RECIPE: It’s tasty food on a budget

Spinach pasta
Spinach pasta
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Food is getting more expensive. The latest rise in inflation published recently cited an increase in the cost of food as one of the main underlying reasons, writes James Waller-Davies.

With the UK now only 60 per cent self-sufficient in food production and with a weakened pound, the rising cost of food imports is likely to make food inflation a trend for the foreseeable future.

Cooking on a budget can be a challenge, especially with the range of inexpensive foods narrowing. Many once cheap cuts of meat, such as lamb shanks and oxtail have been made trendy by TV chefs and can now cost as much as prime cuts.

Cooking meals that are both interesting and tasty on a budget can be even more challenging. My mother’s strategy when I was a kid was to mash almost anything with potatoes. Filling maybe, but her Pilchard Pie – mashed pilchards and potatoes – still haunts me to this day.

Pasta is a great start for an inexpensive meal. It takes an almost infinite variety of accompaniments from all the seasons, is quick to make and satisfying to eat.

This week’s recipe costs less than £2 for a family of four. Bacon bits must be one of the cheapest meat buys weight-for- weight and frozen leaf-spinach is an ideal substitute for this type of dish.

Budget cooking doesn’t have to be bland and a bit of imagination is far fairer on your family than resorting to the potato-masher.

Ingredients (serves 4)

100g pasta per person

300g cooked spinach

300g chopped bacon bits

100g grated cheese

4 cloves chopped garlic

Method

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. When cooked, keep about 2 ladles of the pasta water before draining the pasta. Set to one side. In a large pan, fry the bacon bits and chopped garlic for a few minutes, before mixing in the pasta. Add the spinach and mix well. Pour in the retained pasta water and sprinkle in the grated cheese. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes until cheese has melted and has coated the pasta. Season and serve.