- Onion, garlic, grated fresh ginger if possible or dried powdered ginger at a push, a dash of dried chilli, a good bit of turmeric, cumin, coriander and fry gently in vegetable oil with a teaspoon of salt.
- Meanwhile rinse, drain and rinse again a pack of chana otherwise known as dried yellow peas. Boil until semi-soft then drain and rinse again and add to the onion and spice mix.
- Add a carton of orange juice and finish cooking the chana through.
This should turn out to be a semi-sweet, highly fragrant and creamy concoction with a warming bite at the end of a spoonful. You can make this is thick or as thin as you like, but a good cooking and maybe partially blending half of this makes the velvety texture of the chana sing through. This is a very cheap meal and can be eaten thick with chapatti or fluffy garlic naan. Even a buttered, hot pitta bread would go down well with this. It can also be topped with yoghurt, toasted almonds, coriander or extra chilli or my favourite; a stack of very crispy fried onions.
You can change the basic set up using chick peas or red lentils depending what you can get your hands on. Try vegetable stock and lime juice instead of the orange juice, or coconut milk. Carrots, parsnip and potatoes can all be added if you have them to make a thicker concoction that stretches a bit further, but to be fair, the basic ingredients are so cheap that making a bit vat of this for everyone to share won't cost more than a couple of quid.
White Bean Soup: A stock cupboard savior where a few bits can create something rather spesh... This tastes and looks a lot more complicated and expensive than it is, so it's great to give to guests that you want to enamor.
- White beans, soaked and partially cooked. These can be cannellini beans, butter beans, black eyes beans, fava beans... These tend to sell at about 3 or 4 for £1 at the Asian supermarkets so are well worth filling up your grandma shopping trolley with, dragging home and stashing... This is budget food at it's finest...
- The ubiquitous onion and garlic, celery if you have it, a peeled potato or two and a good pinch of thyme and a bit of lemon peel.
- Fry all the ingredients but don't brown them, and add in the partially cooked white beans and some stock.
- Cook through thoroughly and then remove the lemon peel and any thyme stalks then either blend into a creamy, silky soup or do half-and half for a bit of texture.
- The final ingredient is white pepper. Somehow this elevates the dish into something really decent and almost truffle-y.
Yoghurt, cream or a squeeze of fresh lemon go well on top of this soup and it can also be made with butterbeans or chickpeas. I have made a very thick and stew-y version and eaten it with a mound of fried leeks on top.
You can also serve this with a homemade pesto for a very rich and exclusive-feeling treat.
- If you toast some nuts (hazels, almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts) then grind them up with a teeny bit of raw garlic, some crunchy crystal salt and a teeny pinch of brown sugar, you should get a rubbly-textured pesto that can be spooned on top. This can be jarred and kept in the fridge for a few days and can elevate some plain cooked spaghetti with parsley and parmesan to something pretty special. Melted cheese on a crusty bread can also benefit from a sprinkling of homemade pesto. You can also use on salads or on top of couscous.
Cauliflower Cheese Soup: This is autumn fayre, to be fair and there just is something about the lower in the sky sun that gets me craving cauliflower cheese. Make it into a soup? Why the hell not!
- Onion and garlic fried until softened, a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, then add the cauliflower florets added in with a peeled potato, some stock and bubble until all softened. YOu can use the cheapy, cheapy frozen cauliflower florets for this ad make a big batch for a couple of quid...
- Whizz through until silky then add in some grated cheese bit by bit, making sure it's all well mixed and melted. A good grinding of black and white pepper and then stick face into bowl and suck up noisily.
Carrot Soup: The mighty carrot can be paired with a number of flavours in soup and its bright colour is appetising and health-full looking and the sweetness of the carrot lends itself to a number of options. Kids seem to like carrot soup and again this is a batch-cook beast that can be resurrected from the freezer for a quick teatime meal...
- the usual onion, garlic, peeled potato and carrot with stock-theme-base here, and then you can add cumin and fennel seeds and dried chilli to make sweet-spicy soup.
- Sprinkle the final, blended result with garam dusted yoghurt for nice contrast and mop up with a hot naan.
If you want to make soups very quickly I recommend grating up the vegetables. In this way you can have a soup conjured up in twenty minutes and there is something about reducing the cooking time that leaves the ingredients tasting fresher.
This soup can also be tweaked to form a middle-eastern type of affair by adding a dash of zesty sumac, toasted caraway seeds and some finely shredded mint leaves at the end. If you want a more substantial meal then turn this dish into something super special by making a accompaniment of hot buttered pittas stuffed with a mix of fried garlic and spinach mixed with raisins and cinnamon. Just typing that sentence made my mouth water! Neeeeed stuffed pitta with that filling... Yum...
You can also eat this in a hearty stew leaving the carrots chunky and adding in grated raw ginger, turmeric and cumin when you fry the onions and garlic. Just use a little stock so it's not swimming in soup and serve with toasted cashew nuts.
Carrot soup also seems to do well when paired with grated apple; the apple thickens the soup and adds a refreshing tang to the end result. This is really good with brown bread toast with honey. Jeees, my mouth is watering again. Luckily I can see dinner crisping up in the oven as I type- tonight, we are having baked spudzzz, roasted onions and apples, grated strong cheese and spesh baked beans which are the dead cheap tinned baked beans with a dash of cider vinegar, a smidge of smoked paprika and a splodge of maple syrup... again, my way of taking a bobby basic and up-eating it with a few dashes of specialness added...