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Self-Love Stew (VEGAN)

  
I cooked for myself last night.

This is pretty good news, considering how blue I have been the last few days… Black dog came home, and cooking is the self-love I need but often the first thing it takes in its jaws. So I hereby christen this Self-Love Stew. I’ll reformat it into a proper recipe later on, with costings, but I just wanted to get it up and out there in case someone else needs it today as much as I needed it yesterday.
Take 2 cloves of garlic and an onion. Chop them and fry in a little oil on a low heat to soften. Stir, stir, slow and cathartic.
Add a finely chopped or grated carrot (or parsnip, or spud, or sweet potato – any root will do) and stir some more.
Add a tsp of paprika, and stir in. The stirring is key. It is soothing. It is mindless, not mindful. Sod mindful. My mind is full enough. It is a minefield. Tonight I want to stir some stuff and stare at my hands or into nothing.
Add chunks of tofu if you’re veggie/vegan, fish if you aren’t.
Add a can of beans. Baked or kidney or butter or chickpeas or cannelini or whatever. Add some beans. For goodness. For laziness. For filling comfort. For making it stretch an extra meal you won’t have to cook.
Pour over a tin of tomatoes. The cheaper the better, Basics ones are brilliantly sloppy and liquid and excellent for soups and stews.
Shred some kale in your hands. Rip it the heck up with all the stress and physicality you can muster. Go on. Tear it to shreds.
Drop it in. Stir it through, breathe, stir, breathe.
Bring to the boil, like your fury, heat it up and watch it roar… …reduce it to a simmer. Douse in lemon juice to brighten, salt and pepper to amplify.
Spoon it into a bowl.
Add chopped nuts or seeds of your choice.
Sit in your favourite spot.
Hug that bowl to yourself.
Enjoy every mouthful.
Shoulders down.
You did this.
You made this for yourself out of love.
You are nourishing yourself.
You are smart.
You are kind.
You are important.
You can wash up tomorrow.
#selflove #vegan #veganonabootstrap

#cookingonabootstrap #loveyourself #happymonday #15minutemeals #vegandinner #blackdog #selfcare #lowspoons #spoonie #spoons

It’s not about the members… (My thoughts on the last week)

Does anyone else feel the shriek of “YEAH BUT MEMBERS!” from the furthest left enclaves of the Labour Party is, well, missing the point? I feel it is not the members voices we need to be hearing, but the voices of the voters that we no longer reach. Unless of course, we are all cool with the rise of far right fascism, the petrol bomb hurled through halal butchers windows, the graffiti at the Polish Centre in Hammersmith, the abuse hurled at people in their own shops and on trams and on buses and in the street, every single day.

I thought not.
Consider for one moment the potential link between the decimation of steel works, privatisation of the health care systems, the waiting lists for council and housing association properties that are easily ten years long in my own constituency. Consider the cuts to front line public services, fewer police officers on the beat, jump-crewing at fire stations (read: not enough front line firefighters), and consider the impact that that may have on communities and individuals casting around to find someone to blame. It’s almost classic – the disenfranchised kids are joining gangs and lashing out, only these kids are, in most cases, fully grown adults. They organise, they protest, they fight, they intimidate, but the root causes appear to be marginalisation, misunderstanding, and fear.

We aren’t going to win them back with our fingers in our ears. Nor can we seriously appeal with a bunch of people who can regularly afford to donate to a political party – for that is what membership is – telling people on the dole in the North of England what’s best for them and their communities.

I woke up this morning thinking how similar this mess is to (my extensive) experiences of children in care. My parents were foster carers, and have been since I was five years old. Our small family home was a revolving door of troubled children, misunderstood, spat out by the system, all carrying their own devastating baggage and miserable experiences. It wasn’t an easy environment to grow up in; I bore witness to testimonies of abuse, to bizarre behaviours, breakdowns, threats of violence, before I was even in double digits. I learned early on that the world could be dark and cruel and unconditional over was never guaranteed. But my parents were marvellous. They listened, they asked, they soothed, they reassured, they stabilised, and child after child left our home with a slightly more solid foundation than when they entered it. We strove to offer them self worth, stability, security, and for the most part, it worked.

And it strikes me how similar those experiences can be to our current political climate. One hand you have mistreated, misunderstood, maligned people, screaming to be heard.

And on the other hand you seem to have a bunch of people in suits telling them what’s best for them. With barely a clue as to how to reach them, or what they need.

Check your fucking privileges, folks. Seriously.

This isn’t simply about winning the election. Forget the sodding election. This is so much bigger than elections. Bigger than numbers. Bigger than score settling. Bigger than public schoolboy yahboo sucks to you.

I mean, we need to win the NHS back. That’s what winning looks like. Education. Supportive and effective welfare. A decent education. Opportunities regardless of background. That’s what winning looks like.

This whole damn mess is not about elections. It’s about stepping into the gangs of angry people, and asking what they’re afraid of. It’s about listening to their replies. It’s about resolving ignorance through outreach and education, through community and understanding. It’s not about pandering to a xenophobic rhetoric, it’s about gently deconstructing it.

It’s about genuine reinvestment into the structural beams of a decent, civilised society.

It’s about the Labour Party representing the Labourers. And an unfortunate truth is that if you can easily afford the membership, then you are probably in a better position than those you purport to represent, or want to.

Shrieking “BUT THIS IS WHAT THE MEMBERS WANT” in an echo chamber of placards just (wrongly) reinforces to the disenchanted that politics is a self interested debating society.

Prove them wrong.

I have been howlingly furious since Thursday. And now I’m steadily, calmly, reasonably trying to make sense of all this mess.

In my current job, or one of them, I spend a lot of time with senior politicians. Eagle, Cooper and Miliband could testify that I yell at them on a regular basis at dinner parties in the capital, about how dinner parties in the capital aren;t reconnecting them with their roots, the working class. And it’s grossly ironic that I, the child of a firefighter and a medically retired nurse that clambered out Of a fire brigade transit van around the corner from my all girls grammar school in the mornings so my friends wouldn’t tease me, has ended up at the top table talking to politicians about the world as it is.

I never miss an opportunity to make an uncomfortable statement about how many packets of basics sausages a Soho-priced starter would buy, to give pause for thought. I’ve sat and reeled off a £10 weekly shopping list as someone orders a £10 cocktail. It’s hardly akin to chaining myself to a railing, but it’s an unexpected reminder that we are, and always will be, poles apart. I have found myself yelling, infuriated, at groups of assembled grandees, asking them to just listen and understand. If I have this weird access to the great and good, I may as well try to use it for something before they get bored of the yelling and stop asking me to come over.

People should be heard. And not on the terms of the politicians, nor the viewers tuning in to Jeremy Kyle and Benefits Street. With their own voices. In their own words.

Wielding a placard at a protest millions of people didn't know was happening and couldn't afford to get to anyway. ..it's starting to feel a little hollow. Get out into your communities and knock on doors and ask questions and listen to answers and for God's stake stop all just talking to each other in a pontificating echo chamber.

It's not about the members, stupid.

It’s about reaching out to and changing the lives of those that aren’t.
It’s the Labour Party. And it’s time to get back to basics and start it up again.

#ArtForLoveOrlando: Fundraising for victims and their families.

  

These artworks have been donated by artists, friends old and new, in response to a call out for works around the theme of Love, in response to the killing of 50 people at the LGBT nightclub Pulse, in Orlando, last weekend.

As a member of the LGBT community (and the L, B, T and Q respectively), the news has hit us all hard. The simple freedoms that so many of us have fought for, marched for, campaigned for, suffered for, that many have died for, been beaten and abused for, the simple freedom to go out and dance in a safe LGBT community venue, is no longer a freedom.

Profits from these postcards and other artworks will be donated to the JustGiving fund set up for the families and survivors.

With immeasurable thanks to the artists who have donated, in order of work:

Zoe Howe, Bronwyn Oldham, Lesley Cartwright, Tommy Jay (age 4), Christopher Stammers, Laura Keeble,  Juliet Kilpin, Mark Bromfield, John Bulley, Toddy Peters, Birdy Rose, Pia Peters (age 9), Heather Purdham, Sharon Stone, Rob Masters, Jaye-Dean Shepherd, Marianne Murray, Richard and Bob Drake, the Ayahuasca Gazebo and Bonnie Blueman, Alfie Bradley, Tim Sinnott, Fox Fisher, Mike English, David Carrington and Marcus Peters.

We received over 100 orders when we launched – bigger than I ever envisioned, and an incredible testimony to our compassion, common humanity and willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who need support in these unimaginably devastating times.

Prices start from £3. Head to http://www.heatherandjack.bigcartel.com to order yours.

Jack Monroe. Instagram @MxJackMonroe

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A Whistlestop Tour Of F**king Up Everything

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I found a notebook a while ago – still unpacking boxes in the little flat I moved into in July – with a few scribbled songs and poems in that I wrote when I was unemployed and life was, well, pretty crap. Hungry, cold, miserable, angry, crap. This was a huge punch in the guts to rediscover, especially as on a facing page were the benefit calculations the Government website said I should be receiving as a single parent to a then-two-year-old, compared to the payments that were actually going in (or not, due to delays, suspensions, recalculations, etc.) I wrote to stay sane, I wrote to purge, I wrote to rage, I wrote to communicate, I wrote because sometimes it feels like the only thing I can do.

This morning I was alerted to a blog post, about me, that can only be described as a horribly gaslighting piece of fiction. The line that stood out for me, however, was the implication that because I wrote songs and poetry, I could never have been properly poor. As though working class people do not have hobbies and interests. As though many of the greatest songwriters and poets of our time – to whom I absolutely do not compare – have not come from difficult backgrounds and don’t write about their own experiences.

So, in the spirit of turning something negative into something positive, I have decided to start sharing my poetry again. Yes, this is largely a recipe blog, but this forms the background as to why it’s here in the first place.

WHISTLESTOP TOUR by JACK MONROE

It’s October and I’m older
For a year out on the dole
Got a sweater on but the heating’s off
There’s a chill right to my bones
There’s no fairytale or wonderland
Here on the other side
Got a letter to David penned his PA will cast aside
Show me your broken policies and promises
And I’ll show you what it’s like to be unsurprised

Can you smell the salt and sugar
Of the obsolete fairground rides
Can you walk inside my shoes in dead straight lines
Could you be lonely all the time

Well welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to a week in the life of me
Don’t fasten your safety bars
Turn your heads or close your eyes
If you’ve any shred of decency
You’ll see a crooked house and you’ll be horrified

Oh welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to brave faces
In strange places
Raising families on the dole
In bread and jam and hunger pangs are people who’ll tell you how much you’ve grown
And how far you’ll go
Oh how far you’ll go…

Ive got an unelected leader says we’re in it together
He’s got four homes and a deputy
And you’re sleeping outside in all weathers
We tried to make it work the way they said it works
But I’m worked right to the ground
I can’t keep coming up again I’m pulled back down
Can’t keep coming up again
Believe me
Don’t leave me
I’m falling falling falling, down

And can you smell the salt and sugar
And all the about-turns and the lies?
Can you walk inside my shoes along the tide
Could you be lonely all the time?

Well welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to a week in the life of me
Don’t fasten your safety bars
Turn your heads or close your eyes
If you’ve any shred of decency
You’ll see a crooked house and you’ll be horrified

Oh welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to brave faces
In strange places
Raising families on the dole
In bread and jam and hunger pangs are people who’ll tell you how much you’ve grown
And how far you’ll go
Oh how far you’ll go…

Can you see the single mothers
With their buggies
Queuing for an hour for a box of beans and rice
Can you see the nurse behind them
With a coat over her uniform
Dispensing free advice
The students kick in windows
Screaming riots
And today all the schools are closed
Teachers and the doctors stand in pickets
Coz they’re sick of being quiet
And the coppers and the papers are all bought and sold

Oh welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to brave faces
In strange places
Raising families on the dole
In bread and jam and hunger pangs
are people who’ll tell you how much you’ve grown
And how far you’ll go
Oh how far you’ll go…

Yeah welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to not knowing when the story ends
Go pick up your banners
And stand in your lines
These are the things that were yours and mine
These are the things that we’ll tell our children we fought for once upon a time.

Jack Monroe, 2012.

Warm Chickpea Salad With Bacon And Olives, 47p

Dear vegan and vegetarian readers, please do not despair. I haven’t gone back on myself and am not eating bacon; I have pledged to upload the contents of both of my cookbooks as a free resource to help people to cook on a budget in the wake of the news that the BBC will be removing recipes from its website. This means that a few non-veggie recipes may be appearing in your inboxes over the next few days, and I absolutely do not mean to cause anyone any offence or upset. I’m just trying to be helpful to people who will find these recipes useful in managing their household budget, or learning to cook. 

Anyway, this recipe is from my first book, A Girl Called Jack, and was born of the bottom of a jar of sliced olives, some scraps of cooking bacon and a tin of chickpeas lurking in the cupboard. Olives may seem like a luxurious ingredient, but at around 60p for a 185g jar they deliver a strong, punchy livener for pennies if used sparingly. Once opened, they keep in the fridge for a few weeks, and can be used to make a tapenade (a rough paste for dipping things in, smearing on toast, or tossing through – just finely chop or whizz with garlic, lemon and oil), or added to a tin of tomatoes with some chilli and a dash of vinegar for a rough take on spaghetti alla puttanesca. All hail the olive, saviour of boring food. Because cheap doesn’t have to be boring. Welcome to my world, won’t you come on in…?

  
Serves two people as a hearty lunch at 47p each

2 fat cloves of garlic, 4p (35p/2 bulbs, Basics)

4 tbsp cooking oil, 6p (£3/3l sunflower oil)

1 tbsp lemon juice (bottled or fresh), 3p (50p/250ml bottle)

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, 39p (KTC brand)

1 small onion, 9p (80p/1.5kg bag of Basics onions)

2 tbsp finely chopped pitted black olives, 6p (60p/185g jar)

100g bacon, 17p (£1.15/670g Basics cooking bacon)

a handful of fresh parsley or coriander, 10p (80p/28g)
First make your simple salad dressing to give it a headstart. I make mine in a jar, lid it and shake it for an even and emulsified goodness. I tried looking for a simple definition of emulsification to describe what happens when you mix a salad dressing, because I don’t like using fancy cooking terms without explaining them (it’s what made me feel like I ‘couldn’t cook’ for a long time, because I didn’t know what ‘saute’ meant nor ‘roux’ and if only someone had said ‘gently cook’ and ‘butter-flour-paste-with-milk’ I might not have been so intimidated) …and I got this:

  
So not really the simple definition I was after!! Duodenums indeed. 

