I'm often at home for lunch, several days a week, and as a result, coming up with ideas for cheap lunches can be a bit of a struggle. 'Cup a Soups' and similar are suitably cheap (usually bought when on 2 for 99p in the 99p Shop) but are also UNsuitably full of nasties, and not terribly filling. Filled rolls or pittas are nice, but then you need to come up with a filling of some description. salads are lovely, but not every day..... Anyway, with all that in mind, and searching for ways of using up the glut of carrots I seem to have in the fridge (I usually buy just a few at a time, to avoid waste, but this time around Tesco were offering a big bag as part of a 3 for 2, making my carrots effectively free as I was buying the other products anyway....) and my mind turned to soup (Not literally you understand, although there are days....) Specifically, Carrot & Red Lentil soup.
First step was to find a recipe - and as usual I turned to my failsafe "BBC Good Food" site, and quickly found a Jane Hornby recipe that looked like it should be adaptable. Now, by adaptable, I mean adaptable by me leaving out the stuff I haven't got, adding more what I have, and tweaking the method if it looked like too much of a faff! Case in point - the method on this one started by telling me to grate 600g of carrots. No. Life is way too short to grate carrots. I sort of chopped them roughly instead. The idea of grating seems to me to be to reduce the cooking time right down - I just cooked it for longer, until the carrots were soft.
You start by toasting the spices - I used about a half teaspoon of each Cumin & Coriander - until they smell delicious and start trying to leap out of the pan. While they were toasting, I chopped the carrots, weighed the lentils, and made up a litre of stock...which was supposed to be vegetable, but I didn't have any veg stock concentrate, so I used an "Italian Herbs" cube instead (Yes Mum, one of those italian herbs cubes....I'll use them all up eventually!). Then everything goes into the pan together - I left the oil out altogether, and added a teaspoon of smoked paprika - and you simmer it all until it's cooked through. Once that was done, I left it to cool briefly before whizzing it with a hand blender - now personal taste comes into play here, you can whizz until completely smooth, whizz just enough to thicken slightly, but leave the soup chunky (although if you've grated your carrots, I can't believe there would be a lot of "chunkiness" in there!) or, as I have, leave just a little texture.
It was truly delicious. AND, what is more, the recipe quantities made four portions - good for four days lunches, and SO frugal! Costings (rough) as follows - based on the cheapest options I can find for each ingredient, so a big bag of value carrots, 2kg bag of lentils etc :
Carrots - one-third of a bag roughly - 25p
Lentils - 16p
Stock - if I was using my regular "Knorr Stockpot" concentrate, always bought on offer - then 19p
Milk - 13p
Spices etc - I'll call it a nominal 5p, we buy from indian supermarkets etc, and always in large quantities
So - four portions of soup = under 20p a portion. You could drag it down still further by using fresh veg stock you've made, using stock cubes, or even at a pinch plain water. I'll serve this up with a Value Pitta bread (6 for 20p in Tesco currently) and a blob of plain yogurt if I have some needing using.
I keep meaning to say, by the way, if anyone else wishes to join in with "Frugal Friday" please do - I would feel terribly flattered, just please do link back here as well, so I can see what frugalities are springing to mind for other people!