There are only 17 items on the $25 Mastercheap Raw shopping list, so in a sense every one of them is a “hero ingredient”: take one out and the whole week would instantly look a lot bleaker. But if I had to pick a single vital element that shows up in almost every meal, it would be the humble container of table spread (that’s margarine to most of us).
Lunch: 2 boiled eggs, bean and carrot salad
Dinner: Mashed potato, fried potato, mixed vegetables with chilli and onion
Snacks: 3 pieces shortbread
Hot drinks: 7 cups black tea
Where It Gets Used
“What do you need margarine for?” a colleague asked me. “It’s not like you have any bread.” That’s true enough, but actually it has three quite distinct uses:
- For frying food (potatoes, eggs, onions, chillis). Yes, I’d get a nicer result if I used butter or simple olive oil, but they’re more expensive.
- As a flavouring. Condiments are expensive when you’re starting with an empty pantry. Aside from the chilli and onion, melted table spread has been a constant flavour booster, popping up in every second serve of vegetables I’ve had.
- To make shortbread. Almost half the container got used as “shortening” to make a batch of shortbread I’ve been snacking on throughout Mastercheap Raw.
Speaking of which, I promised earlier in the week that I’d share my shortbread recipe. It’s already a standard item in my repertoire, being extremely simple to make and good for keeping people happy in the office. This is how it goes: [clear]
- 250 grams butter (chilled)
- 110 grams caster sugar
- 350 grams plain flour
For the purposes of Mastercheap Raw, I substituted table spread for butter and raw sugar for caster sugar. I foolishly forgot that you can potentially emulate caster sugar by putting raw sugar in a blender, but it didn’t make a huge amount of difference. Let me be clear: the proper version made with butter and caster sugar is much nicer, with a pleasanter texture and a richer taste. It also cooks faster (different reaction of the butter versus the margarine, I imagine).
But on a tight budget, this was a dessert/snack option that made sense, and which I knew I could cook reliably. If I wasn’t doing the ‘basic ingredients’ option, I’d have gone with a packet cake mix and then not needed to buy the raw sugar at all. But I wouldn’t have passed up the ‘table spread’, no matter how unappealing the name.
Playing With Potatoes
getting all depressed about carbs yesterday
A fixed plan like this doesn’t often offer flexibility. One advantage of potatoes is that you can prepare them in a variety of ways, even if you don’t have a lot of flavouring options. Almost the only option I haven’t explored this week is roasting, which seems like a criminal waste of electricity to me
One day to go! But it’s a day with a ludicrous challenge in the middle: a visit to one of Sydney’s most exclusive restaurants.
Lifehacker’s Mastercheap Raw experiment sees editor Angus Kidman living for a week with a food budget of just $25 and only basic ingredients.