The Prince and the Pauper

I have always been of the ignorance is bliss school of thought, particularly when it came to checking one's bank balance. And I like to trot out the Oscar Wilde philosophy of "anyone who lives within their means suffers a lack of imagination" when faced with any prospect of having to be especially thrifty. I seem to make my low salary stretch pretty far (I shop mainly at Lidl and Aldi with the odd jaunt to Waitrose; books come from the library and I walk everywhere) and I tend to "justify" any perceived splurges with the fact that I don't have anyone to look after other than myself; I don't smoke; I don't have a car and I don't really go out that much.
But a recent trip to London and Edinburgh Fringe festivities (funded mainly by a rather nice tax rebate) seem to have caught up and I need to seriously tighten the purse strings. I also need to remind myself that compared with the vast majority of people in world who survive on a dollar a day, I am actually probably quite well-off.
Anyway, as splurges tend to take the form of food (a nice latte, some ice cream or a meal out) I decided I needed to really watch what I was spending, and eating.
To that end I sought inspiration from Jack Monroe, a food writer and campaigner who made a name for herself with her budget food blog, A Girl Called Jack. Having to once feed herself and her son on £10 a week (I'm assuming she doesn't now with a Guardian column and bestselling cookbook), if anyone knows anything about living frugally, it is Jack.
I decided to try her lentil bolognese (currently bubbling away and smelling delicious), my version of which is below. I've added a bay leaf as I had some in the fridge, as well as garlic which I feel is essential (though Jack's original recipe was just based on what someone else had in their cupboards).
The beef stock gives it richness and makes up for the lack of meat, but obviously just replace it with a vegetable stock cube to make it vegetarian.
I think it has cost me about 70p to make (seriously) and it looks like it would easily feed four people - the lentils swell so much it feels like the The Magic Porridge Pot. It could probably stretch to feed six or more if served with spaghetti, instead of spooned from a bowl as I intend to eat it - waiting for pay day and the time I can live outside my means again...

Red lentil bolognese

1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
couple of garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g red lentils
1 small carton of passata
1 beef stock cube dissolved in about 250ml of hot water
generous sprinkling of dried oregano
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil until tender. Add the carrot then stir in the lentils and oregano before adding the beef stock and passata. Season generously, stick in the bay leaf and turn down the heat, letting the bolognese simmer for around 20 - 30 minutes. You might need to add more liquid as the lentils will absorb a lot. Serve as it is, with some grated cheese on top, or with spaghetti.


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