Party paupers

Twenty Quid Cuisine by Silvena Rowe

All dishes serve four

Garden salad with roasted garlic vinaigrette and soy-roasted cobnuts
The cobnut tree is common in woods and hedgerows throughout Britain. Thanks to the hot weather, cobnut harvest has begun already. The season is very short, so gather some now when you venture for a park or country walk. But if you are not the outdoor type, then visit your local farmers' market, where you can buy those wonderful, crunchy, sweet nuts.

60 ml extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Unpeeled garlic head

300g mixed salad leaves

Maldon salt

A handful of shelled cobnuts

Soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Place the garlic in foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap it and place in the oven, to roast for 20 minutes. Let it cool. The garlic should now be creamy and soft within its skin. All you have to do is squeeze its paste out as though you weresqueezing toothpaste out of a tube.

To make the vinaigrette, place the soft garlic paste in a small bowl together with the olive oil and the lemon juice. Mix well and season.

To prepare the cobnuts, crush them gently and place on a baking tray, drizzle with some soy sauce and sprinkle generously with Maldon salt. Bake for about 5-7 minutes, until slightly roasted. Let them cool.

Finally, to make the salad, toss the leaves with the vinaigrette and sprinkle generously with the soy-roasted cobnuts.

Price: £2.80

Spiced new season fillet of venison
Venison is tender and flavourful meat. I have chosen to feature a recipe with it as the season has just begun. One of the best ways to prepare it is to marinade it in advance; the method below requires marinating overnight.

Four venison fillets, weighing about 150g each

2cm piece galangal, peeled and chopped

2 sticks of lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped

Grated rind and segments of 1 lime

40g sugar

1 small red chilli, chopped finely

A handful of chopped cobnuts

80g tomato paste

Coriander roots, washed well and chopped (use 1 bunch)

Thai fish sauce, to taste

Hazelnut-infused oil

For the marinade, combine the galangal, lemongrass, lime rind and segments, sugar and cobnuts in a food processor and work into a fine paste. Add tomato paste, coriander roots and fish sauce to taste. Mix well. Rub the marinade well on to the venison fillets and place in a refrigerator overnight.

When ready to cook, heat some oil in a heavy skillet until very hot and smoking. Pan fry the venison fillets, about three to five minutes each side - depending how well cooked you like them. I like venison served very pink so I cook mine for about three minutes on each side. Serve with plain Thai rice.

Price: £14.10

Damson fool, served with toasted cobnuts
Damsons, one of the glories of high summer, are quintessentially English. They tend to be rather sour and require quite a bit of sugar. Damsons are also perfect for jams and pickles. Pick-your-own season is in full swing, so go local for a treat. Failing that, farmers' markets are ideal.

400g damsons, washed and pitted

80g of caster sugar (or more if you like your fool sweeter)

Rind of 1 orange

250 ml double cream

2 tbsp mascarpone

A handful of shelled and lightly toasted cobnuts

Place the damsons and the sugar in a pan. Add 2 tbsp of water and stir over very low heat until sugar is dissolved. Simmer for another 10 minutes or until damsons are soft and have become gooey. Rub the mixture through a sieve and taste to see if more sugar is required.

Whip the double cream to soft peaks, add the mascarpone and fold the damsons mixture in gently. Place in glasses and chill for about threehours. Serve with toasted cobnuts sprinkled on top.

Price: £3.10.

Ten Quid Tipples by Malcolm Gluck
Silvena does not know this but I am, and have been for several decades, a cobnutter. I get through two bags of the little brown orbs a fortnight and, in season, I have been known to trek to Richmond Park, where there is a copse of cobnut trees, and plunder everything I can carry.

Sad though it may be to contemplate so seemingly innocent, so basic an obsession, an evening of heady excitement for me is to sit before an absorbing book with a hearty bottle of red wine and huge bowl of the nuts. I daresay this week's menu might tempt me to abandon these pursuits and come to the table, but the hearty red will have to come with me.

Such a red will have to combat some wily spicing in the salad with its roasted garlic vinaigrette, and it will have a further hurdle, a veritable Becher's Brook indeed, with the venison's spice rub. If money were no object I would plump - and plump is the right word here - for a robust, sweetly berried St Chinian from a warm and herby corner of the Midi called Laurent Miquel 2001 which, rating 17.5 points, costs £11.99 at Sainsburys.co.uk/wine.

But this boisterously rich red wine blows my budget and so, to cope with both starter and main course, we must be less extravagant, and so I am going to suggest a neighbour of the St Chinian. This is Asda's own-label non-vintage Corbieres at a ridiculous £2.97 a bottle. Rating 16 points, it flaunts delicious strawberry and blackberry fruit with biscuity tannins and shows real texture and class.

I reckon three bottles of this red will see us nicely through the meal, leaving us with £1.09p for a wine to accompany that delightful damson fool. Clearly an impossible task. Tsk tsk. Can this column not do anything? Can it not venture where other cowardly wine critics fear to tread?

Having saved a few pennies on wines over the past weeks we shall add our £1.09p to the pile and splash out on Aldi's sumptuous St Amandus Beerenauslese 2001 (16 points, £2.99) from Germany in the 50cl bottle.

This unguent dessert wine offers the flavours of Greek honey and sweet white peach and is, frankly, sheer bottled hedonism.

· Malcolm Gluck receives bouquets and brickbats at Supergrub@dva.co.uk.

Cuisine20quid@aol.com

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.