Stretching meals on a shoestring

Orielle Berry

Last week, one after the other, staff in our office succumbed to the winter flu bug.

I managed to stave it off until Friday and then I too, fell under its nasty spell and spent the better part of the weekend under the covers, coughing and sneezing and, in general, feeling very sorry for myself.

But, as the saying goes, feed a cold and starve a fever and so I managed to cook two meals, rummaging in what was a pretty empty larder, aside from some staples.

Both meals were easy and took under 30 minutes each to prepare and both were budget friendly, particularly the first.

Butter bean soup

For two people:


1 can butter beans

1 tin chopped, peeled tomatoes

4 medium carrots, peeeled and diced into 1cm squares

1 large onion, skinned and chopped

1 chicken stock cube

1 handful fresh chopped parsley

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

About 500 ml water


Brown the onion and the garlic in a splash of olive oil. Add in the tomatoes and the beans, including the liquid from the beans.

Allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes and then add in the water and the stock cube and the parsley and salt and pepper to taste and adjust the liquid so that the consistency of the soup is to your liking.

Cook for about 15 minutes, until all the flavours have amalgamated and serve with some crusty bread and cheese.

Pasta penne with a tuna and pea sauce

250g good quality penne pasta


Olive oil

2 fresh tomatoes, grated

1 handful olives, depipped and chopped

1 tin good quality tuna chunks

1 cup peas

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 handful basil, chopped

Rind of half a lemon, pith removed and chopped into slivers

Pecorino cheese


Grate the tomato (the skin will be left behind) and reserve.

Sauté the garlic and add in the tomatoes and when it starts bubbling, turn down the heat of the stove.

Drain the tin of tuna and add in to the mixture with the olives, the peas, and the basil and season with salt and pepper. Add in the lemon rind last – it really adds great flavour.

Optional but really adding a great layer of flavour is two anchovies, finely chopped.

Put on your pasta to boil and cook until al dente while the tuna mix is simmering.

When the pasta is ready, drain and add in a glug or two of olive oil and top with the sauce.

Top with some grated parmesan or pecorino.

The first dish cost about R40 to make and after eating it for one meal I took it to the office and it fed about 10 people! The second dish costs about R70 to make and is good for two meals.

Both go well with good a red wine, particularly a Bordeaux blend of merlot and cabernet saauvignon.