We announced the start of a new series of posts last week with a promise to launch today. The full details are here but the premise is simple – creating good, wholesome food at affordable pricing as a means to support and create a dialogue in which we can share how to eat wholesome food at a fraction of a price of fast food alternatives. The terms gourmet and cheap are relative – the term Tuesday is not.
I had something else in mind until I discovered at 7pm last night that I didn’t have the ingredients that I thought I did. It was time to scramble – I needed to eat, make something fast, healthy and affordable. We also haven’t done groceries this week so pickings looked thin – imagination was going to be key.
I have been buying a lot of squash lately. It is local, seasonal and stores well. You can find squash for as low as $0.50 a pound right now as well. It’s an awesome staple to keep on hand for situations like this. I had bought these weeks ago and they were still plenty good:
It was time for a hearty autumn soup. I started by peeling the squash (you can use a peeler and pairing knife for uneven parts), chunked it up, added a few cloves of garlic and coated in a small bit of oil and seasoning (salt, pepper, chilis, dried savoury) and roasted in the oven at 375 until it went soft. Once it was very tender I mashed it with a potato masher.
In a large pot I browned 4 thick slices of cubed pork belly (unsmoked bacon). Pork belly is a great buy – it is often thicker than bacon and available by the slice. It is also often more local than the corporate packaged stuff, usually sliced on site and free of added salt or other “bonuses.” I paid $2.70 for 4 thick slices (they were about 50% longer and 2.5 thicker than regular bacon). I tossed in an old onion that we had lying around at the end which added flavor and absorbed some of the minimal fat in the pan.
Once the bacon was brown and the bottom filled with sticky browning I added a bit of chicken stock to deglaze the pan (just throw a bit in and stir to clear the bottom of the pan and add flavor). Chicken stock is very affordable to make yourself (we will share tips in the future) but we only had a commercial box – another thing we keep on hand in case of a sudden need and “no groceries.” Once the browning was raised we added the remaining contents of the stock.
Commercial stock adds to the price and we wanted more liquid without sacrificing taste. We grated a large raw potato into the soup and added enough water to bring our soup back to liquid (about 2 cups). It’s a great way to extend your broth, add flavor, texture and more vegetable. The starches in the potato also thicken your soup in a hurry and add a heartiness to it that pairs so well with early winter.
Our last step was to add grated nutmeg which is far superior to the pre-ground stuff and can often be purchased in bulk as well.
Total cost for 8-10 portions of this hearty local fare was under $13. That’s $1.30-$1.60 per serving – it was so filling that neither of us went for seconds.