Everyone knows that times are hard. Less money in customers' pockets means they are on a constant lookout for restaurant deals. So, to give an idea of what can be achieved on a low budget, we asked Angela Hartnett and her head chef at York and Albany, Colin Buchan, along with chef-director of Lexington Catering Rob Kirby and head chef of Malmaison Charterhouse London John Woodward to share the dishes that are keeping their costs down and their customers smiling.
BABY GEM SALAD (pictured above)
By Colin Buchan
Food cost per portion: 80p
Slice the mozzarella and cover with the olive oil and chopped tarragon. Leave to marinate overnight.
To make the fennel cream: in a pan, add the olive oil. Sweat the shallots with the thinly sliced fennel. Add the star anise and crushed coriander seeds.Sweat down until soft then add the vegetable stock. Bring back to the boil and check the seasoning. Remove from the heat and add a knob of butter and a touch of cream. Blitz and pass through a fine sieve.
To make the salad: wash the picked baby gem leaves. Slice the radish thinly. Slice the baguette thinly then cook under the grill with a touch of olive oil until golden brown.
When ready, make the salad, spread the purée on the plate and layer with the gem leaves and mozzarella. Finish with the chopped salted almonds.
FARMER BEN BROWN'S ASPARAGUS AND ROCKET SOUP
By Rob Kirby
Food cost per portion: 65p
Farmer Ben Brown grows asparagus on his farm on the Isle of Wight between March and June. Isle of Wight asparagus has won national recognition for its exceptional flavour, and the first crop of the season is often in great demand.
Gently warm the pan and melt the butter. When melted, add the shallots and thyme and gently sweat. Add the chopped asparagus and cook for one minute. Add the white wine and reduce by half.
Add the chicken or vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the asparagus is just tender. Remove from the heat and blend with a hand blender or food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pan and add the crème fraîche. Simmer very gently over a low heat. Finish soup with roughly chopped rocket and serve.
BRAISED PIG'S CHEEKS WITH CLOVES AND HONEY, GRATIN POTATOES, BRAISING JUICES
By John Woodward
Food cost per portion: £2.50
The potatoes can be made up the day before. Infuse the cream with thyme and garlic for 20 minutes. Slice the potatoes as thin as you can and layer in a tray, seasoning and adding the infused cream as you go. Bake in at 120°C for one hour. Remove and press slightly, then chill. Remove all sinew from the pigs' cheeks and seal lightly in a pan. Set the cheeks aside, add the mirepoix to the pan, colour then deglaze with the white wine. Reduce until almost dry, then add the stock and the pigs' cheeks. Cover and braise for about two hours on a low heat.
When cooked, remove the cheeks, pass and discard the vegetables. Reduce the sauce until it coats the back of a spoon, then pass again.
Cook the parsnip in the milk. When soft, strain and reserve the milk. Blitz the parsnip in a food processor, adding the milk slowly until you have the required texture.
To serve, reheat the cheeks in the sauce, cut the potatoes into 3cm squares, warm in the oven and serve three cheeks with three squares of potato and some purée.
BREAST OF NEW-SEASON KENT LAMB BRAISED AND PAN-FIRED IN POLENTA WITH WILD GARLIC, FETA, PEA AND POMEGRANATE SALAD
By Rob Kirby
Food cost per portion: £1.58
This is great for staff restaurants, as it can serve large numbers. It can also be reheated to order.
For the marinade
For the salad
Massage the marinade into the lamb and leave for 24 hours. Season the lamb and sear in a hot pan. Place on the bed of mirepoix, cover with the braising liquor and place in an oven at 160°C and braise slowly for three hours. When soft and tender, remove from the liquor and roll tightly in clingfilm to retain the shape. Blast chill and allow to cool completely.
Cut into 125g portions, dust with polenta and pan-fry. Place in the oven to finish.
To make the salad, crumble the feta into a bowl, tear the garlic leaf and add along with the pomegranate seeds, chopped mint, fresh peas and shoots. Finish with a slug of good-quality olive oil, the juice of a lemon and cracked black pepper.
Lay a good pile of salad in a bowl and top off with the warm lamb breast.
STEAMED LEMON PUDDING, BLUEBERRIES AND CREME FRAICHE
By John Woodward
Food cost per portion: £1.50
To make the lemon confit, slice the flesh of two lemons into thin strips then blanch for three minutes in boiling water. Drain, discard the water and then blanch again in 400ml water for three minutes. Drain and reserve this water. Add 100g sugar to the water, stir until dissolved and reduce to about 150ml.
Blanch the lemon slices one more time for three minutes then drain, discard the water and return the lemon to the reduced syrup. Allow to cool and place in a Kilner jar. This can store for up to six months.
Mix the butter and sugar together thoroughly, until it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs slowly, then fold in the flour, lemon juice and zest. Place in buttered moulds, cover with foil and steam for one hour.
Warm the blueberries in a pan with a knob of butter until they begin to bleed their juice, and remove from the heat.
To serve, remove the pudding from its mould and place in the centre of the dish. Place a spoon of crème fraîche on the pudding, then a spoon of warm blueberries on top. Garnish with the confit lemon zest.
To see more on these recipes go to www.caterersearch.com/video. Look out for more recession-beating dishes next month