Anyway I digress. Make a salad dressing. Basically, peel and finely chop your garlic into thin slices or small pieces or keep chopping until you have a paste, depending on how patient, dextrous and/or cross you are. Chopping garlic is gloriously therapeutic if you’ve got some stuff to work through, if you know what I mean. Pop the garlic into a jar. Add 3 tbsp of the oil and the lemon juice, with a grind of pepper if you have it kicking about. Pop the lid on the jar and shakey shakey shake it up until it goes thick-ish and cloudy. I am always fascinated by the transformation of clear oil into an almost opaque glop simply by adding something acidic and a good thrust or two. This, friends and readers, is emulsification.

Drain and thoroughly rinse the chickpeas (save the water to use as an egg replacer in recipes, it’s called aquafaba and it’s basically free and useful so don’t throw it away – and it doesn’t taste of anything once cooked in cakes etc, despite its slightly funky smell…) 

Peel and finely chop the onion. Toss into a good sized pan with the olives. Chop the bacon into small pieces and add that too. Pour over a little oil and cook on a medium heat for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally to disturb the ingredients so they don’t stick, and to cook evenly. Add the chickpeas and cook for a further five minutes to warm through.

Pick the leaves from the parsley or coriander, reserving the stalks to use as chopped herbs in their own right, or drying them to use in a stock or sauce in the future. 

Remove the pan from the heat, add the leaves, pour over the dressing and mix well, and enjoy. This can be eaten warm (from the pan, if you’re anything like me), or cold from the fridge. It does freeze, but please reheat it thoroughly with a small splash of water to reawaken it.

It also makes an excellent packed lunch, either as a salad in its own right, or mashed lightly and spooned into pitta breads, sandwiches or wraps.

VEGETARIANS AND VEGANS! Replace the bacon with finely chopped aubergine, tossed in a little paprika and salt and garlic, and while you’re there, chuck some cumin seeds in the dressing, too.

Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter & Instagram @MxJackMonroe

The BBCs #GreatBritishTakeOff. This blog is free and always will be.

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In light of the BBC announcement that they are removing a lot of their recipes from their website, I will be publishing all of my recipes in full on http://www.cookingonabootstrap.com over the next few days. This includes 220 recipes from both of my books and around 100 more Guardian recipes. There are also recipes from Waitrose Kitchen and Sainsburys, the Daily Mirror, restaurants I have consulted for and others that will go on too.

It’s a big job but an essential one.

I learned to cook on the dole using free recipes online and for the BBC to reduce this vital service is an abomination. (Apologies to all of my friends who work there, but I just don’t understand this.) I hope I can go some way to filling the gap left for free, instructional, simple recipe resources and cookery guidance, which is vital for so many people.

I was always advised by my publishers not to give too much away, and I always defied them. Despite over half of my first book being available online, it was a bestseller. Because those that can buy cookbooks, generally do.

I consider my work to be a service first and foremost and most of you don’t know that most of my work is completely unpaid. I do what I do because I know it has value – and that value is strewn across my walls in hundreds of thankyou letters and cards from people who have learned to cook, reduced their bills, managed to knock something up from the cupboard when their benefits were suspended.

I would rather be bankrupt than a mercenary asshole, I will never forget where I came from, and this blog is free and always will be.

Jack.

Instagram & Twitter: @MxJackMonroe

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Introducing… Heather & Jack (!!)

  
Hey there friends, I’d like to introduce someone super-special. This is Heather. (And me, in case y’all had forgotten what I look like in my absence).

A few months ago I posted on my Instagram about a young woman who had stopped me in the street outside a hairdressers in Southend. I had been having a particularly rubbish day and was heading home, when a little voice said hello. The owner of the little voice had bought my cookbook and was using it to feed herself through university. We had a chat and both went about our days.

A few weeks later I joined a local running club, and Heather’s parents both came over and introduced themselves. They were Very Nice People. We all added each other on Facebook (a rare thing for me, as my personal account is like Fort Knox guarded by orcs with forks and rolling pins) and became friends.

When I put a shout out for local artists to help illustrate Cooking On A Bootstrap, Mama P sent me some examples of Heather’s work, probably knowing she wouldn’t put herself forward for it. I invited her to be part of the crew.

And so, sitting in a pub last week mulling over life and the future and work and allsorts, I half-joked that I wanted to start selling my photography again. I used to sell it reasonably successfully at a local gallery, the Work Of Art in Hamlet Court Road – until circumstances forced me to finally sell my camera. A few weeks after I handed all of my camera equipment over to a friend for the equivalent of two months rent, Small Boy knocked over my (cheap, not backed up) laptop, and I gave up selling my work. I  have a camera again now, and it’s been burning at me from the corner of my living room for a few months, begging to be picked up and taken out to see the sea. 

I also had a musing about selling prints of the illustrations from Cooking On A Bootstrap (which, backers, is so very nearly done I am bursting with excitement). And so I put the two together, and decided we could combine forces and open a shop. I mean, LOOK AT HER WORK. And Heather is also a very rare type of someone who I can spend two solid weeks with (what can I say, being self employed and a bit mentally wonky makes ‘peopleing’ kind of tricky at the best of times…) without turning into a honey badger, so, it all made sense. Surround yourself with good people and life gets better. Etc.

Neither of us are entirely sure exactly how it happened. But we sat there sketching plates and names and squeaking and plotting and now we are very very proud to announce that WE HAVE A SHOP.

  
I could have gone out on a limb and done it all by myself, sure. But a few years ago a journalist called Xanthe Clay got in touch with a struggling single mum on the breadline and asked if she could feature me in the Telegraph. That piece was a controversial pitch, and she knew it. But a full broadsheet page followed, and after that, the call from a literary agent, then Penguin, to publish my first cookbook. Xanthe changed my life by using her public media platform to give me a break.

This life is bonkers sometimes, and the platform is enormous. I mean, millions of people enormous, if we count all of my social media and blog readers and the conference speeches and everything. I don’t need the whole damn thing myself. I don’t WANT the whole damn thing myself. My ethos for Bootstrap was to give opportunities to people for whom a hand up could be a life-changing thing, and if not quite rolling in rubies, heck, we’re having a lot of fun.

So head over and have a look, and more will be added over the next few days. 

(And if the links don’t work for some reason, we are at http://www.heatherandjack.bigcartel.com – and thankyou!)
  

(For the moment I can only ship to the UK as I am finishing this damn book, and sitting down to calculate fair international shipping prices for the 122 countries this blog is read in, for each individual product, will take a few days of work. If you live outside of the UK and are so desperate for something that you can’t wait a week or so for that, please drop me a line on justjackmonroe@gmail.com before you order anything and I will see what I can do. But please, only in exceptional circumstances! I love you all. I’m just so bloody stressed right now.)

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“I’m unfollowing you, get back in the kitchen, why are you interested in local politics?”

Last night, I attended the final Full Council meeting in Southend before the elections being held on the 5th of May. I started writing this blog almost five years ago now, and it started as a local political report, from thew public galleries of the Civic Centre, in response to a stalwart Conservative councillor claiming on the front page of the Southend Echo that ‘Druggies, Drunks And Single Mums Are Ruining The Town’. 

Furious, I wrote a letter to the newspaper that I will find and republish here later. It was so long and so outraged that the newspaper serialised it over a couple of days, and this blog was born.

Later on, as a result of suspended benefits and bank charges racking up debts and bills unpaid, I started to add the recipes that I was cooking on a handful of change for myself and my Small Boy, he barely 2 years old, and eight whole homes ago. The blog went viral – and life was not the same again.

But my interest in local politics remains. Such is the dissonance that I am regularly told by (usually male) ‘trolls’ to ‘get back in the kitchen’ whenever I start or contribute to political debate. 

Last night, I lost over 300 Twitter followers from the beginning to the end of a local council meeting. Many got in touch to tell me they were ‘only here for the recipes’ ‘unfollowing’ ‘nobody cares’ and words to that effect. 

And so.

I would like to take the opportunity to apologise to those who think that local politics is beneath them.

To those who have obviously never used a library

nor a hospital

a doctor

a Post Office

a children’s centre

who didn’t go to school

nor send their children to one

nor a college

nor a local university

nor a vocational qualification.

You don’t drive on roads

nor use the cycle lanes

nor the local buses

nor the train services

nor walk on the pavements

and never use a taxi service.

You must be those who never enjoy local parks

or the greenery around the town

every tree planted

every street scene designed and maintained for its residents

and you don’t use any of the shops on the High Street

never visit the art galleries

nor the museum

nor the beautiful cliff gardens

never rest on local benches

nor put your rubbish in local bins.

To those who have never walked home beneath working street lights

never submitted planning permission

paused to read those yellow notices cable-tied to lamp posts and fences

nor opposed it.

Those privileged enough to have never needed to queue at their local food bank, nor beg for a referral letter from their GP or social worker

who have never had to write to a local councillor nor MP to plead for intervention when three months of unpaid benefits mean you are about to be made homeless.

Those who have never sofa surfed while on a council waiting list 10,000 strong, nor slept under bridges, in cars, or on the steps of the Civic Centre.

To those who enjoy the hard won labours of local  representatives, day in and day out, but refuse to acknowledge it.

You complain about ‘Government’ as though it is a seperate entity, something ‘other’, something beyond your control.

People constantly ask me why I am so interested in local politics. 

I’m not. Politics bores the shit out of me.

I’m interested in my bins being collected, my child having a decent education, a safe hospital to give birth in, an A&E to turn up to when I have another heart attack and the X Ray services that identified the clots on my lungs. I’m interested in a safe and suitable home for me and my child, with regulations in place to ensure that it is habitable and (almost) affordable. I love a clean street to walk down, a park to enjoy my solitude, a walk with friends, a borrowed dog, my son’s childhood. Clean beaches to stand and stare at, a sea edge to dip my toes, flood defences to protect the towns homes and businesses.

I’m interested in a good high street that meets the needs of residents and encourages local businesses. Safer streets. A visible police patrol to look after our town and the people. Firefighters in case of emergencies, ranging from road traffic collisions to house fires to carbon monoxide to trapped animals, chemical spillages, overturned tankers on main roads and fitting smoke alarms for vulnerable people, community safety, home fire safety visits, education on road traffic collision reduction, and talking to children about the dangers of fire. I’m interested in enough ambulances to turn out in time to prevent tragedies, that can treat patients in their homes with appropriate equipment or convey them to a hospital for doctors and nurses to attend to.

I’m interested in good care homes, and supported housing for vulnerable members of our community.

I’m interested in safe refuge for women, and programs to support victims of domestic abuse, enough police officers to deal with harrasment and stalking, and a staffed and trained rape crisis helpline.

I’m interested in a local safeguarding children board, looking after our foster carers, having appropriate adoption procedures.

I’m interested in accountability, so people cannot run amok in their own interests.

I’m not interested in politics.

I’m interested in my town, my family, our lives.

Decisions made in local council meetings affect all of us, every single day. Look at the shower of crooks and cronies braying away on Prime Ministers Questions and ask yourself if this is what you want to lead our country?

Apathy is strangling our democracy.

It is not down to just a handful of us to fight any more, to report, to rage, to rally.

I started as a local political reporter before the recipes and I will not apologise for returning to my roots. Someone has to sit at meetings until 1am, after all.

Because as Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph, is for good people to stand by and do nothing.”

Jack Monroe. Twitter & Instagram: @MxJackMonroe

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Peanut Butter Granola, 11p (VEGAN)

I first made this for myself as I love peanut butter in the mornings, but not having a toaster, popping bread under the grill inevitably goes wrong when you have a three year old to get washed and socked and shoed in the mornings – so I cobbled this together and bunged it in a big jar. Perfect with hot milk, or cold, or even pop it in the microwave for a minute for a warm, soft, stodgy, comforting start to your day.

There are endless variations to this too, just add a good oil, like coconut, in place of the peanut butter to hold your oats together (oo-er) and the possibilities are endless. I recommend dark chocolate with toasted or ground almonds if the purse stretches. Dark chocolate and marmalade is similar to a famous round chocolate orange in a bright blue box, and for breakfast, such fun! Golden syrup can be replaced with treacle, sugar, or any sweetening agent of your choice. If you feel like erring on the side of virtuous, chop a banana into it.

Makes 8 portions at 11p each. Costs worked out at Sainsburys, as it’s my nearest supermarket, and similar products are available at most leading supermarkets for competitive prices.

30ml oil, 3p (£3/3l, Sainsburys own brand)

4 tbsp/65g peanut butter, 33p (£3/600g Sun Pat crunchy – I use SP as it doesn’t contain palm oil, cheaper brands are available.)

4 tbsp/100g golden syrup, 18p (£1.25/680g Sainsburys own brand)

300g rolled porridge oats, 36p (£1.20/kg, Sainsburys own brand)

 

First, preheat the oven to 180C.

Melt the peanut butter and golden syrup together with the oil – either in a medium saucepan on a low heat for a minute or two, or in the microwave on full power for 30 seconds – and stir to combine.

Add the oats and mix well to coat then in the oil-peanut-syrup mixture.

Lightly grease a baking tray and tip the granola onto it, gently flattening down with the back of a spoon to spread approximately 1cm thick. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool, before transferring to an airtight container to store. It will keep for around 2 months.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MxJackMonroe. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

First published in the Guardian, 8th Jan 2014, and G2 magazine, 9th Jan 2014: For the original article, click here.

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Oodles of Doodles

Hello! I’ve been busily working on Bootstrap so the blog has been a bit quiet lately – but here’s something I have been desperate to share for a while! The Kickstarter edition of Bootstrap will be illustrated instead of photographed, inspired by the old cookbooks like Mrs Beeton, Dorothy Hartley, and a lot of the 16th century cookery books I have found in the British Library on my research trips.
I have always dreamed of doing an old fashioned illustrated cookbook and
although I am not very good at ‘art’ I am adding a few of my own (the rest will be by proper independent illustrators, at the moment they are all Southend based and from the Estuary Fringe Festival – a co-operative of local mavericks and troublemakers I am proud to call my friends.) If I need any more doodles and squiggles I will put a shout out – I may need some for my blog going forward.
Anyway, enjoy, these are my efforts, none of them finished.

1: All Of My Spoons Tell Stories

2: A Few Of My Favourite Things

3: Pantry

   
   

Jack Monroe. On Twitter & Instagram @MxJackMonroe

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If you didn’t get a Kickstarter copy of Cooking On A Bootstrap…

I am very very very proud to announce that Bluebird (part of Macmillan) will be republishing Cooking On A Bootstrap after Christmas, so if you didn’t grab a copy in the Kickstarter, you’ll soon be able to get it from any good bookshop(!!!)

To my 4,377 backers, I was sitting in the British Library sobbing fat tears on a Rare Books And Manuscripts Desk (from which I hastily moved my 500-year-old cookery tomes before I dissolve them in snot) as I typed this a few days ago. Please know that this would not have happened without you, and what great things your support has done, and how thankful I am for you all getting me back on my feet.

– Backers will receive one of my kickstarter copies, which will be limited editions, six months before general release.

– 1 in 4 of these, thanks to you, are headed for libraries, schools, refuges and people on pensions, benefits and low incomes.

