Cheap eats January #9: Minestrone soup



Easy to make, tasty to eat. Children love having pasta in soup too.


You will need…

2 medium onions (red are best but white are fine if that’s what you’ve got) halved and sliced
2 medium carrots, top and tailed, peeled and sliced
1 stick celery sliced
600ml of vegetable or chicken stock*
100g dried borlotti beans soaked overnight and boiled for about an hour and a half
Carton of chopped tomatoes**
100-150g savoy cabbage shredded
2 tablespoons of olive oil
100g of pasta (gluten free if need be)

How to…

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
Add the onion, carrots and celery, and cook until soft and onions are translucent.
Add the cabbage and tomatoes, stir well.
Pour in the stock.
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add the pasta and the beans and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
Serve topped with grated parmesan or cheddar and crusty bread.

*Ideally use low salt stock or home made
*If tomatoes are in season, use 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped.


This soup costs £2.43 to make and serves 4-6 people. If you use organic bacon then it costs £4.58 to make.


A quarter of this soup for an adult will provide good amounts of fibre, potassium, folate and vitamin C and some calcium, and magnesium an, iron and zinc, as well as selenium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6


5 minute oriental chicken soup


This is probably our favourite dish at the moment. With the light evenings the girls have been going to bed late so we have less time in the evening. This soup is perfect, because it literally takes 5 minutes to cook (and 5 minutes tops to prepare) is healthy and delicious.

I haven’t had time recently to make my own stock. I buy organic free range stock cubes, firstly because I know organic free range farming has higher animal welfare standards compared to factory farming as the chickens have access to outdoors and are kept in a lower stocking density (less chickens per square metre). Also organic farmers are not per permitted to use antibiotics. Finally under organic standards, additives such as MSG are not permitted for use. So organic is a label you can trust.

You can use a very low salt stock cube, I don’t, because I don’t eat processed foods and don’t add salt to my food, so I know i don’t have much added salt in my diet.

I often make this dish it on a day when I am making chicken stirfry for the girls, so i can use the same ingredients for both meals. Usually I just have tat soi (my favourite Chinese greens at the moment), mushrooms and sometimes purple spouting broccoli, it all depends on what I have in the fridge. Anyway, experiment and see what flavours work for you. I sometimes have a few sliced chillies on top, if you like hot food you can add it to the stock, but this makes it all too spicy for me as it infuses the whole soup. My husband has noodles in his soup but I prefer it without.

I have made a version of this with Wild Alaskan salmon which I will post soon, and will try to make it with tofu too as that will work well.

You will need…

Serves 2

2 organic skinless chicken breasts (about 200g in total)

1 organic chicken stock cube or 600ml homemade chicken stock

200g of pak choi or tat soi Washed and sliced

2-3 garlic cloves sliced

A thumbnail chunk of ginger peeled and sliced

Handful of chestnut mushrooms sliced

Half a pepper sliced (optional)

2-4 spring onions (optional)

Free range egg noodles (optional)

How to…

Bring the stock to the boil in a pan.

Add the ginger, garlic and chicken breasts whole to the stock.

The chicken needs to cook for 5 minutes and not much more otherwise it starts to toughen up.

Add the noodles to the pan and put the lid on.

A minute later add purple sprouting broccoli, spring onions and/or mushrooms.

A minute before the end add the tat soi or pak choi.

Put the lid on and allow to steam.

Divide the soup between bowls.

Slice the chicken (check that its cooked through) and arrange on top of the soup.

Sprinkle with coriander and serve with a dash of soy sauce.

Pick up a pumpkin

I know, I know, this time of year there are so many recipes for pumpkin soup and pictures of creatively carved pumpkins. As well as giving you a super easy recipe – its extra nutritious as i’ve included red lentils to add a little protein and minerals, and there’s info on where you can pick your own in Dorset.

So first you’ve got to choose your pumpkin. We are lucky enough to live up the road from Sopley pick your own farm.

Pumpkins as far as the eye can see
My daughter didn’t pick the biggest she could find but sensibly went for one more her size – this beauty cost us all of £1.30. And if you don’t feel like trudging out to the field you can always choose one from the farm shop.


Pumpkins are not the only veg
Pumpkins are not the only veg

Before you make the soup – don’t forget to get creative …

Spooky pumpkin




Pumpkin and red lentil soup

Pumpkin and red lentil soup

Prep time: about 40 minutes
Serves: 6-8


1 pumpkin
2 onions
1 crushed garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 stock cubes mixed with 1-1.5 litres of water (low salt stock cubes are good for young children)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds or ground cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds (ground in a pestle or between greaseproof paper with a rolling pin!) or ground coriander
100-200g red lentils

How to…

  • Peel and cube the pumpkin.
  • Dice the onion and fry in a big saucepan in the olive oil with the garlic.
  • When the onion is soft and translucent add the pumpkin and stir well.
  • Add the coriander and cumin, stir and continue to fry for about 5 mins.
  • Add the red lentils (100g for a small pumpkin 200g for a larger one) stir and fry for a few more minutes then add the made up stock – 1ltr for a smaller pumpkin 1.5 litres for a bigger one.
  • Cook for 10-15 minutes and then blend.
  • Serve with bread
  • It tastes even better the next day (will last up to about 3-4 days in the fridge), you can freeze it too.

Cost: For a big pumpkin soup the cost is £3.77, each 250ml portion costs 38p.

For a 5 year old, a 250ml portion of soup has:
Just under half of their recommended daily iron
Almost three quarters of their daily recommended Vitamin A
Nearly a quarter of their daily recommended folate
Just over 10% of their recommended calcium
1 quarter of their daily magnesium

Postscript 31 October 2012

We didn’t get to Sopley farm until today and there were hardly any pumpkins left. Still, we managed to find these out in the field…


They only cost £2.70.

This year I’ve gone for smaller pumpkins as they have better flavour.

I’ve made the soup with the pumpkin flesh I scraped out and my husband’s got a roasted pumpkin and pasta recipe from the BBC website that he’ll make from the whole pumpkins. You can also make a lovely pumpkin pie with the flesh, click here for my one for gluten free, lower sugar pumpkin pie