With Me style challenge, I thought it was the perfect time of year to think about classic menu’s to serve as the evenings get colder and we all crave cuddle in a bowl comfort foods.
The challenge involved a £50 limit so I have priced all the dishes I made and the results are surprising. You can host a three course meal for surprisingly little and have very satisfied guests! Mine was a simple night with my fiance and my young sister who came to visit us for the weekend. It was so fun because, it made an already special weekend even more special and it was a perfect way to entertain and teach my 12 year old sister some cooking skills which she loves to get involved in!
The menu was carb heavy for comfort but the serving sizes small enough to not make you need a lie down afterwards but feel perfectly full. The dishes will serve 4, but you can multiply for larger crowds. The bruschetta would also make perfect canapes for drinks at a festive gathering, the hint of chilli makes a traditionally light, summer dish, warming enough for the colder months.
One doesn’t need research figures to state that we, in the Western world especially, eat less and less meals as a family anymore. Just for observations alone, and in my lifetime I have seen things dramatically change. In my young childhood years, I never recall going to a friends’ house for dinner and not being called to the table for dinner with the whole family. In my teens, I can only recall one friends’ family who still did it, but do so less nowadays. It was eating on the go, at different times, in different rooms and even different meals. It became normal and I didn’t really question it at the time.
The average American eats one in every five meals in their car, one in four Americans eats at least one fast food meal every single day, and the majority of American families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week. – Source
According to a survey of 5,000 British people, one in four eat their main meal alone. A whopping 78% said that they rarely or never invite friends or family over at mealtimes. – Source
Furthermore, numerous research studies have found evidence to suggest that it is better for us to eat while sitting, preferably at the table than on the go. By sitting down to eat a meal, we are more likely to eat less food as we eat slower giving the brain time to register being full. We are also less likely to snack if we eat a full meal rather than grabbing a snack at the train station or mindlessly snacking in front of the TV.
So, this was a great opportunity to make a regular evening meal, super special!
The ingredients for this dish come to £6.71 That’s just £1.68 per serving!*
Mia wasn’t too keen on the raw garlic in the dish so if you would prefer less garlic heat then simply rub the bread with the garlic instead of adding it to the tomatoes.
- 1/2 ciabatta loaf (about 150g)
- 1 punnet cherry or baby plum tomatoes (about 300g)
- 1 very small red onion or a shallot
- 1 small garlic clove, halved
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
- A small bunch of basil or 1/4 cup frozen basil
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt and Pepper
- In a large bowl, add the tomatoes that have been halved, quartered and some crushed. Add the very finely chopped onion, the grated garlic of a half of the clove (if using), oil, chilli, chopped basil and vinegar. Mix well and add a sprinkle of salt and black pepper Set aside to macerate.
- Slice the bread about 1.5 cm thick and lightly toast (in a toaster, under the grill or in a dry pan on the hob). Rub the slices with the other half garlic clove.
- Arrange the bread on one large plate or between individual plates and spoon over the tomato mixture. Serve scattered with extra basil leaves and chilli flakes on the side for guests to add more if they desire.
Butternut and Sage Risotto.
The ingredients for this dish come to £12.65 That’s just £3.16 per serving!* Plus most of a bottle of wine left to serve at the table if desired!
This is a classic risotto, lightened up and veganised.
- 1kg butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch chunks
- 1 large bunch sage, leaves roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1.5l/6 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 300g risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
- 185ml/3/4 cup vegan red or white wine (preferably Italian like Pinot Grigio)
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- Preheat the oven to 220’c/425’f. Place the squash onto a baking tray and (spritz with cooking spray if desired) scatter with about half of the chopped sage. Roast for 20-30 minutes until golden and soft.
- While the squash is roasting, prepare the risotto. Bring the stock to the boil and keep on a low simmer, stir in the nutritional yeast.
- In a separate pan, add the oil and the onion and sweat gently for 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Stir the rice into the onions until completely coated in the oil, stirring until the rice is shiny and the edges of the grain start to look transparent.
- Pour in the wine and simmer until totally evaporated. Add the stock, a ladleful at a time and stirring the rice over a low heat for 25-30 mins, until the rice is cooked al dente and the consistency creamy but not mushy.
- When the squash is cooked, roughly mash it with the remaining sage and a geeroud grinding of black pepper. When the risotto is just done, stir though the squash, then divide between plates and scatter with the seeds.
Salted Caramel Pink Lady Apple Crumble.
The ingredients for this dish come to £12.04 That’s just £1.50-£2.00 per serving!*
Pink Lady apples are magnificent cooked, use any other variety as you wish but they are most definitely recommended!
- 300g/2 heaped cups plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch of sea salt
- 175g/scant cup unrefined brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
- 175g/3/4 cup vegan margarine (or refined coconut oil)
- 650g Pink Lady apples, washed in warm water
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 100g/1/2 cup dark unrefined sugar (or coconut sugar)
- 60ml/1/4 cup dark agave (or brown rice, coconut or maple syrup)
- 55g/1/4 cup vegan margarine (optional but recommended)
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 60ml/1/4 cup canned coconut milk or vegan cream (e.g soya, rice, cashew, almond)
- vegan custard (or cream, ice cream), to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and take a large baking dish, about 10 inches wide.
- In a food processor or large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and sugar then pulse or rub the margarine into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Melt the sugar, syrup and margarine, if using, over a low-medium heat, stirring gently to encourage the sugar to dissolve. When the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starting to thicken, add in the cream, carefully as it may splutter. Stir it in vigorously over the heat to combine, it may go lumpy at first but it will soon become smooth. Add the salt and taste, adding more if desired.
- Core the apples (no need too peel), roughly chop into chunks and tumble into the dish. Sprinkle over the remaining cinnamon then blanket with the caramel sauce. Scatter over the crumble topping and bake for 40-45 minutes until dark gold and crispy. Serve hot with vegan custard, cream or ice cream.
Total spend: £31.40
My biased guests rated the night!
*A note on pricing; ingredients costs calculated based on prices at Tesco’s (unless otherwise indicated) using supermarket brand products (with leftover products because you can’t buy 2 tbsp of olive oil!). Obviously the price increases with buying organic or premium range varieties. Also, ingredients already calculated in one recipe are not duplicated, such as oil, in another recipe as you will still have some left. The idea is to calculate the actual supermarket spend for the entire meal.