The storm front that hit our State on this day was unprecedented. It knocked out the entire power grid and left the whole State without electricity.
Fortunately for us, on this day I was working from home and had lit the fire. I had used my lunchbreak to make a pot of soup, and was able to transfer this to the fireplace when the blackout hit, ensuring we all had food for the evening. Our friends, who live in the neighbouring suburb, were able to come over and share the heat from our fireplace, and we had enough food for everyone. While the soup was not vegetarian, we did have sandwich fixings (not very interesting fixings, I’ll admit).
Our power returned three hours later, but our friends’ power remained off for almost three days, so the next day I made a stew and baked potatoes enough to share.
I don’t have photos, because we were saving our battery power for important things, like emergency calls.
This soup can easily be made vegetarian – just omit the bacon and use vegetable stock. It is also gluten-free, as I use a gluten-free bacon.
This soup would have been improved by the addition of some fresh thyme or rosemary, but there was no way I was stepping outside to pick some.
2 onions, finely chopped – 20 cents
2 stalks celery, finely sliced – 50 cents
2 carrots, peeled and finely sliced – 20 cents
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced – $1
100 grams bacon, chopped – $1
1 cup red lentils, washed and soaked – $1
8 cups chicken stock – free
1 teaspoon salt – 1 cent
2 tablespoons olive oil – 24 cents
Heat the olive oil in a deep, heavy-based pot (fortuitously on this day, I used my Le Creuset cast-iron pot, which meant it was easy to transfer it to my fireplace).
Sweat the vegetables in the pot on a low heat until soft. This will take about ten minutes.
Add the bacon and cook for a further five minutes.
Add the lentils, and stir well.
Pour over 3/4 of the chicken stock, reserving the remaining two cups. You will need to add them as the soup thickens and reduces. Stir well and reduce heat to a low simmer. Allow to slowly cook for the remainder of a wintry afternoon, adding the reserved stock as required to loosen the soup.
When it comes time to serve, mash with a potato masher, leaving some of the vegetables ‘lumpy’ and some pureed by the masher. Add the salt and any remaining stock to loosen the soup, and serve with bread by candlelight with good friends.
Total cost: $4.15
Per person (serves 8 or six with extra helpings): 51 cents
1 kg porterhouse steak, trimmed of fat and diced – $10
1 onion, finely diced – 10 cents
1 cup chopped mushrooms – $1
1 cup chopped artichoke hearts in oil or brine – $2
1 clove garlic, minced – 5 cents
4 tablespoons olive oil – 48 cents
1/3 cup tomato paste – 50 cents
2 cups vegetable stock – free
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley – free
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed – $1
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep, heavy-based ovenproof pot. In batches, seal the beef in the pan, taking care not to crowd the pan (otherwise the meat will stew and not seal). As each batch of meat browns, remove to a plate lined with paper towel.
When all the meat is browned, set aside.
Turn down the heat.
Put the rest of the olive oil in the pan, and add the onion. Cook until golden, and then add the garlic and mushrooms and stir well. Put the meat back into the pan, and stir in the parsley and the tomato paste, coating the meat with the tomato paste. Add the artichokes, and stir well.
Pour in the stock and the beans and mix.
Place the pot in the oven and cook for 2-3 hours.
At the 1.5 hour mark, place a tray of scrubbed potatoes into the oven, ensuring you have extra potatoes for vegetarians.
Ensure you check the stew often to ensure it is not drying out. Add some water to the stew if required, and stir well.
At three hours, remove the pot from the oven, and allow the potatoes to continue cooking. Season the stew with salt and pepper and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Serve with steamed broccoli, butter, sour cream and cheese for the potatoes, and bread and butter.
Total cost: $15.13
Per person (serves 8): $1.89