Skint foodies

Watching Masterchef is an exercise in masochism and makes me want to shout at the TV. I suppose contestants subject to themselves to the trials for their 15 minutes of fame but some of the crazy combinations they concoct, in an effort to impress the judges, are too fanciful for ordinary home cooks to try. Surely? I mean … pannacotta with pink grapefruit. You’d never get that in an Italian restaurant and we shouldn’t try to improve on the way Italians combine food so naturally.

So what a pleasure it was to find Skintfoodie. This isn’t an affluent chef telling the rest of us peasants how to manage a budget in a recession. This is a guy who was once conventionally corporate and successful before coming down with a bump, losing his family and home, ending up in a hostel and suffering from mental health problems. Reported in the Guardians G2, 1 March, he describes how a love of food has been his salvation. Except that he’s managing on a fraction of his previous budget. Read his blog to discover endless meals to make with a chicken. And he’s articulate, funny and original. Wish the Observer would commission him and get rid of Nigel Slater. Their loyalty to their journalists would be admirable were it not for the fact that after so many books, TV programmes and columns Nigel can’t surprise me anymore. Well, there was this recipe last Sunday for pea and ham soup but I think it’s the same as my Mum used to make. A childhood favourite that nourishes the body and the soul.

Two onions, chopped – I get Spanish ones from the Market. Supermarket ones are rubbish
A ham hock – a good butchers should have one
450 grams of split peas
Stock – any, enough.

Soak peas overnight in cold water. Bring to boil and skim off foam. Simmer for about two hours.
Roast ham hock slowly til cooked. Remove fat. Slice off meat.
Chop onions and fry slowly.
Put all together with stock and simmer for an hour. Or in slow cooker.
Take meat off hock. Put half in soup and save rest to eat later.
Blend soup.

I looked at Good Food online but their version is from John Torode. Aarggh! (Is he the greengrocer or is that the other one?) Does anyone ever use the cook books piled up on their shelves? It’s so much easier online. Debating whether to get rid of mine. Well except Delia, Nigella and the Daily Dairy Cookbook from the milkman…



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