Cooking Gourmet Meals… On a Budget

One of the things I enjoy doing is cooking (and baking). I really enjoy cooking. I’m not talking about the “getting home in the pitch black after spending an hour and a half in the traffic (that was last night, in case you were wondering!) and then trying to figure out what meal will take the least energy and ingredients and time to get on the table” kind of cooking – but rather the “I can’t believe you made this” kind of cooking. The kind of cooking which is inspired by Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver and Nigella. The kind of cooking which makes your tastebuds smile. However – that kind of cooking tends to use expensive and/or hard to come by ingredients. So what do you do? You can’t make something fancy for no reason and still justify the expense. So I put my culinary ambitions on the backburner and wait for something to happen that gives me a great excuse to brush off the old piping bag.

And this weekend I have the perfect excuse reason coming up – it is my in-laws 30th wedding anniversary. And they deserve to feel special! Thirty years is not something to take lightly – and we really did want to do something big. So a good few months ago hubby and I started to think and plan and decide what we were going to do. It was at this point that we first thought of making everything a bit more personal. Instead of taking them out for dinner, which is what normally happens, I offered to cook a proper, 3-course, gourmet meal. And then… I started planning.

Google is my friend. Both my sister and I have become Google fanatics – have a question? Google it! Need to find out how to do something? Google it! Need to know how much something costs? Google it! Need to know what that weird lump on your elbow is? Go to your doctor. No seriously – go to your doctor. Google will make you think that you are dying of some slow, painful, and probably hideously disfiguring disease. So go to your doctor.

Now what was I saying? Oh yes – Google is my friend. So when I needed to plan a 3-course meal I started googling like my life depended on it.  I already had an idea of my main – lamb shanks. You can’t go wrong with lamb shanks. And puddings are pretty easy for me – I have a fairly wide selection of delicious deserts to go to in a pinch. (Creme Brulee, anyone?) But starters? That’s an area I haven’t really explored fully yet. And my in-laws are fairly traditional in their tastes – they’re not fond of exotic flavours. So what to do? I Googled appetizers and starters. I trawled recipe site after recipe site after recipe site. But nothing seemed right. I wanted something which I could make ahead of time and/or wouldn’t require the oven (as the lamb shanks would be ‘talking politics’ in the oven as a friend of mine calls it) and wasn’t Asian or Asian-inspired. Easy right? Ha ha ha. Not really. Then my boss suggested a traditional Italian starter – melon and prosciutto. My ears pricked up and my taste-buds sat up and begged. Awesome idea! Yum! I’m just going to ignore the fact that no-one in my family knows what prosciutto is – and would eye it with suspicion if it arrived on their plates. Eagerly I went home and told hubby about the starter I’d chosen. Now my hubby has been forced to have his food horizons stretched somewhat – from being someone who had never had Chinese takeaways before he met me, he’s gone to loving Thai food and Chinese food as much as I do. I’m still working on him with sushi though… But anyway, I noted a slight hesitation from him but brushed it off. A little while later (a couple of weeks maybe?) I came to my senses after some gentle urging from hubby, and realised that this wasn’t about me, and while the flavours weren’t foreign to me – they wouldn’t go down well with the people I would be serving it to. So… back to Google for me. This time I found three possibilities. Apricots stuffed with ricotta (Yum) a take on Caprese salad (Yum) and figs with honey and goat cheese (super Yum). Back to the boy I went with recipes in hand. He agreed that figs sounded amazing but convinced me to go with the take on Caprese salad – where the mozzarella and basil are stuffed into cherry tomatoes instead of being layered on a plate.

So, sadly, I filed my fig recipe in my “definitely must make sometime soon” file and settled on the caprese tomatoes. Which I think will be delicious by the way… but I’ll blog about each separate thing next week – when I have pictures. And I’ll give you the links for the recipes in case you’re interested… But all hold thumbs for me! Let’s hope the house doesn’t burn down or we end up getting pizzas. Though that would be quite hilarious… 🙂 (On a side note – don’t you agree that the emoticon smiley face without a dash for a nose looks so much cutter than the one with the dash? without a nose and friendly =     🙂     with a nose and not so friendly=      🙂     Ok, maybe they’re both cute. What do I know anyway?)

Will let you know how it goes! (And how I managed to do it on a shoestring…) And have an awesome weekend everyone…


PS – apparently you should have a picture with most posts. So here is a picture of your tastebuds smiling: 


9 thoughts on “Cooking Gourmet Meals… On a Budget

  1. Whaaaahaaaaahaaaaahaaa!!! You had me bursting with laughter that people in the office thought I had gone mad!!! The lamb shanks you can’t go wrong!!! If it is the one im thinking about. Ive made that as a 3 course meal for my parents and for friends for their anniversary. Dessert was Tiramissu – what did I do for a starter?? Hmmm can’t seem to remember!!! ah yes it was a strawberry salad with 3 cheese and crispy bacon. Your take on caprese salad sounds amamzing. Can’t wait to see how you made it.

    I actually get goosebumps when I have made something really special and it looks exactly like the picture in the recipe book!! or it comes out so amazing that you are totally speachless – speachless yes but certainly not tasteless!!

    BTW –

    Perfect Example on how my taste buds feel when Ive eaten somehting amazing.

  2. PS, google is my best friend to!!! I google everything, the one time my electric oven caught on fire – hubby who is an electrician was not at home and I clearly didn’t know what to do. All I do know is that I can’t through water!!! So I googled; “what to do when your oven catches on fire!!!” Lets say I know what to do now and how to prevent it from happening again!! LOL.

    Jamie Oliver was my first major inspiration for cooking, I love Gordon Ramsay Fouled mouth and all, Nigella makes really good comfort food. People complain that she is overweight!! Well my theory is you CANT trust a skinny cook!!!!

  3. Sounds great. Hope it goes well. By the way Google is also my friend. Except of course for medical problems. 😉

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