In the Khoollect Kitchen with Miguel Barclay, The Man Making One Pound Meals

All too often we cooking enthusiasts trudge down to the supermarket to pick up a few ingredients for dinner, only to wind up startled by how much we’ve managed to spend (again) once we arrive at the check out. You take a tenner, hoping it’ll do, and end up having to swipe the plastic when you discover the total. But for thrifty chef and Instagram star Miguel Barclay, a single ten-pound note is easily ten meals. That’s right: dinner for one pound. We wanted to know how on earth the man behind One Pound Meals does it, and how we can too. Miguel visited the Khoollect Kitchen and studio space to create a delcious recipe and chat to Rachel Khoo as he cooked.

What gave you the idea to start one pound meals?
For years it was just a game I used to play at home. I used to spend whole afternoons in the kitchen creating loads of different One Pound Meals and it became a pretty time-consuming, but inexpensive, hobby. Initially, me and my mates used to eat them cold when we got back from the pub, but then last year I decided to post a few on Instagram and it sort of grew from there.

You’ve now written two cookbooks about creating meals for one pound. How do you manage to continue to find possibilities of making recipes for a pound?
Last year alone I must have written about 500 recipes; it’s just the way I’ve trained my mind to think. For example, I’ll be in a restaurant and I’ll scan through the menu substituting a few ingredients here and there to convert the whole thing into a one pound menu. So if you see something mega expensive like lobster thermidor, I’ll make that into something like aubergine thermidor.
What’s your most popular dish from your cookbooks? And why do you think that is?
Probably the £1 chicken tikka masala. It’s the perfect substitute for that Friday night takeaway, and this one dish is genuinely saving some people hundreds of pounds a year.
You’ve built your career from social media. What do you love about the social media? Is there anything you don’t like about it?
I love Instagram; it’s such a fast and visual medium that is just perfect for showcasing new recipe ideas – even better than the traditional slow-paced outlets of TV and magazines.
What advice would you give anyone thinking of starting out in food on social media?
Use the filters on Instagram, but not the preset ones. Learn to use the edit button and tweak each setting manually. Every picture needs a bit of structure, contrast and sharpen.
Your latest cookbook is not only about cooking for a pound but also about being fast and fresh. Fresh produce can be quite expensive. How do you keep within the budget?
Buying fresh ingredients always works out cheaper than buying processed foods like pasta sauces. So, making everything from scratch might take a little longer but it always turns out cheaper and also much healthier. Thats the first price battle won; then, to buy the best-priced fresh ingredients, I always search for them using my supermarket price comparison app called COMPARASAURUS.
What do you think people get wrong when they are going grocery shopping and end up over-spending?
Just buy simple ingredients like meat, vegetables, carbs and spices, then cook them from scratch. No processed stuff like pizzas, microwave meals or those chicken breasts wrapped in bacon in a foil tray. Just buy chicken and bacon then wrap it yourself. Also, plan your meals and overlap ingredients so there is no waste. If you’ve got chicken and bacon left over, then make carbonara one day, and maybe a chicken pie the next.
Where do you currently call home? And what inspires you about your city?
I’ve live in Camden for about 10 years, and what I love about London is that there’s always a new place to go. I love the amazing variety London has to offer while still maintaining authenticity.
I khoollect a few…
I collect cookbooks, I’m not a big reader of books but I love the pictures and the different ways they are designed to evoke different feelings. I find them so tactile and just love flicking through them. Often people don’t notice the weight of the paper, the texture of the cover and the prop styling used to create the desired mood.
What’s your favourite item in your khoollection?
My favourite cookbook is a book called Pizza Pilgrims, it’s just put together perfectly. I’m not quite sure why I like it above every other book I own, but that’s its charm – it’s just a cool book that I’ve always enjoyed flicking through. I even took it on holiday once, which is strange, who takes a cookbook on holiday?!?
We are itching to buy a plane ticket. Inspire us with your most incredible holiday memory …
You don’t technically need a plane ticket for this one. Last summer, for my birthday, I jumped on the Eurostar to Marseille and stumbled across this random outdoor restaurant with mismatched tables on a derelict plot of land between two buildings. It was in the backstreets, so I have no idea if I’ll ever find it again, but it was one of my favourite food experiences because it was so unexpected. I put it on my Instagram stories so I guess at least one of my followers must know where I ended up.
A life lesson that you’d tell your younger self?
This is something I live by: don’t rely on anyone else to make something happen, learn how to do it yourself. Web-design, photography, video editing, accountancy, DIY etc… there is nothing you can’t learn by watching a video on YouTube!
What’s your secret ingredient or top tip in the kitchen?
Don’t drain spaghetti in a colander, pick it straight out of the water using tongs (along with some of the starchy pasta water). It gives your pasta dish a glossy loose finish, plus it saves on washing up! My go-to recipe is definitely carbonara, using smoked streaky bacon, egg yolks (no whites), Parmesan cheese and a little bit of that starchy pasta water.
What inspires you?
I think I take more inspiration from rustic Italian cooking that any other cuisine. I love using 3 or 4 fresh ingredients and preparing them simply to create bold, summery flavoured dishes. I’m also a big fan of the Italian rustic presentation, using big dishes in the middle of the table and just getting stuck in.
Can you share three tips of your trade?
Instagram is my main outlet, so I always think about how the final dish will look. There needs to be a variation in textures, and a vibrancy of colours to make a dish stand out.
I also have the unusual added constraint that the ingredients for each dish need to add up to £1. Recipe costing is so unbelievable time consuming – that’s why I ended up creating  COMPARASAURUS. This has saved me hundreds of hours, and last year I decided to release the app for free on iPhone and Android so my followers could create their very own One Pound Meals. Plates and bowls are extremely important in food presentation, but most new plates are too glossy and lack character. So I buy mine from car boot sales or fantastic artisan potters like Jess Jos down at Stepney City Farm.
Top three foodie spots in your city …
  • Blanchette in Soho is a fave of mine, these days I like to eat at counters because i find most tables are too closely packed together. And this place is just perfect to relax with a caraf of wine and share lots of small dishes.
  • Pizzeria di Camden do a lovely authentic pizza and it’s just round the corner from my house, so this is one of my favourites.
  • I eat a Woody Grill (the one by Camden tube) way more often than I should probably admit, so I think I definitely have to include this one. They do a beautiful kofte skewer cooked over charcoal with salad, flatbread and rice.
Where to find the best cup of coffee in your city?
There’s this place on Blackhorse Lane in Walthamstow called Armstrong Audio that repairs antique record players. At the front of the shop they have a really cool seating area with original floor boards and vintage HiFi’s where a talented barista sells artisan coffee. You got to check it out.
Most beautiful outdoor space?
I once randomly found this secluded babbling brook in the middle of Regent’s Park, sort of behind the tennis courts, it’s so peaceful.
Best place for fresh produce?
I once saw Yotam Ottolenghi in the fruit and veg shop down the road called Parkway Greens. He’s the king of vegetarian food, so on the strength of that sighting, I’m saying this MUST be the best place.
Do you have a go-to One Pound Meal you’d like to tell us about? Comment below or tag us on Instagram to share your recipe …

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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Follow Miguel Barclay on Instagram to see his latest One Pound Meal ideas. And, sample Miguel’s Chinese Marinated Aubergine recipe tonight!