– I HAVE A PROPER BOOK DEAL AND IT’S COZ YOU ALL BELIEVED IN ME AND IT’S REALLY HARD TO CRY QUIETLY IN A LIBRARY.

With thanks to Carole at Bluebird, Charlie and Rosamund for gentle introductions, Rosemary for letting me fly with my batshit ideas, Adrian for everything that’s got me to here, and everyone I sent my proposal to who told me to dust myself off and go for it.

(With no thanks to the publisher who pulled my original book deal after I came out: I guess like I said, I don’t cook with my chromosomes. Or my bra. I cook with my boots on and my motherfucking heart.)

ONWARDS. I GOT A BOOK TO WRITE.

XXXXX

PS here’s the official press release:

“Pan Macmillan has bought world rights for food writer and campaigner Jack Monroe’s third book Cooking on a Bootstrap.

The book comprises 100 “affordable” recipes and is the sequel to the first cookbook A Girl Called Jack (Michael Joseph). It will include chapters on breads and breakfasts, super soups, beans, pulses and lentils, as well as new additions such as “eat your greens” and “don’t throw that away”, encompassing tips on using leftovers.

The title was originally launched on Kickstarter in December, and met its original £8,000 funding target in just one day. Those backers will receive a limited print run of a special edition from Monroe to be released this spring.

At the time Monroe did not explain the decision to self-fund the project after being published by Michael Joseph for the first two cookbooks, but said on the Kickstarter page that “I’ve stripped it back from the gorgeous gloss that was book two, as beautiful as it was, the glass slipper didn’t quite fit my budget foot, so I’m going back to basics.” However, Monroe said it now “felt right” to take the book to a wider audience.

Bluebird publisher Carole Tonkinson acquired world rights from Rosemary Scoular at United Agents. Monroe said their Nan would be helping to copy edit the book and a group of people on benefits and large families would be helping to test the recipes.

Monroe said: “When I first launched the Kickstarter it was intended to be a tiny run; I just wanted a way to deliver Bootstrap to the people who wanted it. That initial target was met in the first 24 hours, and the more people who pledged for it, the more I was able to open it up to people who needed it.

“Backers generously subsidised copies for schools, libraries, and people on low incomes and on benefits, including students and pensioners and by the end 1 in 4 of those sold were subsidised copies. I thought that would be the end of it, and then I got the message from Bluebird.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support for this. It’s still a tiny operation; my nan is my copy editor and I have a bunch of busy people, people on benefits and single parents and large families testing my recipes for me. I’m glad to be doing this my way. Bluebird has been incredibly supportive, and it just feels right to make it available to a wider audience.”

It will be published as a trade paperback and e-book in January 2017.”

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Go on, be a tosser. (9 easy pancake recipes, from vegan to gluten free, leftover porridge and everything in between.)

Apparently we don’t bother with pancakes on Pancake Day any more. That’s what a press release that landed in my email inbox this afternoon told me; that we, as country, aren’t all tossers. We don’t flip out. We no longer belong in the gang of whisk-pour-fry-flip-lemon-sugar-munchers. I simply don’t believe it, and I hope you will all prove me wrong. I am a one-person pancake frenzy. I enjoy them with my boy most weekends, and whenever there is a surfeit of either bananas, apples or mushy porridge to use up. If you’re stuck for inspiration for tomorrow, here’s my 9 favourite pancake recipes from the last few years, from vegan to porridge to gramcakes, and everything in between. And the regular kind, too. Enjoy!

Click here for pancake recipes galore! From left to right: 1: No-egg pancakes. 2: Silver dollar pancakes. 3: Porridge pancakes. 4: Rolly-up pancakes. 5: Barley pancakes. 6: Porridge pancakes again. 7: American pancakes. 8: 9: Barley pancakes with peaches and yoghurt. 10: Gramcake (gluten free) (not pictured). 
  

Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter and Instagram @MxJackMonroe and I wrote a budget recipe book that’s available to buy here. Thanks!🙂

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Don’t Throw That Away! An A-Z of leftovers, tired veg, etc and what to do with them.

This piece started after an article in the Independent about the top 10 foods that we apparently throw away in the UK. I took to Twitter to ask people what usually ended up in their bin, and then spent a whole day and night answering hundreds of queries – some of them came up a lot, like bread and mushrooms, and some were rathee more surprising, like ‘half a jar of caviar’ (not a problem I can say I have ever had, but I am here to help, and inverse snobbery is as ghastly as the original kind so please, resist the urge.)

I have compiled them all here as an A-Z, and will keep this list going, and add to it regularly, as a handy reference point – so keep checking back! And add your own tips at the bottom, our ‘hive mind’ is a much better thing than my admittedly limited experience!!

Also remember you can always use the search bar on the blog to find recipe ideas too, for that stray carrot, half a tin of pulses or bargain bag of oats…

As ever, I would love this to be shared far and wide as I have designed it to be useful, but please bear in mind it has been about 14 hours unpaid work so please don’t just nick it – link to it or credit, and if you are a profit-making site or news organisation get in touch and we’ll sort something out, coz I’m happy to help individuals – it’s what I do – but if you’re a big fish gonna make money out of me it’s probably fair to pay me too. Friendly little prod. If you suspect this is about you then it probably is, HuffPo, Daily Mail, I’m looking at you.

ON WITH THE SHOW.

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A.
Almonds: Blitz into a pesto with greens, garlic, lemon, oil and salt. Cook with sugar and spices. Make almond milk. Cook into a passanda. Toss through salad. Chop and add oats and sugar and bake in granola.

Apples: Sweeter apples make a great apple butter, there are lots of recipes available online for it. Stew them until soft and use as a vegan egg replacer in cakes. Dried apples are good too, slice and bake in the bottom of the oven to dry out then store in a jar for a few months.

Aubergines: Baba ghanoush, aubergine curry, miso aubs, aub and kidney bean burgers, roast aub soup, aub and lentil pasta sauce…

Avocado (bruised/freckly): Some brown bruised bits are fine, use your judgement. Excellent mashed in guacamole with lots of lemon or lime, you won’t even see the bruises by the time it’s all thumped together.

B.
Baking powder: Lost its fizz? You can use it to clean things with, like stubborn pots, the oven, whites in the machine, etc. Some folks clean their teeth with it (!), others their microwaves. Horses for courses I guess!

Bananas: Dry them, mash and freze them, make banana pancakes, banana muffins, banana bread, mix with oats and bake for banana granola, lob in a smoothie with oats and milk for a morning power breakfast…

Banana skins: Tape to the bottom of your foot for verrucas like my mum used to. (Hey, it worked). Other suggestions on Twitter included using them to extract splinters, and drying them out to make shoes. Yes really.

Beansprouts: Easy to freeze! Just freeze half when you get a bag so they stay at their best. Can be cooked from frozen in a hot pan so heck, freeze them all.

Beetroot: Pickle them, freeze them, juice them, soup them, crisp them, falafel them, burger them, roast them, bake them into a cake, grate into a magical looking slaw, and for the really wrinkly ones boil them in a pan of rice or pasta to turn it pink and surprise the kids (or yourself).

Blueberries: Freeze them when you get them, anything they work in they’ll work in frozen as they’re so tiiiny. Bake in pancakes and muffins. Dry out in the bottom of a warm oven and snack on. Snack on them frozen, come to that!

Bok choy: Separate it from the base, wash and freeze it. High water content in the stalk means it freezes well. Use in soups and stir fries from frozen.

Bread: Roux, cheese, break up bread, stir, dish, cheese top, bake. Mac-n-cheese/bread pud hybrid would be IMMENSE. Do it! Also freeze half the loaf when you buy it so it stays in good nick. Use for toast, pappa al pomodoro, bread pudding, breadcrumbs, bread sauce, etc.

Broccoli: If it’s losing its colour it’s also losing its goodness, so act quickly. Blanch it and freeze it to use later. Blitz raw in a blender and add to salad, or blanch and cool and make a pesto by adding lemon, garlic, oil, nuts or seeds. Pesto can be frozen and used later, or kept in the fridge for around a week. There’s always broccoli soup, too!

Broccoli stems: Slice and stir fry, or make a great soup. Fry for a few mins to start them off for a better flavour. Gorgeous cooked until soft with crushed garlic, salt, lemon and chilli as a side dish, too.

Butternut squash: See ‘squash’

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C.
Cabbage: Pickle it! Slice thin, boil in water with 1 tsp each sugar and salt. Jar, Add vinegar, fridge, enjoy.

Cake (stale): Make a basic semi freddo, (recipe on my blog), crumble pud, fold through, freeze, enjoy all year. Make cake pops. Slice and make a trifle or tiramisu.

Caraway seeds: Fry them and store in oil to infuse and keep in the fridge. Add to sugar and infuse for bakes. Breads. Biscuits. Toast and use to top salads. Add to rice when cooking to accompany curries.

Carrots: Grate or julienne, and pickle them. Especially delicious with indian spices, garlic, white wine vinegar, mustard seed, and salt. Oof. Also ribbon with a veg peeler and toss through pasta.

Cauliflower: Blitz raw into tabbouleh. Roast with turmeric. Ottolenghi has some wicked ways with cauli, he’s my brassica hero, so look up his Guardian recipes and ignore any fancy ingredients if you don’t have them.

Celeriac: Roast for soup, make a celeriac dauphinoise, grate into slaw, dice and fold through mac n cheese…

Celery (leaves): Pop in water in the fridge to infuse for a very yummy drink, or blitz into pesto, or add to juices and smoothies.

Celery (wilting): Soak it in cold water overnight to refresh it then roast it and blitz with spuds and stock for a gorgeous soup.

Cereals (gone soft): Most can be rescued but there will be some exceptions. Shake them onto a baking tray, bake at 140C for about 20 mins, let cool, and they should be good as new. If not, make them into crispie cakes or rocky road or fridge cake, and scour poundshops for decent cereal-storage containers so it doesn’t happen again!

Chard: I am obsessed with chard. Massage with oil and salt and lemon to soften it, top a pizza, make salad, pesto, drop it into soups, make a saag aloo, and use the stalks like celery.

Cheese: Cheese can be frozen but it goes a bit crumbly, so grate it and use from frozen for best results.

Clementines: See ‘Satsumas’

Condensed milk: Amazing in a risotto base or carbonara but temper with something sharp like lots of lemon to balance. Dollop into strong coffee. Make fudge or extra-rich caramel sauce or Scottish tablet.

Coriander: Just freeze it or dry it when you get it, and use it like that. Much simpler than finding it soggy in the fridge.

Cottage cheese: You can freeze it because of sloshy texture. Just defrost in the fridge overnight before use. Or lob in an omelette.

Courgettes: Can be made into fritters, ratatouille, roasted for soup or pasta sauce, chips, battered and deep fried, pickled, and someone has a very popular courgette gratin recipe…!

Cucumber (soft): If it isn’t actually slimy, slice and freeze to add to water or gin/vodka based drinks. If it’s too squashy it’s beyond help this time, but generally the exposed end wastes first, so cut a bit off then give it a prod to see how gar down the damage goes. Or pickle it in white wine vinegar with salt and mustard and fennel seeds.

D.

E.

F.

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G.
Garlic (dried up): Excellent. Pop it in a jar, and you have yourself some dried garlic. Use in anything slow cooked, like soup, stocks, curries, casseroles, stews.

Garlic (sprouting): Pop it somewhere sunny and let it grow, if you’re curious. The green shoots are delicious lightly fried – like a cross between garlic and a tender spring onion. Use cooked to top soup, in soup, in hummus (again, cook it first), stir fried, but make sure you cook it. Raw sprouted anything can cause serious stomach upsets and worse for lots of reasons too gross to go into here. I’m not in the business of scaremongering but I’ve had raw sprouted stuff twice in my life and both times I was horribly sick for days. So cook them. Please. The raw garlic shoots you buy in fancy shops are a kind of chive, not grown like this.

H.
Herbs: Freeze or dry the other half and use later on. Stalks can be blitzed with oil + lemon for salad dressings, keep in the fridge and use within a week.

Hummus: Makes an excellent pasta sauce hot or cold with veggies. Or mix with mac n cheese. Or top pizza with it as a vegan alternative to cheese. Have it on toast, too, it’s yummy melting into a slice of warm toast…

I

J.

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K:
Kale: Kale pesto, or wash and freeze it to use later. Good in soups (I have a kale and barley recipe) and curries, and saag aloo. I drop it into pasta sauces and casseroles blitzed into tiny pieces too.

Ketchup: Use it in place of tomato puree in most recipes. Can be frozen in an ice cube tray and used from frozen in soups, stews and casseroles, too.

Kohlrabi: Was my Grandad’s fave freaky little vegetable. Good as mash, roasted, in a salad, dauphinoise-style, or grated in a slaw.

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L.
Lemons/Limes (whole):

Lemons/Limes (squeezed out): Dry them in the bottom of the oven or on top of a radiator and keep to use as firelighters, the oils burn off and smell amazing, and if they are on a BBQ, they impart a great little flavour too.

Lettuce: Slice, oil, lemon, salt, toss through pasta for surprisingly delicious pasta salad. Or cook with peas, french style. Also great tossed into a pea soup sliced thinly at the end.

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M.
Mayo: Use in place of butter when mashing potatoes for a richer taste if you struggle to get through a jar. Use instead of butter for cheese on toast, plain hot toast, or sandwiches, too.

Milk: If it’s only just turning you can add it to natural yoghurt to make your own yoghurt. Store in the fridge and keep an eye (or nose) on it. You can also use it in place of buttermilk in soda bread and scones.

Mushrooms: Best thing is to dry them. It intensifies their flavour and they can keep for a year in a jar. Simply leave to dry on a baking tray for a few days, or pop in the bottom of the oven when it’s on for something else. They make an excellent earthy stock too, just slow cook with herbs and an onion, a carrot if you have it, and a pinch of salt for an excellent base for soup or risotto.

N.

O.
Olives: Tapenade! Also can be dried, blitzed & kept for months. I have been known to serve dessicated olives with a cheese course just because I can, and people always loved them. Also great sprinkled on a risotto, or added to stews, casseroles and soups for a deep tangy flavour.

Oranges: See ‘Satsumas’

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P.
Pasta (cooked): See ‘spaghetti’

Peppers: Roast and blitz into a pasta sauce with tomato and onion, or sneak into pizza sauce. Freeze either in ice cubes and use as required.

Pickled cabage: I’m thinking drop it into a beet soup and cook off the vinegar… Yum!

Pizza: Breakfast. Like a superior cheese on toast. Or dice small and bake and add to soup like intense little croutons. You’ll thank me.

Plums (unripe): Stick them in the microwave wrapped in a thin tea towel for 2 min on defrost. Voila.

Plums (squishy): Boil up with a little sugar and lemon to make a compote. Store in the fridge or freezer and add to yoghurt, granola, toast, porridge, bircher, cakes, etc.

Q.

R.
Rice: COOL IT COMPLETELY. Add an egg (gram flour if vegan) and chill it. Fry in patties next morning for amazing brunch. Also see ‘bibimbap’ for ideas from Korea of how to sex up fried rice. Oof.

