Soup Season: Winter, a time for great soups.

I am getting excited because we have entered soup season! Who doesn’t love a good heart-warming (or is it gut-warming)  soup? I enjoy both creamy and chunky versions.

Soups have so many advantages:

  1. They are a great way of using up those close to expired vegetables lurking in the bottom of your fridge.
  2. They are economical and can make ingredients go a long way
  3. They are usually easy to prepare, but that, of course, will depend on the recipes that you choose.
  4. They are versatile and flexible. How many varieties are there? Google “soup recipes” and you get 672,000,000 hits! No doubt there are lots of double-ups but still, that’s a lot of soup.
  5. They are filling, especially with some nice crusty bread
  6. You can freeze them for later.
  7. You can add in all sorts of good for your gut ingredients.

I make lots of soup in winter. Lots! I always have the image of the Seinfeld episode with the Soup Nazi in my mind as I cook. I hear that fellow yell out “No soup for you!” but change it to “Yes! Soup for You!” A few years ago I even had the idea of doing a new blog based entirely on soup! I still might do that. It was provisionally entitled Sunday Soup Sessions.

Here are a couple of my favourites.

Harira (Moroccan lamb, tomato and lentil soup)

Lots and lots of good things in this soup. I am not sure if it would work so well without the meat.

Lamb Soup
Those Moroccans sure know how to make a good soup!

 

Orange Vegetable Soup

I make up my own recipes and it’s a bit hard to give the precise list of ingredients for these.

A case in point is this pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot soup spiced with ginger and turmeric.

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 12.02.31

The ingredients and method could be roughly translated as

Ingredients
  • Pumpkin – as much as you have depending on how much you want to make – cut into cubes
  • Sweet potato (orange variety) –  about half the amount of pumpkin – cut into cubes
  • Carrots – about the same as the sweet potato – cut into chunks
  • Stock and water – I would have used chicken stock but vegetable stock would be fine. How much…well that depends on how many vegetables you are using! At least a litre.
  • Tumeric – powdered or fresh, grated
  • Ginger –  fresh grated
  • Onion – at least 2 – sliced
  • Garlic – 1 tablespoon-ish
  • Olive oil
  • Lime juice to serve.
  • Feta cheese for garnish
Method
  1. Fry the onions and garlic in the oil till soft
  2. Add the turmeric and ginger and saute for 1 – 2 minutes.
  3. Add the veggies
  4. Stir around in the oil to coat and saute for 2 – 3 minutes
  5. Add enough stock to partially cover the veggies
  6. Put the lid on and simmer until the vegetables are tender. (maybe 30 minutes?)
  7. Use a stick blender to blend in the pot, adding more stock/water as needed to get the right consistency. Or transfer really carefully to your jug blender/mouli thingy and blend till smooth.
  8. Adjust seasoning
  9. Serve with lemon or lime juice and garnishes as you like.

Have you got any soup season recipes to share?

 

Mini-Doc of the Week 3 – Making Pasta

Is making your own pasta worth it?

I have been investigating ways to reduce my grocery bills, plastic packaging and keep an eye on what is in my food. I thought I’d give making pasta from scratch another try. I’ve done it a few times before but still had more problems than I thought I would.

A little longer than the advertised 1 minute! I’ll get better at making shorter ones as the year goes by.

I hope you enjoy my struggle!

 

 

Recipe

600 g flour

370 g eggs (4 really big ones!)

Kneaded by hand for 12 minutes

Then mixed in an ancient Kenwood for about a minute

Rested for 30 minutes

Mixed again in the Kenwood!!

Another rest (for us both!)

Then struggling with the pasta roller!

 

If you want to have a look at someone who really knows what they are doing, check out this lady! She makes it look easy!

As it turns out, given pasta is cheap, lasts well in the pantry and tastes more or less the same as the homemade stuff, I don’t think it’s worth it. A packet of dried lasagna costs  $A3.70. My afternoon’s efforts made the equivalent of  3 boxes for around $A5:00 – a saving of $6… let’s not factor in the labour cost! I did have some fun which should be factored in.

Shot entirely on my iPhone SMAX and edited using iMovie on my iMac.

Coffee and your wallet

A cappuccino in a green cup.

Black gold

Last week I wrote about the nutritional value (or not) of coffee, this week the focus is on economic factors. This is a simplified analysis and not meant to be an economic treatise. There are no doubt, lots of angles I have not considered.

Microeconomics – your budget.

Café coffee:

As a point of reference, I am going to use my regular order of a skim milk regular sized cappuccino as the “standard” purchase. You can pay anywhere from $A3:50 – $A6:00 depending on size and location so I will use a cost of $4 per cup.

If you buy one cappuccino every day, you are going to spend $4 x 365 = $1460 per capita per annum.

So maybe you only buy coffee on the days you work. Using a 5 day work week and four weeks annual leave that’s $4 x 240 = $960.

Let’s say your working life is around 40 years;  you’ll end up spending between $40,000 – $60,000 on coffee! If you’re living as a couple, that could be $80-120,000 over your lifetimes.

SHIT that’s scary money!

That’s three years of mortgage payments! Is it worth it?

