Reader Recipes: Lesley’s Thick Onion Tart

Lesley sent me this Thick Onion Tart recipe recently…

Serves 4, make in a 20cm tin

Pastry
100g flour 3p
Pinch salt
2 tsps mustard
40ml oil 4p
Up to 40ml water
40g cheese (Asda Smartprice Cheddar £4.82/kg) 20p

Filling
700g onions, chopped 32p (Asda Smartprice 49p/kg)
50g butter 24p
2 eggs 20p
110ml milk 6p
60g cheese 30p

Mix all the pastry ingredients together, adding the water bit by bit until you get a soft ball of dough.
Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the onions and sauté them slowly, uncovered, over a low heat for 30-45 minutes, until they have turned a deep brown. Stir them every now and then, particularly towards the end. Then let cool a little

Line your dish with the pastry.

Tip the remaining ingredients, except the cheese, into the onions (they can’t be too hot, or they will scramble the eggs) and stir well. Tip this mixture into the pastry case and top with the cheese. Bake in a moderate oven (180C) for 30 minutes.

This is lovely hot with salady things, or cooked veg, and also makes a very nice lunch, cold, the next day
Total £1.39, 35p per person

Lesley.

To see your favourite cheap or frugal recipes here, email them to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Reader Recipes: April’s granny’s banana bread

April said… “My nan used to make it for me and my sister every sunday and we looked forward to it every week. My nan was a frugal queen and would have loved your blog.”

Banana Bread (Serves 4-6)

225g self-raising flour
3/4 level teaspoon ground mixed spice (or whatever combination you like of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardomem, gingerbread etc)
1/2 teaspoon salt
100g caster sugar
100g butter (cut into small pieces)
1 tablespoon honey
450g ripe bananas peeled and mashed with a fork
2 eggs
Squeeze of lemon juice

Optional – chocolate drops, sultana’s, nuts inc walnuts, almonds, dates – (you can add anything that you have lying around that takes your fancy really!)

Sift the flour, mixed spice (if using), salt and sugar into a bowl. Add butter.
Beat in all the remaining ingridients, then pour the mixture into a greased 23cm loaf tin.
Bake in a pre heated oven, 180 degrees, 350 F, Gas 4 for 1 hour, then for a further 30mins at 170 degrees, 330 F, Gas 3 1/2. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin before turning out and tucking in!

Tip – this is a store cupboard recipe so if you’re reasonable well stocked you should be fine. I have made it with half plain and half self raising flour before and also with all plain and a level teaspoon of bicarb so you can really play arould with it and make it your own. Also the riper/older the bananas you have to use the better the bread will be!

Enjoy,

April x

To see your favourite frugal or cheap recipe here, email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Reader Recipes: Laura P’s Chickpea Rice

Laura said… “Here’s another Chickpea recipe from my kitchen. I often joke of my 101 Ways With Chickpeas, so expect more!

It’s a bit long-winded I know – I find it ever so difficult to be concise – but I think missing out any element of the instructions would mean a pot of burnt, stuck, useless rice.

This is a delicious and well-worth-the-extra-faff recipe, as opposed to plain boiled rice, should you have the time or inclination to faff that is.”

This serves 2 people generously as an accompaniment to a curry. Would be equally delicious with chilli, fajitas, an omelette – that sort of thing. Also, very nice cold for lunch the next day. It’s a nicely balanced meal on its own, but very very mmmmm with chopped cooked chicken or tinned tuna – if you had some.

Use 100g value rice, well rinsed in advance. It is worth taking the time to rinse the rice until the water is as clear as you can get it. You will have the end result of far fluffier, nicely dry, non-soggy rice, and less sticking to the pan.

Start with a dry pot and heat up a dessertspoon of oil – to a medium heat. To this, add a finely chopped onion and cook, stirring, until it is beginning to soften. At that stage add the following – miss out what you don’t have, and if you have none of these, fine, no worries. It will be a nice plain rice dish which will not suffer being without any flavoured seasoning.

Here’s the seasonings I like to add:-

Teaspoon of Turmeric
Teaspoon of Paprika
Half a Teaspoon powdered garlic
Half a Teaspoon Garam Masala
Half a Teaspoon Salt

The oil will have been mostly absorbed and cooked off by now so your pan will seem very dry, especially with all the powdered spices you have just added. Be very brave and stir, stir, stir away furiously!! Cooking the spices together with the onion in this way really adds to the colour, flavour and overall appearance of the dish. If you are concerned and it does seem to be sticking or clumping together though, add a splash of water as needed. It should really sizzle. This process of cooking the spices and the onion only needs to last for a minute or so.

Next step is to add the washed rice, and cover with boiled water from the kettle (for quickness). I don’t have an exact measurement for this, I can picture and judge using my own cooking pot how deep to make the water level. I would probably explain it though, by looking at how ‘high up’ or ‘deep’ in your pan the rice, spread evenly, is sitting – pour in enough water to not only cover this but pour in a further inch of water over and above that.

Add to the pan half a 400g tin of chickpeas, or what amounts to 35g (ish) dried chickpeas, once soaked and cooked (whatever that cooked weight ends up being. I never weigh dried/soaked/cooked chickpeas once cooked…)

The pan should be bubbling and boiling nicely almost straight away, as you have used pre-boiled water. Use a tightly fitting lid to close the pan, and turn the heat right down to a simmer. This should be cooked and lovely, 15 minutes later. During this 15 minutes, I would go back to the pot a couple of times, holding the lid secure, and shake about just to mix everything nicely and prevent sticking. Do not remove the lid or stir the mixture.

The end result should be dry and fluffy rice, nicely cooked (try a bit to make sure) with no water remaining. If no depth of water visibly remains in the pan, yet you feel it all looks a bit ‘wet’ or sticky, turn the heat off and pop a teatowel over the top of the pan and clamp the lid on tightly. A lot of the moisture should be absorbed into the teatowel, whilst retaining the heat. You could easily leave the pan sitting in this way for 15 or 20 minutes without the rice cooling any.