Roast potatoes: Have them cold in a potato salad, hot in saag aloo, blitz for soup, make a spud curry, slice and refry for potato sandwiches like my Aunty Helen used to make.

Rocket: Rocket makes an excellent fiery pesto. Add oil, lemon, garlic, S&P, cheese, nuts or seeds. Freeze for months or fridge for 7-10 days.

S.
Satsumas: Boil up and simmer for a compote to spread on toast or add to birchers, or make small marmalade; equal weight fruit to sugar, boil, simmer, jar, fridge, enjoy. Also delicious in a curd, find a simple lemon curd recipe and replace the lemons with satsumas and off you go.

Spaghetti (cooked): Chop it up small and start a minestrone soup. Can of tomatoes, stock, carrots, peas or greens, go.

Spinach: Freeze half of it when you buy it to prevent the sludgey bottom of the bag. Use in pesto, soup, curry, casseroles, tagines – I put it in everything!

Spring onion/scallion tops: Slice and add to oil with garlic, lemon, ginger, chilli, salt/soy = sexy spicy asian-style dressing for noodles, stir fries, salads and veg. Slice and add to mash for colcannon, too.

Squash: Dice it and blanch it and freeze it. Chips. Mash. Risotto. Soup. Mix into hummus. Grate it and make a rosti. Posh bubble and squeak. Pasta sauce with chilli and cheese. Curry with chickpeas and spinach.

Sweetcorn: Shuck it and freeze it and use it from frozen. Dry the middles and donate to friends with guinea pigs – mine loved to gnaw on them!

T.
Tahini: Make halva. Lots of halva. And send me some.

Taramasalata: Makes a great pasta sauce warm with lemon. Add a mashed egg and some spinach/kale for luxury.

Toast: Pappa al pomodoro is excellent made with toast. I do it with SBs discarded half eaten toast if it’s only had butter or marmite on.

Tomatoes: Just cook slowly with a few cloves of garlic, dash of vinegar or lemon and a pinch of salt for the best pasta sauce. Or make a panzanella! Or blitz/mash for passata and freeze it until you need it.

U.

V.

W.
Weetabix crumbs or similar: These are very good in a crumble topping! Just store in a small bag or jar until needed. If you bake your own bread they can be added to the flour too.

X.

Y.
Yoghurt: If not too far gone, add salt and mashed garlic, pour into a teatowel, hang in the fridge over a bowl to strain overnight, and you have labneh. Experiment with spices like cumin and chilli, za’atar if you have it, lemon zest and pepper if you haven’t. (I don’t have za’atar but someone might!)

Z.
Zested citrus fruits: Slice them and freeze them whole and use in water/alcoholic drinks. Or cook immediately into compote or a curd before they harden.

What do you struggle to use up? If I can answer it I’ll add it to the list – just comment below!

Jack Monroe. On Twitter/Instagram @MxJackMonroe.

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Unf*ckupable wholemeal pizza dough, 5p

I made a pizza tonight, and dolloped some of last night’s leftover baba ghanoush on top – although minus the tomatoes, as it is traditionally made. The baba recipe in my first book is based on a baba/imam-bayildi cross that a friend of mine used to make, and I long believed that baba ghanoush is always made with tomatoes. A few years in the culinary world (and some rather scathing comments) showed me that that was in fact rather unusual, but still, I like it. I digress; last night’s baba was made without tomatoes. Just good old aubergines, roasted until blackened on the outside and soft and smoky on the inside, mashed with some minced garlic, oil, salt and lots of lemon juice. I passed over the tahini, for which my dear Ottolenghi would raise his eyebrows, but I didn’t have any in. A tablespoon of peanut butter is a good enough substitution for Nigella, but I won’t start a war over here. Just, I made some baba ghanoush, I somehow managed not to eat the lot, and tonight I made a pizza to dollop it on top of.

I uploaded a picture to my Instagram account and several people asked for the recipe for the pizza dough, so here it is. It was going to go in Cooking On A Bootstrap but I’m not precious, and I like to make people happy, and besides, I doubt anyone will cancel their orders because I’ve snuck a couple of recipes on my blog.🙂

As ever, prices are based at Sainsburys because that’s where I shop, and if you find any super excellent bargains elsewhere then be sure to comment below and let us all know.

Makes one very large pizza for 4 people at 5p each

120g wholemeal flour, 8p (95p/1.5kg)

120g plain flour, 5p (Basics, 55p/1.5kg)

5g dried active yeast, 2p (65p/125g)

1/2 tsp salt (optional), <1p (Basics table salt, 25p/750g)

1 tbsp oil, 2p (£3/3l sunflower or vegetable oil)

200-220ml warm water, depending on flour – not all wholemeals are created equal
First pop your flours in a mixing bowl and add the yeast and salt. Mix well to combine. Some people like to soft their flour and other ingredients together; go ahead by all means if you have a sieve and like to do things properly, but I’ve never noticed the difference. I am a neanderthal in some respects though, and the subtle nuances of a crumb structure often evade me as I ram a pizza in my gob, so such delicate additional steps are wasted on me.

Make a well (a sort of hole) in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the oil, followed by most of the water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot, else it will kill the yeast, it is a living organism and doesn’t take too kindly to being boiled alive!

Mix well from the soggy centre, ourwards, to form a supple dough. I use the handle of a fork or spoon for mixing bread these days, as it stops the dough from gathering in the bowl of the spoon. Grab a wooden spoon and lube it up with cooking oil a few inches from the end and up (I demonstrated this to someone once and was met with open mouthed horror, safe to say if I ever do accept any of those telly offers, I won’t be practically demonstrating this one…) ANYWAY, use this to stir your dough and it will form fats and smooth and shouldn’t stick too much. The usual dough rules apply; if it’s too wet and tacky, add a handful of dough. If it’s too dry and cracking, add a splash more water.

Flour your worktop, and while you’re at it, a light dusting on the baking tray too. Tip your dough out, leaving the mixing bowl to one side because you’ll need that in a moment. Knead well for a few minutes, you’ll feel it beoming soft and supple and springy in your hands. I like to oil my palms to knead, it stops them getting crusty and makes for a rather enjoyable experience. Here’s me kneading. It’s essentially pushing the dough out with your palm, folding it in half, turning it a little, and repeating. There are many ways up the mountain, you just need to stretch it out and work it a little, to activate the gluten. Oily hands seem to keep it all warm, which is another reason why I do it.

When you have kneaded your bread, pop it back in the mixing bowl and cover with clingfilm or a tea towel. Leave in a warm place for 90 minutes, or if no suitably warm place is available, 2 hours. If your home is bloody cold, like mine is, wrap the covered bowl in 2 thick bath towels or fleecy blankets/jumpers/dressing gown to insulate it. It works. Don’t clean the flour off your worktop, you’ll need it again in a bit. Unless it’s really going to bother you, in which case, go right ahead.

Come back to it 90 mins to an hour later. Tip out onto the floury worktop and roll it out. If you don’t have a rolling pin, a wine bottle works just fine. Carefully lift it and drop it onto your floured baking tray. Turn the oven on to 180C. Top with desired toppings and leave to prove for 15 minutes to get one last rise out of it – then cook for 15-18 minutes in the centre of the oven, depending on how much you loaded the top!

Enjoy. I’d love to hear what you topped yours with in the comments below.

Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. If you like my recipes then I have a couple of cookbooks on Hive, who support independent bookshops and also deliver.

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Applesauce bread-cake (VEGAN), 9p

 

Applesauce breadcake, Jack Monroe

 
This applesauce bread-that’s-a-bit-cakey is based on my original vegan banana bread recipe from my first cookbook, A Girl Called Jack. Photographs of that banana bread are sent to me on a near-daily basis, with an especial flurry at weekends, and I am delighted to receive them. It remains one of my favourite recipes, but every now and again a reader gets in touch to say that they just really don’t like bananas. At all. It seemed a shame not to share the simplicity and deliciousness of one of my favourite recipes with bananaphobes, so, I set about creating one just as simple, with Something Else.

The Something Else turned out to be applesauce, made from stewing apples – this can be cheated in the microwave for an even simpler version, or use a jar of shop-bought apple sauce.

As this is a yeast-free and quite dense bread, it will work well with gluten free flour, simply add a splash of water, and then another, towards the end, and mix in well to form the dough. Gluten free flour tends to need more liquid than its regular counterparts.

As ever, my ingredients are costed at Sainsburys because that is the closest supermarket to where I live, but others have similar ingredients at similar prices. If you find an amazing bargain ingredient, please comment and let us all know!

Serves 8 in chunky squares or slices, 9p each.

2 small apples, any kind will do, 40p (80p/4, Basics)

1 tbsp bottled lemon juice, 3p (50p/250ml)

100ml vegetable or sunflower oil, 10p (£3/3l)

225g plain flour, 8p (Basics, 55p/1.5kg)

1 1/2 level tsp bicarb, 3p (85p/180g)

1 tsp ground cinnamon, depending on taste, 7p (Fairtrade, £1/38g)

optional: a generous handful of sultanas or mixed dried peel

First dice your apples, I leave the skin on mine with a quick wash under the tap, as there is fibre in the skin and a lot of the vitamins reportedly sit just beneath. You won’t notice it anyway, as it will be mushed down and baked into a loaf! Toss them into a pan with 1 tbsp lemon juice to stop them from browning. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for around 20 minutes or until softened.

Preheat your oven to 180C and lightly grease a loaf tin. (If you don’t have a loaf tin, a cake tin will do,  or even a baking tray).

Take a large mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. I have deliberately not put sugar in this recipe as I find the small cheap apples sweet enough, but if you have a cooking apple or a more tart variety, you might want to add 2 tbsp sugar to the mix. Stir it all together to evenly distribute. 

Remove the apples from the heat and drain any excess water. Leave it to one side in case you need it later – not all dough is created equal and this water will be apple-flavoured! Mash the apples with a fork, adding the oil to create a loose applesauce mixture.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the applesauce. Mix well to form a thick batter, adding a splash of the reserved apple-water if necessary. It should be reasonably stiff to stir but not dry and cracking.

Dollop the dough into your vessel of choice – loaf tin, cake tin or on a baking tray. If using a baking tray, flour your hands well and roughly shape your batter to hold it together somewhat. Err on the side of tall and round as it may spread as well as rise.

Pop it into the oven for 40 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.

And enjoy!

Jack Monroe. I am on Instagram and Twitter at @MxJackMonroe and my recipe books are available to buy here,

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Aubergine and lentil vindaloo (VEGAN)

  

Tonight, after a few weeks of new-veganism, I knocked up this hottie in my little kitchen. (I should rewrite that, but I’m not going to.) I have been working my way through a list of curries recently, partly for my new book, Cooking On A Bootstrap, partly for a challenge, as I had a jokey conversation with a few friends on Instagram about doing ‘a year of curry’, and partly because there are so many things I enjoy but have never tried to cook myself. And so tonight, vindaloo. ***My apologies for not costing this already but I can barely keep my eyes open, it’s 2am here, but I wanted to share this before I forget it and it gets swept into ‘recipes I mean to blog’. Forgive me, I will do the forensics later.

I delved into one of my curry bibles, Camellia Panjabi’s ’50 Great Curries of India’ and of course, there on page 102, was a vindaloo recipe. Admittedly with lamb, but I substitute lamb for aubergine in recipes as a rule, and I rolled up my sleeves and started to make notes. The original recipe called for cinnamon, an innocuous storecupboard staple that I had donated to my Nan a few days before, for her roast potatoes, no less. (And I always wondered what made them so special!) And cloves, that I bought for Christmas and couldn’t find anywhere, the blighters. I last remember crunching on a few in the bathroom to deal with a toothache, but they weren’t in there either. Mind you, I no longer have the nefarious toothache, so perhaps in my delirious agony I munched the lot. Anyway, I replaced the cloves and cinnamon with nutmeg and cardamom, both delicious. I have allowed for either in the recipe. 

If you don’t like aubergine, use mushrooms instead. Red lentils could easily be kidney beans, baked beans, black beans, brown or green lentils, or yellow split peas; whatever you have in the cupboard or like. They are here to add texture and protein; all the other flavour speaks for itself, or rather, shouts and sings and dances.

Serves 2-4 depending on appetite:

3 onions

6 fat cloves of garlic

1-2 tsp chilli flakes

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1/4 of a star anise or an 1/8 tsp fennel seeds

a good grind of black pepper, and then another one

2 tbsp tomato puree

2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice

1 large aubergine or 2 small ones

100g red lentils
First peel and finely slice your onions and toss into a pan with a little oil. Bring to a low heat to start to soften the onions, and add the garlic cloves, whole and peeled. Dice the aubergine and add to the pot, stirring all to disturb and stop it from sticking and burning.

Add your spices, but only half of your chosen quantity of chilli. It is easy to add to, but rather more difficult to temper down if you misjudge it, so I put half the chilli in to cook, and leave half to garnish. It means guests and dining partners can choose their own heat, too, which is ideal if everyone is a little different. So, add the cinnamon, cumin, star anise or fennel, and pepper, and stir well to combine. Add half a cup of water to the pan, and crank up the heat. It doesn’t look brilliant right now but trust me, it geets better.

Thoroughly rinse your lentils. In a separate pan, cover them with water – no salt or the lentils will take an age to cook – and bring to the boil. I was initially tempted to throw them into the pot to make this a one-pot dinner, but lentils produce so much ‘scum’ that rises to the top of the pan, I didn’t want to mar my beautiful adventure, so doubled my washing up… When the water is boiling,  reduce to a simmer for around 12 minutes until soft and swollen. Drain, rinse well to knock off the scum, and tip into the first pan.

Add the tomato and vinegar and stir well. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring slowlly and therapeutically every now and then. It should take around 10 more minutes to meld into this glossy, orange, spicy goodness, and the liquid should thicken to an unctuous sauce. If it is too watery for your liking, bring it back to boil, then reduce the heat and cook a little more. If the thought of 10 more minutes on the gas worries you, give it all a thorough stir, remove from the heat and cover with a plate or foil or baking tray for 20 mins. It takes a little longer but by insulating some of the heat, it will continue to cook and thicken as it cools.

And ta-dah, you’re done! i served mine with a pile of spinach and ate an awful lot of it, fresh in from a 6 mile run and ravenous, but it would be delicious with simple boiled rice to make it go a little further.
Jack Monroe. On Twitter & Instagram @MxJackMonroe

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I went vegan for January as a challenge…and I’m not looking back.

  
This year, I saw in the New Year with just a couple of friends and our young children. I drained my last glass of gin, danced around the living room as the clock struck twelve, sang the wrong words to Auld Lang Syne and cuddled and kissed everyone in sight. I went to bed, knowing that that would be my last gin for a while, my last ham pie, so as hedonism went, it was going to be as wild as it gets for a while.

