The canny cook

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For the next month Jenny Chandler will be in the demo kitchen every Thursday offering tips on how to make the most of the Market’s more economical options, reducing waste and cooking up delicious thrifty dishes with absolutely no sense of deprivation

There’s no doubt about it, the Market’s a thrilling place to shop when you’re pushing the boat out for an extravagant party or an indulgent dinner for two. Where better to buy seasonal wild mushrooms, the freshest of scallops, a well-hung rib of beef or a perfectly ripened cheese? The Market is, perhaps, less commonly associated with frugality and yet, with a bit of nous, the savvy shopper can eat fantastically well on a budget.

4th July: Nose to tail, root to fruit
Making the most of every last ounce of your shopping makes sense financially, but ethically too. From a kitchen perspective, it’s simply ludicrous to be throwing away the chicken carcass or the carrot tops when they could provide the foundations for the next meal. It’s not just about being frugal, either: cheese rinds, staling bread, that surplus spoonful of rice or even some unwanted chicken skin (my favourite bit of the bird if I’m honest) can make your supper sing, with a bit of imagination and some hot tips from yours truly. So, we’ll tackle a chicken: flattening the breasts for quick escalopes, crisping the skin for a nectarine salad, using thigh meat bolstered up by seasonal veg for a zippy curry and finally, the stock (along with any leafy leftovers) for a light minestrone.

11th July: The savvy store cupboard
Sourcing a handful of fabulously tasty, long-life ingredients can transform your cooking. Most of my meals are centred on seasonal vegetables—it’s just a question of seeing what’s piled high on the day, and you’ll often find a bargain. Then the larder magic begins, using ingredients with attitude such as capers, olives, fermented anchovies or chorizo, while dried fruit is a must for both sweet and savoury.

There are certain standbys that I’d never be without: a jar of creamy butterbeans can stretch a little meat a long way, quality pasta can turn a handful of prawns into a feast, while a bag of chickpea flour transforms everything into a potential fritter. Naturally long-life cheeses such as halloumi and feta are a boon for quick suppers, with their fresh salty tang, served with whatever you discovered on the fridge forage. Join me for dozens of pointers and a taste of courgette and feta fritters, Spanish-style judiones, halloumi saganaki and perfect anchovy pasta.

18th July: Swap it up
Costly ingredients often have more affordable relatives that offer different, but equally exciting options. Take onglet (or hanger steak) for example—an economical cut of beef that doesn’t look much but has an extraordinary depth of flavour. The loose grain of the meat benefits from really quick cooking and, in my mind, beats fillet or sirloin hands-down in a steak baguette. Lime-cured raw fish is on my death row menu, but it wouldn’t have to be expensive turbot, sea bass or plaice—mackerel makes glorious ceviche as long as it is glisteningly fresh, and freshness is what market shopping’s about. Along with the steak and ceviche, we’ll make canapés with ‘poorman’s caviar’, a luscious aubergine paste that definitely won’t break the bank, and give the unsung heroes that are runner beans centre stage in a chipotle-spiced summer salad.

July 25th: Pizzazz on a shoestring
With a few tricks up your sleeve the simplest of grilled dishes, salads and one-pots can be given a lift. Almost-instant pickles made with seasonal radishes, cucumber, carrots or courgettes can add piquancy and spice, as well as good looks to a plate. Pesto can give an extra touch of herby vitality with minimum time and expense, using up stalks, odd nuts from the baking cupboard and leftover cheese, while vegetable crisps give texture and crunch. Meatballs and fishcakes are great vehicles for assertive flavours, in this case teriyaki, and can be tossed over a salad or into a sauce to pep up noodles, pasta or rice. When it comes to the sweet stuff, I prefer not to cut corners, making delicate bite-sized portions instead. They’re kinder on the waistline as well as the wallet; almond financiers are an absolute winner using raspberries, or whatever else is ripe at the time.

Join Jenny for tips, tastings and recipes every Thursday in July in the Market Hall, 1-2:30pm