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Courgette Crisis Pasta (77p)

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Based on a recipe from Jack Monroe’s cookingonabootstrap.com.

Back to Jack. Had a go at Jack’s Creamy Greek cheese and courgette pasta. One problem, not a single courgette in the shops due to floods and bad weather in southern Europe.

Interesting going shopping. Some people were staring at the vegetable section in Tesco, grumbling about how they were going to cope without courgettes or iceberg lettuces. The shop is bursting at the seams with all kinds of foods, but they could only talk about what wasn’t there. Made me think how much of the world’s population struggles to find even the basics, not to mention how many Mediterranean farmers will be in dire straits. There were plenty of carrots, however, so … Creamy Greek cheese and carrot pasta.

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The ingredients:

  • 1 large carrot (biggest you can find).
  • 100g string beans.
  • flat teaspoon each of dried mint and parsley (or fresh, of course, if you happen to have it).
  • 1 tablespoon oil.
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon (or a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice).
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped fine.
  • 50g feta (a crumbly Greek cheese).
  • 150g natural yoghurt.
  • 200g pasta of any sort.

Put the carrot, chopped up a bit, and beans with the ends chopped off in a pot of cold water, bring to the boil then simmer. Remove when the carrot’s just soft enough to mash (about 35 minutes from cold). Don’t throw the water away – use it to cook the pasta.

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While the above is simmering, mix the mint, parsley, oil, juice, zest and garlic. Crumble the feta in a saucepan, add the mixture just made and simmer gently for a few minutes, mixing in the yoghurt towards the end.

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I don’t have a ‘zester’, so with a sharp knife I pared the skin off the lemon and chopped it up fine. Do wash the lemon beforehand to get any oils/contaminants off the surface.

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Mash the carrot in the bottom of a dish and put the beans on top, followed by the pasta.

ccbake7Reheat the sauce to make it runny – add more yoghurt or milk if it goes too sticky – and pour it over the top. And there it is! Delightfully colourful. Tasty, tangy and very lemony – could leave out the zest if you think the lemon flavour is going to be too overpowering for you.

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I found this delicious when freshly made, but after a couple of hours, perhaps because the pasta absorbs the moisture, the flavours had diminished and it was less special.

With a cup of tea or coffee, including electricity and washing-up costs, three means for 77p each. No where near Jack’s 28p, so not one for the ultra-budget bracket (< 50p a meal).

Avgolemono Soup (47p)

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2016-12-16-lemon-chicken-0-flagSecond attempt at this one, and with a more pleasing result.

The Greek name for this is Κοτόσουπα Αυγολέμονο (pronounced something like  “koto-zoopa avro-lemono”), literally translating as ‘chicken-soup egg-lemon’.

  • 250 ml chicken stock
  • 1 egg (but see note at bottom)
  • 25 g rice
  • Half a lemon (plus a thin slice for decoration)
  • Garlic clove
  • ½ an onion, red or white
  • 1 carrot
  • flat teaspoon of all-purpose seasoning*
  • 25 g cooked chicken meat
  • pinch of dried parsley

Made my own chicken stock. After cooking a chicken in the crock-pot (AKA slow cooker), poured off the juices, and after they had settled for a few minutes scooped off the fatty layer that separates out on top – the flavour is all in the lower watery part (typically about 250 ml depending on the size of the original chicken).

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Simmered this for an hour with a grated carrot, half a fine-chopped onion, a crushed garlic clove and some all-purpose seasoning thrown in, plus 250 ml water.

Strained this, discarding the veg, and simmered with 25 g rice for 15 minutes, then poured it into a cold bowl to cool down a bit.

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Meanwhile, whisked an egg with the juice of half a lemon – not to a foam, but with a good bit of air in it (I used a hand-blender) – then added this to the stock once it was cool enough. The trick is not to have the stock too hot, otherwise you end up getting scrambled egg. The end result should have a smooth consistency. Threw in 25 g of chicken meat and reheated it to steaming point in a pan before serving. With a thin slice of lemon and sprinkle of parsley it looks fab.

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And there it was! There are numerous variations of avgolemono on the web, some with stock, others chicken broth, others with lumps of chicken and various vegetables thrown in. Some have the sauce floating on top or whipped to a meringue-like consistency, most (like mine) have it blended in. On this occasion it was a little bit ‘eggy’, so would add less of the egg/lemon mix next time.

As the stock was free (the by-product of cooking a chicken) just needed to add up the cost of the other ingredients and electricity. Came to about 78p. As there was enough for two, with a slice of bread and cup of tea, 46p a serving.

* I currently use an equal mixture of Schwartz ‘Season-All’ and Polish ‘giros’ seasoning, but any ‘all purpose’ or ‘universal’ seasoning will do, or a quarter of a chicken stock cube – but not more than that as it will drown out the subtle flavouring of the dish.