Kind regards,

Laura.

To see your favourite frugal or cheap recipe here, email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Dear ATOS, my 3 year old can push a button, should I be sending him to work?

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Dear Atos Healthcare,

I’m writing to you with a concern about a person known to me who is not in work.

I am a journalist for a local newspaper, and on doing some research for an article yesterday, came across a very long list of questions that are asked at Atos ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interviews up and down Britain.

Questions such as:

Can you spell the word ‘world?’

What is 97 minus six?

Can you show me your left hand?

Can you show me your right hand?

Can you touch your nose with your left hand?

Can you touch your nose with your right hand?

Do you live with people or on your own?

Can you wash yourself?

Can you dress yourself?

Can you feed yourself unaided?

As I started to read the questions, a growing sense of doom began to build as I realised that I might know someone who is committing Benefit Fraud.

You see, my son, frequently referred to throughout my blog as Small Boy, can spell the word ‘world’. I don’t want to seem like one of those show- off mothers, but he can also touch his nose with his right and left hand when asked, he can wash his face, he dresses himself in the morning, and he doesn’t live by himself.

My son is three years old, and from my understanding based on my own research, he would pass an Atos Work Capabilty Assessment with flying colours.

So I have a concern.

I currently claim £20.30 a week in Child Benefit for this small being that is, by your own definitions, more than capable of taking a full time job. I’m worried, Atos, because as the genuinely sick are denied benefits because your own assessors cannot use common sense and judgement to decide whether they are actually fit to work, not whether they can spell single syllable words and dress themselves unaided, how long is it before you come for the children?

I mean, if you assess people based on their ability to push a single button, well, he’s been able to do that for quite some time.

In short – my toddler could pass an Atos test- IT DOESN’T MEAN HE CAN GO TO WORK.

As your chief exec issues half arsed pithy apologies ‘if they have done anything wrong’ on Radio 4 last month, I ask her, with the blood of Linda Wootton on her hands, who died NINE DAYS after her benefits were stopped by your unfeeling omnipotent test of nothingness, how do you sleep at night?

With reports of just one weeks training, with terminally ill people being asked to prove they are genuinely ill, how do you sleep at night?

Aneurin Bevan, the Labour MP and founder of the NHS, once said:

“Not even the apparently enlightened principle of the greatest good for the greatest number can excuse indifference to individual suffering. There is no test for progress other than its impact on the individual.”

But that NHS is being dismantled too. In fact everything that is genuinely useful and necessary to us ‘ordinary folk’ is being ripped out from the hearts of our society by the Thatcher-inspired self-appointed elite. There are many of us that can’t AFFORD private health care, dental plans, fancy insurance policies. We depend on the things that are available for everybody.

Iain Duncan Smith said when he launched his ‘tough’ welfare reforms, that “a life on benefits is no longer an option”. But surely LIFE itself is an option?

When did the decision to live or die, depend on your birthright, your inheritance, a family business passed down or a postcode lottery? When did the right to live become a desperate wish not to die?

When the Government decided to chop up the National Health Service, while giving tax cuts to their millionaire friends.

When you took a 5 year, £400million contract to bully dying people into court and tribunals.

I may be mistaken, but I thought I happily paid my taxes so that people like Linda Wootton, who did not ask for the hand she was dealt, who returned to work after a double transplant, who spent her last few months in misery, scared that people thought she was a scrounger – I thought my taxes contributed to a SOCIETY, but no society I can think of, would treat its members this way.

So first you came for the disabled, and they spoke out, they protested, but nothing changes.

Then you came for the terminally ill, the cancer sufferers, and they spoke out, they protested, but nothing changes.

Then you came for the sick, the elderly, the wounded, the injured, the dying.

Who is left? Who is next? As you ship people from the Work Capability Assessments to the dole queue knowing full well that there aren’t enough jobs out there for the unemployed let alone add to their number, I ask you – what is your plan? When your five years are up, where will you go? How many people will have died at the hands of untrained ‘health’ ‘care’ ‘professionals’ before you accept the blood on your hands?

But I have a son. He is three years old. He could pass your Work Capability Assessment, and THAT SAYS IT ALL.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Dear ATOS, my 3 year old can push a button, should I be sending him to work?

20130528-220138.jpg

Dear Atos Healthcare,

I’m writing to you with a concern about a person known to me who is not in work.

I am a journalist for a local newspaper, and on doing some research for an article yesterday, came across a very long list of questions that are asked at Atos ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interviews up and down Britain.

Questions such as:

Can you spell the word ‘world?’

What is 97 minus six?

Can you show me your left hand?

Can you show me your right hand?

Can you touch your nose with your left hand?

Can you touch your nose with your right hand?

Do you live with people or on your own?

Can you wash yourself?

Can you dress yourself?

Can you feed yourself unaided?

As I started to read the questions, a growing sense of doom began to build as I realised that I might know someone who is committing Benefit Fraud.

You see, my son, frequently referred to throughout my blog as Small Boy, can spell the word ‘world’. I don’t want to seem like one of those show- off mothers, but he can also touch his nose with his right and left hand when asked, he can wash his face, he dresses himself in the morning, and he doesn’t live by himself.

My son is three years old, and from my understanding based on my own research, he would pass an Atos Work Capabilty Assessment with flying colours.

So I have a concern.

I currently claim £20.30 a week in Child Benefit for this small being that is, by your own definitions, more than capable of taking a full time job. I’m worried, Atos, because as the genuinely sick are denied benefits because your own assessors cannot use common sense and judgement to decide whether they are actually fit to work, not whether they can spell single syllable words and dress themselves unaided, how long is it before you come for the children?

I mean, if you assess people based on their ability to push a single button, well, he’s been able to do that for quite some time.

In short – my toddler could pass an Atos test- IT DOESN’T MEAN HE CAN GO TO WORK.