Do-it-yourself coffee – instant.

Ok, so you’ve decided you can’t do without coffee. Can you save money by making your own?

Well yes!

A  200 g jar of instant coffee will set you back around $13 from Woollies and will make around 100 cups of coffee. Plus there’s milk and sugar or sweetener if you use it. I am not going to try and factor those in here.

If we stick to the one cup per day, every day of the year you will spend $47 per annum.

Over your work life and not allowing for inflation; $1900.

BOOM!  An instant saving of $38K per person. But you aren’t going to switch to Moccona because we have all become coffee snobs who want “proper” coffee from the trendy cafe! And in reality, you’ll probably drink both the made at home/work and the cup(s) from the cafe.

Maybe you can buy a coffee machine and save money that way?

P1520256-11

Do-it-yourself – coffee machine.

This calculation presents a few problems. It’s a bit of a “how-long-is-a-piece-of-string” argument. Just typing “coffee makers” into Google; gives you machines ranging from $3000 to $59. If you spend $3000 on a coffee machine, it will take you 2 years to make your money back, and I bet you won’t!

Why?

Because even if you have a fancy coffee maker, you’ll still buy coffee from the cute little cafe near work! You know you will!

Using a pod machine will save you money too, BUT you’ll have to deal with the environmental cost of all those plastic or metal pods. AND you’ll still buy coffee from the cute little cafe near work! You know you will!

Of course, you could grind your own coffee too and use a plunger or lots of other methods which would be cheaper than cafe coffee so you could potentially spend much less than that estimate of $60,000 over a working lifetime.

I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money or tell you if you can afford that or not. You’ll have to decide that for yourself, but you may have not given it much thought. I think the main point is that coffee is a luxury. While some of you will argue that it is essential, it’s not. Not like food or shelter. The money you spend on it is discretionary.

Macroeconomics – the global economy

The Production Side of Coffee

Coffee is derived from two main species Coffea arabica and C. Robusta. It has only been in widespread usage as a beverage for around 500 years. It is thought to have originated in Ethiopia where it was domesticated before being distributed widely. The now huge South American crop originated from the seeds of a single plant taken from the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens.

The ten biggest coffee growing nations are Brazi, Vietnam, Columbia, Indonesia, Peru, Ethiopia, Mexico, India, Guatemala and Uganda. The countries that consume the most coffee are (in order) United States, Germany, Japan, Italy and France.

I think you can see how things are going to pan out here. There is an imbalance between the economic power of the people who grow coffee and the people who drink coffee.

Poor people grow it, rich(er) people drink it.

The price of coffee is controlled by the commodity markets in New York and London, a long way from the growers. It is the second most traded commodity after crude oil. I have no idea how these commodity markets work, but I’m sure that the people on the floor yelling and shouting at each other aren’t thinking about whether a grower can feed his family on what he will be paid.

According to the documentary  Black Gold (2014), Ethiopian farmers are paid around 65c per kilo. It costs them 90c to produce one kilo of coffee. (huh???)  There are up to six steps in the chain from grower to consumer with each step adding to the price. The coffee part of your daily cup is only worth around 3 cents. While this data is now five years old, the principle remains the same. The growers are not given a fair price for their labour and have to endure significant hardship so you can be perky.

I recommend you download the Black Gold documentary. You can watch the trailer here or buy/rent the full version.

Watch it,  then try and drink your coffee with a clear conscience!

The consumption side of coffee

I live in the small city of Wollongong which has a population of just under 300,000. A Google search of cafes in Wollongong throws up 8 pages of results. The people at Wollongong Council told me there are X cafes. (I’m waiting on the council to get back to me with that number but it’s lots! ) That’s a lot of cafes and a lot of jobs. Multiply that by towns in Australia, and then the world. There must be a bazillion million million dollars sloshing around in coffee.

People who work in or own cafes aren’t exactly rolling in cash either. In Australia, there are more small traders selling coffee compared to big chains like Starbucks or Tim Hortons.  Many cafe workers are students earning the minimum wage. Then there are the roasters, the distributors, the drivers who deliver the coffee, the importers, the cup manufacturers, the barista trainers, the espresso machine makers, etc. etc. etc.!

According to IBIS World, the cafe and coffee shop industry in Australia alone is worth $10Bn with a growth rate of 2.2%. 139,091 people are employed by 20375 businesses. (I don’t think this includes all the ancillary services listed above.) Contrary to what I was thinking, this represents only a tiny proportion of the total value of Australian business which was estimated to be around $1.7 trillion in 2016.

So, perhaps the Australian economy wouldn’t fall over if we all stopped buying coffee, but it would be sleepier and grumpier!

Can you be a more ethical coffee consumer?

Yes – to an extent.

  • Buy your coffee from a small business rather than big chains or multinationals. That way your money goes to pay for a family’s expenses and not making faceless corporations bigger.
  • Choose places that offer fair trade or direct trade coffee and be prepared to pay a little more if needed.  Read more about ethical coffee buying here
  • You can look at helping finance a grower directly through an organisation such as Kiva which provides micro-loans directly to people in need. You can read about Kiva here.