Three brilliant budget-friendly meals that start with a R20 veg soup pack

Thrifty recipes for a rustic vegetable pie, fragrant lentil curry and a hearty beef soup with herbed dumplings

22 July 2021 - 09:38
Rustic veg pie.
Rustic veg pie.
Image: Craig Scott

If you’re scratching your head as to how to stretch your food budget until payday, simply reach for a budget-friendly vegetable soup pack.

In a standard soup pack, which is sold in supermarkets and green grocers for about R15-R20, you’ll usually get the following mix of produce: two carrots, an onion, two turnips, two potatoes, a leek or two, a couple of stalks of celery, a bunch of parsley and sometimes a tomato or two.

Add some creativity and extra ingredients from your spice rack, fridge and store cupboard, and you’ve got everything you need to create an affordable, nourishing and warming meal that’ll feed four to six people.

Try these ideas:

RUSTIC VEGETABLE PIE

The beauty of this wholesome pie is the ease of making it. If you don’t fancy making the simple pastry from scratch, you can buy a roll of shortcrust pastry instead.

Serves: 4- 6

Filling:

1 vegetable soup pack

1 punnet of mushrooms, sliced

4 baby marrows, sliced

1 large red but firm tomato, chopped (if not in the pack), or a handful of cocktail tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

A handful of fresh thyme or 10ml (2 tsp) dried thyme

5ml (1 tsp) chilli flakes (optional)

A splash of olive or vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

2 discs of feta cheese, cut into small blocks (optional)

Pastry:

240g (2 cups) self-raising flour*

5ml (1 tsp) salt

125ml (½ cup) cold water

125ml (½ cup) vegetable oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Sesame seeds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  2. Wash and prep the vegetables in the soup pack. Peel and chop the carrots, onion, turnips and potatoes into blocks. Slice the leeks. Chop the celery and parsley.
  3. Place all the vegetables and the tomatoes in a roasting pan. Add the garlic, thyme and chilli, if using. Pour over a generous splash of oil. Season generously and toss to mix. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
  4. If you've used fresh thyme, remove the thyme stalks, then mix the feta into the veggies and set aside to cool completely before making the pastry.
  5. To make the pastry, combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the water and oil. Make a well in the centre of the flour, pour in the water and oil mixture and, using a wooden spoon, mix until the dough comes together. Don’t over mix or knead.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large circle using a rolling pin. Transfer to a greased baking tray.
  7. Spoon the cold veggies in the centre of the pastry allowing enough room about the edges to fold over the pastry on the sides, while leaving a gap in the middle (see photo above).
  8. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Bake at 180°C for 25 minutes until golden brown.

*Cook's tips: If you don’t have self-raising flour add 10ml (2stp) baking powder to 2 cups of cake flour. You can replace one of these cups with a cup of wholewheat flour if desired.

VEGETABLE AND LENTIL CURRY

Protein-packed lentils have a heart-warming way of dissolving into a dish. They absorb the flavours of the surrounding ingredients like a sponge, while melting into the most satisfying softness.

Vegetable and lentil curry.
Vegetable and lentil curry.
Image: Toby Murphy

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

1 vegetable soup pack

30ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil

1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped

20ml (4 tsp) garam masala mix

20ml (4 tsp) curry powder

125ml (½ cup) red or brown lentils, well rinsed

750ml (3 cups) vegetable stock

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Wash and prep the vegetables in the soup pack. Peel and chop the carrots, onion, turnips, potatoes and tomatoes into blocks. Slice the leeks. Chop the celery and parsley. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oil in a large pan and fry the garlic and onion till just softening. Then add the garam masala and curry powder and fry till fragrant.
  3. Add the remaining vegetables from the soup pack except the chopped parsley, stir through and add the rinsed lentils. Cover the pot with a lid and allow the vegetables to absorb the spices for 4 minutes.
  4. Pour over the stock and canned tomatoes and cook for 45 -60 minutes, stirring from time to time, and adding a little extra stock if needed.
  5. Season generously, add the chopped parsley and cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve with warm homemade or store-bought bread.

CHUNKY BEEF AND VEGETABLE SOUP WITH HERBED DUMPLINGS

Hale and hearty, the dumplings make this soup feel like a complete meal. Serve piping hot as soon as the dumplings are cooked.

Chunky beef and vegetable soup with herbed dumplings.
Chunky beef and vegetable soup with herbed dumplings.
Image: 123RF/victority

Serves: 4 — 6

Ingredients:

1 vegetable soup pack

30ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil

2 pieces of beef shin

1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1,5 litres beef stock

Dumplings:

125g butter or margarine, cut into blocks

240g (2 cups) self-raising flour*

30ml (2 tbsp) fresh herbs, finely chopped, or 10ml (2 tsp) dried mixed herbs

Salt and pepper

150ml milk or water

Method:

  1. Wash and prep the vegetables in the soup pack. Peel and chop the carrots, onion, turnips, potatoes and tomatoes into blocks. Slice the leeks. Chop the celery and parsley. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oil in a pot with a lid and brown the beef shin on both sides. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  3. In the same pot you browned the meat, fry the onion, celery and garlic until just softening. Add the remaining vegetables from the soup pack, cover with the lid and cook for 3 minutes to release the flavours.
  4. Return the beef shin to the pot, pour over the stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes until thickened and reduced. If too thick, add more stock.
  5. While the soup is cooking, make the dumplings by rubbing the butter or margarine into the flour using your fingertips until you have a crumb-like mixture. Add the herbs and season generously. Add the milk or water and, using a round-bladed knife, bring together to form a soft dough. With floured hands, shape the dough into ping pong ball-sized dumplings.
  6. Remove the beef shins from the soup, discard the bones and cut the meat into pieces. Return to the pot.
  7. Bring the soup to a boil. Place the dumplings on top of the soup, close the lid and without lifting it cook for 15 minutes. 
  8. Serve piping hot.

*Cook's tips:

  • If you don’t have self-raising flour add 10ml (2tsp) baking powder to 2 cups of cake flour.
  • You can add any extra vegetables, prepared and chopped, that you have on hand to the soup. Butternut is a good one as are baby marrows. You can also add a handful of barley or lentils to the soup when the stock is added.
  • If you'd prefer a smoother soup, you can process it in a food processor or by using a stick blender after you've removed the meat and before you cook the dumplings.

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