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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

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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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#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

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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

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/

Mushroom and spinach bolognese, 38p (VEGAN)

I’ve been meaning to write about my ‘mushroom mince’ for months now – I use it instead of soya mince or Quorn as a cheaper alternative that isn’t full of unpronounceable ingredients or a gazillion processes. It’s simple, quick, and actually tastes like food, and can be dried out and stored in a jar for months, or frozen to use as required.

Basically, finely slice your mushrooms, then chop them up like billy-o until they’re finely diced. They’ll shrink a bit in the pan as they lose moisture anyway. Then either use them straight away, or freeze, or spread thinly on a baking tray (or any tray) on a layer of kitchen paper and leave to dry for a day or two somewhere safe and not moist (not the bathroom, for example).

Now for the fun part – a bolognese packed full of veg, costing pennies, suitable for your vegan friends but convincing enough for the carnivores – enjoy! This is my new favourite winter comforting bowl-food.

Serves 2 adults and 2 children at 38p each – or 3 adults, or 2 seriously hungry adults who don’t want to move for the rest of the evening. All prices based on my most recent Sainsburys shop, Basics range where available, most supermarkets have similar products at similar prices.

200-250g spaghetti or pasta, depending on above scenario, from 14p (500g/35p)
1 large onion, 10p (1.5kg/90p)
4 fat cloves of garlic, 8p (2 bulbs/35p)
2 tbsp sunflower oil (or other), 3p (3l/£3)
a pinch of salt, <1p (750g/25p)
a good grind of pepper, <1p
4 tbsp tomato puree or a can of chopped tomatoes, 35p
250g mushrooms, 61p (400g/97p)
1 tbsp bottled lemon juice, 3p (50p/250ml)
100g frozen spinach (or fresh), 13p (2x1kg/£2.50)
1 tsp basic mixed dried herbs, 2p (14g/40p)

First bring a pan of water to the boil.

While it's warming through, peel and slice your onion and garlic, and mince your mushrooms. Toss into a pan with the oil, salt and pepper and turn the heat up high for a minute or two, taking care not to burn anything by stirring well to disturb it. Turn the heat down to low-medium, depending what hob ring you have it on.

Toss the pasta into the hopefully-now-boiling water and reduce to a simmer for 8 minutes, or until cooked.

Turn your attention back to the other pan. Add all remaining ingredients and stir well. Bring back to a high heat, add half a small cup of water to loosen the tomato puree, stir well to combine and reduce the heat back down, stirring occasionally.

When the pasta is cooked, your bolognese should look – well, like a bolognese. Taste it – and season as required. It may need a dash more lemon juice or a smudge of vinegar, and any vinegar will do, even the malty stuff, or a pinch of salt, or a smattering more herbs – it's up to you. And enjoy! If you aren't a vegan, top with cheese as you normally would, if you are, then you probably know of good vegan cheese alternatives already (I don't, so could you recommend me some in the comments?)

Enjoy!

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Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @MxJackMonroe and my cookbooks are available to buy from Hive, supporting local independent book shops🙂 http://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jack-Monroe/A-Girl-Called-Jack–100-Delicious-Budget-Recipes/15403047

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Extra-Wholesome Banana Bread (VEGAN)

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This beautiful bounty of Sunday morning baking was based on the vegan banana bread in my first book, A Girl Called Jack, but uses some wholemeal flour and coconut oil for extra goodness. If you don’t have coconut oil, fear not, as the song almost went, Any Oil Will Do. Vegetable, sunflower, light or mild olive, groundnut, rapeseed, whatever you have to hand. Sesame might be a touch overpowering but if you like that sort of thing then give it a go. Same principle applies to the flour, if you don’t have any wholemeal then plain old white flour will be just fine, I’m just trying to make my baking a bit better for me these days, as there’s a curious correlation between writing a book (!!) and my jeans being rolled down around the waist because they don’t actually do up any more… harrumph.

Anyway, in the words of my gorgeous friend Sue and to join in the current Bake-Off frenzy, LET’S BAAAAAKE!

