Exclusive interview with One Pound Meals Chef Miguel Barclay
‘We’ve recently had a dramatic change in direction for the next book’
It took all my power not to fan-girl over Miguel Barclay when he replied to me sliding into his Instagram DMs asking for an interview.
Miguel, otherwise known as 'onepoundmeals' on Instagram, has four cookbooks, all of which contain meals that can be made for a pound or less! Yes that's right, one portion = one pound.
On top of this, Miguel has one of the best Instagrams around, I think even people who hate to cook follow him for his stories. So, I decided it was time to spill the tea on one of the best student chefs around.
What inspired you to make meals for a pound?
Originally it was just a game I used to play at home. “What's the coolest thing I could make for £1?” I was quite into spreadsheets at the time (I guess I still am!) and I’d sit at work researching prices on the internet and calculating my next recipe. Then I’d buy the ingredients on my way home and attempt to cook something like a lasagne for £1.
What meal have you cooked in the past that you are most ashamed of? E.g. Tinned tomatoes on toast
In my first cookbook I made a carbonara, but the problem with carbonara is that it’s only good for about 10mins after cooking. Any longer and the pasta sucks up all the liquid. Anyway, I was messing about with it for too long and by the time we took the photo it was cold. One day we might re-release the book with a new cover and a new carbonara photo so I can right that wrong.
When did you first get into cooking?
Throughout my GCSEs A-levels and degree I used to work for this temp agency as a kitchen porter, so I was sent to loads of random kitchens for short periods of time. I used to love seeing how each restaurant worked.
What’s the best music to cook to?
Personally I like to cook in silence, I find it relaxing and therapeutic. For me the entertainment IS the cooking.
What’s your favourite ingredient? Why?
I love garlic, it’s used in most cuisines and produces the most amazing aroma when it hits the hot oil.
Any tips for students on a budget?
Plan ahead. Literally grab a piece of paper, write the days of the week and plan what you’re going to eat. I have my own app called COMPARASAURUS (it’s free) where you can compare prices from every supermarket, so use this to your advantage and start saving money on your weekly shop. Also, try and overlap leftover ingredients to eliminate waste.
Can you give us any hints for your next book?
We’ve recently had a dramatic change in direction for the next book and I literally couldn’t be more excited. It’s not out until 2020 and I haven’t even written a single recipe for it yet, but this is going to definitively catch people by surprise.
Did you go to Uni? If so which one and what foods did you cook?
I studied biochemistry at UEA and to be honest I was mainly a pasta person. I’d make a sauce using olive oil, and whatever I had in the fridge/freezer, like prawns, bacon, garlic, chilli flakes, courgettes, onions.
Favourite cookbooks that aren’t yours?
My inspiration to cook comes from looking at the pictures in cookbooks as I’m not really an accurate follower of recipes. I can get the feel of what’s going on by just using the picture and having a glance at the ingredients. I reckon my favourite cookbook has to be Jamie’s 5 ingredients, it’s bright, vibrant and inspiring to flick through.
Favourite cooking programme?
My favourite is a programme is called “F That’s Delicious” on Vice and also “The Pizza Show” on Vice, I like the way Vice make food so cool but in an honest and real way, it’s just 1 camera man and it’s not too heavily orchestrated or over-produced.
What’s the weirdest but best combination of food? E.g. Fries in a milkshake
In my new Vegan One Pound Meals book I have a recipe for my golden syrup noodles and oh my god they are so tasty, it’s not something you’d have thought would work but it really does.
If you had to eat one dish for the rest of your life, which would it be?
A slow cooked ragu with pappardelle pasta and plenty of Parmesan
What are the best cheap eats in London? Or any other places in the UK you’ve visited that stand out to you?
Le Mercury on Upper Street is great value for a romantic candle lit dinner, it serves amazing French food and Padella in Borough Market is a great relaxed pasta place to try out.
What’s the hardest thing to cook for under a pound?
Something like a lobster linguine would be impossible but the art of creating meals for £1 is to substitute ingredients like lobster for things like frozen prawns. You’ll get a similar effect but at a fraction of the price.
Would you go into the I’m a Celeb Jungle? If so, what would be the worst challenge for you?
I watch it every year, so I’m a huge fan! The physical tasks would be ok but I’m not sure I could eat anything that tastes gross.
What’s your favourite fast food?
I’m really into New York style pizza, it’s easily the best fast food but good New York style pizza is surprisingly rare in London.
Which meal out of all four of your books is your favourite?
Right now I’m obsessed with my vegan cauliflower pasta from my new book Vegan One Pound Meals. The key to this dish is cooking the cauliflower in two different ways and it works so well.