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Steven Saunders’ 78p chicken tagine recipe and Thrifty 50 dishes - plus his Sky News challenge

This week celebrity chef Steven Saunders takes up the cost of living challenge and appears on Sky News as he creates dishes costing less than £1 a portion.

I must admit that I do love doing TV - cooking on it or presenting an item. I feel as if it is my way of communicating to the nation or the world and without it, I feel a little lost or helpless.

Steven Saunders goes shopping for low cost ingredients
Steven Saunders goes shopping for low cost ingredients

I like to try and solve problems: I take pleasure in being philanthropic, I really enjoy giving something back. For example, I tried to help the Ukrainian refugees, I have tried to help with some government policies and I would like to try and help with the latest crisis.

So when I got a call from Sky News asking me to do a piece on the cost of living crisis, I jumped at it and immediately started to plan. As I was planning, I was thinking: Why isn’t anyone else doing anything about the food costs? Why don’t we get help from the supermarket giants? Why wouldn’t they want to help us? Why is it that I have to try and sort this out? What is our government doing about it?

The piece I wrote looked great and covered smart shopping techniques, how to cook to save energy, how to plan meals ahead, how to find food bargains and more.

I was also going to prepare a simple dish at a low cost.

I went shopping to find bargains and discovered a whole new world. I had no idea that every supermarket had a reduced price area. I didn’t know that you could buy eight chicken thighs for only £2.50.

I started to build the show based on using ingredients from the reduced area, along with the supermarket’s own value range and then I bought loyalty card items, by carefully choosing the ingredients.

I bought 16 chicken thighs (two packs), two tins of plum tomatoes, a bag of cous cous, a loaf of sourdough bread, a small bottle of lemon juice, two fresh chillies and a bunch of spring onions. I checked it out.

“That’s £9.25, Sir.” Crikey, that sounds reasonable I thought, because it can serve eight people. When I got home, I started to create the dish for the show. It was going to be along the lines of a tagine, inspired by North African flavours - tomatoes, lemons, dried fruit, a little chilli and some cinnamon (I had this in the cupboard already) with steamed cous cous.

I pre-cooked the chicken the day before in preparation for the show and at the same time I cooked a couple of other meals for the week ahead.

This is called batch cooking which is essential to keep your energy costs down. You can then reheat the dishes using your microwave, which costs nothing compared to your oven.

I was planning to use the oven just once a week with batch cooking.

Steven Saunders on Sky News
Steven Saunders on Sky News

It worked well and feeling inspired I was now ready for the Sky show the next day.

The show was not early (9.45am) but the night before dad wanted to watch the boxing. The alarm went off at 7.30am but I felt as though it was 5am. I woke myself up and called my girlfriend to tell her that I was on at 9.45am.

“Well, I have seen it before,” she said.

“Seen what? I have not done this show before? It’s a live show - I have never discussed the cost of living on air.”

“Yes, but you have done that Kay Burley show a few times so I know how it is.”

I was really excited about doing it and wanted her to feel the same

“I love seeing you in real life,” she said. “Anyway, I can’t watch because I have a meeting.”

When 9.45am arrived I did my piece to camera and my brother Stuart carried the phone into the kitchen to film the cookery slot.

“The first thing you do is to get the chicken” and as I said that I could see that the live feed had gone down.

Kay said: “Steven, we are losing you.”

So I speeded up the dish to try and wrap it up… “and there you have my chicken tagine cooked by saving energy, costing only 78p per portion,” I said.

“It’s really a stunning dish and one of the 50 low cost recipes that I have created. I call it my Thifty 50!”

(I will have a website with these recipes up soon - and look out for more in the Cambridge Independent.)

“Steven, thank you so much. We lost you at the end, but see you soon,” Kay said.

I called my girlfriend and said: “I am glad you missed it because the live TV feed went down!”

“Missed it? I didn’t miss it. I was sat here with my mum watching it.”

Is there something that I just don’t understand about relationships?


  • www.theodessaproject.com
  • Email: thechefsaunders@gmail.com
  • Instagram theodessaproject
  • Instagram @saunderschef

[Read more: Steven Saunders: The shock that made me give up my executive chef’s job - plus a superfood recipe]

Steven’s low cost chicken tagine with cous cous (cost circa 78p per portion)

Steven Saunders' low cost chicken tagine
Steven Saunders' low cost chicken tagine

Ingredients for 4

  • 8 chicken wings (1kg approximately)
  • A little olive oil
  • 1 onion peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped finely
  • 2 tins of plum tomatoes chopped or cut into pieces
  • 1 small bag of dried apricots (or any dried fruit you may already have)*
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 mild chilli cut in half de seeded and sliced thinly
  • Some root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, peeled and cut into batons - optional
  • 150ml of chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of caster sugar
  • A few sliced black olives - optional
  • Salt and pepper
  • For cous cous
  • 200g of cous cous (or rice/pasta)
  • 250ml of chicken stock
  • A little chopped parsley or coriander
  • Seasoning


1. Seal the chicken thighs in a frying pan skin down to colour. Turn them over and remove.

2. Keep the pan juices

3. Put the raw washed root vegetables in the bottom of an oven proof dish and pour over the pan juices.

4. Mix the tomatoes with the lemon juice and the sugar and season

5. Put the chicken on top of the vegetables and cover with the chicken stock

6. Pour over tomato mixture add the sliced mild chilli, the dried fruit and the cinnamon

7. Cover with tin foil and bake in a slow oven at 150C for about 1.5 hours

8. Prepare the cous cous by putting 250g into a bowl and pouring the boiling chicken stock over it and cover with a plate or cling film and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

9. Remove the chicken and serve two pieces on top of a small heap of cous cous or pasta with the sauce (dish juices) poured over the top. Sprinkle on some chopped parsley or coriander.

*Note: To keep costs in line, do not buy the dried fruits. I used them as I had them already in the store cupboard.

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