Makes a 1lb loaf tin, a 2lb loaf tin, 10 muffins or anything in between:

3 ripe fairtrade bananas, 24p (between 6p and 12p each loose – buy sold by weight not ‘snack’ bananas around 20p each!)
75ml KTC coconut oil, 46p (£2.50/400g)
50g fairtrade sugar, 5p (90p/kg)
120g plain or SR flour, 4p (Basics 55p/1.5kg)
100g wholemeal flour, 7p (£1.10/1.5kg)
1 tsp bicarb, 3p (£1.35/200g)
1 tsp fairtrade ground cinnamon, 7p (£1/45g)

First preheat your oven to 180C, and lightly grease your loaf tin or muffin tins.

Peel the bananas, slice, and toss into a large mixing bowl. Mash with a fork or (a recent discovery), the side of a thin cheap teaspoon makes an excellent mashing tool. As does a masher, as the name suggests, but I get that not everyone has every kind of whizzy dizzy kitchen gadget and if I ever write a recipe that requires anything of the sort then please WRITE TO ME IN CAPITAL LETTERS EXPRESSING YOUR DISAPPOINTMENT cheers.

(If your bananas aren’t old and squishy then add a little of the oil to start them off or ping them in the microwave for 10 seconds to soften them up – but not in a metal bowl or you’ll be calling 999 and won’t have any banana bread, boo.)

Add the rest of the oil and the sugar to the bowl and mix well. It won’t be pretty right now but that’s okay, if you’re pulling a face at the oily gloop, you’re doing it right. It gets better.

Add both the flours, bicarb, cinnamon and a fistful of dried fruit if the mood takes you. Mix well to form a lumpy batter.

Pour the mixture into your loaf tin or muffin tins, dust with flour, and bake for an hour in the centre of the oven – twenty minutes for the muffins.

And voila! Vegan banana bread with enough healthy twists to make it guilt free…

You can follow me on Twitter @DrJackMonroe, on Instagram @MsJackMonroe and on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

Smoky Dogs (VEGAN), 10p

On Thursday, I got a text message from my best friend asking if I wanted to meet for lunch and casually mentioning that it was National Hot Dog Day. Normally I side-eye those National Something Days but heck, National Hot Dog Day? There’s something I can get behind with aplomb. Gusto. Unfettered enthusiasm. And sausages.

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I’ve been making vegetarian sausages for years – originally based on a recipe by Irish chef Denis Cotter in his excellent and beautiful book For The Love Of Food. Over time I swapped the chestnuts for peanuts, the tofu for white beans, ekeing and tweaking in the way we all make things our own. And THOSE sausages are great. Joyous. An oral sensation. But they have eggs and cheese in, and today on this nationally sausagey day, I thought I would challenge myself out of my accidental culinary hibernation and make a vegan dog. I’ve been reading Peace And Parsnips by Lee Watson lately (follow him on Twitter at @lee_the_vegan) and it’s a PHENOMENAL book. Inspiring, beautiful, peaceful, funny, cheeky, and full of all the noms. Separate blog post to follow on this amazing guy but he’s inspired me to cook more vegan nosh these days and hence the sausage challenge – plus I figured my vegan readers would appreciate it too, and there’s a lot of you out there, hello fellow plant-noshers!

Makes 6 decent sized sausages at 10p each

1 small onion, 9p (from 1.5kg Basics bag, 90p)
1 small carrot, 9p (from 1.5kg Basics bag, 75p)
1/2 tsp paprika, 2p (50g smoked paprika, Sainsburys, £1)
1/2 tsp cumin, 1p (100g Rajah Jeera, £1)
1 tbsp cooking oil, 2p (3l veg oil, £3)
1 tbsp peanut butter, 8p (Sun Pat (£1.80/340g)
400g tin of kidney beans, 30p (Basics)
30g fresh breadcrumbs (1 slice of fresh bread grated or blitzed in a blender), 2p (800g loaf of Basics bread, 40p)

First very finely chop your onion and grate your carrot, and tip into a pan – frying pan, saucepan or saute pan, they’re not fussy, you’re just going to soften them up a bit. Add the spices and oil and bring to a medium heat, stirring to disturb them and stop them from sticking and burning. Stir for a few minutes to take that raw edge off, then remove and allow to cool to one side.