I woke up on the 1st, resolving to go sober, vegan and take up running. I have been cooking vegan recipes for a long time, long before the release of my first cookbook, as in the rubbish old days of scraping around on mismanaged, delayed and suspended benefits, meat and dairy products were often just too expensive in comparison to their kinder counterparts. I cooked with beans and lentils for protein, always obsessively researching, and got my calcium and iron from bags of frozen spinach and yellow-stickered broccoli.

When I was a child, I once announced to my parents that I wanted to be a vegetarian. I was a sensitive child, quirky, bookish, and was met with ‘don’t be silly and finish your roast dinner.’ So, out of respect for my parents, who worked hard to put that dinner on the table, I did. I have tried to give up meat several times over the last few years, yet like a junkie, I always caved in. Packets of cooking bacon in the supermarket, cans of sardines, the odd roast chicken. I have written recipes for this very newspaper, songs of praise for blutwurst and a macabre ‘bunny bucco’ for Easter weekend. I look back, and try not to regret. I am, after all, the sum product of all of my decisions and experiences so far. I am not going to indulge in righteous self-flaggelation for fulfilling the brief of my recipe column; I was doing my job, as it were.

A few weeks ago, I was reading my old copy of ‘The 50 Greatest Curries Of India’ by Camellia Panjabi, like a novel, as I so often do with cookery books. The introduction on the Indian philosophy of food made for fascinating reading. Regular readers will know that curries are my most favourite thing, and I wanted to go back to the start and really research the history and philosophy of Indian cuisine, rather than just toasting spices, slow-cooking onions, I was hungry to understand this food that I love so much. Ayurveda, the ancient Hindu wisdom on health, is described by Panjabi as the single greatest influence on Indian cuisine. I delved in. “Flesh has the force of violence in it, and the negative emotions of fear and hatred…it has no place in the Satvic diet.” And there, with no gory videos, no statistics, no shock-jock tactics, Panjabi quietly drew my line in the sand for me. I understood myself, the discomfort, the guilt, the addiction, the naughty thrill of a packet of bacon in the fridge, the promises to myself that it would be the last time. I behaved like an addict, with no thought for those I might have been hurting, just seeking my next high, my next slow-roasted pork belly, chicken skin Caesar salad, slow bone broth. I hung out with friends who would indulge me, encourage me, and I needed to stop.

And I did.

I have found my cooking has taken on a whole new life, a veritable riot of colour and flavour and deliciousness. Deep fried spicy kidney beans sit alongside a mushroom rogan josh, heavy aubergine bhuna, and a black bean tarkari. Mushroom replaces lamb in my samosas, and a sweet potato rosti rolling around in a hot dhansak sauce is a beautiful thing. I am writing my third (and bits of my fourth) cookbook, and although it isn’t strictly vegan as it is half written already, it is an absolute delight. Cans of chickpeas and bags of lentils have been staples of mine for a long time, and I’m genuinely excited to use them as the building blocks for my new adventures in the kitchen.

Scratching meat and dairy products off my shopping list gives me extra in the budget to buy luxury ingredients I haven’t cooked with for years; the odd bag of black rice, or even to tick all of the boxes with red quinoa – yes, I know, a sentence for the Guardian if ever there was one. I manage to shop in half the time, as I can avoid most of the aisles in the supermarket, yet my cupboards have never been more varied and enticing.

When friends invited me for lunch last week, and lunch was chicken, I realised in my keenness to blog and Instagram my vegan journey, I had forgotten to tell the real-life people who mattered. I prioritised a friendship over a chicken that was already baked in a pie, and I learned my lesson about warning people far in advance about my oral proclivities.

“Where do you get your protein from?” people ask. From chickpeas, lentils, mushrooms, peas, beans. Iron from tinned tomatoes, spring greens, nuts, seeds, and beans and pulses. Calcium from spring greens and kale, among other dark green leafy sources. “Don’t you miss eggs?” one Twitter user asked. Not really. I replace them with bananas or applesauce when baking, with a dash of vinegar and cornflour in pancakes. Yes, scrambled eggs are lovely, and I’ve eaten them, and enjoyed them, and that was okay. Now I don’t want to any more, and that’s okay too.

Some vegan friends, and online groups, try to stop their friends from eating animal products by sharing gory photographs and videos online. I’ve had aggressive messages on my own instagram feed for reposting a grapefruit curd recipe from before Veganuary, that had a couple of eggs in it. I made those things. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t, nor flail around deleting all of the carnivorous recipes from my blog (though I will eventually have a vegan alternative for most of them, because I cook to live and my blog reflects that.) Unless you live under a rock, you know that geese are force-fed copious amounts of grain to fatten their livers for foie gras. You know that baby male chicks are flung alive into a mincer. But I’m not going to gross you out with more gore and science. In my experience, yelling at people that they are wrong and disgusting rarely wins the argument, nor changes point of view. I’m doing my bit to encourage people to try vegan by making vegan food affordable and accessible and absolutely delicious. No hard-to-find ingredients, no complicated recipes, just doing what I’ve always done, but without the cooking bacon.

I won’t be throwing out my new Doctor Marten boots, or my sexy-as-hell biker jacket, or my tight leather pants that were so 2013 – but I won’t be buying any more. Not now. I won’t be posting gory videos on my social media, nor unfollowing the lush Bleecker Burger, but you’ll all be seeing a lot more curry from now on. And a world with more curry in, can only be a very good thing.

Jack Monroe. On twitter: @mxjackmonroe

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Mushroom Rogan Josh, 26p (VEGAN)

Last night I fancied a curry, a nice hot curry to warm the very cockles of my draughty flat, but like so many evenings of the dreaded ‘cooking for one’, I just couldn’t decide what curry to have. I opened the fridge, glowered at a bunch of onions and a handful of mushrooms, and took to Twitter with a poll. It’s my new favourite way of, to coin a phrase, Making Your Mind Up. (I challenge you, Brits of a certain age, to not take that on as an earworm now. I make no apologies.)

The poll returned me a mushroom rogan josh over a korma or vindaloo, and I set about making it. Recipes online vary wildly, from the eyebrow-raising ‘take a jar of madras paste’ on the BBC Good Food website, to paprika, to Jamie Oliver’s cloves and allsorts. I picked all the bits I liked from about seven different recipes, made it vegan, adjusted it to taste as I went along, and when done, carried the pan to bed and devoured the lot.

Here’s my mushroom rogan josh, so delicious that I had it cold for breakfast this morning, smeared on toast with a fistful of spinach, too.

Serves 4 at 26p each (or would have done, if I wasn’t such a chomper). All prices Sainsburys, Basics range where available, as that’s where I shop. I do get spices from a brilliant ethnic grocer, but don’t expect you all to make the trip to Southend for them.

2 medium sized onions or one massive one, 9p (70p/1.5kg Basics)
4 fat cloves of garlic, 8p (30p/2 bulbs Basics)
4 cardamom pods, 10p (£1/28g)
2 tbsp oil, 3p (£3/3l sunflower oil)
1 tsp coriander/dhaniya powder (£1/ )
½ tsp turmeric, 2p (£1/48g Fairtrade)
a few pinches of cinnamon, 1p (£1/45g)
a few pinches of chilli flakes, to taste, 1p (£1/42g)
200g mushrooms, 45p ( 90p/400g Basics)
400g chopped tomatoes, 35p (35p/400g Basics)
a fistful of fresh coriander, or parsley if cori isn’t your thing, 10p (80p/28g)
50ml coconut cream/full fat coconut milk/coconut yoghurt/you get the drift, 18p (90p/250g coconut cream) (not essential but good to temper the spice if cooking for young mouths or people with less of a tolerance for the hot stuff. Non vegans can replace it with natural yoghurt)

First peel and finely slice your onions, and peel and smash up your garlic. This has a relatively long cooking time for one of my recipes, so you can just lay the garlic on the worktop, place the fattest knife you have flat across it, and firmly drive the heel of your palm down to crush it. Please be careful. Please don’t drive your palm into the sharp bit. Please chop it in a regular fashion if you have any concerns about this. Finding a soft, creamy, still-slightly-pungent broken clove of garlic in my dinner is one of my favourite foodie delights, but if you feel differently about this, chop it up finely.

Regardless, throw the onions and garlic into a pan. Break the cardamon pods (see garlic method above, or carefully halve them with a sharp knife) and release the seeds. If you don’t have cardamom, a just-as-good substitute would be star anise, fennel seed or caraway, but just a little.

Add the oil and bring to a medium heat to warm the pan through. Stir to disturb and stop the onions from burning, and inhale as the cardamom seeds toast, pop and release their delicate, heady fragrance. You deserve this. Love yourself. Treat yourself. Enjoy. I find cooking for one such an indulgent pleasure, such a selfish moment, a treat. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have noticed I often cook very late at night, when the boy-child is sleeping, when the last emails have been answered, when peace has been restored to my chaotic home, I stand over my hob and delight in the selfish pleasure of satisfying my senses, one by one by one.

Give it all a few minutes, and when the onion starts to soften, add the remaining spices. In goes the dhaniya, the turmeric, the cinnamon, a pinch of salt, a crack of pepper, with a stir. Slice your mushrooms and toss them in, coat them in the spices, and let those, too, soften for a moment.

Pour over the tomatoes, add 150ml water, and stir. Bring to a bubbling boil, then reduce back down to a simmer. If you’re cooking rice with it, now would be a good time to pop that on. (For what it’s worth, I cook my rice with a few pinches of turmeric, cinnamon, and a fistful of sultanas. Sometimes I add a cardamom pod or star anise or two, sometimes stir through coconut milk or cream at the end to make a sticky kind-of-pilau-risotto. Sometimes it takes a bunch of spinach, parsley or coriander for colour and goodness, other times I leave it yellow and glorious.)

Cook until the sauce has thickened, around 20 minutes, and then taste it. Add salt if you like it, a dash of lemon to brighten it, and serve with a dollop of coconut cream on top.

Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr @MxJackMonroe

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Beetroot, carrot and ginger juice (without a juicer)

  

Hot off the back of my Beetballs, I was looking for new and exciting ways to use my new favourite purple vegetable, and so threw it into a morning juice. I don’t have a juicer, I threw it in my blender (admittedly a good little number, but that’s because it gets used ten times a day, so any blender will do.) I;ve written about making juice-without-a-juicer before, essentially pulverising your chosen fruits and vegetables in a jug blender with water, and straining it through a sieve, clean cloth or tea strainer to make juice. No bulky bastard-to-clean juicer required, just a blender, something to strain it through, and a spoon. Voila. 
I could bang on about why I’ve chosen the ingredients that I have but basically it boils down to the simple ‘I think juice is nice’. Ginger, lemon and turmeric to help fight a cold, beetroot for the colour, carrot for sweetness. I like juice.

Makes 2 generous glasses:

1 raw or cooked beetroot (not the kind in vinegar)

1 large carrot or 2 rather small ones – or an apple, if you prefer

a small piece of ginger

half a lemon or 1 tbsp lemon juice – adjust to taste

a few pinches of turmeric

300ml-400ml water
  
Dice all of the ingredients, including the lemon if using a fresh one, rind and all, carefully picking out the seeds. You want the shoots and skins of your beetroot and the tops of your carrots too, don’t waste a thing. Lob them into your blender and cover with the water, and pulse to a bright purple liquid.

Place your tea strainer over a jug, or line it with a clean non-fluffy tea towel or muslin. Pour in the juice and strain. If using a strainer, stir briskly with a teaspoon to disturb it and extract the maximum juices, a human equivalent of the scary bit in the middle of a newfangled juicer. If using a cloth, lift it by the edges and corners, and allow to drip. Squeeze it to speed up the process if you like, but clean your hands with lemon juice afterwards to get rid of the purple hue.

Reserve the pulp – it can be used in a variety of recipes, including those beetballs, as a base for risotto; mix it with a can of tomatoes and a hefty pinch of salt and chilli for a pasta sauce to smuggle past fussy children and adults alike; add stock and make it into soup, or hold out for my beetroot and chocolate granola recipe…

And enjoy. If you want to keep them, it’s light and oxidisation that causes juices to discolour, so store in a non-clear bottle like a Thermos flask or similar, in the fridge, and consume the next day. I tend to just drink the lot, and sod it.

Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr @MxJackMonroe

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Being friends is more important than being right (according to my 5 year old, a conversation on the train about God and beliefs).

This morning’s Conversation On The Train with my 5 year old was a corker. Friends will know that because we moved house at the end of the school year, my dear Small Boy now goes to school 14 miles from our front door. Not being a driver means we stroll out of the door at 0730 in the mornings and join a gaggle of commuters on the train. It’s usually here that he chooses to ask some pretty big questions; so far we’ve had ‘If I marry a boy can I have a baby?’ ‘How many moons are there in all of space?’ and my personal highlight ‘Does nobody want to marry you Mama?’

J: “Mama where did the first people come from that growed all the people?”

Me: “Oh this is a LONG story. Do you want to hear a long story?”

J: “Yes! Yes I love stories!”

Me: “Okay. Well, you know in church sometimes you hear stories from the Bible?”

J: “Oh yes! The one you said about the man made from mud and the woman made from a rib!”

Me: “Yep. Well that’s a story about where the first man and woman came from. But because the story was written many many many years ago, some people think it’s just a story, and some people have different ones… Some people think the world was made in seven days, by God who was the father of Jesus. Some people believe it was made in six days, Muslim people who call God ‘Allah’.”

(J likes this one and pronounces ‘Allah’ a few times.)

Me: “Some people believe the world was made from breaking an egg-”

J: “AN EGG?!!”

Me: “Yep, a great big world-creating egg, and some people believe it was very carefully made out of wood – these are Hindu beliefs and their creator’s name is Brahma.”

J: “What about the bang?”

Me: “The bang?”

J: “Yes like on the Big Bang Theory.”
(Me, laughing hysterically, bursts into yhe theme tune): “Well…. the whole universe was in a hot dense place nearly 14 million years ago expansion started….”

Both: “WE BUILT THE PYRAMIDS! And Maths, Science, History, unravelling the mystery, that all started with the big BANG.”

Me: “And that’s another story.”

J: “What story do you believe is true Mama?”

Me: “All of them.”

J: “ALL of them?”

Me: “Yep. Because I like stories. And there could be a bang and an egg and a carpenter and six days of hard-God-work to make the world and it could all be true.”

J: “But what do you think God is called?”

Me: “God, and Allah, and Brahma, and Buddha” (he’s 5, cut me some slack…)

J: “But my friend at school says there’s only one God and he was having an argument with my other friend.”

Me: “Yeah some grown ups do that too. But I think of it like this. You know your Mama is called Jack? And Tommy’s Mama is Evelyn, and Faith’s Mama is Kyla?”

J: “Yes! So wait so some people’s God is called Jesus and some people’s is called Ballah-”

Me: “Allah”

J: “Allah and some people’s… What are some people’s Gods called?”

