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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Top Cumbrian chef shows how to cook tasty meals on a budget

The shocking tale of the couple who go without to ensure they have enough food for their children brought the issue of food budgeting to the fore.

Budget cooking photo
Rebecca Stirling with Peter Sidwell

Inspired by their story, the News & Star contacted celebrity chef Peter Sidwell and asked him to come up with some cheap, easy but nutritious recipes for Rebecca and Paul Stirling to use to feed their young family.

The couple, who live on Carlisle’s Raffles estate, revealed how they have only about £65 per week to spend on food which must feed their five-year-old daughter Bethany and 10-month-old son Joshua.

Rebecca, 23, endeavours to homebake everything, admitting she does not even own a microwave.

However, to ensure their children can eat nutritious, healthy meals three times a day, Rebecca and Paul, 27, survive by only eating one meal – around the table with their youngsters – on Mondays to Fridays.

Inspired by the challenge and the Stirling family’s family ethos, Peter – who is currently a judge on ITV’s hit daytime cookery show Britain’s Best Bakery – invited Rebecca into the kitchens of his cafe at the Rheged Centre, near Penrith.

Before meeting the chef, Rebecca admitted that she was nervous.

“I’m not sure what he will be like,” she said. “I am quite good already at using my leftovers: I know if I make a stew with mince one day, I can make a pie with it the next day.

“I am keen to find out more ways of reusing leftovers though, because I want my children to have different tastes and nutrition.”

Peter welcomed Rebecca with a smile, a coffee and some of his own recipe cake, before getting straight to the point.

“I cannot believe you survive on only one meal,” he chastised her. “Where would [your children] be without you two? You and your diet are just as important as theirs.

“I think you do a great job and your kids are your world, but I’m going to get you two having lunch.”

Peter continued: “I think I’ve identified a few areas where I think you can shop a bit smarter.

“I honestly think you can eat like kings on a budget: It’s about thinking about what you’ve got and how best to use it.”

For almost two hours, using ingredients supplied free to the News & Star by Sainsbury’s in Caldewgate, Carlisle, Peter demonstrated ways to get the most out of a few simple recipes.

The shopping totalled £28.05, and yet Peter barely used half of the ingredients to create a range of family-friendly meals.

From one fresh chicken he produced four escallopes, four chicken pasties and a chicken and sweetcorn broth – “perfect for lunch” he told Rebecca.

In the same session, the father-of-two also whipped up a sausage pasta, two soda bread loaves, his Sidwell family sauce, homemade barbecue sauce and four turkey burger wraps.

Peter said: “Leftovers often challenges you more, but as a result you become more creative.

“When I’m cooking I start with an ingredient and not a dish in mind, whether I’m cooking with leftovers or not.

“I don’t think spending lots of money on food is the answer: It’s about selecting the right foods for the right jobs.”

He added that having good basic ingredients in the store cupboard was also vital, but that these could be bought one at a time.

“Hopefully if nothing else I have helped Rebecca to use the money she has got go a little bit further – and this means she can have lunch,” Peter concluded.

The chef also presented Rebecca with a copy of his family cookbook, which he signed and dedicated to Bethany and Joshua.

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