Clever Cooks, Footnote Frivolity***, Reviews

British retro cool: Delia’s Frugal Food

It’s strange how things drift in and out of fashion. Being thrifty was the done thing in 1976, when Delia’s Frugal Food was first published; now*, with rapidly increasing food prices, thrift has made a comeback.

In keeping with the book’s theme, Delia Smith has recycled much of its contents. She ‘felt it had a certain nostalgic appeal in showing how things were thirty-two years ago’. Hence this revised edition is a bit of a curiosity, offering fascinating insight on a bygone era.

Being a cookbook that was written when only 20% of the population owned a freezer, however, Delia’s Frugal Food sometimes feels outdated**. Is offal cheap any more? Oxtail certainly isn’t. And the Leek, Carrot and Potato Pie sounds like a heart attack waiting in the oven.

Nevertheless, Delia’s Frugal Food is still able to impart some mustbethrifty basics, such as buying seasonal produce and using spices to invigorate dishes. As well as offering cookbook staples such as fish, poultry, red meat, and baked goods, it introduces alternatives: soups, carb-heavy dishes, offal and pulses. Recipes are plain and simple: no fancy Masterchef ingredients, no secret culinary handshakes, and very few photos.

For one weekend dinner, my boyfriend and I made the Shoulder of Lamb, Stuffed With Rice and Olives. He got to debone the lamb and I put together the stuffing; it came along swimmingly and the leftovers become part of an excellent pie. We’ve also tried the Spaghetti with Tuna and Olives, a no-brainer weeknight meal, and Spiced Bread and Apple Pudding, which was a surprisingly healthy bread and butter pudding variant (only 2 eggs, 50g sugar, and 275mL skim milk between four people, instead of the 8 eggs, etc. that Jamie Oliver swears by).

While it lacks depth and relevance of Suzanne and Kate Gibbs’ The Thrifty Kitchen, Delia’s Frugal Food is still worth its salt. I would much like to make pizza dough from scratch or attempt Faggots and Peas*** when I’m brave enough. Hopefully we’re another thirty years off Delia Smith’s prediction****, but with gravy beef costing roughly $10/kg, it might be time to give up the meat.

Title: Delia’s Frugal Food

ISBN: 9780340918579 (paperback edition)

RRP: $35 (or free from your local library)


*Delia’s Frugal Food was republished in 2008, which was coincidentally the year of the Global Financial Crisis.

**Sporting dishes like Spotted Dick and Fidget Pie, DFF is also very 70s British. Pasta and souffle are the most exotic items on its menu.

**pig’s liver cooked with bacon and pig’s fat and then minced with bread crumbs before moulded into a cake shape.

*** ‘…as the world population increases–and grain shortages along with it—it would be unrealistic to think of the future of meat as anything but doubtful.’

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4 thoughts on “British retro cool: Delia’s Frugal Food

    1. Yup, you can wrap it in Glad Wrap/stick it in a sandwich bag and freeze it! The AWW recipe makes two large pizzas or three individual good sized pizzas. I’ve also made mini-pizzas out of it for parties.

  1. Have just put the aforemention Leek, carrot and potato pie in the oven. I think I’ve put on weight just cooking it.

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