As your chief exec issues half arsed pithy apologies ‘if they have done anything wrong’ on Radio 4 last month, I ask her, with the blood of Linda Wootton on her hands, who died NINE DAYS after her benefits were stopped by your unfeeling omnipotent test of nothingness, how do you sleep at night?

With reports of just one weeks training, with terminally ill people being asked to prove they are genuinely ill, how do you sleep at night?

Aneurin Bevan, the Labour MP and founder of the NHS, once said:

“Not even the apparently enlightened principle of the greatest good for the greatest number can excuse indifference to individual suffering. There is no test for progress other than its impact on the individual.”

But that NHS is being dismantled too. In fact everything that is genuinely useful and necessary to us ‘ordinary folk’ is being ripped out from the hearts of our society by the Thatcher-inspired self-appointed elite. There are many of us that can’t AFFORD private health care, dental plans, fancy insurance policies. We depend on the things that are available for everybody.

Iain Duncan Smith said when he launched his ‘tough’ welfare reforms, that “a life on benefits is no longer an option”. But surely LIFE itself is an option?

When did the decision to live or die, depend on your birthright, your inheritance, a family business passed down or a postcode lottery? When did the right to live become a desperate wish not to die?

When the Government decided to chop up the National Health Service, while giving tax cuts to their millionaire friends.

When you took a 5 year, £400million contract to bully dying people into court and tribunals.

I may be mistaken, but I thought I happily paid my taxes so that people like Linda Wootton, who did not ask for the hand she was dealt, who returned to work after a double transplant, who spent her last few months in misery, scared that people thought she was a scrounger – I thought my taxes contributed to a SOCIETY, but no society I can think of, would treat its members this way.

So first you came for the disabled, and they spoke out, they protested, but nothing changes.

Then you came for the terminally ill, the cancer sufferers, and they spoke out, they protested, but nothing changes.

Then you came for the sick, the elderly, the wounded, the injured, the dying.

Who is left? Who is next? As you ship people from the Work Capability Assessments to the dole queue knowing full well that there aren’t enough jobs out there for the unemployed let alone add to their number, I ask you – what is your plan? When your five years are up, where will you go? How many people will have died at the hands of untrained ‘health’ ‘care’ ‘professionals’ before you accept the blood on your hands?

But I have a son. He is three years old. He could pass your Work Capability Assessment, and THAT SAYS IT ALL.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Reader Recipes: Lou’s cheap n cheerful n very very tasty onion bhajis recipe

I’d like to share a ‘frugal recipe’ for onion bhajis. If you make a fairly big batch (as below) and freeze most of them, the ingredients total about £1.44 (4.5p each) which is not only bargainous but you have a ready supply of tasty bhajis. And at that price, they’re a cost effective addition to any meal.

_ _ _ _ _

Onion + veggie bhajis recipe
Much as I like onions, they don’t much like me so I like to throw in other veggies too: finely sliced sticks of carrots, potatoes, aubergines, and courgettes all work well. But you can try whatever you like.
Ingredients:
~ 14 tablespoons plain flour
~ 1.5 tsp turmeric
~ 1.5 tsp cumin
~ 1.5 tsp garam masala
~ 1.5 tsp chilli powder
~ 1 tsp ground coriander
~ 1 tsp salt
~ 2 eggs
~ 4 tablespoons home-baking lemon juice (or the juice of a fresh lemon)
~ 6 tablespoons water
~ vegetables as desired eg: 1.5 onions, 3x carrots, 2 x potatoes, ½ an aubergine
~ vegetable oil
Method :
1. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt, herbs, spices and turmeric (which – I learnt from James Martin’s Saturday Kitchen – is a natural antiseptic and classed as a condiment rather than a spice).
2. Beat 2 eggs in another bowl, whisk in 4 tablespoons of home-baking lemon juice (or the juice of a fresh lemon) and 6 tablespoons of water.
3. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture to make a thick batter (if it’s too thick and dry, add more water a tablespoon at a time until you get a thick, runny batter mixture) and leave for 5 mins.
4. Slice the onions, carrots, potatoes and other vegetables you may be using into fine sticks, then stir thoroughly into the batter.
5. Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan/saucepan then place a tablespoon of the veggie batter into the oil, and fry for 2 minutes before turning over for another 2 minutes.
6. Cook a few bhajis at a time (in batches) and drain well on kitchen paper.

Enjoy!

Lou.

To see your favourite frugal or cheap recipe here, email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Red Wine And Mushroom Soup

Mushrooms are one of my staple products, being both cheaply available at supermarkets and greengrocers, and simple enough to grow at home. I’m a tactile cook, so I like to break them up with my hands instead of slicing them, but it doesn’t make a difference to the end result of the recipe. If you like this and you have red wine and mushrooms left over, try making the Earthy Red Wine and Mushroom Risotto…

Serves 2

200g mushrooms
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 300ml boiling water
50ml red wine
a handful of chopped thyme, plus extra to garnish

Gently clean any excess earth from the mushrooms with a clean tea towel, and break or slice them up. Peel and chop the onion and peel and crush the garlic. Put the mushrooms into a saucepan along with the stock, wine, thyme, onion and garlic.

Bring to the boil, then reduce down to a simmer for 20 minutes for all the flavours to meld. Remove from the heat and pulse in a blender.

Serve with extra chopped thyme to garnish.

Tips: Replace the red wine with white wine and add a tablespoon of natural yoghurt just before blending for a lighter, more traditional creamy mushroom soup. garnish with some grated strong hard cheese.

Mix any leftover soup with a carton or tin of chopped tomatoes and some cooked red or brown lentils for a hearty pasta sauce that can be frozen in portions, and defrosted for a quick and easy dinner.

‘Red Wine And Mushroom Soup’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

Twitter: @MsJackMonroe Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

Reader Recipes: Nige’s baked bean lasagne

.Nige’s Baked Bean Lasagne, serves 4.

Nige said… “I’ve been making this for a couple months now, two of our family of four are vegetarian and this gave them an option from the classic meat version. Most of the products are based on an Aldi shop with the addition of Tesco Every Day Lasagne sheets which are currently half the price of Aldi.”

