Faster, Cheaper & Healthier Than A Takeaway: BUF Bag Meal #1

One of the reasons I’m involved with creating important projects such as the Doncopolitan and Bentley Urban Farm (BUF) is because direct experience of breadline-poverty earlier in my life has left me determined to change things for the better in whatever small way I can. BUF was set up to fight the problem of ‘food deserts‘ in Doncaster and our newly launched BUF Bags were created to help fund this work. This is the bag in question…
I bought the ‘Deluxe BUF Bag’ last week and was delighted to find that it contained almost everything I needed to make the Vegetable Paella which kept my family fed and healthy during some pretty rough times. There are six of us in our household and I used to make enough to feed us for two days running… like most good dishes, this one tastes even better the next day. Not only is the dish much, much cheaper and far healthier than any takeaway order, it can be made within the average time taken for your fast food meal to be delivered. Cheaper, quicker, tastier; why wouldn’t you?
I can also guarantee that it is lower in calories and higher in protein; I know this because I adapted the recipe from David Scott’s Protein-Rich Vegetarian Cookery (Rider Books, 1985). To make a Vegetable Paella you will need:

  • 3 x tablespoons Olive Oil (for an ultra-local paella why not use White’s of Cantley’s Quality Rapeseed Oil instead)
  • 2 x cloves of Garlic
  • 2 x medium Onions
  • 1 x Red Pepper
  • 1 x Green Pepper
  • 2 x medium Tomatoes
  • 2 x sticks of Celery
  • Half a Cucumber
  • 400g Long Grain Brown Rice (or, if you have fussy kids like me, a half-and-half mix of brown & white rice… or just what if you really can’t get them to cooperate)
  • 800g Swiss Bouillon or Veg Stock
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Grated Mature Cheddar Cheese – or Vegan alternative

My BUF Bag had pretty much everything except the rice, stock, additional green pepper and garlic (if you don’t already have salt, pepper and cooking oil at home, I’m guessing you never cook… all the more reason to start now!). Luckily we’ve been growing garlic down at BUF so I dug some up. I already had rice and stock cubes in the cupboard, so I bought a green pepper. Making this one of the cheapest meals I’ve had in ages… which, don’t forget, lasts us two days!
As I mentioned earlier, this is a really quick meal to make and, better yet, it only dirties one pan! First some prep…
Dice the onions and peppers and crush the garlic.
Chop the tomatoes and pop them on a plate with your rice.
Peel and cube the cucumber and chop up your celery.
Make 800g of your stock and add salt & pepper to taste. I personally feel that Swiss Bouillon imparts the best flavour, but you probably won’t want to add any additional salt if you use this. You can either prepare everything first or, as I used to do with my kids, you can chop and go as you follow the following method…
First heat up some olive oil in your pan (a large wok is ideal) and saute the garlic and onions until they start to colour.
Add the peppers and saute for a further 2 or 3 minutes.
Add the rice and tomatoes and stir over a low heat for 5 minutes (that’s why I told you to pop the tomatoes with your rice! 😀 )
Pour in your stock, turn up the heat and boil rapidly for 5 minutes.
Add the cucumber and celery, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed (add more water if the liquid begins to disappear before the rice is cooked).
Serve on a plate with some crusty rolls (hot, fresh-baked rolls are the best).
Top with grated cheese and you’re good to go!
If you’re vegan you can use vegan cheese or just eat it eau naturel. This recipe also works well with chopped nuts, just add 100g at the same stage you add the celery & cucumber. It also really nice garnished with olives.
Super easy, super quick, super cheap and super healthy. This recipe was a life-saver for my family and I in our time of need and it is still a firm favourite. Essentially it is just chop and cook, so it is perfect for cooking with the kids… and once they’re good at it you can let them cook it for you in the future! 😉

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