Drain your kidney beans and thoroughly rinse them, then test how soft they are – some canned beans are very soft and easy to mash as they are (super cheap basic and value ones), and some need a little more work (Napolina, I’m looking at you). Place one on your worktop and press the prongs of a fork against it with a medium pressure, if it yields and splits, you’re good to go. If it sulks and holds tight, pour the whole lot into a pan of water, bring it to the boil, reduce it to a simmer, and cook for 8 minutes to soften up. Remove from the heat and drain.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your veg, beans, and peanut butter and mix and mash until it forms a rough paste. You may need to loosen it with a splash of water but only a splash or they’ll fall apart later down the line!

When you’re satisfied that it’s all nicely mashed, add the breadcrumbs, flour and chopped herbs and stir through. Pop the mixture in the fridge for at least half an hour to firm up – important otherwise they will fall apart in the pan!

Remove from the fridge, and roll into sausage shapes in your hands. Heat a little oil in your frying pan and gently, carefully place them in – they are fragile! Cook for around 8 minutes on a medium heat, gently rolling them at intervals to cook evenly. Remove (gently, carefully) and serve. Ta-dah!

Jack Monroe.
Twitter: @DrJackMonroe
Instagram: @MsJackMonroe

PS, I had a little help with these… Here’s my Small Boy making sausages…

Tummy tea, 3p

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It’s been almost a week now since I fell ill at Ballymaloe literary festival on Friday night – festival-goers hopefully didn’t notice my decidedly below-par sluggishness under a professional veneer of an inch of makeup and a litre of strong sugary tea, as I was there to work and didn’t want to let anyone down by cancelling any events at the last minute, so powered on through and napped in between.

I don’t know what exactly it was that pulled me under, my chief suspect was a delicious sea urchin I’d had for dinner on Friday evening,  as I have had difficulties with shellfish before (most notably a piece of regurgitated shrimp sitting in my hair through the duration of my appearance on BBC Question Time…) But six days later with a still-upset stomach, I’m not so sure my sea-urchin-diagnosis is correct. I’ll spare you the gory details.

This morning,  frankly bored of being unwell, I decided to make myself something with turmeric in, to try to rebalance my digestive system and settle my tummy and get everything back to normal. It’s mostly better,  but caffeine, alcohol,  acid and spice set it back off to gurgling and burbling and cramping and rather like my mums IBS,  actually. And in my line of work that’s deeply unhelpful. I could shrug off caffeine and booze – reluctantly – but without lemon or vinegar or chilli or pepper or paprika, well, I think I’ve knocked 99% of my recipes out right there. Not a happy thought.

So, here’s my Tummy Tea. It’s not a miracle cure but having spent the last six days on a cocktail of ibuprofen and imodium and rennies (and then halting the ibuprofen because it buggers up your stomach lining and I didn’t want to make myself worse), this is a very pleasant change. Ginger is known for relieving nausea, hence the ubiquitous packet of ginger snap biscuits found in the handbags of most pregnant women, and turmeric has wondrous anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. I added the honey to sweeten,  but you can replace with any sweetener of your choice.

Makes 2 cups at 3p each

1/2 tsp ground turmeric, 1p (Natco turmeric 75p/100g, Sainsburys)
2 slices (5g) of fresh ginger root, 2p (40p/100g, Sainsburys)
1 tsp honey, 3p (Basics honey, £1/340g)
500ml boiling water

First boil your water and find a nice jug, if you have one, or your largest mug if not.

Slice your ginger and toss it in, and add the turmeric and honey.

Pour over the boiling water and stir well. Leave to stand for five minutes to cool, then pour and enjoy.

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter at @MsJackMonroe and on Instagram @MsJackMonroe and find me on Facebook as ‘A Girl Called Jack’.

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Gramcake, 15p (GLUTEN-FREE) (VEGAN)

  

Some people say socca, some say farinata; I decided to christen my breakfast this morning ‘gramcake’ – a pancake made with gram flour and little else. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to crack into my bag of gram flour, seeing it ticks all of my culinary boxes – it’s high in protein, versatile, and I can bake with it! All of which make me very happy indeed. This simple recipe made for a very satisfying breakfast – you can amend the spices and flavours to whatever you like, as the base is slightly sweet and nutty, so will complement all manner of things. I opted for spice this morning, because chilli and cumin are great any time of day, and I’m more of a savoury than sweet girl myself.