Shopping List:

Lasagne Sheets Tesco 33p pack of 13 sheets
Every Day Aldi Baked Beans 1 tin 25p
Aldi Tomato & Herb Pasta Sauce 39p
Aldi Lasagne Sauce 75p
Aldi pack of 6 Tomatos 49p
Aldi Every Day Grated Cheese 450g pack 1.99

Ingredients:

6 Lasagne sheets 18p
1 Tin Baked Beans 25p
Half Jar Tomato & Herb Pasta Sauce 18p
1 Jar Lasagne Sauce 75p
1 Tomato thinly sliced 8p
100g Grated Cheese 44p

Method:

Use a table spoon and layer one spoon of baked beans onto a suitable lasagne/pasta dish, create two layers and then top with one lasagne sheet. Repeat until you have 2 stacks, each with 3 layers of baked beans and lasagne sheets. Pour over the full jar of lasagne sauce making sure that all of the sheets are covered. Use the half jar of tomato & herb pasta sauce to spoon evenly around the edges and between the two stacks. Layer the sliced tomato over the top of each stack and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake in a hot oven, 200c for around 30-35 minutes.

“This lasagne lasts four of us for one evening meal or two of us two days.

Regards, Nigel”

To see your favourite frugal or cheap recipe here, email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Reflections from below the line

I’ve done it. Not once, but twice, I’ve made £5 of shopping last seven days, eaten three times a day, for the annual Live Below The Line challenge.

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I’ve had some delicious surprises, like a sad wrinkly peach chopped up and steeped in boiling water for 15 minutes makes a delicious tea, and the best surprise of the week was Saturday night’s sausage and bean burgers, which I liked so much I’m going to develop them into a recipe for The Book!

I’ve also eaten some ghastly food, like the beige bland muck that I’ve christened the ‘blandwich’ – sausage and rice and stuffing in a sandwich, I won’t be making that again in a hurry…

I think because I can be light hearted and self-effacing, people forget that there’s an important message underneath the challenge. All over the world, people are surviving on £1 a day or less, for all of their outgoings, not just their food bills. To those that initially said that this challenge was impossible – its not impossible, but unthinkable to some people that that is the state of the world that we live in.

If you haven’t read it, read the post on my home page called Hunger Hurts. I took this challenge for deeply personal reasons, to take myself back to where I started when I started writing this blog, to put myself in my own shoes that I was wearing just a year ago.

The ending to my story is an exceptional one. The book deal, the Fortnum and Mason award, the success of this blog.

But the beginning of my story – the unemployment, the hunger, the skipping meals to feed my son and drinking pints of water just to feel full, endless job searching and desperation, selling everything I had to try and get back on my feet – that’s not exceptional. That’s happening in households up and down our great and developed country every single day.

People write to me every day to ask what they can do.

Well, you can donate food to a local food bank. You can be more conscious about what you throw away. You can cook from my menu for a week and donate the ‘excess’ that would normally have gone on your food shop, to a local community project, or Child Poverty Action Group, or Oxfam, or similar. You can make a sandwich for the homeless person you walk past every single day. You can do so much, with so little, but if we all did a little, the world may change a lot.

For the week’s meals in pictures, click here: http://agirlcalledjack.com/2013/05/26/live-below-the-line-2013-in-pictures/

And it’s still not too late to sponsor me or donate, at https://www.livebelowtheline.co.uk/me/agirlcalledjack

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

LBL Day Six dinner, sausages glorious sausages.

I have just polished off my second to last dinner for this Live Below The Line challenge, and contrary to my earlier grump about sausages and beige bland muck, I devoured this in what felt like seconds.

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Sausage and bean burgers! I made these little patties a couple of days ago, with the meat from one squeezed-out-sausage, and half a carton of red kidney beans. The mix made four thin patties for just under 18p – making these my cheapest burgers yet at less than 5p each. I’d be tempted to say I’ve surpassed myself, but I ate two with 100g mixed veg and 75g plain boiled rice, bringing my dinner cost to just under 20p in total – with two burgers left in the freezer!

And truly – these were completely and utterly delicious. So delicious that in fact I’m going to develop them a bit and put them in my cookbook…if they still taste as good when I’m not doing a Live Below The Line challenge.

I had dinner earlier than usual tonight, preoccupied by food and hunger. Yes, I know, I’ve only had two sausage sandwiches and a peach all day before I knocked this up, because of my own eagerness to have something for breakfast that wasn’t yellow and sticky-sweet.

It’s true that everything tastes better when you’re hungry, and this was like dinner from the gods.

One more day. Just one more day.

I have left: plain white rice, lemon curd, four slices of whole meal bread, sausage-bean mixture, half a carton of chopped tomatoes, a sad little peach, one yoghurt, some mixed vegetables, and that 15p I hadn’t spent. And a couple of beef stock cubes. So now what…? Tomorrow looks as though I may be having lemon curd on toast for breakfast, beefy vegetable rice for lunch, and these delicious bean and sausage burgers with vegetables and rice for dinner… I’ll see how the mood takes me.

Thankyou to everyone who has sponsored me so far – and to new readers, I just want to make it clear that this is not my normal diet, it’s a challenge to raise money for Oxfam!

To sponsor/donate, visit https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

LBL Day Six: Beige, bland, muck.

Day Six of my ‘making a £5 food shop last seven days’ challenge, in line with this years Live Below the Line challenge. This is my second attempt at LBL this year, and I decided to go for seven days as most people do a ‘weekly’ food shop, instead of a ‘five day’ food shop.

Well it’s been difficult not to grouch to myself today that this could have all been over yesterday if I’d stuck to the ordinary challenge and just done five days. It’s been difficult to silence the grumpy little voice in my head as I mash up my last ‘sausage surprise’ in the fridge (made on Monday, I don’t even want to consider the bacterial implications of cold rice in the fridge for five days…), and spoon it in between two slices of value whole meal bread for my lunch. Mm, sausage and stuffing and rice, in a sandwich. Neither my culinary skills, nor my photography, could make that beige, bland, muck into anything remotely appealing.