Me: “Brahma, and Zeus, and Artemis (I was floundering a bit here at 0745 and dragging up my Greek heritage…) and oh, there’s loads. Maybe even as many names for Gods as names for Mamas.”

J: “And they’re all right?”

Me: “I think so. And I think it’s nice to hear other people’s stories, and listen, and collect them in your head like the Gruffalo or the Hungry Caterpillar – because we don’t fight over whether THEY’RE true, do we?”

J (giggling): “No!”

Me: “Well then. And anyway, what’s more important than being right all the time?”

J: “Being FRIENDS!”

Me: “Exactly. And besides, imagine if the world was made from an egg! Next time I make you scrambled eggs let’s look real close and see if there’s a little tiny world in our frying pan.”

(And then we got off at Basildon. The end. My A* half-GCSE in Religious Studies might have been useless for getting into 6th form 12 years ago, but I knew it would come in handy one day. Still holding out for Pythagoras though.)

Jack. Instagram/Twitter: @MxJackMonroe

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#Veganuary Beetballs! 6p each. (VEGAN)

 These beetballs are based on a beetroot burger recipe from Lee Watson’s incredible vegan recipe book, Peace And Parsnips. If you follow my social media, you might have seen me evangelise about this book once or twice; in fact, such is my vim and vigour for this beautiful culinary bible that I put it on the desks of the country’s best food magazine with an insistence that they read it first out of the hundreds of books piled on their desks. I have given copies to friends, new and old vegans alike, carnivores, and today thrust my own copy at my friend Jane with corners folded down and jabbing a finger at the photos asking her how she could refuse a beetroot burger from a man who looks like Jesus himself. So thankyou, Lee, for the inspiration for these beetballs – I started off making your burgers and got carried away – so apologies that they aren’t in their original carnation, but here we are. 

For a gluten-free version, simply replace the slice of bread with a tablespoon or two of your preferred gluten free flour; it’s just to bind the ingredients together to hold them in shape. Add one and see how firm it is, then add a little more if required.

It’s also worth noting that sometimes in the World Food aisle at the supermarket, the KTC brand of red lentils are £3/2kg – but not everyone has the space to store 2kg of lentils nor the initial financial outlay for bulk buys, so I try to keep my recipes based around reasonable purchases – I know I don’t have space for 2kg of lentils in my tiny kitchen on top of the bulk carrots, spuds and onions for a start!

With the beetroot, at my local supermarket the fresh bunched variety is £1.80 for 500g, and the peeled and cooked vacuum-packed beets are 80p for 250g, so they actually work out cheaper. It seems illogical but I can only imagine they would be the smaller beets or the ‘less pretty’ more than the big glorious ones that make it into the bunches. Which is speculation, but I’m applying Tinned Spud Theory and it makes sense. Anyway, it’s a matter of personal preference and budget, but unless I’m seducing someone with a raw gorgeous salad, (and let’s face it, who even does that?!), I’ll take the pre-cooked cheaper beets every time. They don’t stain your fingers as much either.

Makes 20 beetballs at 6p each

(Prices based at Sainsburys because that’s where I shop – similar products widely available at all major supermarkets. If you find anything cheaper than listed below, comment and let me know; other readers love a bargain and it’s good to share!)

200g red lentils, 44p (£1.10/500g)

150g cooked beetroot (not the kind in vinegar), 48p (80p/250g)

1 small onion, approx 100g, 6p (Basics, 90p/1.5kg)

2 fat cloves of garlic, 4p (Basics, 2 bulbs/35p)

½ tsp cumin or coriander, 3p (£1/38g)

2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil, 3p (£3/3l)

a pinch of salt, <1p (Basics, 25p/750g)

1 tbsp bottled or fresh lemon juice, 3p (50p/250ml)

1 slice of bread or a pitta, 4p (Basics, 6/22p)

First thoroughly rinse your lentils under a cold tap, then pop into a pan. Cover with water and bring to the boil; do not add any salt at this stage or your lentils may seize and never ever soften. Sad but true. Reduce to a simmer and cook for around 15 minutes, until very soft, swollen and translucent.

Meanwhile, slice your onion and garlic and toss into a pan. Finely dice your beetroot and add that too. Add the oil and spice of your choice, and bring to a medium heat to soften, stirring regularly to stop them from sticking and burning.

Skim any scum from the top of the lentils using a tablespoon, then drain and rinse them thoroughly. Tip into a mixing bowl along with the onion, garlic and beetroot, and mash to a pulp. An ordinary jug blender, or any kind of food processor, will make this job easier, but it’s not essential; a fork or masher and a good dollop of elbow grease will yield a pretty satisfying result too.

When it’s a rough pulp, grate the bread into crumbs and mix through, with a pinch of salt and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Cover the mixture and chill it in the fridge for half an hour to firm up.

When firm to touch, pre-heat your oven to 180C. Shape the mixture into small balls and place on a lightly greased baking tray. Drizzle the top with a little extra oil, or brush each one if you can be bothered, and bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes, turning over halfway through. And serve. I like mine with mayo (vegan, garlic), a generous helping of slaw, and a pile of little socca pancakes (recipe here: )

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr @MxJackMonroe

#veganuary Coconut-milk soda bread, 51p (VEGAN)

“Sometimes I think I want to have another baby and so I go bake some bread to mull it over. A 40 min incubation period later and I’m rocking a warm snuggly bundle that isn’t wailing, chewing my nipples or crapping down my leg, but warmly snuggling into my hip as I rock it gently, and you know, I’m over it.”

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Excuse thighs, I hopped out of the bath to get it out of the oven. Naked Chef Jr over here.

Today was one of those days, and so I made bread. Based on my Easy Peasy Soda Bread recipe, but made with coconut milk as I’m taking part in Veganuary, and the large TetraPak cartons of coconut milk are £1 in the big orange supermarket at the moment.

I made a half loaf, as I am a one-adult household and I like my bread fresh fresh, but the recipe is easily doubled or tripled for hungrier homes – just turn down the oven to 160C after the first half hour and bake until done – usually another 20-30 mins for a larger loaf. You can test by inserting a skewer or sharp knife through the fattest part of the centre; if it comes away clean, you’re good to go.

Makes one baby loaf for 51p. Prices based at Sainsburys because it’s my nearest supermarket, but similar available at most big stores.

250g plain flour, 9p (Basics, 55p/1.5kg)
1 level tsp (5g) bicarbonate of soda, 2p (85p/180g)
2 tsp lemon juice, 4p (50p/250ml)
180ml coconut milk, 36p (Alpro, £1/500ml)

First preheat your oven to 180C. Then mix your flour and bicarb together in a large mixing bowl to evenly distribute. Soda bread doesn’t take much kneading, so it’s important to evenly scatter the bicarb throughout, else end up with a wonky loaf.

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Squeeze or pour the lemon juice into the coconut milk, depending on whether you are using a fresh lemon or the bottled stuff. For what it’s worth, I swear by the bottled stuff for baking and dressings. A well known chef friend of mine sniffily claimed they could ‘always tell’ when bottled lemon juice had been used and as it turned out, no they couldn’t. Pooh to ingredient snobbery, I say.

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Make a well (a large hole of sorts) in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour in the coconut milk and lemon juice. Mix firmly but briefly until just combined, then tip onto a floured worktop. Knead for half a minute, no more, just to bring it together. Pat it into shape. Dust a baking sheet with flour and pop it on.

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Score it down the middle to let the fairies out and dust the top with any flour from your worktop – waste not, want not, after all. Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then slice and enjoy.

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr @MxJackMonroe

If you like this then you might like my book (available at Hive, supporting local bookshops: http://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jack-Monroe/A-Girl-Called-Jack–100-Delicious-Budget-Recipes/15403047) or my Kickstarter for my new book, Cooking On A Bootstrap: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/780456006/cooking-on-a-bootstrap-by-jack-monroe

#DryJanuary and #Veganuary and Marathon training.

So, with my usual ‘all or nothing’ hat firmly in place for the approaching New Year, there’s going to be some obvious changes around here, and I hope you’ll bear with me.

Firstly, as with previous years, I am undertaking the Dry January challenge; giving up booze entirely for the month of January. Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instagram will be aware that I am susceptible to the odd tipple, usually gin, and have often mulled over giving it all up. Here’s a snapshot from my Twitter feed, and it was a bit grim how much of this there was to choose from:

  
My Nan, who I love dearly, has been teetotal for decades. I joined her in the Shloer this Christmas, but soon fell off the wagon and was home-infusing cherry-roasted gins and buttery pear vodkas for friends for presents, and imbibing it myself. It’s no secret to anyone with a working set of eyes that I drink more than most, habits I picked up living in the City when a boozy work lunch was the norm and we rolled on through to the small hours. 

I received nine kinds of gin for Christmas, a gin encyclopedia, and a book on its history. More than one friend has sarcastically (or gently?) suggested that I seek out my local Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve decided not to, for now, but will be putting away the booze for January and hopefully learning to fall asleep of an evening without a few hefty swigs of Mothers Ruin or most of an entire bottle of wine. I don’t even know why I’m putting all this out here, but I suppose this blog has always run on brutal honesty and curse words, so here we are. My head is a bit broken. That’s no secret. I’m functioning, and that’s the worst thing about it. Functioning means you can convince yourself there isn’t a problem. Functioning is, sadly, sometimes just that. And so no more. I can hold my hands up and say I mucked up. I made mistakes, I will undoubtedly make more, but for now, I am worried about how much I drink, so when the clock strikes midnight tonight, I’m stopping. Not so much a New Years Resolution as a love letter to my liver. I don’t want to just function any more. I want to thrive. Mm, vinegar and tonic over ice. Fresh juices. Balsamic vinegar and lemonade apparently tastes like Pimms. Bring it on. Less of this, although I will blog the recipe as so many have asked for it.

  

Secondly, I am going vegan for January. This shouldn’t be too difficult, as I write vegan recipes anyway, and most of the recipes in A Girl Called Jack either are vegan or can easily be scrawled in to make them vegan. As a Christmas present for a young new friend, I sat down with a marker pen and meticulously edited all but two of the 100 recipes in my first book to make them vegan-friendly, in an effort to help her learn to cook according to her diet and lifestyle. It was simpler than I thought, and seeing it on Instagram, several people suggested that I publish it as a new edition of the book. I like the suggestion, and it is on my To Do list, but as we all know, publishing is an unwieldy beast and it takes more than nice ideas and enthusiasm to get books onto bookshelves.

   
   
  
Thirdly, my training for the marathon will begin. Sober, vegan, and with a Fitbit donated to me by a gorgeous friend (the type that sits in your training vest so less a Fitbit than a Titbit…) I will be boring you all with my updates, as a few health issues may mar my training and I may need all the advice and help I can get. I’m running for Stonewall, I may have been drunk when I signed up (see point 1 about going sober), but the intentions are there and I will cross that finish line either cheering or on a stretcher, but I will cross it all the same. A fundraising link will follow when the Kickstarter is done and dusted.

And finally, the Kickstarter for my third book, Cooking On A Bootstrap (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/780456006/cooking-on-a-bootstrap-by-jack-monroe) is still going, and a phenomenal amount of copies ordered – for yourselves, for schools, for libraries, for people on benefits and income support and disability living allowance and pensions, for friends, offspring, students. I could never have imagined it would get as big as it has, and as it is a pledge-to-order model, those of you who haven’t pledged can still order it. It will currently only be available through this Kickstarter so if you want it, you need to pledge for it!

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And so that’s all the important updates about the month to come. I wish you all the very best for this evening, wherever you are and however you are celebrating, whether that’s with fireworks and kisses or whether that’s under the duvet grumbling about the fireworks and kisses, have a Happy New Year. And if you can’t have a happy one, just have one. Just get through. Just hold tight, and look after yourself, and lots of love.

If you find yourself needing them, the Samaritans are free to call on 116 123. Don’t suffer New Year in silence. This may warrant its own blog post but I’ll leave it here too.

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr at @MxJackMonroe.

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Beetroot Chocolate Loaf Cake (VEGAN)

This Christmas period I have so far cooked four enormous meals in four different houses as four Christmas presents for friends and family – in mutual opinion and after the shitty bank fraud episode that still isn’t quite sorted, it’s the best Christmas present I can offer – swooping in to someone else’s kitchen and taking the stress out of catering for large groups of people, repurposing the leftovers into a pile of ready meals for the freezer, before packing my suitcase and moving on to the next one. It’s been a marvellous way to spend the week – I have so far slept in six different beds in as many days and made a lot of new friends, drunk a lot of wine, lost two knives along the way and had glorious fun. I have made a host of new recipes along the way – nothing gets my creative juices flowing like other people’s sparse storecupboards or a host of dietary requirements – and this was one of the winners. Faced with a stinking hangover from the night before’s foray into home made cranberry and orange vodka, a young guest with severe egg allergies, and a limited supply of ingredients, I chanced upon a beetroot, threw it unpeeled in the blender, added it to a vegan chocolate cake recipe I had up my sleeve, and this was born. And oh, so sumptuous, so delicious, so gloriously purple, and the grateful grin from a little girl who can rarely eat cake at other people’s houses made thinking through my hangover well worth it.

Served 10:

2-3 raw beetroots (the hard vegetable kind not the pickled-in-vinegar kind)
2 ripe bananas
120ml cooking oil
200g coconut cream
275g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g cocoa powder or 100g dark choc
100g-200g sugar depending on taste (even at the 200g end, this is barely 2 tsp sugar each per slice)

First preheat your oven to 180C and slice your beetroot, and toss into a blender with the bananas, oil, bicarb and coconut cream. Pulse to a vibrant pink paste, and scrape into a mixing bowl.

Add the flour, cocoa powder and sugar and mix well, adding a splash of water to loosen the mixture if required. Mix a bit more, and a bit more, to a glossy maroon batter. I fell in love with it at this point – the colour, the sweetness of the coconut milk and banana, the earthiness of the cocoa and raw beetroot; having never made a beetroot cake before now, I was pretty much blown away when I licked the spoon.

Lightly grease a loaf tin and scrape the batter mixture in. Pop into the oven on the middle shelf for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. And enjoy!

Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter, Tumblr & Instagram @MxJackMonroe

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Christmas present shopping for £23

 

Yesterday I decided to start my Christmas shopping, possibly a record headstart for me, as I am usually the one swearing and haring around the high street on the 23rd and 24th, cursing myself for not starting it sooner. This year, I promised myself I would be organised.

And as ever, thank goodness for Oxfam and Wilkinson, and the ability to do most of my Christmas shopping with a few fivers and a handful of change. Old habits die hard, I guess. 

First was Oxfam, and the princely sum of £10.65 for an astronomy book for my Small Boy, a stuffed hippo for a nearly-newborn, a shirt for my little brother, a cowboy hat, a sparkly scarf for my teenage sister, assorted crockery, a bag of marbles, a book of pointless things, a set of wooden scrabble magnets and a Mason Cash mixing bowl that may end up being a present to myself. (Obviously nobody who will benefit from the items pictured, is on my social media. In fact most of the recipients of the above are under 10!)

