Gourmet food that’s cheaper than McDonald’s

We salivate in our millions at the concoctions of top television chefs and Michelin-starred maestros, but what would it cost you to cook their food?

Gourmet food and fine dining are rarely off our TV screens for long - the latest Gordon Ramsey series slides into Jamie Oliver’s new show and this ends just in time for the next series of Master Chef to begin.

But could you combine a love of gourmet food with a shoestring shopping budget? To find out how much cooking a meal from a top celebrity chef cost, I decided to check out some of the cheapest recipes I could find online from Delia Smith, Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson – the four most popular TV chefs in Britain.

If I had to put money on the winner before I start, it’d be Jamie. Any chef that cheerfully spouts “bish bash bosh” seems unlikely to include caviar and lobster in his recipes.

So, on with the test. I’ve used prices from ASDA, as The Grocer magazine just declared it the cheapest supermarket for the 15th year running. I’ve also assumed you’ll have most of the seasoning already in the cupboard. If fresh herbs are a must, you could always try growing your at home to save even more money.

If any of the below recipes takes your fancy you can follow the links for the full recipes and how to cook them.


Delia Smith


I found a ‘budget gourmet’ recipe from 2009 on the Guardian website. It’s a potato, onion and cheese soufflé with sage, served with salad.

While it sounded more like a starter than a main course, she had pitched it as a main meal. So what are the ingredients and how much will they cost?

Ingredients
Total purchase
Cost
30g butter
Anchor Butter (250g)
£1.25
1 medium onion
1 medium onion
£0.14
142ml soured cream
150ml soured cream
£0.60
2 large eggs
6 large free-range eggs
£1.44
110g boiled potatoes (150g raw weight)
200g new potatoes
£0.30
50g strong cheddar cheese
400g mature cheddar
£2.48
Bag salad
120g prepared salad
£0.90
1 heaped tbsp chopped sage
In cupboard
£0.00
¼ freshly grated nutmeg
In cupboard
£0.00
Cayenne pepper and salt
In cupboard £0.00

Total cost - £7.11
Serves two, so that’s £3.55 each.


Gordon Ramsay

I’d wondered if the cheapest way to cook would turn out to be going vegetarian, but this BBC recipe from multi-Michelin Star winner Gordon Ramsay promised to keep the price low by using a cheap cut of meat.

So how much is twice-cooked pork belly with an onion & apple velouté?

Ingredients
Total purchase
Cost
1 tbsp coriander seeds
In cupboard
£0.00
2 star anise
In cupboard
£0.00
1 tbsp sea salt
In cupboard
£0.00
½ a whole pork belly, c1.5kg
2kg pork belly slab
£8.00
Handful of thyme
In cupboard
£0.00
Handful of rosemary
In cupboard
£0.00
2 x 350g jars goose fat
3 x 320g jars goose fat
£8.01
6 curly parsley sprigs
35g cut curly parsley
£0.65
25g butter
Anchor Butter (250g)
£1.25
4 onions
4 medium onions
£0.56
2 Granny Smith apples
2 Granny Smith apples
£0.35
250ml chicken stock
250g concentrated chicken stock
£1.39
142ml tub double cream
150ml double cream
£0.65
24 thin green-topped carrots
3 x 150g green-topped carrots
£3.20
2 tbsp olive oil
In cupboard
£0.00

Total - £24.06
Serves 6, so £4.01 each


Jamie Oliver


I found a recipe for quick sausage meatballs with a tomato and basil sauce, spaghetti and sweet raw peas on Jamie Oliver’s own website.

He promised a fast, cheap dish. So how cheap are we talking?

Ingredients
Total purchase
Cost
Olive oil
In cupboard
£0.00
8 good-quality pork sausages
8 British pork sausages
£1.50
500g spaghetti
500g ASDA spaghetti
£0.85
Sea salt
In cupboard
£0.00
300g fresh peas, in pods
310g fresh peas
£2.00
Block of Parmesan cheese
180g Parmesan cheese
£3.15
Fresh marjoram, thyme or rosemary
25g cut thyme
£0.65
2 cloves of garlic
1 garlic bulb
£0.27
Small bunch of fresh basil
25g cut basil
£0.65
2x x 400g tins of good-quality plum tomatoes
2x x 400g tins Napolina plum tomatoes
£1.56
Balsamic vinegar
250ml balsamic vinegar
£0.90

Total cost - £12.45

Serves four, so £3.11 each

Nigella Lawson

For the queen of comfort food herself, I chose a tuna and blackeye bean salad, after my internet search showed a few blogs discussing how cheap it is.

Here are the prices:

Ingredients
Total purchase
Cost
200g tinned tuna
2 x 185g tins dolphin-friendly tuna
£1.90
500g tinned black-eyed beans
2 x 300g tins of black-eyed beans
£1.50
1 medium onion
1 medium onion
£0.66
Flat leaf parsley (good bunch)
35g cut curly parsley
£0.65
Vinegar
In cupboard
£2.00
Olive oil
In cupboard
£3.15

Total cost - £9.86

Serves two to four, so between £4.93 and £2.46 each

Rigorous testing

So the winner is Jamie Oliver! Or Nigella, if you’re not feeling too hungry. But what have I learnt?

Naturally, the price varies massively depending on the meal you’re cooking and the quality of the ingredients used. Also, I’m not confident that all the meals outlined above would fill a hungry family.

But I do think it illustrates an important point. When I dig out a cook book, it’s usually because I want to cook something aspirational. I want to impress guests, treat my husband or prove that I can put together something special in the kitchen.

Those aspirational recipes can be incredibly expensive to prepare. They often mean I have to buy ingredients I have never used before and will never use again, vastly inflating the price of my meal.

But there are ways to cook like the best, without breaking the bank too. The above recipes can be made for less than the cost of a Big Mac and fries (although the price of these varies by region).

So, if you’re cooking on a budget then price up your recipes as you go, but don’t ever think you can’t make gourmet-standard food without breaking the bank.