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17p, by the way. You too can eat beige, bland muck for just 17p.

There was a time when I would have given anything for some beige, bland muck, though, and I chomp determinedly on what I can safely say is the most revolting thing I have eaten in a long time. I scoff the penultimate peach immediately after, apologising to my taste buds, but six days after buying it on a yellow Whoops sticker, the peach is wrinkled and bitter. This is not fun any more, and what’s more, there’s a whole day left to go.

Breakfast was a sausage sandwich, at 24p.

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I shall add dinner in later – but it will be sausage based too as i start to use up the last few bits in the fridge. I’ve unwittingly had a ‘sausage day’ today, and looking at my notes realise I was saving the first sausage sandwich for a celebratory breakfast tomorrow. Oh well. I suppose that means tomorrow will be lemon curd on toast again. God knows, there’s half a jar of it left.

Thankyou to everyone who has sponsored me so far – and to new readers, I just want to make it clear that this is not my normal diet, it’s a challenge to raise money for Oxfam!

To sponsor/donate, visit https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

LBL Day Five: Fed up and grumpy,

Day Five.

Friday. Day Five. Fed up and grumpy.

Breakfast was lemon curd on two slices of toast. I don’t think I’m going to eat lemon curd again for a long time after this… 7p.

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Lunch was a leftover cold rice salad with courgette, and lemon curd stirred through to make a cold sauce. I’d left it at home by accident, so left the office in the afternoon (which is thankfully only a few minutes from my flat) in pursuit of my lunch. Stomach growling, I sliced up one of the remaining peaches, and quickly devoured a fruit yoghurt as well, bringing my total for lunch up to 27p.

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Dinner was the leftover sausage and bean casserole with stuffing mash, at 32p.

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I’m counting down the meals now – as this time around the challenge seems never ending. My fridge is looking extremely empty, with just a single yoghurt, two peaches, six slices of bread, two sausages, half a carton of chopped tomatoes and some sausage-and-mashed bean pulp that I’ve prepared to make some burgers. I have some rice left, and some mixed veg, and half a jar of lemon curd – and I honestly can’t wait to see the back of the lot of it!

I still feel okay, not hungry, although a little tired, and think that including extra fruit and vegetables, and whole meal bread instead of white was a smart move – but I’m craving some variety, something that isn’t lemon curd on toast, or cold rice, or cheap, fatty sausage meat. The sugar content in those Basics yogurts are shockingly high, and I don’t think I want to see another jar of lemon curd again for a very long time. I want falafels, curry, tagine, something flavourful and sweet and spicy…

Six more meals, Saturday and Sunday, before I go shopping for the week and go mad with chickpeas and lentils…

Thankyou to everyone who has sponsored me so far – and to new readers, I just want to make it clear that this is not my normal diet, it’s a challenge to raise money for Oxfam!

Donate/sponsor:
https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

£5 for 7 days challenge – Day 4 Complete!

Having spent most of yesterday in bed with yesterday’s migraine, today has become Day Four of my second basg at the Live Below The Line challenge…

Here’s my ‘Leaning tower of toast’ this morning, at 7p. Washed down with a large glass of water, a fistful of paracetamol and co-codamol, and a generous lashing of self pity, and hi ho hi ho, it was off to work I…… went.

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Lunch was a thrown together cold rice salad, of lemon curd and white rice and a grilled courgette. I was extraordinarily hungry, having not eaten brilliantly yesterday, so had the last of my two apples, and a glass of water – taking my total for lunch to 38p.

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Dinner: sausage and bean casserole, with stuffing mash and mixed vegetables. This consisted of 1 of my now-strictly-rationed sausages, half a can of kidney beans, half the carton of chopped tomatoes, 1 beef stock cube and a teaspoon of stuffing to thicken the sauce and add flavour. I added some leftover pre-cooked stuffing from Sunday’s sausage sandwich to the potato, and had half for tonight’s dinner and left half in the fridge for tomorrow. Total cost for dinner: 40p…

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So I’m over halfway through now, although the fridge looks terrifyingly empty…

I spy half a can of chopped tomatoes, some wrapped-over pre-cooked sausages, less than half a loaf of bread left, some mashed potato in a bowl and a rather small looking portion of sausage and bean casserole. Three days left and counting, and hopefully no more illness to throw me off kilter!

One observation is that I haven’t really felt very hungry this time around. I’m getting wholemeal bread, and fruit, and yoghurt, and admittedly a limited amount of questionable meat, and at least 100g of mixed vegetables every day – not counting the chopped tomatoes and courgette. It’s not perfect by a long shot, but as far as a fiver over seven days goes, it’s not been too bad, if a bit toasty and ricey for my liking…

However, I’ll see how enthusiastic I am by the end of tomorrow, because there’s still two ‘sausage surprises’ left in the fridge. I don’t recommend them. Even me, who can make fabulous food out of nothing, struggled with that stodgy combination of rice, stuffing and squeezed-out-sausagemeat. Blergh. If I did it again, I’d make it into meatballs with extra beef stock mixed up as a gravy, or in a tomato sauce… But anyway, I might slice it in a sandwich and see how that works instead…

I’m counting the meals down now, nine more to go. I’ve raised over £3,000 for Oxfam with the help of some of my wonderful and generous readers – now – where can this take us now?

Thankyou to everyone who has sponsored me so far – and to new readers, I just want to make it clear that this is not my normal diet, it’s a challenge to raise money for Oxfam!

To sponsor me or donate, all funds raised going to Oxfam and to tackle food poverty in the UK, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

Jack Monroe. Follow me on Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Over £3,000 raised for Oxfam so far – Thankyou!

I just thought, before I take my highly inconvenient migraine back to bed, that I would check the fundraising page for my Live Below The Line challenge this year…. And I’m staggered to have passed the £3k mark!

Thankyou to all of you who have donated – there’d be no point in me taking the challenge if you weren’t all digging deep to help raise money to combat poverty in the UK – so Thankyou.