Serves 1, easily doubled or tripled or multiplied by 87:
50g gram flour, 7p (KTC gram flour £1.30/1kg)

100ml water

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

a splash of oil 2p (Sunflower oil £4/3l)
optional: 

¼ tsp ground cumin <1p (£1/42g)

a pinch of dried chilli flakes <1p £1/32g

a wedge of lemon, 3p (Basics lemons £1.10/5)
Beat the gram flour with a little of the water to form a thick paste, then loosen with the remaining water for a runny batter. Making the paste first stops the gram flour from forming into clumps and lumps, as it might when you add the water all in one go. For a richer pancake you can make it with milk instead of water, but water works just fine in this. I’m looking forward to a future version with coconut milk or almond milk, but I don’t feel that this version is a compromise in any way!

Add the cumin and chilli (or whatever spices you choose) to the batter and mix through, then stand the batter to one side to rest for 30 minutes – if you’re in a rush it’s not absolutely utterly essential to rest the batter but the results are better if you do.

Heat a little oil in a pan and pour the batter in. Cover the pan with a lid/plate/foil to trap the heat and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for around 5 minutes, until the edges are coming away from the side of the pan and the bottom is crisp. Covering the pan cooks the top of the pancake with the trapped heat, rather than the palaver of trying to flip it over. I am a rubbish pancake tosser (we all have our flaws) so worked out how to cheat them a while ago! Fold in half, squeeze some lemon over, and enjoy.

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter & Instagram @MsJackMonroe

If you like my blog you might be interested in one of my cookbooks, check them out at the tax-paying independent-bookshop-supporting Hive Stores (they also deliver to your home) http://www.hive.co.uk/book/a-girl-called-jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes/18105011/

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Cakey-Goodness Bread, 62p a large loaf (VEGAN)

One of my readers got in touch last week to say that they had started baking bread using recipes from my book and blog, and that it helped immensely with their anxiety. I totally get that – I find if I’m having a wobbly day, or week, a good session of kneading dough helps to work through it somewhat. It’s not a catch-all solution, but it is one of the rare moments in my week where I can stand still and rhythmically bash something, both well recommended for calming the soul. 

Today I decided to do that thing, still not sleeping brilliantly after a fortnight of madness and a little jittery around the edges, and in the beautiful synchronicity of the universe, we had also run out of bread. I like how life works out sometimes.

I was a bit worried when I pulled this out of the oven, the peanuts and high wholemeal ratio had made it a rich, dark brown; exactly the way I like it, but sure to be greeted with abject suspicion from the 5 year old and 4 year old. I got round it by smearing it with honey and telling them it was honey cake toast (my honey cakes are legend among the two smallest people in the house, and how the recipe has never made it on this blog is beyond me, I’ve easily made them ten times this year alone. I’ll have to fix that…)

And so, without further ado, honey cake toast, as christened by the two Smalls, both blissfully unaware that they were asking for seconds of Super Healthy Bread. Aha!

  


Makes 1 large loaf, serves 8-10, for 62p.


200g white plain flour, 7p (Basics, 55p/1.5kg)

200g wholemeal flour, 15p (£1.10/1.5kg)

100g peanuts, 35p (Basics salted peanuts, 70p/200g)

1 tsp dried active yeast, 3p (5g), (Allinsons, 65p/100g)

1 tbsp oil, 2p (Sunflower oil £4/3l)

