I think I might have mentioned - oh, just once or twice - how crushingly expensive Paris is? Well, I really noticed it on my recent trip to London, when I kept thinking how reasonable the prices were there. Yes, IN LONDON. I seem to have this unnervingly accurate gift for moving to cities just as they become the most expensive in the world - I'm sure if I moved to Bangkok tomorrow the cost of living would shoot up just to spite me.
But Paris used to be cheap - I have recently been reading A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, which is a memoir of his time in Paris in the 1920s. It's hugely entertaining and I am enjoying it greatly - in fact, I only occasionally allow myself to dip into it because I don't want to finish it. He writes a great deal about how it was to be a poor writer in Paris and it makes me laugh because he truly had no idea. Um, Ernie? If I may call you that? You are not poor if you can afford to rent an extra hotel room just to write in. You are not poor if you are writing in a café where you can afford a café au lait, two rum St James, a dozen oysters and a half carafe of wine. Even in the 1920s, that ain't poor.
Let me tell you about poor, Ernie. Poor is when you are at the grocery store trying to figure out what you can buy for a euro, because that's all you have. Answer: a large tin of chickpeas (which I loathe unless they are in hummous, but really, what doesn't taste good with enough garlic and lemon juice?), for 77 centimes. What to do to make the horrid things into a palatable meal? Well, I foraged in my kitchen cupboard for whatever ingredients were already there, and I give you my recipe for Poverty Soup:
2 onions and 3 cloves of garlic - chop and sauté until golden
3 cups chicken stock - made from cubes (use what you like, that's what I had)
1 large tin chickpeas, drained
1 tin crushed tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk
Mix it all together in a large pot and heat, then puree. Add salt, pepper, curry powder and tabasco (or whatever seasonings you like, that was all I had) until you can choke it down.
So there you go, Poverty Soup - it actually ended up being (much to my surprise) quite tasty and that recipe makes about 2 litres, so you will have lots of leftovers for the freezer. Hey, in these credit-crunchy times, I thought I might as well share the recipe...