What happened to simple thrift?
I had only to look at the Sunday papers this morning to see the state of public finances; a monument to the philosophy of seeing how much you can spend rather than what you can achieve.
However, here at the Abbey, things have been a bit tight on the financial front too. This weekend I had a number of my fellows to feed, and I was wondering what to do on a limited budget. A turned to my friend Sister Eva Longoria for help and advice. Her answer was to create a simple broth. Here is the basic recipe for a family of four.
One stock cube (vegetable, or any which goes with the meat).
One cup of dried vegetable soup mix: it’s lentils, barley, split peas and stuff. You can get it at your local supermarket. A packet costs about £1 and it goes a very long way. DO PLEASE NOTE that you’re supposed to either soak it overnight or boil it well before use otherwise you may end poisoned. However, if you let your broth simmer for a good few hours then there shouldn’t be a problem. Don’t use more than one cup because it expands like mad.
A cheap unfashionable cut of meat from your local butcher – lamb is best. Much cheaper than the supermarket and almost always better quality and taste. A cut on the bone often makes it tastier.
Any handy old veg you have to hand, rough chopped up into small pieces. Plenty of onions are good. Potatoes add body. Not too much of any one vegetable because it tends to “take over” the dish.
Salt and pepper to taste.
That the basic but you can add whatever you want or have to hand to bulk it up; canned pulses, frozen peas, carrots – whatever you have.
Pop them all into a big casserole dish. Very soon you will find the pot is overflowing with good, healthy and cheap ingredients. You will probably find you are using stuff which you would otherwise end up throwing out.
Then you can add whatever you want to pep it up depending on your taste. Garlic is good. Even better than powder or paste, just strip out as many cloves as you want from the bulb, peel off the outer skin and bung then bung them in whole. They taste wonderful when roasted through and are very cleansing for the blood. Or add turmeric; another cleansing agent. Paprika gives a kick. You could slip in some curry powder and red peppers if you like.
Add water (of course) and leave it all to cook on a low heat for a long time; at least a full afternoon. That is the key. Let it simmer for a good few hours at least on a low heat (make sure it does boil dry – just keep it low). We are fortunate enough to have a big special pressure cooker that does the job very well.
Anyway, with the assistance of the Good Sister Eva, very soon a great vat of broth was prepared yesterday lunchtime for almost no money. It took almost no time to do either. It was then left to simmer away for an afternoon whilst we decamped to the rifle range, where I was spotting for Sister E who was trying out her new toy, a 0.5 in Barrett sniper rifle. I am sure that I speak for all at the Abbey when I say that Brian the gardener, who has served us so well for nearly forty years, will be sadly missed.
After a lovely afternoon in the autumn sun we retired to consume a huge amount of delicious, warming, and very cheap broth or stew (who cares what you call it) with bread and butter, all washed down with a very nice red. It was lovely.
Leftovers were “freshened up” today for lunch. You can also freeze them in a little Tupperware box for later in the week.
This got me thinking. Why stop there?
I remembered that I used to bake my own bread just using the ordinary mix from the supermarket. Not only was it delicious, especially when hot from the oven, but it was certainly good for me (let’s just say I had no problems staying regular). And more importantly, it was just great fun to do, and very satisfying. The smell was lovely. It was real life and real food.
The same with wine. We have got out of the habit (no pun intended) of making our own here, but I remember that some of my favourite ever was a raspberry wine made with the help of Sister E a few years ago, just using a simple kit. Again, it was fascinating and satisfying to do. Maybe we could do it again and go further, using the real ingredients? True my attempts of home brew beer were always horrid, but maybe I could lean to do it better?
And from these humble thoughts I extrapolated. Why isn’t thrift taught in schools? I don’t know what the position is in schools anymore, but what happened to home economics?
And how about this for a program.
Abandon the reliance on GCSE’s and A levels. No child should be allowed to leave school without somehow:
- Being literate and numerate
- Learning how to cook and learning what to cook
- Being informed that the first duty of the citizen is to be financially self reliant and not dependant on the state
- Being informed that happiness does not depend upon spending, credit and consumption, but on a proper understanding of the phrase “enough is enough.”
OK, I know it’s a bit Utopian, but you get the point. And then thinking about the shelves of my local supermarket, stacked high with “ready meals” and oven chips and pizza’s, being consumed by increasingly corpulent kids all craving their Ritalin fix, it did occur to me that this program might not find favour with the corporations and multinationals who provide and profit from so much of this c**p; or from the politicians and banks who would have us as work slaves, metaphorically chained to the oars of the economy, rowing endlessly and pointlessly on.
It’s amazing what a bowl of broth can do.
© Gildas the Monk