Meals to fit your budget
The word bulk implies a large quantity or mass. Buying food in bulk, though, means getting just the right amount you need. The cost is low, since most bulk foods are priced less per pound than packaged goods. The following dish, made with items from the bulk bins and two other ingredients, costs less than one dollar per serving, and adds so much flavor to winter menus.
Dal is often served as a first course in an Indian meal, and it can be thick or thin. This is a good basic lentil dal. Also try it with split peas or mung beans, and vary the amounts of spices to suit your taste.
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 4 cups water or stock
- 2 thin slices of unpeeled ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Place lentils in a large saucepan with water and ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils are nearly dissolved, about 45 minutes (4 minutes in pressure cooker). Remove ginger and purée the mixture. Sauté remaining spices in oil, letting the cumin seeds pop. Add spices to lentils and stir to mix. Taste for seasoning.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with rice or an Indian bread and a cool blend of yogurt and cucumbers to finish. Freezes well (bring up the flavors with a splash of fresh lemon or lime juice).
Adapted by Marie Donadio, PCC Cooks instructor, from "Indian Cookery" by Madhur Jaffrey
Another great, low-cost meal that can be made primarily with bulk items is Spicy Hoppin' John. This black-eyed pea dish is traditionally served as the first meal on January 1, together with rice and cooked greens. It costs $7.07 to make enough for eight servings, which is $0.88 per serving.