Carrot, Cumin & Kidney Bean Soup, 18p [VG/V/DF/GF]

If I recall correctly, this was the first recipe I ever posted on this blog, typed in my then freezing cold, uncarpeted flat that I was on the verge of being evicted from, cobbled together from the supermarket basics I could make work with the change I could find around the house, because my bank account was so deeply overdrawn with charges from bounced bills, change was all we had. The recent furore with the Conservatives where they upheld me as an example of ‘anyone can manage on £10 a week’ (which I excoriatingly refuted), has left me feeling bruised and emotionally broken. I wanted to write another recipe, but I felt sullied, trite, misappropriated, and used. So instead I am going to rewrite my recipes from 2012 – that many of you will not have seen buried beneath the beautiful new ones – and re-cost them to demonstrate the soar in prices in the Basics range over the last 6 years, and how it is always the poorest who shoulder the burden of economic inequality. People often deride me for costing my recipes at Sainsburys – but the method behind that particular madness is sound. When I was shit poor, Sainsburys was the only supermarket within walking distance to my house, so it was quite literally my only reliable option. I have continued to price my recipes on their Basics range for the last few years as a way of monitoring price rises, disappearing products, and changes in packaging sizes in a detailed and comprehensive manner. You can shop wherever you like – and I envy those of you with Aldi and Lidl and Asda in your vicinities – I just use the orange supermarket as my benchmark for price indexing, and the changes may shock you.

This is a protein and flavour packed soup for not very much money at all – and the ingredients also make the Carrot, Cumin & Kidney Bean Burger, and with a little chocolate and subbing in kidney beans, the Chocolate, Chilli & Black Bean Soup, too. And from there you can make the bean chilli, and you have 4 different meals from the same base ingredients to get you started.

Serves 4 

1 onion, 10p (90p/1.5kg, Sainsburys Basics. In 2012 this would have been 5p as part of a 1.25kg Basics stew pack, that was discontinued a few years ago. Price increase: 100%)

2 tablespoons oil or other fat, 3p (£3/3l, Sainsburys – as far as I recall this price has not risen, but it is from the mid-range, not the Basics)

1 heaped tablespoon ground cumin, 5p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand. Still the same price – ‘world foods’ goods barely change in price and these spices are an excellent staple, much cheaper than the supermarket own at £1 for 38g!)

300g carrots, tinned or fresh, 14p (45p/1kg, Sainsburys Basics) Again, in 2012 this would have been 10p as part of a Basics stew pack, that was discontinued a few years ago. Price increase: 40%) 

1 stock cube, dissolved in 500ml boiling water, 4p (35p/10 stock cubes. In 2012 this would have been 1p, as 10 Basics stock cubes were 10p. Price increase: 250%.)

1 x 400g tin of red kidney beans, 35p (These were 17p in 2012. Price increase: 106%)

2012 price: 41p. 2018 price: 71p. I note that the M&S £10 meal deal is still £10 and the Charlie Bighams macaroni cheese is still £7, so who, really, consumes the microwave meals in this country and who, really, pays for them?

Some food for thought, and now, some soup.

Peel and chop the onion and put into a medium-sized saucepan with the oil and cumin. 

Wash and chop the carrots and add to the pan.

Cook on a low heat for a few minutes until the onion is starting to soften. 

Pour the stock into the pan and bring to the boil. Turn down and simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. 

Drain and rinse the kidney beans well, add to the pan and heat through. 

Tip everything into a blender and pulse til smooth, or if you don’t have a blender, it works perfectly well as a chunky broth too.

More to follow from this series. I hope that anyone who wrongly upholds me as a poster girl for cuts to welfare understands that my £10 a week in 2012 was starvation and subsistence, and with the sharp increase in the cost of food as demonstrated above, would only go half as far today.

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