Delia Smith's gift is for taking cookery to the masses. But is she doing enough for those who can't afford pecorino cheese or pancetta? Louise Levene has a plan

It has sold 1.6 million copies and counting. Delia Smith's latest publishing phenomenon goes from strength to strength. Her beaming face garnishes the cover of the Radio Times every week and her recipes have even found their way on to The Archers. Pancetta is pencilled in for inclusion in the new edition of Chambers' dictionary. Her mainstream appeal has put creme fraiche and parmesan on nearly every corner grocer's shelves and her evangelistic mixture of the eclectic and the mundane has transformed cooking in pine kitchens up and down the land.

She's no innovator - but then neither was Elizabeth David. What Delia has done since 1973 is to open up a range of possibilities to a middle class whose culinary horizons used to stretch little further than gammon and pineapple.

Her recipes also get more authentic (for which read expensive) with each reincarnation. The spaghetti carbonara of the Complete Cookery Course called for streaky bacon, parmesan and cream; the new Winter Collection demands pancetta, pecorino and creme fraiche. What's more, many ethnic dishes rely on cheap local ingredients - but, bought from Sainsbury's, a meal that sustains the poor of a developing country becomes a pricey dinner party dish.

And it takes forever. Delia may have it all chopped and ready in petri dishes but she might well confirm doubters' suspicions that cooking is a time-consuming and rather costly business. Tonight's programme features a starter of pancake cannelloni, for which you have to make pancakes, whip up a white sauce, grate three Italian cheeses and slice another and assemble them into gloppy tubes; the whole shebang costs at least pounds 11. No wonder Nigel Slater (spaghetti is nice with a packet of Boursin stirred in, etc) is doing such good business.

But Delia's fans don't care. The recipes work, they are invariably delicious, and her gift for taking you through basic cookery methods as if they were the secrets of the universe is little short of genius. You, yes you, can do this yourself at home. Such a useful woman with a universal appeal should surely have been made a dame by now. Fear not, Delia. I have a plan.

It's time for Delia's Budget Collection. Armed with a shopping list of her latest fad ingredients, hosts and hostesses head for Sainsbury's and confidently fill the trolley with coriander and sun-dried tomatoes. In front of them in the queue is the woman with a wagon full of frozen chips, fish fingers, Coca-Cola and Wotsits. This is the woman who needs the cookery lessons and Delia is the woman for the job; the only person who can command prime-time to show viewers how to poach an egg, and make it seem as if culinary pig-ignorance were the most natural thing in the world. If Delia were to return to her roots in adult education, she could maintain her superstar status while doing the nation a favour.

Families on benefit often have as little as pounds 5 a head to spend on food. Report after report warns of the healthcare time bomb being hatched unless children get the calories, roughage, iron and vitamin C they need to guard against cancer and heart disease. Four years ago the Government made a classically inept attempt to formulate a healthy diet for pounds 10 a week. It seemed that the answer to the hot potato of poor nutrition was in fact the hot potato. Very nice, but who wants to be told that by Virginia Bottomley? But Delia, Delia could remind the nation how to bake a potato, open it and put baked beans inside.

No one is suggesting that she deny her fans the spring and autumn collections, but surely she could throw her net still wider and show the world how to make idiot-proof, delicious food with basic cheap ingredients? There would be nothing offensive in hearing her explain how to buy fruit and vegetables in season or how to make a chicken stretch to three meals. A bit of a downer for Sainsbury's, of course, but presumably it could arrange some dodge whereby pasta quills and tinned tomatoes were among its January Savers the week Delia did pasta.

Delia's Budget Collection would not only educate a sector of the public that thinks affordable food comes in polystyrene containers, it would also give a well-earned rest to the wallets of the porcini-buying classes. Simple. Everybody wins and Delia gets the damehood.

Pancake cannelloni with spinach and four cheeses

1 quantity basic pancakes

SAUCE: FILLING:

1 pt milk (570ml) 450g raw spinach

50g butter 10g butter

30g plain flour 150g Ricotta cheese

1 bay leaf 150g Gorgonzola cheese

Good grating 60g Parmesan, grated

fresh nutmeg 1 bunch spring onions

60ml dble cream finely sliced incl. green parts

salt and fresh fresh nutmeg

black pepper TOPPING:

110g Mozzarella, grated

40g Parmesan, grated

Price at Sainsbury's

6 size one eggs 97p

1lb plain flour 24p

2pts milk 57p

1 pkt Sainsbury's butter 78p

double cream 142ml 49p

1lb spinach pounds 1.49

bunch spring onions 49p

1 pkt Ricotta cheese pounds 1.39

1 pkt Gorgonzola cheese pounds 1.25

one Mozzarella pounds 2.49

4oz Parmesan 58p

jar whole nutmegs pounds 1.14 Total pounds 11.08

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'