300ml warm water

First soak your peanuts in cold water for half an hour and rinse thoroughly to remove any excess salt, then shake them in a clean tea towel or kitchen paper to dry them. If you want to speed the process up and don’t mind using the energy, pop them in a dry pan on the heat and blast them, stirring, for a minute or two.
Then pop  your peanuts in a blender (you’ll have to pulse them a few times and give the jug a shake to loosen any bits that get stuck around the blade), or food processor if you have a fancy whizzy one, or bash them in a pestle and mortar if you have one of those, or if you’re low-tech fling them in a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin. Whatever floats your nut-boat, you just need to crush them into smithereens.
Tip them into a large mixing bowl, and add both kinds of flour and the yeast and the salt (salt can be omitted if you are cooking for children or are watching your intake, I don’t add it to much but do the occasional bread and usually a little to stocks and sauces). Mix the dry ingredients to evenly distribute them.
Make a well (like a big deep almost-hole) in the centre of the dry ingredients. Add the oil, then most of the water – it should be just warm to touch, if it’s too hot it murders the poor living yeast and then your bread won’t work!) Mix it in well to form a soft dough, adding the rest of the water if it needs it. Your dough should collect all of the flour from around the bowl, but not be too tacky – it shouldn’t leave a residue on your hands. If it’s too dry and cracking, add a splash more water. If you overdo the water, shake a little more flour in.
Tip it onto a well-floured work surface and knead well for a few minutes until it is soft and springy. Kneading is basically stretching it out with your palm and knuckles, folding it in half, giving it a quarter-turn and repeating. And repeating. And repeating, until it is bouncy. Don’t throw it on the floor to test, just gently prod it with your finger to make an indent – it should slowly poof back out again.
Tip it back into the bowl and cover with cling film or a plate or a tea towel, and pop it somewhere warm for an hour to rise. If your home is chilly, or you can’t find a warm place, pop a few tea towels in the microwave for a minute then wrap them around your bowl to give it a big warm cuddle.
When it’s risen, almost doubled in size, pop the oven on to heat at 180C. Tip your dough out onto your floured worktop again and shape into a loaf – this will help knock some of the extra air out, but don’t fiddle with it too much, that air will contribute to a nice light loaf with a wonderful texture. Flour its bottom and place on a baking tray. Cut down the middle half an inch deep with a knife (to let the baking fairies out, according to Irish folklore), and bake for 40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when it feels light to hold, warm, hollow sounding when you tap the bottom, and your home smells like freshly baked bread. 
My family love it spread thickly with honey, hence the title (although that then doesn’t make it vegan, obviously), CakeyGoodness Bread. One day I might tell them, but until then, I’m enjoying cramming them with unbeknown goodness. Good for grownups too – I like mine with butter and marmite and strong cheese, and Allegra had hers with marmalade…

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter & Instagram @MsJackMonroe and find my book online at the tax-paying local-bookshop-supporting Hive Stores: http://www.hive.co.uk/book/a-girl-called-jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes/18105011/

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Kidney bean and peanut butter burger, 22p (VEGAN)

One of my most clicked-on, photographed, and tweeted-about recipes is ‘the 9p burger’, a carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger born of a toddler nagging for burgers and an empty storecupboard and a handful of change. Mashed and shallow fried, they looked like burgers, and he wasn’t any the wiser – though I’m sure he can tell the difference three years later, he still eats the bean versions as well as the occasional beef ones.

This morning, I opened a can of Basics kidney beans for brunch and only used a third of them. I knew as I put them back in the fridge that it would be bean burgers for dinner, and that excited me, as I haven’t had them for ages and people keep tweeting me pics of theirs, and I’ve been getting a Hankering.
The first hurdle was a lack of carrots in the fridge. Luxuriating in its place was a Deathbed Leek, so dry around the edges that the first three layers were stripped back for the guinea pig. I can’t remember the last time I even bought leeks – or how I hadn’t spotted it before. 

If you’ve read today’s Evening Standard article, you’ll know I have worked a few shifts at Blackfoot, Allegra’s restaurant in Exmouth Market. One of my favourite things to cook there was a Mega Nut Burger (not on the revamped Spring menu, I’m afraid), with a base of leeks and chestnuts and roasted nuts. I looked at my leek. I looked at my kidney beans. I looked for some nuts. I had no nuts. In all manner of contexts. No nuts. I did, however, have a tub of peanut butter (I use Sun Pat as it’s the lowest price brand that doesn’t use palm oil, and I don’t know enough about palm oil to be able to advise anyone else on it but there have been news stories of deforestation and sad looking orangutans and it just doesn’t sit well with me so one day I sat on the floor of Sainsburys and turned over all the jars of peanut butter scrutinising the ingredients for ones that didn’t have palm oil in and then compared the price per g and ended up at Sun Pat. Short soliliquy to peanut butter ends.)
And so, this was born. And today I am grateful for my disparate fridge and lack of nuts and my health-binge, because I can say quite frankly that this will be one of my favourite ever recipes. It tastes like it’s bad for me. And I like that in a healthy dinner. The peanut butter adds extra protein (I sense the next few days will be protein-tastic), and to finish it off I dusted it in gram flour to keep it gluten free (and more protein), and fried it in coconut oil. I know these are both new additions to the pantry but gram flour will feature heavily over the next few weeks as a lot of readers have asked for gluten free recipes, so bear with me. If you aren’t gluten free then feel free to use ordinary flour. And coconut oil has been a fancy health fad for so long now that it’s finally available at affordable prices. I found mine in the world foods aisle, it’s KTC, and was just over £2 for a large jar. I use less of it than I would sunflower oil, as I spoon it out of the jar rather than slosh it in, and think although it won’t go as far as a 4l bottle of sunflower oil at the same price, it’s still not the £17 it once was in Holland & Barrett. If you don’t think it’s worth it, hey, don’t buy it. I’m just doing my thing, and you do yours too.

