Summer appears to be racing by at a dizzying pace, wildly spinning the wheel of weather as she goes. From sultry heatwaves to spectacular storms, August has given us plenty of gloriously sunny days too. It’s always a busy month for us, celebrating birthdays in the first few days & our anniversary later in the month (there’s much cake to be baked & eaten!). Breakfasts, lazy lunches, pasta & Prosecco have all been enjoyed on the patio, while the plants have been abundant with their produce & easily picked for dinner.
The last few months, I’ve been sharing the home office with Mr Hungry (his upstairs, mine down) & it’s been a change most households have seen this year. There are some downsides (other people can hear & see you on live calls), but there are plenty of ups too! Not so long ago, we would meet for lunch in town to share a coffee & a few kisses, before wandering back to work. This brief interlude would put a pep in my step & make the afternoon brighter – we have now have resumed our mid-day meet-ups. Even though we are all in much closer proximity at the moment, it doesn’t mean we should become territorial about sharing space with our loved ones.
Shopping has recently become a bit like a treasure hunt, heightening our resourcefulness & making us more aware of our limited pantry. This is nothing new to some of us, especially those on a limited budget or diet. Being frugal can be a blessing, especially in the taste department. Think of it as one of those old TV shows, where you were given a bag of ingredients & had to make a delicious dish. It’s a challenge, but you’re up to it!
One of my favourite frugal recipes is based on an old minestrone soup. Hearty, healthy & heaped with lots of little ingredients that don’t cost much. We call this the Coupler Soup, because you need a couple of this & a couple of that. We’ve all bought a tin of this, a packet of that, hoping to use it in some elaborate & exquisite dish, but shoving it to the back of the cupboard. Bits of leftover dried pasta, a random tin of beans & that twisted up tube of tomato puree with a tiny bit left. All seemed a bit pointless when you popped them in there, but now they are like gold dust! You might notice I’ve used spinach instead of Cavolo Nero or cabbage. This is simply because I like spinach on my pizza & there’s always a bit leftover, just enough to chuck in a soup or whizz into a delicious pesto, as you will know if you’ve been following my blog. Over the years, I’ve adjusted the recipe to accommodate whatever ingredients were available, but it always has the same result – soupy satisfaction!
One of the main ingredients for this recipe is fresh chicken stock & here’s the link to my stock recipe: https://hopeyourehungry.co.uk/a-bird-in-the-hand-is-worth-ten-in-a-dish/ . I dilute it for this recipe, with a little water to wash out the tomato tin. If you prefer to use a stock cube, make enough according to the instructions on the pack. Ready to take the plunge? Hands washed, aprons on & here we go!
What you need:
2 pints of fresh Chicken Stock, well-strained if homemade
4 rashers Bacon (I used streaky smoked or whatever is in the freezer)
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
2 medium Carrots, washed & finely chopped
2 sticks Celery, washed & finely chopped
2 dried Bay Leaves
1 tin White Beans, drained (such as Cannellini or Haricot beans, whatever you have available)
1 tin Italian Plum Tomatoes (save the tin for measuring your pasta)
2 handfuls of Dried Pasta (see above)
2 handfuls of fresh Spinach, washed & chopped chunky, stems & all
1 tablespoon Tomato Puree
1 sprig fresh Rosemary – remove leaves & chop finely (keep the stalk)
2 cloves fresh Garlic, chopped finely
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground Black Pepper
What to do:
Prepare your ingredients first – wash, peel & chop finely as above. Set them aside, ready to start. Keep the Rosemary stalk & dry it – they make fabulous skewers for mini kebabs (slide whole cherry tomatoes & bocconcini on, then bake for 5 minutes in a hot oven – delicious!).
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep saucepan (you will need the lid for later) & using some good kitchen scissors, finely snip the smoked bacon into the pan. Let it sizzle for a couple of moments, allowing it to render it’s fat (this adds essential flavour & in all honesty, it’s a miniscule amount).
Add the onion, carrot & celery to the pan, mixing well with the bacon & oil. Give everything a good stir & fry for about 4-5 minutes, until slightly softened & the onion become glossy.
Tip in the garlic & Rosemary into the vegetables & then add the beans. Add the chicken stock & bay leaves, stirring everything gently together.
Pour the plum tomatoes into your hand over the pan, squishing them carefully into the liquid (you can always tip them into a bowl & do this beforehand, if you prefer).
Fill the tin with cold water, swish it around to get the last drops of tomato juice & pour into the pan.
Using the empty tin, fill it with dried pasta pieces – whatever you’ve got in the cupboard is fine. This recipe is to make the most of those leftover bits you’ve been saving for a rainy day – well it’s chucking it down now! Carefully, without splashing yourself, sprinkle them into the soupy liquid.
Add the tomato puree, tip the chopped spinach into the pan & get stirring, mixing everything together.
Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer & put the lid half on the pan. Let it bubble away softly for about 15-20 minutes, giving it a swirl around with the spoon occasionally.
Using a clean spoon, have a taste of your soup & adjust the seasoning to your personal taste (get a clean spoon before tasting again). It’s worth noting that any stock (homemade or shop-bought), along with bacon, contain salt, so you shouldn’t need to add much. When you’re happy with the flavour, turn off the heat & tuck in!
Scoop your soup generously into bowls, making sure you get to the bottom of the pan! Add some well-buttered, crusty bread for dunking & indulge in some soupy comfort food. Ladle any leftovers into tubs or pots when cooled, pop them into the fridge & save for another day (it should keep in there for a couple of days at least). I’ve used jam jars to stash soup in the fridge, just put an upturned cupcake case on the jar before putting on the lid (it gives it a bit of a better seal).
Although an everyday soup, it can also be turned into a souptacular starter. Got a bit of day old bread that needs using up? Make your own croutons! Cut into cubes (as chunky or dainty as you like), drizzle with a little olive oil & bake on a tray in the oven at 220*C for about 10-15 minutes (give them a shake halfway through cooking). Once bronzed & crisp, tip them onto a sheet of greaseproof paper on a cooling rack, before transferring to a serving plate for people to help themselves. Pile a few in the centre of your soup, swirl with a little olive oil & a dusting of grated Parmesan. That’s it!
Whether a romantic lunch or a suppertime starter, try my Coupler Soup to use up those random ingredients & create a hearty, wholesome soup! Stay hungry! Aimee 😉 x