Is Jack Monroe a saint or a martyr? A bit of both probably, but there is no denying the impact she has made in a relatively short time.

It is just two years since she began writing her blog, agirlcalledjack.com, which started out as local political commentary about her home town of Southend and, thankfully, blossomed into something much more widely readable, practical and relevant: how an unemployed, single mother was able to feed herself and young son satisfyingly on £10 a week.

Her recipes, created from a combination budget ingredients, innovation and necessity, found a sympathetic and receptive audience, impressed by the fact that they came from someone who knows what it’s like to rely on food banks.

The upshot is that Jack is now a bit of a celebrity. She has a job as a food journalist, campaigns for Oxfam and the Child Poverty Action Group, has been the face of a Sainsbury’s ad campaign, won a couple of high-profile awards for her blog, and has just published this book of her recipes. While most would surely applaud her achievements, her success has also attracted suspicion and spite, rather inevitably in the era social media trolls.

Her food is varied, resourceful and unpretentious, embracing tinned fruit, frozen vegetables and bottled lemon juice. And though the book was born out of austerity, it doesn’t mean the approach is similarly spartan. On the contrary, it is upbeat and enthusiastic. She cheerfully acknowledges adapting ideas from the likes of Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay, and includes recipes with breezy names such as Moroccan not-a-tagine and sort-of paella.

But Jack Monroe is someone who deserves to be celebrated for more than just her food. For those of us who don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from, the real value of her book is that it makes you appreciate what you have and forces you to reflect on how to make the most of it.

A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe is published by Penguin/Michael Joseph, price £12.99

By John Koski, MailOnline, March 2014. For the original review, click here.

Categories: Blog


  1. Jack,

    I’d love to buy your book, but none of the local store have it here in Northern Vermont. My question is, does it just (quite reasonably) have UK measurements, or is the one selling in the US on our (far more confusing, but familiar) measurements?

      • Why not just google a conversion chart (there are loads), pick the one you like the look of, print it and stick it on your kitchen wall. I laminate a few copies of stuff like that and use them as book marks, or turn some of my kitchen wall tiles into “smart tiles” by printing them with a background colour that matches the tile, or straight onto perspex if I still had a printer that could do that! I’d urge you to buy the book anyway and use whatever amounts of ingredients you’ve got. It’s well worth it.

      • If only you knew my cooking cooking Lynne, you’d know the reason I need few obstacles, and the danger I live in!

    • Search “cooking conversion chart” online and there are loads there, sure one of them would sort you out 🙂

  2. Obviously not from the same department as Richard Littlejohn, though he does have a strange habit of missing out the little words.

  3. It isn’t really a review of your book, Jack but it’s nice that he was so positive overall. I would have liked him to say what I feel, which is that it is a book deserving of a place on the bookshelf of many keen cooks, packed as it is with good information on variations and work-arounds.

    In my review on a certain major online retailer I said that I would hope that those public libraries that are left will buy multiple copies of this book so that it can be accessed by those who need it most.

    I had a think about this.

    The said online retailer has sent me many great books to review for free over the years, so as a way of paying it forward I will be buying a copy to give to my local library.

    • Spot on comment! This blog is great, and can be accessed for free from libraries etc, but it’s so important for libraries to stock this book too, as it can help so many people who need help preparing food on a budget.

      We’re not really in a financial position to buy any books at the moment (I’ll definitely buy this book when we are), but for the meantime will be pestering my local library to order it in.

      • Thank you. I’ve now ordered the copy to give to the library, I got a copy for my daughter as well, as I know she will love it. That way I got free postage too.

  4. You see Jack! Even the Daily Mail loves you now!! I’ve been cooking from your book all weekend. (bought in sainsbury the very day it came out). The soda bread is a huge hit with me and not so small fourteen year old daughter (she loves the photos of your lovely Small Boy and your tattoos!) as are the soups. We both wish you and Small Boy all the best.

    Many good wishes and admiration


    Ps I use your blog in the private school whet I teach. You are reaching people from every walk of life! My GCSE classes would love to meet you. Would you be prepared to visit us at all. We will pay expenses of course.

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Very pleased with my copy. Can’t wait to get cooking! Beautifully presented, lovely photos. Well done Jack 🙂

  6. Made the peach and chocolate cake today, delicious. Very humbled to have read your book and how you can create such nutritious meals. You are an inspiration and I will be finding our nearest food bank to donate to.

  7. Although I have to send congratulations on the book and the review – part of me is laughing hysterically at the fact that this glowing review has come from The Mail.

    Anyone would think they don’t read their own damn paper …

  8. So very happy for you Ms Jack Monroe.
    I hope you enjoy the fruits of your labour.

  9. Wow! Do I detect a damage limitation exercise here by the DM?
    Maybe it’s someone with a bit of common sense managing to sneak through.
    Keep going Jack, you’re doing brilliantly.

  10. Bloody hell – positivity from the DM! You deserve every nice comment, you’ve done well x

  11. Not a bad review at all 🙂

    Your face was staring out at us from Waterstones window as we walked past with the dogs last night 🙂

  12. Arrived on 27Feb,an early mothering Sunday present from the eldest have already made two recipes and more planned this week.I may be 65 but your ethos is ours.home cooking does not take forever and is nutritious and Fun

  13. I bought my copy of your book from Sainsburys this weekend, and I have done my meal planner for the week all with the help of your cook book 🙂 The layout of the cook book is great along with the photos of the dishes, the kids are looking forward to trying your recipes.