  
Makes 4 generous adult burgers or 6 kiddy ones or a gazillion canape-sized ones at 22p each
(As ever prices are costed at Sainsburys because that’s where I do my shopping and no I’m not doing any more ad campaigns with them, they’re just local and I like the staff):

400g can of Basics kidney beans (240g drained weight), 30p
50g leek, finely sliced, 10p (£2/kg loose)

50g onion, finely sliced, 3p (Basics 80p/1.5kg)

2 tbsp coconut oil, 13p (KTC £2.25/500ml)

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

½ tsp paprika (or cumin would be nice instead), 2p (£1/42g)

50g peanut butter, 27p (£1.80/340g)

1 tbsp gram flour, 1p (KTC superfine gram flour £1.30/kg)

First drain your kidney beans and give them a thorough rinse with cold water, and tip into a shallow frying pan.

Peel and finely slice your onion (50g is about half a small onion, a quarter of a massive one) and add to the pan. Ditto the leek, I chopped from the bottom of mine as I just want the white bits for this recipe, the green bits will be used somewhere else in the week. Add your salt and oil, paprika and peanut butter, and cook all together on a low heat to saute (soften) the vegetables and the kidney beans. Stir well to disturb your ingredients and stop them from sticking to the pan. Cook low and slow for around 10 minutes until everything is combined and the veg has softened, and the beans start to split. Mash them to a pulp, mixing with the other ingredients – it doesn’t matter if some of the beans are left whole, in fact it gives them a quite pleasant knobbly texture.
Tip the mixture into a bowl and pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to cool and set – an hour or more is better, overnight even more so, but if you’re in a rush 30 minutes will do the job. This step is important – as the mixture firms up and thus the burgers don’t fall to a mush in the pan when you cook them. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve cooked the original bean burgers on film and rushed this step and then had to re-shoot the whole thing as I’ve ended up with Scrambled Bean Mush instead of burgers!
When the mixture has firmed up, remove it from the fridge and heat a little oil in the pan. Shape the burger mixture into four or six balls with a little gram flour to stop them sticking to the pan, and flatten gently to make your burger shapes. The thinner they are, the better they cook through, although as all of the ingredients are already cooked, it’s a taste thing rather than a health and safety one. Cook for a few minutes on one side on a high heat to seal and crisp, then carefully turn them over and repeat for the other side. Turn once more, turn the heat down to a low-medium, and cook for a few more minutes to warm right through. And serve – I had mine straight from the pan in a fit of gluttony, but they would be delicious with some kind of grain and some greens. I just didn’t get that far tonight!

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter & Instagram @MsJackMonroe and find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

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Pickling leftover veg.

Here’s something I do a lot, like my juicing-without-a-blender post last week, that I do so regularly and unthinkingly that I didn’t realise I’d never written about it on my blog! This is where all the soft or sad or straggly vegetables end up that aren’t juicing material. Like the Mooli I bought last week in a fit of curiosity that softened to a flaccid sadness in my veg drawer as I pondered what to do with it. Nothing for it but pickle by this point, and off we went.

Of course you can pickle almost any vegetables (wouldn’t recommend raw potatoes or pickled mushrooms, but I’m sure someone somewhere in the wonderful world of the Internet has tried). I often have a ‘rolling pickle’ in the fridge, a jar of vinegar and various flavours, that I toss oddments of veg into – the half a pepper curling around the edges, the grated stalky bit of a cauliflower head, the outer cabbage leaves sliced thinly, and just add to it as the week goes on.

My favourite pickling juice is a combination of white wine vinegar, raw garlic cloves, a teaspoon each of salt and sugar, some herbs, a little mustard and black pepper – but it really depends what I’m making. Sometimes rice wine vinegar and nigella seeds are a nice change, fennel seeds can add sweetness, cumin for a curry-accompanying pickle, chilli for heat – the possibilities are endless.

