Cast Iron Chaos RecentChanges

LoginLogoutRegisterContact the WebmasterPayPal Me


An Experiment in Making Good, Cheap Food


I've recently rebooted my personal Web site after a hiatus of about four months, giving it a major overhaul. Among other things, it has more of an emphasis on cooking. :) One section of the site is a compilation of recipes I'd played with in the months and years before being sucked into the cult of cast iron. Some of the things I'd cooked and put onto the Web site weren't bad…and a couple were horrible. In particular, one recipe has been sitting there, daring me to do something with it. It's not my creation, it was sent to me by a friend:

From the unappetizing name to the combination of ingredients – Spam and ramen noodles – this is the sort of dish that makes one naueous at the thought that people actually eat this stuff. Yeah, I know Spam actually tastes pretty good, and ramen noodles aren't that bad…but there's just something wrong about combining the two. It evokes the feeling of the ultimate dish prepared by someone who can't cook and doesn't give a damn what he eats. But I put it on my Web site because it was sent to me by a friend. And so, today, I decided to do something about it: find a way to make this dish seem appealing.

Since the idea of this dish is that it's supposed to be cheap, I gritted my teeth and went into Wal-Mart to find some inexpensive ingredients. Nothing on this list came close to the utter cheapness of Wal-Mart brand Spam, i.e."Great Value luncheon meat" at $1.88 for a 12-ounce can. Combine this with a 22-cent brick of ramen and a one-dollar bag of frozen vegetables (probably purchased at a dollar store, rather than Wal-Mart), and you have something of a meal for just over $3. It's not especially unhealthy, either, as it uses only 6 ounces of Spam; while the frozen veggies aren't so bad.

However, I was determined to come up with something more appealing than Spam. Looking for the most inexpensive meat I could find, I came up with:

16-ounce package of diced ham: $3.26
32-ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables - $2.25 (they had a 12-ounce bag for $1.08, but I figured I might as well get the bigger bag and use the extra vegetables in a future dish)
Two bricks of ramen - $0.44
One apple - $0.70 (man, produce has gotten expensive lately!)

At a cost of $6.65, just about twice the cost of his cheap meal, I had enough food to give somewhat more than twice the amount of food – with plenty of frozen veggies left over instead of a 6-ounce block of Spam.

To approximate the flavor of Spam, I went online and searched for an appealing but simple recipe for spiced ham. Putting this all together, here is the result:

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. (Since the meat and vegetables are pre-cooked, 300 degrees is enough.) Open ramen packages and throw out the flavor packets. Break up the ramen bricks and spread them out, to cover the bottom of the pan. Gently pour in one cup of water or stock, enough to just cover the noodles. Using a food processor, mortar and pestle, or whatever, crush 1 teaspoon of cloves and sprinkle on. With your pepper grinder, grind about 1/2 teaspoon pepper (roughly 15 to 20 cranks on the grinder). Measure and splash two tablespoons vinegar over the ham. Measure and sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon dry or ground mustard. Measure and sprinkle on 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Slice apple and lay slices on top, around the pan. Add 3/4 cup frozen vegetables (12 ounces). Cover your pan, place in oven. Bake for 60 minutes.

The reason why the original recipe added cheese was to cover up the blandness of the ramen noodles. However, I don't want to smother the taste of the spiced ham, so instead of cheese, simply mix it all together and spread the taste around. Scoop into bowls for serving. Add some more pepper on top to spice it up. The end result, I think, isn't bad at all. This dish serves two, as it gives twice the food of the original recipe.

This is an experimental dish, and I am open to suggestions on what you think might improve it.