JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Five frugal cook books

Left Over for Tomorrow
, by Marika Hanbury Tenison.

I bought my copy in a sale at a wholefood shop in Bristol when we were first married, and, two decades later, it's well worn. This is a really good reference book for anyone wanting to make the contents of their fridge go further. Only this week I consulted it to see what to do with a tiny bit of hard cheese. Answer: grate and store in a screwtop jar in the fridge, then add to soup, pastry or vinaigrette.

The Pauper's Cookbook, by Jocasta Innes.

I bought this soon after I got my first job, and was living in London on not much more than fresh air. I haven't used this so much in recent years, although leafing through it, I can see why I loved it so much - loads of interesting things to do with cheaper cuts of meat and the sorts of fish my grandmother used to buy for her cat.

Poor Cook, by Susan Campbell & Caroline Conran

I graduated to this when I realised how much I enjoyed cooking. It's a quirky '70s book, and the recipes have stood the test of time better than, say, Diet for a Small Planet (I can no longer find anything I want to eat there). I still vividly remember the oxtail stew I cooked for the first time, decades ago now, and recently bought a replacement copy of this in order to recreate it. And, yes, it's just as good now as it was then.

Budget Gourmet, by Geraldene Holt

I bought this in the mid 80s, and it's the most adventurous of these five. Geraldene Holt is a wonderful and inexplicably underrated cookery writer. The green herb tart, the koulibiaka, the mackerel cooked in tea. My copy is literally falling to pieces. (Here's a gratuitous link to her butterless pastry.)

English Food, by Jane Grigson

This is not specifically about frugal food, but traditional English cookery encompasses the idea of thrift, so there's lots of frugality here: leek pie, brawn, pease pudding, herrings in oatmeal, gooseberry sauce for mackerel - to find a few at random. Grigson's recipes always work, and she always has something interesting to say about the origins of the dish she's describing.

It goes more or less without saying that the most frugal way to buy these books is second hand.


Xinran said...

Twice in 24 hours - Gooseberry sauce for Mackerel, that was one Masterchef yesterday, never even thought of that combination before! I think I may have to trawl ebay and some charity shops for your frugal books. I have Margeritte Patterns Wartime Cook Book, packed with frugal tips.

Joanna said...

Xinran, it was a classic combination that people used to do ... I missed Masterchef yesterday - how funny that it's making a comeback

Those wartime cookery books have lots and lots of ideas, some too disgusting to contemplate, particularly in the area of coffee ;)


Ellie said...

I think I need one of those books at the moment! I shall have to borrow one...OR if you see one in the Oxfam shop could you grab it for me....!

E xx

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

It's true some of the old books have somethings too disgusting to contemplate other than as oddities of history.
Grigson, yeah they just work and are good.
I love the way you talk about each one of these books.

Jodie Robson said...

I still have Left Over for Tomorrow and The Pauper's Cookbook where I can find them quickly. When we were first married and really poor I don't know how we'd have survived without Jocasta Innes, her weekly plans were a godsend, and I stil know excatly where to look in the book if I need a reminder for a basic recipe. My other staple was a book written to celebrate the end of rationing ("isn't it wonderful that we can use eggs again!") which was rather good for cakes - frugality was still a habit even if you didn't have to save up your food coupons, so it was great for us paupers!

Anonymous said...

Pauper's Ckbk is one I dip into often and anything by Marguerite Patten and wartime cookery is always 'food for thought'.