Here’s my recipe for mooli pickle – you can replace the mooli with anything you like.

1 mooli

200ml white wine vinegar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

4 fat cloves of garlic

1/2 tsp mustard seeds (or mustard)

Black pepper 

Finely ribbon your mooli – you can use an ordinary vegetable peeler to make ribbons, then for thinner strips, stack a few on top of each other and slice thinly – better to do it slowly and carefully than try to rush this part. If you have a julienne peeler, spiralizer or mandolin, knock yourself out, but the humble veg peeler will do a grand job. As you get near the end of your veg, lay it on a flat surface to peel it rather than trying to hold it in your hand – far easier and less risk of sliced fingers!

Pop the veg in a jar and add the remaining ingredients. Screw the lid on tight and shake gently to distribute the salt and sugar. Label, and pop in the fridge. As a general rule I try to use mine within 28 days if stored in the fridge, so label it accordingly. And feel proud of yourself, you just gave that sad vegetable another month to live. Happy pickling!

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

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Green juice-without-a-juicer, 45p

   

With the events of the last two days, I have mostly been eating toast. When I’m down, or life goes a bit wrong, I retreat from the kitchen – I find it very hard to cook or be creative or even taste things properly when my head is off-balance. And so I mostly eat toast. Mackerel on toast, corned beef on toast, something quick and mindless. This afternoon I figured enough was enough and my body was SCREAMING at me for fruit and vegetables – I’ve learned to listen to it over the years as those cravings are usually important, more on that another day.

Anyway, unusually for us the fruit bowl and veg drawer were seriously lacking, apart from a very bruised and squashy apple, a practically dry lemon, a wilted few stalks of celery and half a bag of kale  I bought nearly a month ago that refuses to die. Unsurprisingly I didn’t want to eat any of it in its current pathetic state, so green juice it was. And a good opportunity to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now; a ‘how to make juice without a juicer’ recipe. You can use this method for practically any juice recipe that is already out there, or you can use it for my green juice, which despite its sorrowful origin is actually quite yummy. I usually have cucumber in place of the celery, but not today.

Makes 300ml strong juice, serves 1 hardened juice fiend or 2 gentler souls if diluted. Prices based on Sainsburys, Basics where available, coz that’s where I did my last shop.

1/2 a lemon, 11p (£1.10/5) – or 1tbsp bottled lemon juice
1 apple, 20p (80p/4 min)
a small slice of ginger, 2p (40p/100g)
a handful of kale, 5p (£1/200g) – can use spinach, fresh or frozen defrosted, instead
a stalk of celery, 7p (80p/450g)

First dice everything up really small – don’t worry about peeling the lemon or ginger, or deseeding anything. Since the whole ‘NutriBullet’ craze kicked off (basically throwing whole fruits and veggies into a tiny powerful expensive blender to pulverise them into a smoothie) I’ve been a lot more relaxed about peeling and deseeding things for juices. And by ‘a lot more relaxed’ I mean ‘celebrated the excuse to be even more lazy – sorry, time-saving – in the kitchen’. So dice it all up, and pop it into a blender.

Add about 200ml water and blend until it is well combined.

Pour into a sieve and hold over a bowl to catch the juice. If you don’t have a sieve, line the bowl with a clean tea towel (not the microfibre sort or you run the risk of fluffy juice), pour the mix into it, and gather the edges together. Hold it over the bowl and squeeze gently and the juice will pass through. Use a spoon to stir the pulp to get as much juice as possible out, and keep going, you’d be amazed at how much comes out with a vigorous stir.


And voila. Juice. If you’re looking at that pulp and thinking it’s a waste, it’s about the same as you’d scrape out of your juicer. I put mine into ice cube trays and feed them to my guinea pig as treats. Some people add water again to the pulp and re-blend it for a second run at the juice, albeit a bit of a weaker version. Up to you. Still, now you can join the juicing craze without shelling out a hundred quid for a fashionable juicer. 