Next was Wilkinson, and a few craft sets starting from 70p, and a fibre optic minion lamp for my little brother. 

I find I shop more thoughtfully when I have less to choose from, with the recipient in mind rather than a panicked smash and grab in a department store. I may wander in to the British Heart Foundation shop before Christmas Eve, but I think with the haul above, I’m pretty much done.

Someone asked me if that was ‘really all I was getting’ for my Small Boy – and yes, it is. A book on astronomy, a cowboy hat, a bag of marbles, a craft kit or two, and a set of Scrabble magnets. He always gets a pencil case of new colouring pencils and a few small toy animals at the end of his bed, and my family will also give him gifts, and to be honest we spent the first 3 Christmases shit-poor, so he doesn’t expect the earth, and long may that continue.

I’m knocking up a batch of camomile gin tonight, and some other food gifts, and all will be wrapped in the best bits of newspaper I can find, and tied with string. Bonus points if I can get a (rare) good headline to exactly fit the gift:

  
It’s the simple things. May it always be the simple things.

Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter & Instagram & Tumblr @MxJackMonroe

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Perfect chocolate chip cookies, 3p

  

Last night I found myself with an urge for chocolate chip cookies. I was a bit miserable, the gas meter was running out (and even more so by the time I type this…), my tiny flat was cold and I was generally feeling a little bit grouchy and blue. Usual distractions don’t apply – I don’t own a television and nor do I have broadband to distract myself from the occasional bout of gloom (I run this blog from the internet on my mobile phone!) These are choices I have made for myself, because I am still fearful of long term financial contracts, especially as a freelance writer, especially in insecure rented accommodation in the first few months of my contract. So when it comes to mood-boosters, my options are somewhat limited.

So, cookies. I put a rallying cry on Twitter, as the wonderful people who follow me are often so very generous at sharing their favourite recipes and ideas when I feel in need of inspiration – most recently inundated with over 100 recipes for hot toddies; I didn’t make it to the end of the list or anywhere near it, but I did discover some new favourites and slept like a baby. But that’s a post for another day.

My cookie-need was met by these gorgeous beauties, from Felicity Cloake’s ‘How To Cook The Perfect…’ column in the Guardian. I tweaked her recipe a bit, as I didn’t have the right sugar in, I was light on chocolate, and there was no way I was waiting 12-24 hours for the dough to chill, and since Sainsburys seem to have discontinued their Basics butter there’s no way I’m slinging half a block of the alternative into a batch of cookies so I replaced half the butter with oil – so here’s my midnight delight… The original, more perfect version, can be found here (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/apr/25/how-to-cook-perfect-chocolate-chip-cookies) and if you’re Twitter-inclined, Felicity is a joy to follow.

Makes 24 at 3p each

60g butter, 20p (Salted butter, 85p/250g) 
60ml oil, 6p (Sunflower oil, £3/3l)

150g sugar, 12p (Fairtrade granulated white sugar, 80p/1kg)

1 free range egg, 17p (6 mixed weight free range eggs, £1)

240g plain flour, 7p (Sainsburys Basics plain flour, 45p/1.5kg)

1 tsp bicarb, 2p (85p/180g)

35g dark chocolate, chopped, 11p (Sainsbury’s Basics dark chocolate, 35p/100g)

First dice your butter and leave it to come to room temperature, or if you’re in a hurry for baked goods, as I was, pop it into a microwave-safe bowl and ping for 10 seconds to cheat it. No longer please, as the butter starts to separate and for some reason this massively mucks up your baking, coz, science.

Cream the butter and sugar together with a fork or wooden spoon and some good hard smooshing and stirring. This is therapeutic. I often find if I am in a place where I am desparate for baked goods in the middle of the night, I have some things to work through, and this step is very useful for that. I used ordinary granulated sugar in mine, Felicity recommends half granulated and half soft brown but I didn’t have any in. For what it’s worth, I only keep granulated sugar in the house, and if a recipe calls for ‘caster’, and I think it genuinely needs it, like a cake or something, I blitz the granulated stuff in the blender to make it finer. It’s always worked for me. Again, science.

Add the oil and the egg and mix thoroughly. Now the bicarb. Now the flour to form a dough, and mix well. Fold through the chocolate chips.

Preheat your oven to 180C and lightly grease a baking tray. Add golf-ball sized pieces of dough, flatten slightly with the prongs of a fork, and place very far apart as they will flatten and spread as they cook. I only cooked a third of the mixture, because I don’t trust myself with 24 cookies, and will freeze the rest for future midnight-cookie-needs or Christmas presents.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 12 minutes or until the edges are golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before moving – they will crumble if you move them too soon! Remove when ready and pile on a plate to continue cooling, or a wire rack if you have one (I don’t, so fold a clean tea towel into 4 and place on a plate, and pile the cookies onto that to absorb any excess moisture). Devour, and store any left (ha!) when completely cooled, in an airtight container. Don’t store them hot, they will create a nice sweaty wet environment and go mouldy and nasty and science. Again.

Also, if you’re the kind of person who buys those large bags of festive nuts this time of year and is still looking at them in a few months time, this recipe is a great place to fling them. Crack them, chop them, and make them into cookies. Enjoy!

Also, I’m not saying baking solves everything, but I was hungry, cold and grumpy… and then I made cookies and sat in front of the oven with my back to it while they cooked… and as if my magic fifteen minutes later I was fed, warm and happy. Go figure.

Jack Monroe. Twitter, Instagram & Tumblr: @MxJackMonroe

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Cooking On A Bootstrap: BOOK THREE needs YOUR help!

  

Well hello my wonderful readers. It’s been a year since my last cookbook came out, and I am inundated with messages every day, asking when my next book is coming out.
The good news is, it is nearly written. A hundred budget recipes, in the same style as that surprisingly runaway bestseller A Girl Called Jack, with Breads And Breakfasts, Super Soups, Beans Pulses And Lentils, etc, with extra chapters ‘Eat Your Greens’ and ‘Don’t Throw That Away’ for nifty tips on using leftovers. (Stale cake truffles, anyone? Or bread crust soup?) It has been an absolute joy to write; irreverent, cheeky, nifty, thrifty, and delightful. I’ve stripped it back from the gorgeous gloss that was Book Two, as beautiful as it was, the glass slipper didn’t quite fit my budget foot, so I’m going back to basics.
My first book came about by accident. Some of you may know this story, or most of it. I started writing a politics blog after a local councillor declared that ‘druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining our town’ in early 2012. I started going to the council meetings, as an unemployed single mother, and writing about what I saw. The blog expanded to a diary of my day to day life, the impact of housing benefit paid 11 weeks late, of cuts and suspensions to benefits and the real impact that had on a young mum and a two year old boy. Of turning the fridge off because it’s empty anyway. Walking everywhere in the pouring rain in your only coat, dragging a child behind you, into every pub and every shop in walking distance to ask them if they have any job vacancies. Of trying hard not to go red when the person behind the counter assesses your ripped jeans and scruffy jumper and the crying child behind you and says no. You add the ‘not for you’ in your head, unsurprised. You drag that toddler home and pour the last of the tin of tomatoes over some basic pasta and you try not to hurl it at the wall when your three year old says “I want something else, Mummy.” Because there isn’t anything else.
I made a decision, then, to try to feed myself and my son as well as possible on the scraps of change I had left at the end of the week. My first recipe, a carrot and kidney bean soup, had 100x as many hits as my previous blog post on local election results, and so I carried on, documenting my food shop, poring through famous recipe books and adapting their recipes to the contents of my local supermarket basics range, forensically costing it, and uploading it onto my blog.
The recipe blog turned into a publishing deal, and in February 2014, A Girl Called Jack was a runaway success. The letters and emails pour in daily from readers who have learned to feed themselves and their families on low incomes, well, and simply. I never set out to create a movement, I just wanted to share what I was doing with others. Yet still the letters come, from desperate people trying to make meagre incomes stretch to meet rising living costs, growing children, and demanding working hours. Students trying to supplement their loans with part time jobs balanced between their studies. People who have just left the military, having joined in their teens, unable to cook a meal for themselves. People from all walks of life, who want to learn to cook but haven’t the money for fancy gadgets or premium ingredients. People asking me, when are you going to write another book? We need another book.
So here we are. I’m not looking to make a fortune or have a number one bestseller (although the first one was nice!); simply to write and deliver a book to anyone who wants it, and to be able to pay my bills. I’ve decided to do it like this, myself, because I’m a bit of a maverick, and so I can deliver something affordable, authentic, from my heart to your kitchen counter – the best book I can write, to the people who want and need it, as quickly and directly as possible.
 I might not succeed – Kickstarters are only successful if they reach their full funding amount, and I have crunched the numbers to try to keep my costs low to deliver an affordable cookbook, without compromising on the quality. I’m going to try – for every one of you who has asked me for a third book, I’m going to try my damndest to give you one. Will you help?
TO PRE-ORDER A COPY OF ‘COOKING ON A BOOTSTRAP’, CLICK HERE.

THANKYOU!!
Jack Monroe. Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr: @MxJackMonroe

2 ingredient coconut hot chocolate, 9p

  
The idea for this came after midnight on a very cold November evening. In my current home, I sleep on a sofa bed in a bay beneath a set of single-glazed louvre windows – you know, the kind with the slats that overlap but don’t quite meet. Which means when the temperature drops, my goodness I know about it. I’m not complaining, though, as I love my small, beautiful, idiosyncratic home; it just means that one of the last things I do of an evening is curl into bed with the hottest drink imaginable and burrow under my duvet. And so, with no milk in the house of any kind, but half a block of coconut cream in the cupboard, this was born. I made a big batch, seeing the weather was only going to get colder, it’s good to be prepared for this sort of thing.

Makes around 8-10 portions: at 9p each
100g dark chocolate
, 35p (Sainsburys Basics)

100g coconut cream
, 45p (Sainsburys, 200g/90p)

First take the smallest saucepan you have, and fill with barely two inches of water. Pop a mixing bowl over the top, and bring it to the boil.

Break up your chocolate and add to the bowl, and reduce the heat to medium. Stir as the chocolate melts. If it starts to split (usually because water has touched the bottom of the bowl and scorched your poor choccy), simply add a splash of water and mix vigorously to bring it back together.

When the chocolate has all melted, add your coconut cream, and around 150ml water. 100g of coconut cream is around half a standard carton, but if you like your chcolate sweet and creamy, add the lot. Give it a good stir to combine.

And then, portion into an ice cube tray for anytime-ready hot chocolate. To use, simply pop one out and melt on a low-medium heat for a minute in the microwave. Add a splash of boiling water and stir well to loosen to a thick paste, repeat, and then top your mug up. For big mugs you may want to use two cubes, and if you really fancy a treat, top up with warm milk of your choice, but then it’s a 3-ingredient hot chocolate. But I’ll forgive you. 
I’m on Twitter and Instagram @MxJackMonroe, and there’s a couple of cookbooks kicking around too (those that can afford to buy a book, means I have a little income, which means I can keep this blog free for those that can’t afford to buy a book – and that’s kind of what I’m about…) http://www.hive.co.uk/book/a-girl-called-jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes/18105011/&nbsp;

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5 minute thing with Tom Cruise Dressing*, 60p

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One afternoon in the all-hours flail-and-flurry that was this-glorious-top-secret-for-now-project, I emerged from my writing corner (apologies to Virginia Woolf for not managing an entire ‘room of my own in which to write’ but, recession, gentrification and a dislike of cleaning mean I basically live in a nook. Anyway, when there is a small child around all rooms are rightfully theirs and filled with plastic horror and there is no fighting it). I digress. I emerged from my corner (hungry) and hulked to my fridge (empty). Rummaged in the cupboard. So many of my favourite recipes begin this way. To cut a slightly rubbish story short, five minutes later I was photographing this for my blog before swiftly devouring it. Enjoy. And always keep a can of chickpeas in your cupboard and a bag of something green and leafy in your freezer.
 

Serves 2 at 60p each, as ever prices are based on my most recent Sainsburys shop because it’s near me, but similar products are available at most supermarkets. I use Sun Pat peanut butter as it’s the cheapest one I have found that is free from palm oil, I don’t generally buy into heebie jeebie food scares but I feel deeply uneasy about palm oil. There are cheaper peanut butters available for those on tighter budgets, Sainsburys Basics do a jar for around 62p.

For the dressing:
2 tbsp peanut butter (or other nut or seed butter), 18p (£1.89/340g)
60ml oil, 6p (£3/3l)
a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper, <1p (Basics: 25p/750g)
scant ¼ tsp any kind of mustard, <1p (Basics 30p/jar)
1 tbsp bottled lemon juice or zest and juice of half a small one, 3p (50p/250ml)
a pinch of chilli flakes or cayenne pepper, <1p (£1/32g)

And the rest:

Half an onion of any colour, we are not onion-fascists round here, 6p (Basics 1.5kg/90p)
6 fat cloves of garlic, 10p (Basics 2 bulbs/35p)
1 x 400g can of chickpeas or other legume, 39p (KTC)
100g frozen spinach, 13p (£2.50/2x1kg)
a large tomato or two, 22p (Basics 65p/450g)

Grab a jar with a good lid. Put the dressing ingredients in it and screw on said lid. Shake it all about like you’re Tom Cruise, either in Cocktail or leaping up and down on the Oprah sofa, your shout. Remove lid. Dip a finger in. Yummy isn’t it? If you disagree, add some more of something to balance it to your liking. Set to one side.

Pop the frozen spinach in a small bowl. Top and tail the garlic (chop the gnarly end off the bottom of the clove and the pointy bit off the top) and stab all the way through with the tip of your knife. Put in another small bowl. Pop both in the microwave for 3 x 20 second bursts. Your garlic should resemble roasted garlic, one of my favourite lazy cooking tricks, and the spinach mostly defrosted. Fling the spinach back in for a minute, and pop the garlic out of it’s skins.

Finely dice the onion, roughly chop the tomato and fling into a bowl. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add ‘em. Stir in the spinach and garlic. Throw the dressing over the lot. Give it a good mix, season to taste, and enjoy. I like mine coolish, but it’s lovely hot as well. And even better the next day when it has been lolling around in the fridge, so make double and eat it for a couple of days – it’s a great quick lunch and as the title suggests, I seriously cannot get enough of it.

 

If you like this, I’m also on Twitter and Instagram @MxJackMonroe, and there’s a couple of cookbooks out too – available to buy from Hive, supporting local independent bookshops: http://www.hive.co.uk/book/a-girl-called-jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes/18105011/

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The Transformation Of Jack Monroe (The Times, November 2015)

  

Jack Monroe, true to her self-outing last month as transgender “non-binary”, is surrounded by a mountain of masculine/feminine stuff in the small two-bedroom flat she shares with her five-year-old son in Southend, Essex. The skateboard with a shark on it (matching tattoo on her thumb), for example, versus the Disney Belle dress she tried to wear for Hallowe’en but couldn’t (due to testosterone therapy and working out to make her physique more masculine) encapsulate the contrasts.

