X-Ray challenged a top chef to convince a convenience food fan she has the time and money to cook from scratch.
Chef Stephen Terry earned his stripes working for top chefs like Marco Pierre White and Michel Roux Junior and won his first Michelin star aged just 25. Today, he runs his own restaurant in Abergavenny.
His apprentice? X-Ray 100 member Helen Wells from Cardiff. With a full-time job and energetic five-year-old son James, she feels she doesn't have time to cook in the week. She spends around £130 a week on food and often relies on upmarket pre-prepared meals when time is tight.
Helen said: "I think fresh food just tastes so much better, I think it's better for my family. And I think it would actually be cheaper than some of the things I'm buying at the supermarket."
Chef Terry, a dad-of-three himself, believes cooking from scratch is possible and worth the effort.
He said: "There's that feel good factor for a start that you're actually making the effort as an individual cooking from scratch for your family. I think also teaching your kids values, that you have to cook food and see the raw ingredients."
Chef Terry had three ideas for Helen. First slow-cooked lamb shoulder, a dish using a tasty and affordable cut of meat that she can prepare in advance.
Next, a simple pork pasta dish and finally fishcakes - great for using up leftover fish. Chef Terry suggested that if the fishcakes are flavoured well, a 50:50 ratio of fish: potato is acceptable.Try It Yourself Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder
- Place lamb shoulder in deep tray with 3 pints of water and add 500g pre-soaked chickpeas, carrots, crushed garlic, roughly chopped onion, rosemary, bay leaf.
- Cover the dish with greaseproof paper and the tray with two layers of tin foil.
- Slow cook in oven for eight hours at 120 degrees Celsius.
- Suggestion: Serve with a chunk of bread.
- Place any leftover lamb in a bowl, add chopped herbs, salt and pepper.
- Roll out two layers of cling film and a third overlapping the join. Place the meat on the cling film and roll tightly into a sausage shape. Squeeze excess air from the ends and tuck the ends underneath. Refrigerate overnight.
- Carefully remove the cling film and wrap the sausage in greaseproof paper and tie to hold. Cut into thick slices and cook in oven for 10 minutes at 160 Celsius to 180 Celsius.
- Suggestion: serve with curly kale and mustard mash.
- Cut through skin of good quality sausages and the remove meat or use coarsely ground pork mince.
- Add olive oil to the pan and fry the pork on a high heat until just browning. Add a chopped chilli with the seeds removed and a diced shallot to soften.
- Put some fresh or dried pasta on to boil.
- Add a ladle of tomato sauce and a ladle or two of stock or a stock cube to the mince. Fry for a couple of minutes before adding grated courgette and mushroom. Put a lid on the pan.
- Finish with a splash of cream, season, fold in the cooked pasta and serve.
- Crush pre-boiled desiree potatoes with your hand.
- Roughly chop a shallot and chilli and fry in a pan with olive oil to soften.
- Add chopped chives to the potato and around 4 chopped anchovies.
- Add the zest and juice of a lemon, the sautéed vegetables, one egg yolk to bind and mix. Season.
- Add any leftover cooked fish and fold in gently. Shape the mix into a chunky cakes, roll in flour and pat off the excess.
- Brown both sides of each fishcake in olive oil in a pan before heating in the oven for 10 minutes at around 180 degrees Celsius.
- Suggestion - serve with a rocket salad dressed in olive oil and lemon juice.
Having tried all the recipes, Helen said: "We've had great fun. Really enjoyed the food most of all. But actually the cooking of it and preparing of it. James has got really involved and it's been great to see him eat some foods he's never eaten before."
James turned sous chef to help make the fishcakes while dad John was very impressed with the result, rating the fishcakes 10 out of 10.
Helen discovered the value of another of Stephen's tips - planning ahead when she prepared the lamb dish before going to work, adding in ingredients of her own like ginger to give it a Moroccan twist.
Making Stephen Terry's dishes also brought another benefit, as Helen explained "It was much cheaper. A lot cheaper. Especially when you consider that nothing was wasted. It worked out at about £2.13 per meal per person, which was excellent."
Helen felt home cooking scored better for many reasons: "The taste, the quality of the food, the fact that it's fresh, the vegetables are fresh and cooked straight away, they're more nutritious so better on every level really."