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Delicious budget meals for frugal yet scrumptious entertaining: Chicken and Romano Pepper Risotto

Photo: Chicken and Ramano Pepper Risotto Recipe

Photo: Chicken and Ramano Pepper Risotto Recipe

We have done very little entertaining over the past eighteen months. The major reason why we’ve slowed down is cost, and time. When I seriously thought about why we were not entertaining, I twigged that I was hung up on the cost rather than the time and the taste of the food. It’s taken all these months to realise there’s no need to spend a fortune or take a day off to cook. We eat well most nights. Why not open our door and share?

You can entertain on a budget as long as the food is delicious. And there’s the rub. Entertaining on a budget conjures up those old student meals, curried chick peas and endless chewy Chilli Con Carne. Do you remember that the leftovers of a bad CCC dries on the plates like cement?

It’s a confidence thing too. It seems so much easier to buy something deluxe that you can cook with your eyes closed. But these sort of meals can work out at five or even ten pounds a head. Canny entertaining shouldn’t scupper the weekly budget, if you have nous it doesn’t even need to make a dent. A delicious meal almost guarantees that no one would be totting up the cost as they’d be vying to dive in for more.

But if you cook fillet steak, you might be moving into the territory of one-upmanship. Particularly if your dish is good, conversation can move swiftly to ‘The best butcher’, the ‘perfect time to hang meat’, the temperature of your plates. A minefield.

Last week I finally realised that it would be much better to cook an exquisite risotto or a similar budget meal and entertain the friends who have cooked for us. They might have used deluxe ingredients but our recipes are good too.

Having roast half a free range, organic chicken last weekend, I noticed Danny picking the carcass clean on Monday lunch time and tucking into a large chicken sandwich. So three portions had already gone.

We had poached the other half in the slow cooker with some herbs and vegetables and produced a lightly cooked chicken and an excellent stock. I had planned a chicken and ham pie and a Cock-a Leekie style soup.

But I was geed up by the comments on this post . How about making a risotto as well? Everyone else seems to be doing this. If the stock was good, I might be able to make a dish that tasted great for entertaining.

We didn’t invite anyone but I pretended that we had and divided the poached chicken, cutting off the minimum chicken that I reckoned that I could get away with – just 140g of white and brown meat. The risotto worked very well. I admitted my master plot half way through our meal. Danny, who has indulged in a lifelong passionate affair with meat was stunned.
“But the risotto tastes so chickeny.”

The stock was the key. But the risotto needed the little tweaks of the other herbs and seasonings. The chilli sherry didn’t make it hot just added a teeny zing to the palate.

With an appetiser I reckon that this could feed four. A side salad would be a good addition. Danny had three helpings, I had one and ate the rest cold for lunch today. The Romano peppers were on offer, these are always well worth buying on offer/marked down as they keep for ages in the fridge and are far sweeter than the cheaper bell peppers. Total cost of the risotto per portion (for four excluding salad) was 62p.

Delicious budget meals for frugal entertaining: Chicken and Romano pepper risotto recipe


  • 1 small onion – chopped
  • 2  tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp of garlic granules
  • 5g of dried mushrooms covered in boiling water, soaked for rive minutes and then chopped. Reserve the juice and add to the risotto.
  • 250g of Arborio rice (this was on offer 99p for 1 kilo)
  • 150g of Romano pepper (on offer 98p for 2) – de seeded and chopped
  • Half a tsp of dried mixed Italian herbs
  • Quarter tsp of mace
  • 2 tbsp of mushroom ketchup
  • 1 heaped tsp of vegetable stock powder
  • 500-750ml of hot fresh chicken stock
  • 6 tsp of finely grated parmesan (2 stirred into the risotto 4 to serve)
  • Sprinkle of fresh basil leaves (ideally the small, tasty Greek leaves)
  • Salt and lashings of freshly ground black pepper – at least half a tsp.
  • Half a tsp of chilli sherry
  • 140g of chopped cooked chicken.