Please continue to share and tweet the link, or a link to my blog, to help raise awareness.

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To donate to Live Below The Line, to help end poverty in the UK, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

And Thankyou again – I had originally set myself a target of £500 and together we have smashed that!

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

£5 for 7 days challenge – Day 3

Day Three.

I was sent home from work this afternoon with a migraine.

Well-meaning friends have suggested that I quit the challenge to look after myself, but I’m not a quitter. I get migraines every now and again, usually stress related, but I’m going to be okay. I went home, lay down in the dark for the afternoon, drank lots of water, and although there is still a lingering hint of a headache and mild eye strain on one side, I’m doing okay.

Anyway – food for today…

Breakfast: lightly burnt meal toast with a generous lashing of lemon curd, 7p.

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Lunch: rice salad with veg and lemon curd, yoghurt and a peach, 27p.

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Dinner: sausage surprise pot, with vegetable rice, 22p.

Thoughts.. Well, vegetable rice twice in one day was thoroughly uninspiring, but I have taken the liberty of planning the next four days to make sure that doesn’t happen again! But that’s the thing about having so little money for food – what you do eat tends to be bland and repetitive. I’m lucky that I have spent the past year building up a store cupboard of simple spices one by one, and tending to my windowsill herbs, and I cannot emphasise enough how invaluable they are in making the simplest of foods into something seriously special.

But of course, I don’t have that luxury this week, as I have pared back to £5 for seven days for my second attempt at the Live Below The Line challenge. (People have pointed out to me that as it’s £1 a day, I could have spent £7, but for someone who has been living on an extremely small budget for so long, £7 for a weeks food shop does not present much of a challenge!)

I am taking my sore head back to bed now, but one quick observation is that I have not felt at all hungry so far compared to a few weeks ago when I took the challenge. Swapping white bread for wholemeal, and building my week around as much fruit and protein as I could find in my budget seems to have worked – so far – but it’s hard to be the judge when you’re in bed with a stinking headache!

Thankyou to everyone who has sponsored me so far – and to new readers, I just want to make it clear that this is not my normal diet, it’s a challenge to raise money for Oxfam!

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Follow me on Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

£5 for 7 days challenge – Day 2

I come to the end of Day 2 of my second take on the Live Below The Line challenge, or this time I’m stretching my fiver over seven days and I’ve tried to up my fruit and protein intake.

So here goes:

Breakfast, 2 slices of whole meal toast with lemon curd, 7p.

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….and an apple, 21p:

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Lunch was a lemon curd sandwich and a yoghurt, at a total cost of 15p:

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And dinner was a sausage surprise pot, with vegetable rice, at a total cost of 22p (sausage, stuffing, rice and stock, mixed and baked in the oven in a ramekin dish):

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Two days in and luckily for me my fridge was completely empty before I started, else I might have broken today. Work is quite high pressured at the moment and I find myself longing for some sweet comfort food, or a glass of wine at the end of the evening – and yes, I do drink the value range table wine that I put in my risottos! But only every now and again…

The sausage surprise pot was the result of some suggestions by readers, who had suggested making a meat loaf – but I’ve packed my loaf tin for the impending move, and made them in ramekin dishes instead. Two sausages made three generous ramekin dishes, but I’m aware as I eat it that my total meat intake for the day is two thirds of a value range sausage…

Onwards. It’s all for a good cause – I’m fundraising for Oxfam, having worked with them on the Enough Food If campaign, I was a case study for poverty in the UK and know all too well what it is to go to bed freezing, starving, and hopeless.

Thankyou to everyone who has sponsored me so far – and to new readers, I just want to make it clear that this is not my normal diet, it’s a challenge to raise money for Oxfam!

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Follow me on Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Live Below The Line 2: Day One Meal Summary

At the end of today – a day I have spent mostly packing up my kitchen and handing most of the contents to a friend to look after in the face of my pending move – I wasn’t really hungry enough to warrant a ‘proper’ dinner.

My shop for take two of the Live Below The Line challenge included whole meal bread, yogurts, sausages and peaches – all of which I tucked into with gusto today, and relief that I wasn’t facing a week of white bread and cornflakes again!

I divided the mixed veg into ten freezer bags at 100g each, and have worked out that I can have an apple or a peach every day – a significant fruit increase on the last time!

Breakfast: 2 slices of toast with lemon curd and a glass of water. 7p.

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Lunch: Sausage and stuffing sandwich (2 slices of whole meal bread, 2 sausages, 1/4 of the packet of stuffing mixed with 60ml boiling water), with a strawberry yoghurt and a peach. 38p.

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Dinner: Beefy vegetable rice. (75g rice, 100g mixed veg, 1 beef stock cube). 12p.

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Total for the day: 57p.

I seem to have made hardly a dent in my £4.85 food shop – but will have to ration the sausages! At 56p for 8, they were much nicer than I thought they would be, and I think I’ll keep another sausage and stuffing sandwich up my sleeve for the end of the week, when I’ll need some additional motivation, but so far, so good.

For those of you who followed my progress on the challenge at the end of April – I did consider trying to leave out the lemon curd for take two, but it was an absolute godsend last time, so I just had to have it! At 22p a jar it’s cheaper than any of it’s substitutes; jam is 29p, honey is 99p, and peanut butter is 62p – and none of them are quite as versatile as the humble lemon curd proved to be.

Six days left, and £4.28 of food left (plus 15p on top of the microwave that I’m not sure what I can blow it on yet! Either a tin of potatoes at 14p, rice pudding at 15p, a single yoghurt at 15p, or some chicken noodles at 15p. Choices, choices!)

Thankyou to everyone who has sponsored me so far – and to new readers, I just want to make it clear that this is not my normal diet, it’s a challenge to raise money for Oxfam!

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Live Below The Line: Take Two

I’ve decided to reattempt the Live Below The Line challenge, taking on board my previous experience of white rice and lack of protein, and advice and comments from readers.

