How an old potato almost got Ollie into expense management hot water

There’s life in the old spud yet, Ollie’s mum teaches the young Banks family. Not only is it another dimension in the money management effort, it’s something you can try too; we’ve included the recipe on our blog…

Keen to avoid being caught in the kitchen crossfire of an exchange between his wife and his mum, Ollie was trying to sneak into the lounge when he was halted by his mother’s question.

“What do you think, Ollie,” his mother demanded. “Money management is fine using an expense manager app, but there’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned common sense, is there?”

What Ollie actually thought was that there was no right answer to that kind of question, but he didn’t know how to say it without getting on the wrong side of someone. As so often in the past, it was his father, peering over the top of his newspaper, who came to the rescue. “There’s room for both, Lorna,” he said to his wife; “room for both…”

It was a large baking potato that had started the trouble Ron was now nipping in the bud – or rather it was what Lizzie was doing with it. “You’re a bit soft, so you can go into the bin,” she’d said to it, before suiting the word to the deed, and then writing ‘potatoes’ on the shopping list.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Lorna had replied, lifting the humble spud out again. “Why would you want to buy perfectly good food, and then throw it away a few days later on the way to buying more? That’s nonsense. There’s hardly enough food to go around in the world as it is! If you want to have more money by using expense management software, you need to give it a chance to work by not throwing money away.”

It was at that point that she’d asked for the opinion Ollie daren’t give.

Ron carried on smoothing the waters. “The world’s a different place from the one you and I grew up in, dear. Different views; a different outlook,” he told his wife. “Which is not to say,” he said, turning to Lizzie, “which is not to say that older ideas are all wrong, because they’re not. There’s a way of turning this spud into part of a family meal that could bring the family round the table for some quality time, which is good for everyone. It’s really simple to do, it relieves the stress of getting a meal ready at the end of the day, so fits in with your busy lifestyle, and Mum’s going to tell you all about it.”

“Am I?” Lorna wanted to know, since she wasn’t sure what he was talking about. “You are,” said Ron. “It’s time you shared some of that kitchen alchemy of yours. Alice, fetch Grandma a pen and some paper; Lorna, write down your stew and dumpling recipe.”

Suddenly the atmosphere lightened. Not only had Ron diffused the tension that had been building, he’d set them on the road to a shared meal.

Pulling up a chair and lifting granddaughter Alice onto her knee, Lorna started to write. This is what she put:

Lorna’s kitchen alchemy

You’ll need some beef. Ask the butcher for a piece of lift. A good butcher will know what you mean, and will cut it into cubes for you.

Then you’ll need some root vegetables. Start with a potato (even a soft-ish one), a parsnip, a couple of carrots, or a swede, or a turnip. Anything that grows underground will do, in any proportions; just use what you have. (though probably not beetroot!).

And you’ll need some boiling water and a stock cube and something to thicken the gravy with.

As to how much of anything you need, it depends on how many people you want to feed, but it won’t go wrong if you vary the amounts you use, or even the root vegetable ingredients. It’s foolproof.

Brown the meat in a frying pan, and tip it into a casserole dish or a slow cooker. Peel and cube the veg, and pop them in the frying pan. The meat will have left a lot of its taste in there, and you need to get it out. It’ll stick to the veg, and when they’ve done that put the lot into the pot with the meat, and pour the stock – made with boiling water, over the lot.

Cover it, put it into the oven, on a very low heat, and leave it for a few hours.

Half an hour before you’re ready to eat, make some dumplings. Mix six ounces of flour with two of suet, a little baking powder and some salt and pepper, and add water to make a sticky dough. Thicken the stew in the pot, and then pop spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture on top. When they’re cooked, serve and enjoy.

“And it works every time,” said Ron. “It’s so simple, even I can do it – not that your mums not a magician in the kitchen, because she is,” he added, hastily…