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…?
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:
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
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