Friday, 7 June 2013

3 meals for two from a £1 bag of veg

Having bought a £1 bag of veg at the Feeding the 5000 event last Saturday I decided to make it the basis for the next day's meals - fortunately a quiet Sunday at home with just me and my husband to cook for. I decided I wouldn’t buy anything extra and make do with what we had in the house.

The tomatoes went into a tomato bruschetta - simply quartered, seasoned, anointed with olive oil and, at the last minute, a drizzle of balsamic (you could use a few drops of wine vinegar instead). Oh, and a sprinkling of fresh thyme - I didn’t have any parsley, basil or chives.  I split two of the rolls I'd also picked up, toasted them and rubbed a clove of garlic on the cut sides as the base. If I’d had some feta or goats cheese I’d have crumbled a bit on top.

I could alternatively have fried the tomatoes, added a dash of chilli sauce and served them with eggs for breakfast. Or turned them into a fresh pasta sauce or a tomato and rice salad like this one on the blog.

Next, what to do with the lettuce and leeks? I washed the lettuce and decided to make a soup with the outer leaves and two of the leeks along with a handful of frozen peas from the freezer to give it a bit more colour and texture. This is roughly the recipe I used though you could easily vary it. It was so delicious I'll make it another time.

Leek and lettuce soup

(enough for 3-4)

1 tbsp olive oil or other cooking oil
A slice of butter (20g or thereabouts)
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced or a large sweet onion
A handful of frozen peas (about 50g)
Outer leaves from a round lettuce, washed and roughly sliced
700ml vegetable or light chicken stock
sprig of fresh mint (optional but unnecessary if your peas are minted)
Salt and pepper, preferably white

Heat a saucepan over a moderate heat, add the oil and then the butter. Once the butter has melted, stir in the sliced leeks, put on a lid and cook over a low heat until the leeks begin to soften. Add the peas, cook for another couple of minutes then tip in the lettuce and the mint, if using and stir. Pour over the hot stock bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until the leeks and peas are cooked.

Take the pan off the heat and cool slightly then ladle the lettuce and a few other chunky bits into a blender or food processor. (Leave some behind for texture*). Whizz then return to the pan. Adjust the seasoning and reheat gently but don't cook it too long or you’ll lose the colour. If you had a little leftover cream to stir in at the end or some extra herbs to scatter that would be extra good.

You could also add some fried bacon or ham if you had some for the final heat-through which would make it more substantial. Even then we had enough for 4 bowls.

The remaining leek went into a favourite pilaf along with the mushrooms (could have sworn the recipe was on the blog but I can’t find it. It’s in the book though). It wasn’t as good as usual as I didn’t have any cashew nuts (I used walnuts instead which were a touch too bitter), had to use tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes and had no fresh coriander.

As you can see it was all a bit brown, relieved only by the remains of the lettuce which I served as a salad with a yoghurt dressing (see below) and a slosh of hot pepper sauce which I acquired from a guy in a pub. As you do . . . Easily enough for 3 though, especially given the soup we had first.

What else could I have made with the mushrooms? A pasta sauce. Garlic mushrooms on toast. A sort of stroganoff if I’d had a dash of cream. Mushrooms à la grecque. And with the leeks? A frittata. Leeks vinaigrette, This smoked cod and leek chowder. Leek bhajis, maybe (I did think of that but didn’t have any gram flour).

The main thing, as I said at the beginning, was I didn’t buy anything I didn’t already have in the fridge or the storecupboard even if it meant altering an idea or a recipe. And that’s the whole point - to adapt what you cook to what you have available, which is easy enough to do assuming a basic set of spices and seasonings (though I accept this is tough on a really tight budget). For most of us though it’s primarily a question of not wasting what we have. And that’s what this event was all about.

What would you make from these ingredients?

For more information about Feeding the 5000 and Fare Share UK visit their websites. 

* Or, if you prefer or don't have a blender, just serve the veg un-whizzed which also preserves the colour better. (Note how the arty photography app Oggl I was playing about with also improves the look of the dish ;-)

** (1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp cider or wine vinegar, 3 tbsp olive or other oil and 2 tbsp plain yoghurt - and a splash of water to thin it)


Sarah said...

Thanks for the ideas on what to do with the raggedy out lettuce leaves. I must remember that.

I like following your thought processes on what to do with ingredients to hand. It's so familiar!

Rebecca Hill said...

It just shows what you can do with a little bit of imagination :) I didn't think of adding lettuce to soup, great tip!
Best wishes.

Ali said...

A good tip if you don't have a blender is to grate all veg before adding to the pot. I make split pea and lentil this way and it has a nice texture without having the big veg 'bits' that put kids off!

Will have a go using up lettuce leaves in a soup

Fiona Beckett said...

Thanks, all - and clever tip, Ali. I'm all for sneaking veg past kids!

Sue said...

For some reason I always thought of lettuce making a soup 'wishy washy', the first time I tried it I was blown away, very pleasantly I might add :-)

Some brilliant meals with the ingredients you had in your £1 veg bag, it's always nice to make the most of everything.

Fiona Beckett said...

@Sue It's actually quite fun - though less so obviously if you're under that kind of constraint all the time

India Food Network said...

It seems very interesting... I'll definately try this !! recently i found an awesome food online channel, you will like it

'Indian Recipes cooking show', 'Indian Cooking Recipe', 'Indian Cooking'

Kate said...

Hello, just found your fab blog. Quick question, could the leek & lettuce soup be frozen? I know lettuce doesn't freeze well but is it different in a soup? Our crop of lettuce is huge and we've got salads coming out of our ears!

Thanks, K xx

Fiona Beckett said...

I haven't done it myself, Kate, but think that should be fine. You might just need to whisk it up a bit when you reheat it