The Joyful Frugalista Serina Bird making soup at home in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey
The Joyful Frugalista Serina Bird making soup at home in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey

How to make soup for 35 cents a bowl

Growing up, I loved to hear the story about stone soup. There are many versions of this tale across several different cultures. And Dr Hook even sang a 1970s song about mama's wonderful soup stone, used when times were lean.

The basic soup stone story goes like this: A man was travelling through a foreign country and stopped for the night in a village. He had no food to eat, only a cooking pot. No one in the village would take him in and give him a meal. So, he went to the centre of the village, lit a fire, filled the pot with water, dropped in a smooth river stone and announced: "I'm going to cook a delicious magic soup with this stone - and I'll share it with everyone!"

The Joyful Frugalista Serina Bird making soup at home in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey
The Joyful Frugalista Serina Bird making soup at home in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey

The villagers were curious. Some added some carrots to improve the taste, other herbs, and others added leftovers they had at home. Hey presto! Soon the water and stone were transformed into a hearty soup. There was more than enough for everyone to share.

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One of the magic things about soup is that it's a great way to make over leftovers and tired old vegetables into a crowd pleaser. Have leftover scraps of beef? Make a hearty minestrone. Baked roast chicken for dinner? Simmer the carcass in a slow cooker overnight, with some ginger and star anise, and you have the perfect base for an Asian chicken noodle soup.

And, as I did recently, turn otherwise worthless vegetable scraps into a magical soup.

Soup is a great way to turn leftovers and tired old vegetables into a crowd pleaser. Picture: Sean Davey
Soup is a great way to turn leftovers and tired old vegetables into a crowd pleaser. Picture: Sean Davey

The true value of soup came home to me last week. As I hadn't been shopping for a week I had literally nothing in the fridge - or so I thought.

I searched and found some bits and pieces: my last onion, a limp carrot, a quarter of a cabbage, and some dried soup mix in the back of the cupboard. As everything came together, my apartment was filled with the delicious aroma of simmering soup.

"That tastes surprisingly good," said my friend Erna when she tasted it.

"I know," I laughed. "It's magical what you can do with leftovers when they go into a soup."

35C A SERVE SOUP (8 bowls)

COSTING:

■ Vegetable broth: Free (leftover scraps)

■ Onion: 20c

■ Ginger: 20c

■ Carrot: 35c

■ Cabbage: $1.50

■ Soup mix (barley and beans): 34c

■ Pasta: 20c

TOTAL COST: $2.79

INGREDIENTS

• A bag of clean, leftover vegetable scraps (you can keep in the freezer until needed)

• Bay leaves (optional)

• 1 onion, chopped

• 1 slurp of vegetable oil

• 2cm piece of ginger, minced (optional)

• 1 large carrot, chopped

• ¼ cup of dried soup mix (barley, lentils, etc)

• ¼ large green cabbage, sliced

• ¼ cup dried small pasta (macaroni or broken spaghetti pieces)

METHOD

1. To make a vegetable broth, add vegetable scraps to a large saucepan with 3 litres of boiling water. Add some bay leaves if you have them. Bring to the boil then simmer for about an hour. Alternatively, place in a slow cooker and simmer overnight. Drain, reserving the broth and discarding the vegetable scraps.

2. To make the soup, fry onion in a little bit of oil until browned (don't burn it, but a bit of colour will add flavour). Add ginger (if using) and carrot. Fry for a few more minutes.

3. Add the broth. Bring to the boil and add the soup mix. Season with salt and pepper (I generally find that as no salt has been added, I need more than I realise). Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour or so, until soup mix is tender.

4. About 30 minutes before serving, return pot to the boil. Add cabbage and pasta.

5. Serve with crusty bread as soon as pasta is cooked.

OPTIONAL: Zing this soup up with fresh herbs, such as parsley, or a dollop of pesto sauce. Vary this basic recipe by adding whatever veggies you have lurking in your crisper.

Originally published as How to make soup for 35 cents a bowl



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