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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. A couple of days ago I made a pan of stock using a mixture of chicken legs and quails, and then used this stock to make a thick quail and root vegetable soup (The soup was thick. And come to think of it, so were the quail).

    I love reading about your frugal cooking because I try to do the same thing. So far we have had 3 meals out of the soup – the first 2 were as soup, and tonight’s meal used it as a pasta sauce. Reading this post has inspired me to make a risotto tomorrow, using the rest of the soup to add flavour.

  2. The risotto looks great and I’d certainly would be a very happy guest if I was served it at a dinner party. One of my favourite not so expensive meal to serve is a really good lasagna, with a green salad and some freshly baked bread.

  3. kate (uk)

    Risotto is a lovely meal- the stock is crucial.Best with veg I think-I agree with Joanna, the stock gives the chicken flavour you need add no meat…but some chopped crispy bacon stirred in /sprinkled on top right at the end is delicious…

  4. Toffeeapple

    Mmm, love risotto. Those Romanos are so delicious. I like the green sprinkles too.

  5. Looks great Fiona.
    We all like risotto in our house and I couldn’t agree more about using a good stock.
    This is such a satisfying dish served with home made crusty bread and fresh parmesan shavings!

  6. I adore risotto, but I usually make it with vegetables only, though with chicken or beef stock. Beetroot risotto has such a fabulous colour that I can’t resist making it, although I like the flavour of squash risotto better.

    By the way, supermarkets are terrible con artists. Romano peppers are best, but they shouldn’t cost more.

  7. magic cochin

    Definitely – good stock is the key to a good risotto. The other key thing is use hot stock – never add cold stock to the rice.

    My favourite risotto is celery and sweet chestnut with a chopped rasher of good bacon.


  8. Fiona you could take it one step further and not put in any chicken at all – I haven’t for years, because you get the chicken taste (as Danny discovered) with good stock. You can use veg instead for something to chew on – mushrooms are the obvious place to start for someone who loves his meat, but you’ll soon graduate to something more adventurous. And a milanese, with just saffron, is out of this world if the stock is good enough (although it would be beef stock for preference)

    Looking forward to hearing more on your risotto

  9. Damn I am having a Come Dine With Me, night tomorrow. I could have made risotto! I havent had any of these ladies to my house for dinner before. so once I have gotten over tomorrow night, I think I will challenge myself to a budget dinner party. Lets see how I do…

  10. Veronica

    yum, love the idea of the mushroom ketchup! Risotto really is the budget food par excellence — it makes a little go a very long way.

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