Half Scottish, Half Japanese. Tempura Mars bar?

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I began writing this blog in October 2010 as a new father documenting food in his family. Before I knew it, I was in the final of MasterChef 2012. Now cooking is no longer just a hobby.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Live Below The Line Part 3

Last week I gave some advice to a radio presenter who was taking the Live Below The Line challenge a week earlier than most participants. Here is a summary of that advice:

1. Team up with at least one other person. There are economies of scale when you purchase things like a bag of rice or pasta and by pooling resources, you can have a much more varied diet during the 5 day challenge.

2. You have probably bought some ingredients that are fairly bland on their own (rice, porridge, pasta, potatoes) but don't have much left to buy other ingredients. Remember to keep a little money left over so you can dip into things in your dry store. This week, spices and cayenne pepper are your friend. Don't forget you'll also need veg oil (I use rapeseed) and salt, but you won't need a whole bottle or a whole tub, so you take some from your stores and charge a prorated amount to your budget. When it comes to spice mixes, I tend to keep Garam Masala, Curry Powder and Ras el hanout in my cupboard.

3. Colour = flavour. That's what someone taught me and it's what I told John and Gregg if I burnt something on MasterChef! One of my old colleagues would make us all hungry by making toast at about 4pm in the afternoon. There's a reason that the smell of toast is so enticing - the bread is already cooked but toasting it caramelises the surface. The same is true of onions - when I have a hotdog, I like the onions sticky and brown so they are caramelised and sweet, edging towards bitter. I hate it when the onions look like they've been poached in water. No colour, no flavour.

4. If you're using a chicken, don't throw away the carcass - use it to make a stock which will give more flavour to rice or vegetables than cooking them in water. Chop the carcass with a cleaver and rinse to remove any blood and guts which can make the stock cloudy and bitter. I made a brown chicken stock rather than a white one because it smells and tastes more of roast chicken. Fry the chopped bones until well browned then add a carrot and an onion (both quartered) and brown them slightly. I leave the skin on the onion for extra colour. Then add three litres of water, salt and a bay leaf and bring it to the boil. Reduce immediately to a very gentle simmer so you can skim it. Simmer for at least 2 hours, with a lid to minimise water loss and maximise flavour extraction.

My next blog will include recipes.


  1. Very useful again. Can't say i am looking forward to the next few days....

  2. Gosh a whole chicken would have been amazing this week - how many were you shopping for to afford it?

    How you getting on? I think I'm over the worst and into acceptance now!

  3. Yes, it is easier when you pool budgets, so we had £10 between me and my wife. We spent £4 on the chicken but we've had plenty of portions out of it and used it for lunch and supper.

    Acceptance is a good place to be! My wife told me she was hungry at the end of the first day and I was a bit worried because she is pregnant, but she then admitted that it wasn't hunger, just the knowledge that her brother was downstairs with a box of Quality Street! We have plenty to eat; it's making it interesting to eat that's the challenge.