As we continue to experience soaring food and energy prices, The Daily Mail shared a helpful article over the weekend, highlighting a list of supermarket staples falling in price.
This news follows Boris Johnson claiming he cannot “magic away” the current cost-of-living crisis, vowing to use the “firepower” of Government to “put our arms around people”. One measure faced by the Prime Minister is the implementation of a windfall tax on soaring profits of oil and gas giants, while others are calling for immediate action to help struggling families, including tax cuts.
As it stands, there’s still no sign of tax cuts; people up and down the country still can’t afford to heat their homes, but at least sprinkles are now 5.3 per cent cheaper. Other supermarket staples to have dropped in price include crispbreads (down 7.8 per cent), mackerel (7.3 per cent), sweet chilli sauce (6 per cent), biscuit bars (4.6 per cent) and tomatoes (0.8 per cent).
Yet urging people to stock up on these cut price ingredients is to completely miss the point. When Ashfield MP Lee Anderson caused outrage by suggesting it’s possible to cook ‘nutritious meals’ for 30p a day, Gareth Mason, head chef at Absolute Bistros in Lancashire said the Tory MP is “treating people like peasants”. He then made a point of attempting to cook seven basic meals fitting within the 30p budget. Perhaps needless to say, the results were disastrous, or ‘a load of rubbish’, as Mason puts it.
“Treating people like peasants”
Following the outrage sparked by the new list of price cut ingredients, I quickly received a text message. “Can you make a two course meal with six these things?”
The answer is yes. Of course. But I wouldn’t be particularly proud to serve either of the dishes. Even some of the country’s best chefs would struggle to serve two courses worth writing home about using just mackerel, tomatoes, sweet chilli sauce, crispbreads, chocolate biscuit bars and sprinkles. But I’d certainly try, even just to prove a point.
Enough of each key ingredients to make the savoury and sweet dish for two people came to £13.67, equalling £6.83 per serving: far more than 30p. Mackerel fillets worked out at £2 each, as did a small container of sprinkles.
Scorched mackerel and tomato salad with crispbread croutons
First up, the mackerel. Although mackerel is a personal favourite of mine, I understand it’s not for everybody. Given its oiliness and pungency, mackerel’s popularity seems to be far outweighed by those who loathe it. When prepared properly, however, mackerel is absolutely delicious, with the skin ideally heavily charred and the flesh cooked just very quickly – or ideally served practically raw.
To make a mackerel and tomato salad in this instance sounds like an obvious approach, but the collection of ingredients leaves very few additional options. Personally I’d rather pair mackerel with cucumber in a salad, but tomatoes are a fine option. The mackerel skin is scorched under a grill, it’s quickly flipped and the flesh is cooked for no more than 30 seconds, paired with a very simple (fairly dismal) tomato salad.
For the sake of clarity, I should add that I used just a small handful of additional store cupboard ingredients to assist me on making the dish just a little more edible. Vinegar, for instance, is absolutely necessary to make this dish sing – albeit quietly and in less dulcet tones than you might like – cutting through some of the mackerel’s oiliness. Otherwise, the dish also employs just a pinch of salt (not on the list) and a tiny amount of oil – which tends to defeat the object considering the current excessive prices. Crispbreads are also soaked slightly in tomato juice and served as thin croutons, but I couldn’t bring myself to add sweet chilli sauce to the equation with fresh tomatoes and mackerel prepared in this way.
Ice cream sundae with sweet chilli sauce, chocolate biscuits and sprinkles
The sweet chilli sauce was actually used in the dessert. Before you turn up with torches and pitchforks, it’s worth knowing that chilli and chocolate are best of friends, sweet chilli sauce contains a huge amount of sugar, and chilli sauce and ice cream is a surprisingly pleasant combination. No, ice cream isn’t included in the list of six ingredients either, but a chocolate biscuit smeared with chilli sauce and doused with sprinkles would have been far too depressing. For this purpose I also used the inexpensive, soft-scoop vanilla ice cream to avoid bringing too much joy to the dish.
For the dessert, the key is to use the sweet chilli sauce very sparingly. Ideally I’d forgo it altogether, but it’s better here than in the mackerel dish. To make the dish a little better, I also used a food processor to incorporate the chilli sauce into the ice cream, making it taste a little more whipped. The sundae is also layered with crumbled chocolate biscuits, then topped with a mound of sprinkles because they’re inexpensive now, making it fine to push the boat out.
While both dishes were fine, you may be unsurprised to hear they were both far from extraordinary. The mackerel and tomato dish needed more ingredients to introduce a sense of harmony, while the ice cream sundae tasted extremely sad. Thank god for the hundreds of thousands. You can’t polish a turd, but at least you can cover it with rainbow-coloured sprinkles.
Scorched mackerel and tomato salad with crispbread croutons recipe
- 2 fresh mackerel fillets alternatively used smoked mackerel
- 6 large, ripe tomatoes
- 2 crispbreads
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- Begin by preheating the grill and lining a baking tray with a rack or a sheet of foil.
- Clean the mackerel fillets and pat dry (no need to clean if using smoked mackerel).
- Cut the tomatoes into chunks and add to a bowl. Season with a generous pinch of salt, then drizzle over the red wine vinegar and a splash of oil. Break the crispbreads into chunks and add to the bowl. Toss to combine and set aside.
- Place the mackerel on the baking tray, skin side up, and place under a hot grill for a few minutes, until the skin begins to crackle and become crispy.
- Turnover and cook the flesh for around 30 seconds. The mackerel flesh should still be slightly raw.
- Place the mackerel on a plate, skin side up, and serve alongside the tomato salad.
Ice cream sundae with sweet chilli sauce, chocolate biscuits and sprinkles recipe
- 6 scoops vanilla ice cream
- 6 chocolate biscuit bars (plus more to garnish, optional)
- 2 tsp sweet chilli sauce
- Begin by mixing the ice cream and sweet chilli sauce. Ideally use a food processor as it will make everything well combined and also add a slightly whipped texture to the ice cream.
- Break up the chocolate biscuits and divide half between two bowls or sundae dishes/glasses. Add 2 scoops of ice cream to each bowl or dish. Top with the rest of the biscuits, then finish with a final scoop of ice cream and sprinkles.
- Optionally garnish with another chocolate biscuit bar.