1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté  pan or large casserole
2. Add the onions and cook gently until translucent
3. Add the rice and stir to cover the grains with the oil
4. Add the dried chopped mushrooms and juice, Add the garlic granules,  mace, mushroom ketchup, chilli sherry.
6. Stir in the chopped romano peppers
7. Add herbs, the vegetable stock powder and the stock, a cupful at a time, stirring the rice until the stock is absorbed before adding the next cup. This will take roughly 20 minutes or so. The rice needs to have a softness and bite
8. Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the cooked chopped chicken and 2 tsp of parmesan. Pop a lid on the pan, the chicken will heat through in the risotto within a few minutes.
9. Finally scatter with Greek basil season well with salt and lashings of black pepper and serve with a dish of parmesan to sprinkle over each portion.

  Leave a reply


  1. Steelkitten

    Risotto is our great standby and I usually throw any combination of ingredients in. It’s a bit of a “everything leftover in the fridge plus an onion” sort of affair.

    Last year hubby and I refused to go out to restaurants with friends and started entertaining with £10 Nights. That is, £10 to feed four people giving them a starter, main course, dessert and wine. They weren’t too keen to start off with, as they were used to eating out a lot and buying expensive ready meals, but when the credit crunch hit they got into the swing of things very quickly ;-))))

  2. I made some more soup today – making the stock starting with cold water and leaving the skins on the onions. The stock tasted good but I can’t say whether that was due to the different method or the organic chicken legs we bought heavily reduced in Asda last week.

    The risotto last week, using the remainder of the quail soup, came out nice and creamy. The soup added body to it, but the biggest contribution to texture probably came from the large chunk of parmesan which we grated into it. Of course the cheese stopped the meal from being ‘budget’.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Amanda

    Thanks for the reassurance. I still worry about budget entertaining for friends but why not? It could be a challenge – a budget ‘come dine with me’. That would be fun but a bit stressful for the participants if they haven’t discovered the CFC at Tesco 🙂

    Hello Polly

    This is great news, they were clearly not hybrids! Waitrose here I come.

  4. I love Romano peppers and grew some from seed saved from a Waitrose one last summer. Despite late planting and the poor weather, I got a harvest – and they tasted divine!

  5. The risotto sounds delicious.
    When we entertain it’s usually something cost effective and very rarely expensive. Most of our friends go for this style of entertaining too. I think you’re right if you’re a good cook then whatever you serve up is going to taste good and it’s the thought of cooking for people and getting together that’s important.

    We used to know some people who were dreadful cooks but always threw dinner parties, the booze flowed and they were so entertaining the food didn’t really matter.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Veronica

    Mushroom ketchup is so handy for adding depth to a dish. I always buy the bottles in twos now!

    Hi S.O.L.

    A Come Dine With Me evening sounds a bit stressful! I’d love to hear how your budget dinner party goes.

    Hello Joanna

    Thanks for your tips. Can’t wait to try the Milanese risotto it sounds delicious. Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Magic Cochin

    Usually I add hot stock to the rice but this time I didn’t and it took forever to cook and I couldn’t work out why. Thank you. I’ve updated the recipe.

    Celery, sweet chestnut and bacon sounds wonderful. Thank you.

    Hello Z

    My taste buds are watering – beetroot risotto – and we have some in the barn. There are squash in the larder. Thank you so much for the nudge(s).

    Hello Heidi

    We used to cook risotto a lot (particularly sea food) and I’d forgotten how good it is. Parmesan is essential and crusty bread sounds so tempting ?

    Hi Toffeapple

    Romanos are so sweet and tender. I love them. The green sprinkles are Greek basil – light years away from the ordinary basil and lovely with boiled new potatoes or anything (if you like flavourfull basil!).

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Love the idea of crispy bacon stirred in at the end. Our home cured pancetta would be perfect and probably keep D happy.

    Hello Sylvie

    I love a really good lasagne too. And I agree that it’s perfect with a good salad and crispy home baked bread.

    Hi Mike

    That stock/soup sounds wonderful. Quail and root vegetables sound perfect for this chilly weather.

    Hope that the risotto recipe works for you.

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