Sunday, 3 July 2011

Day 2: Birthday!

NB: I didn't have internet access last night, so I wrote this then, and am posting today.

It's my birthday!

I may start to make this a frugal principle, that where possible, celebrations should be doubled up.  Just as my graduation meal counted as a birthday celebration for my family, so my birthday today has been combined with a little housewarming for the new flat.  Three for the price of two - in other words, a bargain!

In the event, I just invited round a couple of friends for some frugal food.  Not very festive, perhaps, but homely and welcoming nevertheless.  So this morning, armed with Delia's "Thick Winter Soup" recipe, I set out to explore the shops of my new environment.  And made the most amazing discovery.


Quite seriously, why doesn't everyone shop here?  I managed to buy a savoy cabbage, sunflower spread, 4 organic onions, one courgette, a tube of tomato puree, and a whole 1lb of "bacon misshapes" for £3.97.  The only things they didn't have were a leek and some haricot beans.  I tracked down a leek in Tesco's, where they only had huge ones for sale and it cost me a painful £1.04.  But no haricot beans.  I thought of getting in the car and heading for a large supermarket, but then decided that that would rather defeat the object of the exercise.  But I did have some pearl barley in the cupboard ...

So here is a soup-come-stew of my own invention, which owes as much to my mother's farmhouse cooking as it does to Delia.  I actually halved Delia's quantities in her similar recipe, which was meant to serve 6-8, and it still served 6-8.  That means I now have 4 portions of soup in my freezer for future lunches. All this - 8 meals! - for a total of around £1.50.  Now that is frugal :)

And even if I say so myself, it turned out totally fabulous.   Guests thought so too.  No choking down of cabbage required.

Thick Vegetable Soup  (serves 6-8)
100g pearl barley
1 large carrot
1 medium courgette
1/4 small savoy cabbage
1 small leek
1 medium onion
50g bacon bits
3 pints vegetable stock (I made it with Marigold Organic Vegetable Bouillon)

This can all be made in a slow cooker, if you have one.  Otherwise, on a very low and long heat.

1) Wash the pearl barley and put in pot with half the stock.  Cover, and allow to simmer very gently for around one and a half hours.
2) Grate 1/2 the carrot and roughly chop the rest.  (Grating the veg is my mother's old trick for thickening soup.  It works best if you hand-grate it, as it squishes the vegetable more than a food processor does.)
3) Grate the courgette, chop the onion, and shred the cabbage.  Chop any cabbage stalk very finely.  Cut the leek into rings, using right to the dry ends.  (It's soup, after all!)
4) Finely cube the bacon.
5) Add all the vegetables and bacon to the soup, and top up with the rest of the stock.  (You can fry off the bacon first, if you want, but it isn't really necessary, and used another pot.)  Cover and simmer for at least another hour, and even longer if wanted.
6) A Delia trick now!  Take out about 3-4 ladlefuls of soup, making sure you include plenty of barley.  Now blend this portion with a hand held blender, and return to the soup.  This thickens things up considerably!

I served this with some quick girdle scones, which I made as my guests were arriving and chatting.

Girdle Scones   Serves 3-4

1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
milk to mix

Mix together the dry ingredients.  Pour in a very little milk and mix to a soft, but not sticky dough (I used my hand to do the mixing).  You should be able to knead this a little.  
Heat an oiled heavy frying pan or girdle (griddle) to hot.
With a floured rolling pin, roll out onto a floured surface to make a round of about 2cm thick.  Place on the frying pan and cook for around 4 minutes on either side.  
Remove from the heat and slice into 3 or 4 triangles.  Serve hot with butter.

Day's Expenditure
Food shopping: £6.57
Travel: £6.40
Total = £12.97


Nik said...

I can utterly vouch for the nom-nom-nom-ness of the frugal food served with a friendly smile. Thank you, ma'am!

Fran said...

You're welcome :)

Mary said...

Oh - we have Nikki as a friend in common!

Fran said...

Hi, Mary. That doesn't surprise me. Nikki generally reduces the 6 Degrees of Separation game to about 3 steps! Of course, it is because she is so lovely. Very nice to hear from you. :)