  14. Pre ordered book months ago and when it came was so pleased. Always thought soda bread and hummus too difficult and too expensive to make. Have made both this weekend – delicious. I am retiring soon and money will be tight but with your book have realised I can still eat delicious food. Thank you Jack

  15. Really looking forward to my copy arriving from the bookdepository.co.uk

    I am sure it will be a much-used recipe book as well as a constant reminder to me and my family just how lucky we are. You are doing great work and deserve every success.

  16. What an inspiration you are! I’m going to the book depository and order one for me and a couple for friends…making lemonade from life’s lemons!

  17. saint or a martyr?

    Please don’t be either. Just remain a well grounded flawed mortal like the rest of us. It’s one reason I’ve liked you from the first time of encountering your on-line Jack and however much you mix with the fortunate Commentariat and Celebs etc I have hope you will always be the down-to-earth pragmatic mum that I have come to admire.

    I’m glad you are getting to mix with interesting folks and enjoy life; everyone deserves their fun; I hope rather than them making you one of the pundit community however you keep connecting the media and the establishment back to the reality for the rest of us.

    So I’d rather you were our Class Warrior With A Spatula than a Saint or a Martyr.

    Move love and respect.

  18. Bloody hell, the DM said something nice about you! Wonders will never cease. About time too!

  19. Lovely book to have in your hands, readable,shopable, doable, cookable, eatable – definately a “keeper” this one.To Be Eaten From not merely admired and shelved….next one soon please..Jack and take a bow and round of applause. Thanks it is all appreciated. 🙂

  20. I ordered mine from Amazon months ago and it arrived on the day of publication – at a reduced price of £7!! I’m well chuffed. So far I’ve made the Roman Pasta with Mandarins and Creamy Basil Sauce – deeeelish! Also the Peach & Chickpea Curry- ate half and froze half. Creamy Salmon Pasta with a Chilli Lemon Kick – also heavenly. My windowsill now boasts Basil, Parsley and Coriander plants and today I’m shopping for a Chilli plant – just like Jack! Shopping list ready after browsing Jack’s book – I’m off!

  21. Got my copy today, have just sat and read it cover to cover: I LOVE IT So many recipes I want to try, a few I had forgotten about and will make again. I love the book, it’s a joy to read. Congratulations Jack, you deserve it all.

  22. This book is fabulous! I have so many cook books you buy for one recipe or Christmas(Nigella). We have cooked 3 recipes this week on the 4th tonight! It’s Thursday, most recipes have too many ingredients, we are eating like kings and saving money. Well done Jack shame we have to endure a bleak experience to produce a masterpiece. ONE OF THE BEST COOK BOOKS EVER!

  23. Dear Jack!
    A French weekly TV magazinbe, TELERAMA, published an article about food last week. The article ended with a reference to your blog, which I immediately visited.
    A book? “That’s interesting,” I said. I ordered it straightaway, and the postwoman delivered it yesterday.
    We had planned to have dinner in a restaurant last night. After reading HUNGER HURTS, how could we go to the restaurant? I cancelled the dinner, of course. Spending in one evening more than you have to feed Small Boy and yourselkf for a month!
    The problem is that if everybody stops dinning at the restarent, from time to time, chefs, waitresses, etc. will lose theirs jobs, which they need to feed their Small Boys and Small Girls, and themselves… Grrrrr…
    I think I’ll try and find time to translate your INTRODUCTION to post it on my (very humble) blog about food.
    Very best wishes from me
    Translation of the time of my post:”Good food, only for the rich?”

  24. Have now read this cookbook all the way through like an exciting novel! It is brilliant. Cooked ‘Sicilian-style sardines with pasta and green beans’ for supper and everyone loved it. Can’t wait to try more recipes. Well done Jack. xxx

  25. Congratulations Jack! Bought the kindle version of your book today. I love it. Well done.

  26. Jack – I absolutely love your book! I am an avid reader of your blog and have cooked loads of your recipes (your carrot and cumin burgers are now a staple!) The book has so much variety in it- I’m especially excited to make some of the bread recipes- they look so easy! Well done again Jack 🙂

  27. A Girl Called Jack is the top selling paperback non-fiction book this week, Congratulations

    (and you sold more copies than Mary Berry’s latest book)

  28. Placed my order tonight with Book Depository. I suspect I will have many of the recipes already – I print out most of them but I just wanted to support you. We need to get you over here to Australia even though I think our Food Banks are probably a bit better organised and more generous than the UK. I am a volunteer at FareShare (http://fareshare.net.au/) they make 20,000 meals per week using donated foods from supermarkets and food manufacturers (last Saturday my team made 1500 vegetable quiches in 3.5 hours!) These are distributed through social welfare organisations – not only to the homeless but also low income people. FareShare also makes copious amounts of “wet” food e.g. casseroles, which might be served at community centres. Most of the meals we prepare are distributed via FoodBank http://www.foodbankvictoria.org.au/. I have suggested cooking classes using your recipes and there is interest in doing this – we are working on it – just need the resources to organise and time. Keep on going Jack – you should be so proud!

  29. Great news Jack – I am working my way through book no. 1 at the moment We had the Spanish Chicken on Monday night, my love of tinned mandarins now rekindled 🙂

  30. Hi Jack, really love book 1- it’s absolutely brilliant! Just wondering whether there’s plans for book 2 to come out in paperback, as £19 is a rather steep for me at the moment, as is the cost of an e-reader. I know it’s probably your publishers that set the prices, but just wondered if you can do anything to get a paperback version out at some point? Keep up the great work!

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