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Well, I’ve had a ponder for your Valentines Day Dinner, and this is what I have come up with. I think it is a beautiful menu, I hope you do too. We have a Smoked Salmon and Crispy Toast starter, a main of a warm Asparagus, Bacon and Egg Salad, and a pudding of Chocolate Cherry Cake with Cream. It all comes in at £1.84 a head, which I think is very good value. I have tried to use ingredients that can be used in lots of other meals when there are any left over, and there are a few ideas on that at the bottom. If you use up those ingredients in meals through the week, and concentrate on the cheaper meals on Thrifty Lesley, you should still be ok for your £1 a Day budget if that is what you want to stick to.
Starter, about 35p
If you would like a starter, how about smoked salmon in cream cheese on toasted bread in heart shapes, circles or just squares. Get some of those smoked salmon trimmings, £1.55/120g in Asda. Use 10g each in a spoonful (about 20g) of basics cream cheese, 61p/250g in Asda, just mix together and season with black pepper. Cut out some shapes from a couple of slices of bread and toast them, serve the salmon on top. Any bread will do here, if you have some fancy stuff, use it, if you don’t, just use sliced, it will be fine. 2 slices from a basics loaf would be about 4p
Main, about 80p
A warm Asaparagus, Bacon and Egg Salad. This is based on this recipe from BBC Good Food, I did it at my WI last May, and it went down a storm.
You will need
150g pk asparagus, Asda, £1
1 egg each, Free range eggs, about 20p each
a pk of cooking bacon, £1.10/670g Sainsbury, use 50g, 8p
the recipe calls for a few toasted hazlenuts, but they are expensive, if you can get them, use those, otherwise use 20g raw peanuts, 250g/94p Asda, 7p
For a vinaigrette, you need 1 part acid (any vinegar except malt) to 3 parts oil. So 3 tsps olive oil if you have it, veg oil if you don’t and 1 tsp lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, plus a tsp of grainy mustard. Give it a whisk until it emulsifies. 5p in all? Add some salt and pepper to it if you like.
Boil the eggs for 4 minutes. Leave to cool. Snap the asparagus off at the stem end to remove the woody part (keep it for stock). Simmer the asparagus for about 4 minutes until tender. Drain well, keep the water for stock.
Cooking bacon tends to be lumps rather than rashers, so you will either need to snip it up into little pieces with scissors, or bash it out flat. In either case, grill the bacon until crispy, if it is in little pieces, you may need to put it on a piece of foil or grill proof plate.
Meanwhile, put a smear of oil in a frying pan and fry the peanuts until they brown. Keep an eye on them, they catch and burn easily.
Shell the eggs and keep warm.
Plate up by warming the plates, put half the asparagus on each plate, top with the crispy bacon, and the halved eggs. Sprinkle over the nuts. Drizzle over the dressing and serve immediately.
When I did this for the WI, I scattered a few puy lentils over the top to make it more main coursey, but you are having three courses here, so you probably won’t need it. Do of course if you would like to and you have the funds, you will probably need more dressing if you use the lentils. Maybe have a little crispy baquette with butter if you like, or 2 or 3 cherry tomatoes, but all these extras push up the cost, so if you are wanting to keep that down, stick with the plain version, it IS delicious.
Pudding, about 69p
This is the pudding I did last year. I made a chocolate sponge cake in the usual way, but instead of baking it in 2 sponge tins, I used 1 baking tray with deep sides. Then when it was baked, and cooled, I cut out 4 heart shapes using a template I had cut out using cereal box cardboard. Then I put 1 each on a tea plate sized, shallow cereal bowl. The fruit topping is a bottle of cherries from Lidl which I drained, then some whipped cream. Top it off with the 2nd heart and dredge with icing sugar just before serving.
It looked great and tasted divine. Needless to say, the remaining fruit and cream was used in the next few days with something else, and the cake left after the heart shapes were cut out was used in a trifle.
You could use any variation of this. How about a lemon or orange sponge with a tin of drained basics mandarins. Or any fruit at all made into a compote by very gently heating with a little sugar until the juices run, or some of the basics frozen red berry fruits £1.30/400g Sainsbury, left to defrost with a little sugar mixed in to make a jus. Or some apple slices, with or without skin, fried in a little butter. Or have a look at the Victoria Sponge post, any of those variations would work just fine.
I like to keep fruit liquers in the cupboard, this is just the place to add a dash to whatever fruit you use. Raspberry trifle is lush with a dash of raspberry liquer added to the fruit. You could use any of those strange coloured things if you have any in the cupboard, that Blue Curacao that seemed a good idea at the time. Not too much, put a tblsp in, stir well and taste, then go from there.
In this version, £1.52 for the whole cake, you will use about half, so 76p, plus a quarter of a bag of red fruit, 32p, 150ml double cream/60p Asda, maybe half of that, 30p. Total of £1.38
Toast yourselves with whatever your budget runs to and gaze lovingly at each other, remember your good times, make plans, enjoy each others company and really listen to what s/he has to say, talk about feelings and forget about everyday worries for this evening.
Use the remaining smoked salmon in a pasta sauce. You could stir 50g through warm pasta with some of the soft cheese with some lemon zest if you have one. Or fry off an onion, add a tblsp of flour and a little milk to make a sauce and add about 50g salmon for 2 portions, with 80g dried pasta each. You could make this twice with the remaining salmon. Or make it once and use the rest in a quiche filling with 3 eggs, some grated carrot and a handful of frozen peas, use a 20cm pie tin and you will have 4 portions of quiche. How to make pastry with oil here
I have found the soft cheese to be an extremely versatile ingredient and you shouldn’t have any problems using that up, lots of ideas here
The remaining chocolate cake can be used with custard, chocolate or plain, as a pudding, or make some chocolate fudge sauce and use that with it, or crumble it, mix with a little fudge sauce and stuff some pancakes with it, or warm it through for a few seconds and have with ice cream.
The cooking bacon has masses of uses, here is a recipe for a Bacon and Sweetcorn Pie, you could use some in a Rosti, or make some soup using whatever vegetables you have in and a bit of bacon for flavour.
The remaining ingredients from this shop will see you through several days, have a look at the recipe index for the cheaper recipes to keep the week down to £1 a day