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The challenge is open until June – so I thought a second attempt would be an opportunity to raise additional funding for Oxfam, as well as awareness about poverty and food poverty in the UK.

Since my explosion across the national media, the most common criticism I have received is that ‘it just isn’t possible’ – as though a year of living on a stringent budget is not evidence enough that it is.

Anyway – for the next seven days, I will be closing up my store cupboard again, shelving the fancy spices that Schwartz so generously sent me, and creating a minimum of 21 meals from the following items:

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4 fruit yogurts, 33p
Wholemeal loaf, 22 slices, 50p
5 peaches, 30p (reduced from £2)
1kg frozen mixed veg, 75p
2 apples, 41p
1 baking potato, 24p
1 courgette, 22p
400g kidney beans, 21p
411g lemon curd, 22p
400g chopped tomatoes, 31p
10 beef stock cubes, 15p
Sage and onion stuffing, 15p
1kg rice, 40p

Total spend: £4.85

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As before, I will be documenting the days on my online blog under the category “Live Below The Line 2013”.

I am doing the challenge for seven days – as most people do a ‘weekly’ food shop – I never understood the five day part of the Live Below The Line challenge!

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Reader Recipes: Rod’s Perfick Hot Pud

Never forget the most simplest of hot puds.

Slice and deseed any fruit….you’ll soon discover which one works best for you. We like plain old apple….but pear, pine-apple or orange are also good.

A small knob of butter or other light fat in a pan that has been sprinkled with a little sugar and cinnammon and just “fry” until the fruit is browned and the sugar treacley.

Serve with what ever you like or have, cream, ice-cream, yoghurt, creme fraiche etc.

Perfick….

Rod

To see your favourite recipe here, email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Reader Recipes: Kate’s Spicy Lentil Burgers with Chilli Tomato Sauce

Burgers
4oz Red or Brown Lentils
carrot grated
celery finely chopped
onion finely chopped
2oz Breadcrumbs
clove of garlic crushed
1/2 tsp Mustard
1/2 tsp Cayenne
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 egg

Sauce
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
1tbsp marmalade
pinch chilli powder (more if you want)

Boil the lentils according to the pack instructions
Saute the onion in a little oil
Mash the lentils, breadcrumbs, garlic, cayenne, mustard, coriander with the beaten egg, until all are well combined.
Add the carrot, onion and celery
Shape into balls and then flatten into burger shapes
Chill for at least 30 mins to firm up or freeze for later use
Fry in a little oil until golden brown

For the sauce cook all the ingredients together in a saucepan until reduced and sticky

I would serve with potato wedges , parboiled with the skins left on, tossed in a spoonful of oil and oven baked till crispy and a coleslaw of grated carrot, cabbage and finely sliced onion tossed in a little oil and lemon juice.

Kate x

To see your recipe here. email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Reader Recipes: Clare’s Kind-of-Ratatouille

My budget is not as tight as it once was, but when my son was small there were days when I was reduced to searching the cracks in the sofa for change so that I could buy milk. You don’t forget things like that in a hurry.

Anyway, here is my modest offering. I’m not sure it really counts as a proper recipe. But it is, I have found, a very good way of getting even vegetable-shy toddlers to eat things they can normally detect and reject at fifty paces. You can adapt according to what’s in the fridge. On toast, it’s great comfort food, with rice or pasta it’s more substantial. It’s a kind of ratatouille, I suppose. I call it ‘rats on toast’, but I thought that if I made that the title of my e-mail you would probably think I was some kind of troll.

This easily serves three of us, and although I’m small my son is now over six feet tall and puts away a lot of food. His dad doesn’t do so badly, either.

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped (optional)
1 onion, chopped (you could certainly use less, but I like it good and onion-y)
1 small courgette (again, adapt according to what you have), chopped fairly finely
1 tin chopped tomatoes
6 medium mushrooms (or whatever you can spare), sliced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste (the squeezy stuff in a tube)
A generous dollop of sour cream or plain yoghurt, say half a pot
Dried or fresh chopped basil (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

Put the oil in a large frying pan and fry the garlic, onion and courgettes. The onion and courgette should be allowed to become a little bit brown.

Now add the mushrooms, cooking them until they are just softened.

Add the chopped tinned tomatoes, stir and heat through.

Now add the tomato paste, cream/yoghurt, basil and seasoning.

Makes a good fajita filling too!

Best wishes, Clare.

To see your favourite recipe here, email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Photos from the Fortnum & Mason Food And Drink Awards

Kindly sent to me by Lindsay from Fortnum & Mason. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Top to bottom:

1. Claudia Winkleman and her famous friend!

2. Impromptu nervous speech, which lots of people on Twitter then called ‘the best speech of the night’. Possibly due to the line: “I thought you’d all only invited me here because you felt sorry for me and wanted me to have some free blinis.” – If the food thing fails I’ll go into stand up.

3. More wittering. Sorry about that. And yes, I have tattoos. Surprise! And no, I didn’t spend my grocery money on them. That’s the totally awesome thing about tattoos, you can get them done in 2010 when you have a decent job and they’ll still be hanging around in 2013 when you’re cursing at your cold pasta.

4. Claudia-and-me being like, one conjoined person, and Ewan Venters, CEO of F&M, looking very happy.

5. Ewan giving me my shiny. I’m still in shock and grinning like a fool. I never claimed to have street cred or be photogenic.

6. Me and Tom PB. Possibly the nicest man I’ve met in my life and the ‘other person in jeans’.

7. Me and SB, in our matching suits.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

WINNER: JUDGES CHOICE AWARD at Fortnum & Mason Food And Drink Awards

So…

I won’t keep you all in the same suspense that I was in tonight – I’ve just got home and thought I’d better write something scrambled and incoherent about the Fortnum And Mason Food And Drink Awards…

“Tonight’s Judges Choice Award, made at their discretion in recognition of a piece of work, an individual or a campaign thought to have inspired people to enjoy, explore and experiment with food and drink.

