Sunday, 21 April 2019

‘Frugal’ has plenty to be said for it — just ask Prue Leith!

‘Frugal’ has plenty to be said for it — just ask Prue Leith!

FRANKLY, I’m exhausted with Christmas excess, over-spending, over-eating and over-indulging, writes Paul Clerehugh.

They reckon 30 per cent of our supermarket shop goes in the bin. Bring on some January frugality.

I’m looking forward to a bit of belt-tightening, control and good housekeeping. Pru Leith’s 1976 “frugal food” cookbook has just been reissued. Frugality is the new rock ’n’ roll. Give me a bottle of plonk and a hearty stew any day.

We’ve gone frugal at the Crooked Billet, too — in the form of a two-course £14 luncheon consisting of interesting and delicious dishes using great, inexpensive ingredients to create gorgeous, wholesome recipes. Great ingredients don’t necessarily cost a fortune.

There’s something intrinsically satisfying about doing lunch. An indulgent treat that doesn’t need to break the bank.

Many eateries around Henley offer various January specials, discounts and “two for one” deals. Pamper yourself, make time once a week to meet with a friend, colleague or lover and do lunch. With two courses for £14 at the Crooked Billet, you have no excuse.

The motivation behind lunch should run deeper than quelling the pangs of hunger. To lunch in a public place is about friendship — a little light socialising. A lunch company should be someone whose company you relish.

A little light business can be touched upon, provided that it is of a congenial nature — business does not always mix well with pleasure, although I have a guest at the Crooked Billet who conducts all business transactions over lunch with several bottles of wine. The best luncheon is enjoyed with a friend.

A click on the web will show you some of the local eateries’ January deals. For under a tenner, you could enjoy a freshly made Ciabatta of the Day at Spoon’s Deli on Duke Street (£4.95 take away, £5.95 eat in) or a hearty lamb stew with crusty bread at the Hare & Hounds, Sonning Common (£5).

Jay and Antony Worrall Thompson offer a deliciously drop dead gorgeous scorched mackerel fillets on avocado toast with chimmichurri and crisp pancetta for just £9 on the Greyhound’s Saturday brunch menu.

The Cherry Tree Inn in Stoke Row have a gorgeous crayfish Marie Rose sandwich served with skinny fries and salad (Monday to Saturday until 3pm) on their lunch menu for just £7.25.

Best bargains include a portion of proper chips from Smart’s fish and chip shop on Henley’s Reading Road for £1.90 or Wetherspoon’s traditional breakfast for only £3.70. I love the free tea and coffee refill policy. Apparently, someone from Henley College managed to soak up 11 free refills between 8.45am and 3pm. Bargain.

The Coppa Club’s “Big Healthy Brunch Bowl” is bursting with goodness — including lettuce, baby kale, pink grapefruit, quinoa and seeds — at just £9.95.

A fish finger and chip buttie at the Argyll pub will set you back just £8 and you can get a homely sausage, mash and peas with gravy for £8.95 at the Three Horseshoes, Henley.

The Bottle & Glass at Binfield Heath focuses on serving British ingredients with a modern twist and has a great two-course set lunch for just £14.50 (every day except Sunday).

At Orwells you’ll be able to treat yourself to a two-course lunch for £25 (Wednesday to Saturday) with a daily and seasonal menu showcasing the best fresh ingredients.

From Monday to Friday throughout January I’m offering a two-course lunch for £14 at the Crooked Billet. I’m using great ingredients which don’t need to cost a fortune.

Think blood orange glazed duck with creamed cabbage. Or a hearty mussel stew for seafood lovers; backed mackerel with purple sprouting, chilli and dhal; braised rabbit with mustard dumplings; Imam Bayaldi with goats’ curd cigars and winter fig salad. Then there’s treacle sponge pudding and custard, Queen’s pudding, trifle, apple Charlotte.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m partial to a grilled Dover sole, Chateaubriand and a few seared scallops, but in these frugal times grilled gurnard with a chunky tomato sauce, cauliflower cheese with crispy bacon and apple crumble really hits the spot.

Apple crumble — the juices have bubbled up through the deep rubble of crust like molten toffee. Digestive biscuit coloured rubble crumble in a piping hot Pyrex dish.

For reservations, call the Crooked Billet on (01491) 681048.

Paul Clerehugh is chef patron of the Crooked Billet, Stoke Row, and the London Street Brasserie, Reading. Catch his weekly Food on Friday show on BBC Radio Berkshire — 95.4FM and 104.1FM — from 2pm to 3pm for recipes, foodie affairs and light-hearted kitchen chat.

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