Two music graduates chronicle the culinary delights of Leeds and London and explore the height of fine dining on a limited budget.

Good food is well punk.

February 21, 2010

On Soups, Stews and Other Frugal Foods

As February begins to breath its last, and the renewed snows heralding a depressingly cold March begin to fall, the food cupboard begins to become increasingly bare. Fresh vegetables feel more and more expensive (probably due to increased shipping costs) and inspiration for meals becomes harder and harder to come by. I put this meal together last night as a means of clearing all the odd bits of food still lurking in the cupboard. Despite not having any main ingredient or substance to it, it ended up surprisingly tasty, yet I'm still unsure of what to call it; my mother would say "stewp". One word though: I'm a firm believer that a quality specialist casserole dish imparts a depth of flavour dishes like these that you just don't get with ordinary saucepans. Maybe it's a placebo effect, or simply that cooking becomes more enjoyable, but I use a slightly battered Le Creuset nicked off my parents that has never let me down. Oh god, that sounds so hideously pretentious. I'll shut up now and get on with the food.

Serves 4-5

2 Onions
2 Cloves of garlic
2 Sticks of celery
2 Carrots
2 Potatoes
2 tsp dried thyme
1-2 chillies
1 Tin of Lentils
1 Tin of Kidney Beans
1-2 Tins of Tomatoes
1 Tbsp Tomato pureƩ
1 Stock cube (Chicken or vegetable)
100g assorted shaped pasta
Oil and butter for frying
Salt and Pepper

Chop the onion into medium slices, and fry gently in oil and butter until soft, but not brown. Chop the carrot, celery and potatoes into small chunks and add to the mixture, along with the thyme and salt and pepper. Finely chop the garlic and chillies and throw in, being sure not to let the mixture get too hot. Let the ingredients soften for about 10 minutes, then drain the lentils and kidney beans and add to the pot. Give it a mix, and throw in the tomatoes. Crumble the stock cube into the stew, and add three refilled tomato tins of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pasta and cook until soft. Serve in a bowl, and top with cheese if so desired.

It may be slightly carb-heavy (the potatoes were probably not entirely necessary) but it went down a treat on a cold Saturday night. Variants could include 2 tbsp peanut butter to make it a bit more 70s veganesque or a few slices of cabbage for added iron. If you're feeling extravagant, some slices of bacon, sausage or chorizo added at the start of cooking could transform this into a gloriously satisfying dish, but the lentils and beans are enough to satisfy. Obviously, the ingredients are all subject to change. Bean is a bean is a bean is a bean.

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