She’s just dyed her hair white, with blue and purple chunks on the top – a far cry from how her image first came to widespread attention. Then, she appeared homey and ever so slightly mumsy in a floral pinny in the inside pictures in her first cookbook, A Girl Called Jack, followed by A Year in 120 Recipes.

A Girl Called Jack, her bestselling breakthrough, was published in 2014. It started with a blog. The media pounced on something she posted, Hunger Hurts, in 2012, about trying to feed her son healthily (and at all) on next to nothing, going without herself and visiting food banks when she resigned from the Essex Fire Service after they rejected her request to work flexibly. She wrote her resignation letter from a hospital bed after she tried to commit suicide because she didn’t know how to both earn money and raise a child as a single parent. Her own parents were horrified when they found out she was on the breadline – “I kept it from them.”

Monroe, now 27, was more or less turned into an overnight star, not just as a “real” person capable of writing properly affordable recipes. Even The New York Times wrote a profile of her. She became what she called a “lezzer” food columnist for The Guardian (her son was conceived as a result of a brief relationship with a close friend, which she called off before she knew she was pregnant), and an impassioned liberal spokesperson for the underclass on a variety of political shows.

Today she looks like the most beautiful boy, or is it that she is a very androgynous beautiful girl? “Now my categories are completely wonky, because I don’t even know what I am.”

Since declaring herself transgender non-binary last month, she is already on testosterone, and seeing changes to her voice and stamina: “I’m not saying I want to be a man, just a slightly more masculine version of me. I want to be Jack. I might be a titless wonder, but I’ll be a titless wonder with great big long eyelashes and a pair of heels.”

The phone has started to ring again, after a fallow period brought about by ill health, both mental and physical, which meant she stopped writing and cooking. Now, modelling agencies are interested in her androgyny – “I think people find it interesting that I will model as male and female” – and the media have looked to her for transgender comment and explanation as it’s an issue very much in the air. Monroe has starred in a music video and there are also a few high-end clothing brands interested in attaching themselves to her. “But before I say yes, I have to know about what they pay their staff, their cleaners, the morality of it.”

She’s started to cook again properly, devising recipes, being creative and blogging: “I’d got to the point that it had bubbled up so much I couldn’t keep pushing it down. I don’t quite know where it’s all going to end. It will click into place and I’ll stop.

“And now I’ve got this off my chest – quite literally! – I’ve started writing again and creating recipes and I’ve got back in the kitchen. [Before then] I felt like I wasn’t being honest with my readers about something that was very fundamental. I had a two-month total absence from my blog and then I came back and had to say, ‘Please don’t call me “a girl named Jack”. I don’t feel like a girl. That name doesn’t suit or fit me any more.’

“In the morning I get showered and dried and put my binder on and then I like what I see in the mirror. I knew I had made the right decision to go public when I left my binder at a friend’s house for about four days and I was going mad. I have actually bagged up all my old feminine clothes and tea dresses to give to a transgender charity.”

She pulls up her shirt to show me her binder. I feel her flat bosoms (yes, I do!). She’s right. It’s like a very, very tight sports top. She doesn’t want a penis, she says: “I have seven of those in the drawer!” Pause. “I’ll spare you the show and tell. I have no desire to have a ghastly amount of surgery.” Are the seven penises for aesthetic reasons or sexual? “Both!” she says. “Multifunctioning! As far back as I remember I’ve roamed around the house with a sock in my pants, when other girls were sticking socks in their bras. [A penis] is not something I need or generally use, but it’s there and handy and it makes me laugh. I drag up sometimes. There are drag kings as well as queens.”

I think it’s safe to say Monroe and I have broken the ice. We’re sitting among all her higgledy-piggledy possessions, drinking tea and eating crisps. She’s got the munchies constantly, she admits, because of “the T” (transgender shorthand for testosterone), which is making the fat on her hips, thighs and tummy melt away.

There’s a sledge crammed in one corner; a baby grand piano she inherited from the landlord (she’s musical, with a beautiful voice, now lowering, and once busked with Billy Bragg); and bits of furniture she’s been given over the past three years since she sold everything to keep the bailiffs from the door in 2012.

There’s a note on the fridge – “For you, darling, Nigella xxxx” – which came attached to one of the little gifts the domestic goddess sends her regularly, and she wears a wedding ring on a right finger, moved from the left hand…

“I’ve come full circle,” she says. “Everything I own is pretty much in this room.”

Money, these days, is tight again: “Bills did and do scare the s*** out of me.” Monroe’s current financial situation is, she says, “hairy, shall we say hairy. I had to borrow money from a friend this month for my rent, but I know I’ve got money coming in. It’s feast or famine.

“One of the reasons I moved back was to root myself and cut my outgoings. To have a bit of financial security and sort myself out.”

It has not been easy this year. Today, she is covered in hives from stress. She shows me them – angry red patches – on her legs through the rips in her jeans and rubs Sudocrem over the hives on her fingers. Within the last month she has had three very terrifying episodes involving her heart in which she has, at least once, been hospitalised.

But she is trying to take better care of herself now, and falling back on old methods of feeling in control about money, making columns and lists about money coming in and due out. (In the dark old days of mouldy flats and bailiffs at the door, she had spreadsheets.) The fear of this happening again, I detect, is not far from the surface.

At the beginning of this year, Monroe had a nervous breakdown, which she attributes to breaking her foot, then being unable to work (lucrative recipe consultancies for high-street brands meant ten-hour days on her feet).

This coincided with the end of her broadsheet column. Much was also made in the press of the fact that Sainsbury’s, for which she had filmed an ad a year before, had supposedly “dropped” her over a high-profile Twitter comment she made about David Cameron using his son’s death to score points about the NHS. This was not true, she says. “I filmed the ad a year before. There wasn’t a ‘contract’ at all. But it’s safe to say I am f***ing ashamed of that comment and I wrote a page and a half letter to Samantha Cameron apologising. I should never have done it.”

It only takes a skim of her Twitter feed to see that Monroe is so impassioned that she can often be her own worst enemy. She regularly gets into long social media scraps with the Daily Mail (which seems to loathe her and everything she stands for). “I won’t be complicit in their lies about me,” she says.

She says she was written off at her very academic girls’ grammar school in Westcliff-on-Sea as a troublemaker. She was bored. Despite her obvious and fierce intelligence, she left with four and a half GCSEs, not enough to sit for A levels. She went to work in Starbucks.
“You’re only good to flip burgers,” her head of year apparently told her. “And when my first book came out, I turned down the corner of the page of my burger recipe and sent it to that teacher with a note, ‘Dear Mrs so and so, remember when you said, “I’m only good to flip burgers”? Well, here’s the recipe from my bestselling cookbook.’” She laughs.
It’s a great, ballsy story – a cautionary tale to teachers who underestimate – and a reflection of what makes Monroe such a powerful voice, but it also demonstrates the level of nervous and emotional energy that keeps her going. Her tweets show she has an almost constant instinct for combat, perhaps born of having to fight prejudice, perhaps because it’s her personality. “The abuse that I get thrown … I have had such a hellish time at the behest of trolls,” she says.

Underpinning the nervous breakdown, aside from the exhaustion and burnout, was, she says, fear of having to go back to her old life. “All the demons I have pushed down since the fire service came out,” she says. “I had panic attacks, anxiety attacks. I can’t even begin to describe the midnight nightmares, the sobbing and shaking in corners. My biggest fear was falling back into a spiral of unemployment with no money and poverty and everything that brings. Ridiculous, because I was living in a beautiful house with a woman who loved me, but I was very much terrified that everything was going to get taken away by the bailiffs.

“There was no rational thinking. I fell apart. I was so ashamed and fearful and I had all these readers telling me that my blog gives them hope for the future and I felt I needed to keep this sunny, chirpy personality going because people write to me every day.”

By then, Monroe had written her second book, A Year in 120 Recipes, at the bar of the Groucho club, sung with Bragg, been named Woman of the Year, appeared on Question Time and cooked and socialised with most of London’s foodie royalty. On a Wednesday night, she and McEvedy would cook at McEvedy’s new restaurant, Blackfoot, and come out together to meet the diners. She had cooked for and still drinks with Sue Perkins, who turned up to the book launch of her first book. “I was just thrown into this world,” she says. “What the f*** are you doing here?” Monroe remembers thinking when she saw Perkins. “I was almost too scared to set foot in the Groucho, let alone talk to anybody.” But, more importantly, she had continued to write her blog – now, post transgender outing, called Jack at a Pinch – in which she provided her recipes and advice free, determined that those unable to afford lots of cookbooks would not be excluded from being able to cook well. These were the readers for whom she felt she had to remain a success story. Unable to work, “I thought I’d become irrelevant.”

One night, she took too many sleeping pills. “I didn’t want to die. I just wanted that particular night in question to end, but when it’s a second attempt, they start to look at you really seriously then. But I was determined I didn’t want to be admitted, that I hadn’t wanted really to die and that I didn’t want to lose Johnny.” After a lot of initially expensive therapy at the Priory and then later through Mind and the NHS, Monroe recovered: “It was a really messy couple of months.”

“It was having to admit to my readers that it was over,” she says. It is the only aspect of talking about her life in which she exercises caution. All Monroe will say is that about the breakdown itself, “[Allegra] was nothing less than perfect”, that she regrets absolutely nothing and that they are friends.
__________

Jack Monroe has a birth name of Melissa. She changed it by deed poll after Johnny was born – an early step towards where she is now. Contrary to what her detractors think, “I’m not ashamed of it or embarrassed by it,” she says. “It’s on my bloody birth certificate and on my karate records and my GCSEs. My mum cross-stitched me a beautiful picture with bears on carrying a banner across saying Melissa and it’s in my flat. I haven’t burnt it or torn it to pieces or unpicked it or restitched it. I’m fine with it, but Jack is my real name.”

Jack was an old nickname and she changed her surname, too – “In for a penny” – because it sounded better. She had been intending to come out as transgender then, after Johnny was born, but she “bottled it”. She’s wanted to have her breasts removed – save during and post pregnancy – for nine years.

While her haters are always keen to bring up her birth name just to annoy her, and insist on ignoring the transgender politically correct “they” and “them” (sticking to “her” and “she”), she says to me, “I don’t mind if you call me ‘she’ and ‘her’.”

She’d bound her chest on and off since school (initially with bandages, a dangerous method, and now with the two compression vests) and has hated her breasts since puberty. She kissed a girl at 10, and began coming out from 14. She did dress in a girlie way at times, but always felt it was “dressing up”. She has no plans to give up her stilettos.

When she was working in the control room of Essex Fire and Rescue, she shaped her body with weights and protein shakes, cut her hair and tattooed her arms to look masculine.

She shows me some photographs that reveal her as a teenage skinhead. She grew up in the fold of the Baptist church (her mother, a former nurse, is religious), but was, she says, asked to leave Sunday school teaching once she had shaved her head and come out and was deemed “an inappropriate role model”. The Fire and Rescue period, during which she is photographed with her back to the camera in male pants, covered in tattoos, is what she calls her butch dyke phase (her words), but it was never really enough. “Like a hexagonal peg in a square hole,” she says. She’s also had a phase where she “tried to shag [myself] straight”, but that didn’t work.

Her son’s birth is, she says, an absolute blessing because she is devoted to him, and now she’s transgender, childbirth is unlikely to happen again: “Everything had to happen as it has.”

Having Johnny, she admits, also changed her relationship with her body and delayed her public admission that she was transgender non-binary, not least because she expressed her breast milk to feed him. Perhaps it’s why her look softened, too?

We look at the pictures of her in her cookbooks and on the front pages of the various magazines after she became high-profile. One shows her in a minxy blouse, which clings to her now famous “34DDs”. There is a whole wave of Twitter haters preoccupied by the imminent removal of her breasts. They are threatened, Monroe says, by her sexuality and it’s why she gets into frequent social media scraps.

Monroe is, without doubt, fashion model beautiful. A couple of model agencies said her face was right, but that at 5ft 2in she was too short. She was told to lose two stone. “How ironic is that?” she says. “A woman who hasn’t got enough money to feed her child, writing a cookbook, then being asked to lose weight.”

On one magazine cover, her face is made up, with mascara-covered lashes and painted lips. “I hate that picture because of them,” she says, pointing to the bosoms. If she hadn’t had big bosoms, she might not have come out as transgender, but might have just gone about flat-chested and topless, having built up her torso. “But I felt I had to be honest.

“I don’t [feel beautiful]. I photograph well if I’ve slept OK. I think that is about as far as I’ll go. I don’t consider myself to be attractive in any sense of the word.”

Her editor brought a floral pinny for her to wear in the pictures for A Girl Called Jack, which she rejected at first, finally relenting. “But I said, ‘That is not going on the cover.’” (There she wears a plain blue apron.) The idea of her wearing a floral pinny now is ludicrous. She looks like she belongs on an album cover. She’s wise to the game: “I probably wouldn’t have got a mainstream book deal if I’d been transgender then.

“The sexual objectification of women in my industry is absurd,” she says. “You look at Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley sisters … Like any female newsreaders, TV presenters, they are all identical. One of the things I most admired about Allegra was that she broke that mould. She was ‘out’ and gorgeous and wasn’t the cookie-cutter celebrity chef.

“It’s one of the things I admire about Nigella. You can’t put her in a box.”

Do you fancy her, though? She screams with laughter. It’s not what you think, she says, of the little billet doux on the fridge. Well, do you? She spends five minutes talking about Lawson’s kindness, her generosity, what a great, loyal friend she is, how she is the first to get in touch if Monroe is monstered in the press, and how her recipes (and Gwyneth Paltrow’s – who knew?) got her through her breakdown and then says, “Doesn’t everyone?”

Now that Monroe is clearer about the unclear nature of her gender, she can set her mind to the future. Her first appointment at the London Gender Clinic is in the next couple of weeks and, providing she makes it through the necessary psychological checks, she expects her surgery will have taken place by next summer. Her parents are fully supportive and Johnny, who calls her Mamapapa after the Barbapapa children’s books, is unfazed. There might be modelling to come, another couple of books, one of which she hopes will be political, and maybe some day in the future a political career, probably with the Green Party, to which she defected from Labour over immigration. And then there’s more kissing of girls – “beautiful, very feminine women who always smell so lovely, all the way through to the butchest of dykes” – to be pursued. “I must make time for that – it’s a wonderful way to unwind!

“I feel more confident, I walk taller – I know I need to have this done. I felt like I was lying to people. [By admitting it] I sort of unblocked the dam. I can write again now – spend three hours scrawling recipes and ideas, because … I just can.

“I’m doing all right. I’m doing OK. In fact, I’m doing better than OK. I have been through the mill and I’m out the other side of it. I can look back and say, ‘Life gets crap and I’ve pulled through.’”
By Louise Carpenter for The Times, published 14 November 2015.