Feeding a family of six on a fiver is no mean feat, but Donal Hayes takes inspiration from his kitchenphobic wife.
“I’m married 20 years and Miriam hasn’t made me breakfast even once. Not even a sandwich,” laughs the father-of-three from Kinsale, Co Cork, who’s just won a nationwide challenge to find the country’s most cost-effective cook.
“If I go away for a few days I have to make her dinners and put them in the freezer — and then show her where the freezer is. She’s a civil engineer and she’s great at what she does, but she’d burn a salad.”
The feast for six for a fiver contest was organised by World Missions Ireland as a novel way of highlighting its campaign to provide 1m dinners for children in the developing world.
Donal’s winning entry certainly provides food for thought as the charity prepares for Mission Sunday this weekend, when it will be asking the public to support the campaign.
All four elements of his menu have a Moroccan theme but Donal says he follows the discount vegetable offers around all the main supermarkets and is confident he can create a myriad different budget menus based on what’s on offer on any given day.
“Today, Aldi have turnips, parsnips, potatoes, and cabbage for 39c. Get some neck of lamb — or even sausages — and you have another meal for €5,” he says. “Food is not expensive in Ireland if you have time to look for it and think about what to do with it.”
Ironically, Donal makes his living from people who don’t have time to cook and don’t know what to do when they get there.
He runs the Botanic Food Company, which makes and delivers super-healthy, freshly made meals to the homes of people who are trying to improve their eating habits but too often find themselves going for the junk food option.
“I have a passion for this,” he says. “I cook for a living, I cook for the family, and when I sit down in the evening I read cookery books.”
The judges for the competition were rugby analyst Brent Pope, top soprano Celine Byrne, and GAA star Dermot Earley.
The well-travelled trio were bowled over by Donal’s dishes. “Any rugby or GAA club could do well to serve these up after matches,” says Brent. “I would happily pay for any of these dishes in a restaurant.”
Donal’s menu: Feeding six for a fiver
Chickpea and Kidney Bean Burgers in Homemade Sesame Seed Buns €1.40
Roasted Butternut Squash with Lime and Chilli €1.20
Butterbean and Sweet Chilli Salad 60c
Moroccan Couscous €1.80
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