Saturday, 10 November 2012

Frugal Cooking: Stew & Lentils

Last week’s recipes that won in my frugal kitchen are again from David’s mum and from Rose Elliot’s Bean Book. It’s getting quite cool here, with daily highs of around 8 and the temperature getting below zero at night, so I’ve been craving lots of hearty, warm food. I really felt like having beef & barley soup, and it just so happened that there was a recipe for that in David’s cookbook.

Beef & Barley Soup

Making the soup highlighted some interesting aspects of the grocery stores in our neighbourhood. For one thing, celery seemed to be more of a luxury item – there was only one brand available, it cost more than I would normally pay, and it looked nicer than what you normally get! The other problem was barley – I had the German word for it, gerste, but the package I found at the grocery didn’t feel quite like it should. However it did have a recipe for gerstesuppe on the back so I knew that whatever it was it would do the trick. It appears that the barley I’ve got has been ground so it’s a lot like bulgar. It works just fine in soup but it’s not the same as pearl barley (which is my favourite thickening agent in soups).

The soup was pretty good on the first day, although I wished on that day that it had a little more zing. However by the next time we had it, two days later, it was incredible. Two days of the flavours enhancing in the fridge really elevated it to new levels of deliciousness – the broth was so rich and beefy that it was like having a roast dinner. The beef was tender but not stringy and the mushrooms had mellowed out a little. It was excellent. We’ve been having it with thick slices of German bread-and-butter. Although the initial outlay for the soup was a bit on the expensive side, since it calls for stewing beef instead of ground beef and two types of broth, we managed to get three day’s of suppers from  so that made it quite inexpensive in the end. I varied slightly from the recipe, but not much – I used a little less beef and a few more mushrooms, because those were the quantities sold in the store. I also think I had closer to 1 cup of celery...and I neglected to follow the instructions exactly so I’ll write those out as I did it, not as the recipe says:

750g stewing beef, cut to roughly ½” cubes
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tbsp oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
½ cup chopped celery
1 lb mushrooms, quartered
3 tsp crushed garlic
¼ tsp dried thyme
2 cups beef broth
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
½ cup barley

Heat the oil in a large pot and toss in the beef, salt, and pepper. Stir everything around so that the beef is nicely coated with the oil and seasonings, and then proceed to brown the beef. Provided you’ve used a nice big pot, once the beef is mostly browned you can toss in the onion, celery, and carrots and cook them for about 5 minutes (until soft). Then stir in the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme and cook for another 5 minutes. Next add the broths & water (or in my case, 6 cups of water and some stock powders), stirring to get any bits up from the bottom. Add the barley, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 1.5hrs until the beef is tender. Add more water as necessary. Delicious with rye bread & butter! Serves 6 – 8 and keeps well in the fridge, although you might want to add a splash or two of water when reheating because the barley soaks up a lot of the broth.

Quick Lentil Curry

The other winner this week was the curry we had for our Friday supper. I am not a huge lentil fan, unless they’re in a well-spiced broth or sauce, so I was wondering how this recipe would turn out. I’ve had too many “quick curry” recipes fall far short of expectations, which is why I tend to make most of my curries a) from scratch & b) from recipes provided by real Indians. This one, however, did not disappoint. As Mrs Elliot points out in her book, it’s an English-style curry – it’s got fruit in it and is on the sweeter side. I followed her recommendation of serving with mango chutney and it was spot on. The dish itself is quite cheap to make, so much so that the jar of mango chutney cost more than what I had to buy to make the curry! I used a mango & ginger chutney, and was quite liberal with ground pepper when I seasoned the dish, so it had a delightful warm spiciness to it. The recipe serves four huge portions and is great on basmati rice cooked in broth:

2 onions, peeled & chopped
1 apple, chopped (you can peel if you like but I didn’t find it necessary)
3 tbsp oil
1 bay leaf
1.5 tbsp curry powder (although I think I used closer to 2)
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
350g split red lentils, washed
850ml water
salt, pepper, & lemon juice

Sauté the onions and apple in the oil for five minutes, and then add the bay leaf, curry powder, and garlic. Cook for a further 4 minutes. Add the lentils, stirring to coat them with the oil & spice. Add the water and give everything a good stir to ensure the lentils don’t stick to the bottom. Bring to a boil, cover, and then simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes. Split lentils cook quickly & stick easily so I recommend stirring a couple of times and watching the heat. The lentils should be nice & soft, with most of the water absorbed, so that you’re left with a yellow, soft mess of beans. Then season liberally with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve with mango chutney spread on top. Add a vegetable to the side and this dish will easily hit 3 servings of fruit/veg for the day!


  1. I made this for dinner tonight! It turned out well! I didn't have chutney, so we used sweet & sour sauce and that was fine, lent a bit of sweetness. Served it with sliced cucumber, tomato, and quartered banana (that's how my Grampa serves his English curry, usually with ripple chips as well).

  2. I figured, lol -- I'm glad it worked out. Finding tasty & healthy things to eat on Friday is always a challenge, since general idea of vegetarian food is just to make pasta and load it with sauce & cheese :)

    The mango chutney I used was a little salty and had ginger in it which gave a good bite. I imagine the sweet & sour must've done the same :)