The weekend before last, Slow Food USA, encouraged people to participate in a challenge to create a slow food meal that cost no more than $5 per person. The aim was to spread the message that good, thoughtful food doesn’t have to put you out of your pocket.
Food and price have an interesting relationship. For something we value so importantly as our nutrition, you find that supermarkets mostly sell and market their products on a cost basis. I read an interesting passage in the ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’ by the pastoralist farmer Joel Salatin who once told a customer that clean, ethical and/or sustainable food is actually the cheapest food you can buy. He states that the hidden costs in conventionally cheap food, such as water pollution, antibiotic resistance, food induced illnesses, government crop subsidies etc…, are not incorporated into the price and we are therefore made to believe that we are getting a good deal.
So I think it is great that slow food is promoting the fact that with a bit of creative thinking, ethically produced and/or sustainable food can be put together for a meal costing $5 or less! Which is a far better than eating takeaway or something cheap and nasty. Plus I am on a very strict budget at the moment so achieving a meal for this cost is of uttermost importance.
To contribute to this important challenge, I have decided to make an artichoke risotto, using one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes. I don’t use artichokes much in cooking as their unfamiliar shape looks fairly daunting. However this was a great recipe to experiment and I found out that they are delicious and make a risotto that little bit more creamy!
Moreover, the total cost of this meal was $10.90 and the majority of my products were bought from the farmers market. Divide this by four portions and I have paid $2.70 per meal. How about that for cheap sustainable eating!!
(Preparation time: 10 minutes, cooking time: 25 minutes)
6 small or violet artichokes
1 knob of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400g risotto rice
2 small wine glasses of dry white vermouth or dry white wine (this is only if you have this lying around, otherwise this step can be skipped no worries)
Approx 1.1 litres of vegetable stock (use a large pan as the artichokes will be added to the stock)
Small handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
Begin by preparing the artichokes. Peal each artichoke back to their pale, light leaves (don’t be afraid to take off a lot of leaves). Then halve them and remove the hairy chokes with a teaspoon (the furry inside part). As soon as you remove the chokes, immerse the artichokes into a bowl of water with half of the lemon juice. Place a dish on top of them to ensure they are immersed into the water – this will ensure they do not discolour.
Now you can begin on the risotto. In a pan, heat the butter and oil and fry the shallots and garlic slowly for about 10 minutes until they have softened. At this point, add in the rice and turn the heat up. When the rice starts to become translucent, add in the vermouth or white wine. Wait until the rice has soaked up the liquid, then add your first ladle of hot stock and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside.
At this point, take 6 of your prepared artichoke halves and place them into the simmering stock.
Continue cooking the risotto, adding the stock a ladleful at a time until the rice is half-cooked. Take the remaining artichoke halves out of the water, finely slice them and stir them into the risotto. Continue stirring the stock into the rice until it is cooked. At this point, if you wish to add some richness to your risotto, add a knob of butter and a small handful of grated parmesan. Then, stir in the rest of the lemon juice. Take the pan off the heat and check the seasoning.
Place a lid on the pan and allow it to sit for 2 minutes. Jamie Oliver says this is the most important part of making the perfect risotto.
Remove the cooked artichokes from the stock pan and toss with most of the lemon zest, the torn-up mint leaves and a splash of olive oil. Spoon the risotto onto 4 plates and place the dressed artichokes on top. Drizzle with any remaining dressing from the bowl and serve sprinkled with extra parmesan and the rest of the lemon zest. Enjoy!
COST: the important aspect of this meal was cost. Here are my cost breakdowns:
$0.20: 1/15 of a tub of butter
$0.40: 1/25 of a bottle of olive oil
$0.80: 2 shallots
$0.30: 2 cloves of garlic
$1.40: 1/3 packet of risotto rice
$0.50: 2 small wine glasses (I used cheap wine!)
$0.40: 1 cube of vegetable stock (use a large pan as the artichokes will be added to the stock)
$0.80: 1/10 of a block of parmesan cheese
$0.30: 1 lemon
$1.50: 1/2 bunch of fresh mint