Henry Firth and Ian Theasby have a simple answer to the question of how to save money on food: Cook.
But you have to be willing to do a little work. “When you don't buy the burger patties and the sausages from the chiller aisle and you just focus on veggies and you focus on legumes and grains, you are left with meals that are super nutritious, super delicious and actually super pocket friendly,” Theasby, 37, said in a Zoom interview from the company’s London headquarters.
As Firth, 38, put it, “The nuts and bolts of baking and cooking are affordable. … Essentially, they're ingredients. All of that stuff can be bought affordably, particularly if it's seasonal, particularly if you know where to shop. The problem is when we start buying things in packs or that were made in factories.”
That means, of course, that you need to know what to do with those ingredients when you get home with them — and to have time to do it, too. That’s where the duo’s recipes come in — although they also suggest that everyone be as adept as possible at what they call the “fridge raid”: Open your fridge, see what’s in there — paying particular attention to what needs to be used up soonest – and employ some back-pocket techniques that are adaptable enough to use them.
Theasby and Firth are also big proponents of batch cooking and freezing, gifts to your future self for those nights when you just can’t chop an onion.
“If you’re going to be making like a bowl of Bolognese or a curry or chili on a Monday, if you make four times the amount, then you’ve got food for four times the amount of time,” Theasby says. “You’re saving yourself time, which is the most important resource, but you’re also reducing the amount of waste.”
Plenty of the recipes in their book are just plain good ideas for turning mostly inexpensive ingredients into dishes that taste special, even special enough to serve friends.
That’s the case with this recipe for Sweet Potato Salsa Salad, a bounteous, healthy, hearty dish that belongs at your next picnic, cookout — or really any other party. You roast sweet potatoes for the base and bulk, including unpeeled garlic cloves. You add cherry tomatoes, corn, black beans and bell peppers to the mix, and top the whole shebang with a fresh salsa that uses that roasted garlic plus red onion, jalapeño, lime, cilantro and a single avocado (potentially the priciest ingredient here).
Firth and Theasby say they got inspiration for the dish from Mexican chef Gabriela Cámara’s “MasterClass,” particularly the revelation that salsas are salads. “It’s just a really pleasurable thing to eat because even though it’s one big bowl of salad, every single mouthful is different from the last.”
To me, that’s the quality that elevates this simple — and affordable — recipe into something priceless.
Sweet Potato Salsa Salad
For the most efficient use of your time, get the sweet potatoes roasting before proceeding with the rest of your ingredient prep.
Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to 3 days, preferably keeping the sweet potato mixture and the salsa separate.
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- 3 sweet potatoes (1 1/2 pounds total), scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
- 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon fine salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
- 1 medium red onion (8 ounces), finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and thinly sliced (with seeds)
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
- One (14-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans)
- 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, cored and chopped
- 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
In a large roasting pan, toss together the sweet potatoes, garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and garlic are very soft. Let cool slightly or completely in the pan.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss together the avocado, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime zest and juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.
When the sweet potato mixture has cooled, pick out the garlic cloves, slip off their peels, chop them, add them to the avocado salsa and toss to combine.
To the roasting pan with the sweet potatoes, add the tomatoes, corn, beans and bell peppers, and toss to combine. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, as needed.
Pile the sweet potato mixture on a large platter. Top with the salsa, pumpkin seeds and cilantro leaves, and serve.
Per serving (1 1/2 cups), based on 8
Calories: 303; Total Fat: 15 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 416 mg; Carbohydrates: 38 g; Dietary Fiber: 9 g; Sugar: 7 g; Protein: 7 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
Adapted from “Bosh! On a Budget,” by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby (HQ, 2022).
Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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