“Picked by the judges as ‘one to watch’, the award goes to a single mother from Southend, whose delicious recipes, published online, are so nutritious and thrifty that they are being handed out by food banks as examples of how to manage on next to nothing.”

It was at the word ‘Southend’ that the penny dropped, and I’m very glad Xanthe Clay caught me in a hug as I was shaking like a little, extremely surprised, leaf. I made it to the stage, took one look at Claudia Winkleman and yelped ‘Oh my god it’s you!’ (I’m so cool.)

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I continued my coolness with an impromptu rambling speech that said something along the lines of ‘it was all very nice to be invited but I thought you all just felt a bit sorry for me eating chickpeas and chopped tomatoes, and wanted to give me some blinis and a nice night out. And, Er, I’m here, with a shiny thing in my hand, and – Thankyou.’

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And indeed, Thankyou. Because if I sat typing quietly away about a hundred things I could do with chopped tomatoes and lemon curd, and nobody read it, I’d be shouting into a void. Thankyou every single one of you, for your time, your interest, your responses, your comments, for you.

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Thankyou Tom and Xanthe and Fiona and Lisa, for everything, and Ewan and Lindsay and Flo at Fortnums, for being lovely.

I have a shiny thing. And I haven’t stopped grinning all night.

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Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Small Boy off to the Fortnum & Mason Awards…

Small Boy off to the Fortnum & Mason Food And Drink Awards… With me of course, but I’m not as cute in my shirt and tux as he is!!

We’ve been very kindly invited up to the inaugural F&M Food And Drink Awards – I don’t expect my humble offerings are in the same league as ‘the Queen’s grocer’ – but it promises to be a lovely evening.🙂

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Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Reader’s Recipes: Laura P’s Chickpeas n Cheese

I was very excited to receive your invite for recipes, I am sure you will be inundated, but here’s one of my own. Possibly my favourite lunch though I would happily eat for every meal of the day. It serves as a sandwich/toastie filler, topping for crackers/oatcakes or a baked potato, or in cold cooked rice or pasta. I haven’t ever considered giving it a name, and I’m sitting right now trying to think of something clever, but nope nothing’s springing to mind and its shortly going to become 9 o’clock so I better go and hit send before the working day begins….

This will suffice for approximately 2 sandwiches, generously. I am not exact as to the weight of the chickpeas – I tend to shake into a bowl what looks right – but this won’t be far off. I soak and boil 125g dried chickpeas for various purposes and use roughly a quarter of that.

Ingredients:

30g cooked (or tinned) chickpeas

25g cheese (Asda smartprice, I find it very tangy and flavourful, so you don’t need much, for this or any other recipe)

½ a medium onion, thinly chopped (preferably red, if you happened to have one)

1 tablespoon mayonnaise (Asda smart price, tastes very nice, I find and not too bad calorie-wise either)

Roughly mash the chickpeas with a fork. Add the chopped onion, grated cheese and mayonnaise and stir to combine. All done!! If you were able to leave this in the fridge overnight, the flavours will mingle so much more. I make up the night before for next day’s lunch.

Variations: If you happened to have any pesto to use up, omit the onion and add the pesto. Also, any tinned tuna going spare – add to the mix for an extra protein hit.

Bye for now,

Laura

To see your favourite recipe here, email jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Reader Recipes: Laura’s Sausage Pasta

One of my recipe suggestions is sausage pasta. Buy cheap pack of port sausages – you can get about 12 for £1. Cook some of the sausages and when cool, chop them up and put them in the fridge. Next day, cook the pasta with onion, carrot, passata or chopped tomatoes and a bit of tomator puree and some marmite or vegetable stock cube. Any other veg left over can be chucked in.

To finish, sausages can be thrown in and the dish warmed up with grated cheese on top (if no cheese, then yoghurt or coriander)

Delicious!

Good for leftovers.

Keep up the great work

Laura (mother of two very hungry children and skint!)

To see your favourite recipe here, email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Reader’s Recipes: Maria’s Crespillos

Here I send you a recipe my mum used to cook when I was little, it is not expensive at all. it is a Spanish recipe, although I’m from Chile. It’s very easy and low cost, I make it to treat my self from time to time. I gave you approx quantities cause I’ve always cooked without measures, but it really depends for how many people. Make enough butter so you don’t have anything or much left. I hate to waste!

Ingredients:
1 bag of spinach leaves
2tb sp flour
1 egg
some milk (can be soy milk, doesn’t matter)
oil
4tb sp of sugar
optional,cinnamon, vanilla or any other spice if you want to add to the mix

Method:
Heat up oil in a pan. We mix the eggs, milk,sugar, flour and spice and we will have a liquid butter,we soak the spinach leaves in it and fry.
Serve it warm and sprinkle sugar on top.

Maria de los Angeles Rodriguez Correa

To see your favourite recipe here, email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Reader’s Recipes: Marie-Cecile’s Simple Fried Rice

I have a recipe for you. It is a simple fried rice I prepared for today’s lunch. I guess you may want to try it yourself.

For two persons:

Splash of vegetable oil – 20 ml
Rice – 125g
Sesame oil – 10ml
Dark Soy Sauce – 30 ml
1 big carrot or 2 medium carrots
1 spring onion
50g bacon
2 eggs
1/2 garlic clove
salt, pepper

Cook the rice per instructions (It is best to cook the rice the previous day or use leftover rice)

Cook scrambled eggs in the wok, set aside. Do not add salt.

Chop the carrot and the bacon, mince the clove

Put them in a splash of hot vegetable oil in the wok

Let them cook a bit

Add the rice and the soy sauce. Raise the heat, stir a bit and wait until the rice “pops” , then lower the heat

In the meantime, mince the spring onion

Add the reserved eggs and the minced spring onion

Add the sesame oil (fragile, best to add just at the end of the cooking and not too much because it has a strong flavour)

Add salt and pepper to taste

Stir and NOM!

Best regards,

Marie-Cécile

To see your favourite recipe here, email jackmonroe@live.co.uk