Frugality: It’s Not All About Saving Money

Frugality: It’s Not All About Saving Money

Frugality in cooking can be both a pleasure and a challenge. Compromise is, of course, necessary and finding ways of achieving frugality without impacting on the overall flavour and character of a dish can be tricky.

However, the greatest reward often comes in the face of adversity and there is nothing more pleasing than producing great food at a fantastic price.

Baking is a particularly interesting area for frugality – it is one often considered synonymous with decadence, a word that only infrequently occupies the same sentence as ‘frugal’. However, there are certain approaches that can be adopted in the name of saving money that will likely improve your product and get one and all into renewed good habits.

A certain amount of frugality is essential to any business; it keeps costs down, a particularly desirable effect in the current economic climate. However, contrary to common misconception, the word ‘frugal’ isn’t a fancy replacement for the word ‘cheap’. Rather, think of it as synonymous with ‘economical’ – getting the most for your money. To be frugal means to make the most of what you have and it’s an approach that has the potential to deliver exceptional results.

Delivering excellence in the face of frugality can be tricky – there’s no sugary veil behind which to hide – it’s vital to get the basics spot-on. The innocence of frugality demands that flavours and textures need to work together like a well-oiled machine. A dry sponge or insipid filling will not do, but once these challenges are overcome special things are more than likely to follow.

Key to mitigating the issues associated with frugality is taking advantage of seasonal ingredients. Focusing on seasonality will ensure each and every ingredient is at its best and, most importantly, its cheapest. Strawberries are a particularly good example of this; during the summer months, strawberries are plump, juicy, sweet and vivid in colour, but everything changes during the less clement periods of the calendar. In winter, strawberries often taste of little more than water and though they may appear sumptuous, nothing could be further from the truth.

Of course, customers these days are used to being able to get what they want, when they want. However, I believe this is a worrying trend that not only pushes consumers further into the confines of a more restricted and unhealthy diet, but also makes life that little more expensive for everyone involved. Instead, make something seasonal that no one will be able to resist – a grapefruit galette perhaps, sweetened with a brush or two of a neighbouring farm’s honey to give it that local flavour and feel.

Happily, honey brings me rather nicely onto another point that ties in well with my assertion that frugality is about maximising what is available. You’ll likely agree with me that ethically sourced and locally produced honey doesn’t usually come cheap. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be used to great effect in small quantities.

There seems little point in pouring it in prodigious quantity into a dessert, which will simply mask its flavour. Rather, an ingredient as special as honey should be allowed free-reign over its host – one reason why Lekach is a particular favourite of mine. Lekach, or honey cake, is a dense and sweet cake traditionally consumed by Ashkenazi Jews over the Jewish New Year. Despite having Middle Easter roots the flavour of the honey cake will be dependent on the region in which it is baked. Local flora heavily influences the flavour of honey and this local connection is what makes food like this truly spectacular.

However, honey lends more than mere flavour and locality; as a result of its sensuous viscosity it conveys a luxuriously dense texture, rather like black treacle in gingerbread. As such, a slice of this pleasantly substantial cake is enough to satisfy the demands of even the most ardent gourmand.

I guess what I’m driving at is that expensive ingredients are often the ones that possess the most flavour – flavour worth preserving. Learning to showcase certain ingredients is an extremely important skill, particularly where frugality is concerned, and one that is likely to convey decadence where perhaps one was not expecting to find it.

Decoration, in any form, has the ability to hide a multitude of sins but is that really the approach best taken? Instead, combine seasonality, a clever use of a few special ingredients and that little extra care and attention – it’ll do more than simply save you money.

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