Nutmeg and mace
Nutmeg is one of my favourite spices, one that we in this country have included in recipes throughout our history – think of a speckled brown custard tart, or the shiny nutmeg skin on a rice pudding.
It's curious how the French have ignored nutmeg, but the Italians and Spanish adore it as much as we do, using it in cheese dishes, pasta sauces and fillings, creamy béchamel and spinach. But a warning: you must never even think of buying nutmeg ready-ground, as it quickly loses all its charm. Instead always have some whole nutmeg and a grater, and grate it as and when you need it.
Mace is the outer casing of the nutmeg, resembling a thick meshed cage, which is dried and becomes brittle. It is sold in pieces (blades) and can be used in infusions, such as flavouring milk for a white sauce. Ground mace has also been included in British recipes for potted meats, shrimps and fish pâtés. It is impossible to grind it at home, so this one has to be bought ready-ground and the date carefully watched.
This brilliant moussaka will give your guests the impression that you've been cooking for hours, when in fact - thanks to a raft of ready-made ingredients - all you've done is a quick assembly job.
Filled with wintry root veg and a cheesy sauce, with a parmesan pastry, this pie is a real treat! Replace the lard with vegetable fat if making this for vegetarians.
Classic fishcakes are wonderfully frugal food, as they allow you to 'stretch' 1lb of fish to serve 4-6 people. And who's complaining with recipes as good as this, pepped up with the addition of capers, parsley and cayenne?
This makes a filling and enjoyable meal for 4 from a few cheap ingredients - even more so if you grow your own courgettes and have a glut to use up. Add fresh herbs, eggs and parmesan-style cheese for a wonderful vegetarian recipe.
This clever recipe uses the principles of making lasagne and adapts these to cannelloni, using no-soak lasagne, minced pork and bechamel.
Classic macaroni cheese, with the addition of bacon and mushrooms, for winter comfort food that's cheap to make and a real pleasure to eat.
A great way to add lots of vegetables and pulses to a buffet spread - and so easy you can make it well in advance.
That classic sauce - Fiorentina - made with cheese and spinach comes into play here then is used to top hard-boiled eggs, a quick, cheap and easy vegetarian supper. Serve it with rice if you're really hungry, or crusty bread.
This is a bread-and-butter pudding really, made with the addition of apples - useful if you have windfalls or a glut in the fruit bowl! A cheap and easy pud that proves you don't have to spend a fortune to eat well.
These are essentially pork meatballs, baked in the oven. Another cheap and easy supper dish, they are given a tasty twist with the addition of apple sauce, the perfect accompaniment to any pork dish.