Living Below the Line: Ribollita (sort of)

Another day, another recipe, and a quick note.  I know that there are cookbooks out there telling people how to live on very little.  Some of them are more useful than others – I think my favourite is written by Sandra of the $120 food challenge blog, because she has actually been living on a tiny income while writing these recipes, rather than doing the thing where you opine from on high about what those who are less well off should be eating.

I’m posting these recipes for two reasons.  The first reason is that they are a record of what I’m doing, and several of my sponsors (sponsor me!) have asked me to do so, because they are curious about what I’m cooking.  The second reason is that some of them have worked out reasonably tasty and could, with a bit of tweaking (and a bit more money) go into my regular repertoire.  But there’s one thing I haven’t told you about these recipes.

I’m hungry.  All the time.  Even right after lunch or dinner.

Part of this is psychological, I think – I really am very afraid of being without food, and I find myself counting the hours until the next meal, so I’m fairly sure that my brain is telling my body it’s hungry even when it isn’t.  But part of it is that, really, even with all the legumes and carbohydrates and protein I’ve tried to stuff into them, these meals just aren’t as filling as what I’m used to.  The portion sizes are fairly small.  One can survive on them, but I don’t know whether one could live on them in the long term.

What I don’t want is for anyone (especially anyone in the current government, quite frankly) to look at these recipes and think, these look pretty good, obviously living on $2 is easy.

It’s not.  Some of these recipes are quite good – this one, for example, is actually pretty tasty, and I’m quite impressed at how much chickeny flavour a single chicken wing can infuse into a soup.  It just needs a bit of cheese to be perfect, sigh.  But divide it into six servings, and it’s a lot less filling than you might think.


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175 g borlotti beans, soaked in cold water overnight
1 brown onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 celery stick, chopped
1 sprig of rosemary
8 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
1 chicken wing (skin removed and used for schmalz, if you are feeling dedicated)
2 litres of water
1/2 tsp salt, lovely lovely salt!
200ml tinned tomatoes
stalks and leaves from 1 large beetroot
1 potato, diced
2 bread crusts, torn into small pieces
2 cups mixed frozen vegetables


Now what will you do with it?

Put the beans into a LARGE saucepan with the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, rosemary and chicken wing.  Pour in the water.  Do NOT add the salt yet.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer, covered, until the beans are nice and soft.


While the beans are cooking, wash the beetroot stalks and leaves.  Pull the leaves off the stalks, and chop up the stalks as though they are celery.  Chop the leaves into ribbons.


When the beans are soft, remove the chicken wing from the soup.  Carefully remove the meat from the bones and return the meat to the soup, discarding the bones.  Add the salt, tinned tomatoes, beetroot stalks and leaves, potatoes and bread crusts to the soup, and return to a simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.  Add the frozen vegetables, cook for another five minutes or so, then serve!

Makes six servings.  But if you’re me, you’ll be ravenous three hours later….


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2 comments for “Living Below the Line: Ribollita (sort of)

  1. May 6, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    The soup looks really good! But I hear you on feeling hungry… I was often hungry too, when I did the challenge back then.

    • Catherine
      May 6, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      It’s a very good soup. But it’s getting increasingly magenta the longer it stays in the fridge, which is mildly disturbing!

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