Blender advice: My first jug blender was a Sainsburys Basics one and was less than a tenner. It survived a couple of years of daily use, and then recipe testing for my blog and column, and my first book, and then some. I seriously put that thing through its paces but it gave up on me when I dropped a spoon in it by accident, and now is resting in smoky sulky peace. So, you don’t need a superfancy blender either. But a £10 one is a good investment – mine more than repays itself in using up mushy fruit and wilted veg that might have headed to the bin otherwise in perfectly delicious smoothies, juices, soups and pasta sauces. Charity shops are good places to pick them up for less than a tenner too, just check that they have been PAT tested first – most charity shops are good at this these days.

Do you have a favourite juice recipe? Share it below in the comments so we can all have a go – and now I’ve shared the method, I can’t wait to share some more of my juice recipes with you all🙂

Jack Monroe. I’m on Instagram @MsJackMonroe (and have a Twitter account under the same handle, but am currently not using it after some quite horrendous abuse recently. Not sure if I’m going back.)

   

A dark and ominous salty sweet kicking joyride for my tastebuds that absolutely deserves its profane name...

Whoa F*ck Dressing, 7p

A dark and ominous salty sweet kicking joyride for my tastebuds that absolutely deserves its profane name...

A dark and ominous salty sweet kicking joyride for my tastebuds that absolutely deserves its profane name…

This came about as most of my favourite things do, with a musing to myself about something I’d eaten recently and a wonder if I could recreate something like it. The ‘something’ in this case was a jar of Tonkotsu’s ‘Eat The Bits’ chilli oil given to us by Emma Reynolds of Tonkotsu fame, but it was polished off weeks ago and all I could remember was the sheer amount of chilli flakes suspended in a sesame oil dressing. Undettered, I threw lots of things I like into a jar and shook the hell out of it, and ended up here, exclaiming profanities out loud as I dipped a spoon in and my tastebuds shot off on an exuberant joyride. Sweet, salty, spicy, this made my eyes pop and my tongue sing, and I instantly spooned it over a soft-boiled egg for a sensational snack. It’s hot, but not unbearably so. And I imagine it will only improve with a spell in the fridge to settle and develop, too…

Makes 12 x 1tbsp servings at 7p each

1 tsp dried chilli flakes (3g), 3p
2 fat cloves of garlic, 3p
2 tbsp mirin (or white wine vinegar with ½ tsp sugar), 36p
1 tbsp soy sauce, 10p
40ml groundnut or sesame oil, 13p
100ml sunflower oil, 13p
a pinch of salt <1p

Peel and finely mince your garlic cloves and toss into a jar with the dried chilli flakes. Add the mirin (or white wine vinegar and sugar), soy sauce, and oils. Screw the lid on tight and shake it well. Season to taste, and adjust accordingly – if it’s too acidic for your liking, add another splash of oil. If it’s not harsh enough, another drop of vinegar – dressings are curious beasts and we all taste them slightly differently, so use my list as a guide but don’t beat yourself up if you deviate. And that’s it. Store in the fridge as there’s scaremongering about botulism re things stored in oil, and you can’t be too careful. Says me with the three day old stock in the previous post.

All ingredients purchased at Sainsburys with the exception of dried chillies, which I picked up in my local Tesco Express for far cheaper than the Sainsbugs offering…

Tesco East End Chilli flakes 75p/75g. Sainsburys basics garlic 35p/2 bulbs. Sainsburys Mirin £1.79/150ml. Sainsburys light soy sauce 95p/150ml. Sainsburys groundnut oil £1.65/500ml. Sainsburys sunflower oil £4/3l. Sainsburys Basics table salt 25p/750g.

Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe. If you like this then there’s a few hundred other recipes on this here blog, and books available to buy from lots of places but do consider supporting independent book shops and small businesses by buying from Hive Stores; check them out here: http://www.hive.co.uk/book/a-girl-called-jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes/18105011/

So simple. So yummy. So accidentally dug into it before I took a photo...

Carrot ribbon pasta, 30p (MICROWAVE) (VEGAN)

So simple. So yummy. So accidentally dug into it before I took a photo...

So simple. So yummy. So accidentally dug into it before I took a photo…

This recipe was one of my favourite, simple ones from my first cookbook, A Girl Called Jack. Originally borne of a way to use up a bulk-buy bag of carrots (in the days before the guinea pig!), and to make veg exciting for a then two-year-old boy, it’s a simple, bright staple in my home today. In fact, I’ve just had it for my lunch. It’s beautiful, simple and delightful, and can be enjoyed all year round. Use whatever herbs you have to hand for the green sauce, I usually like basil or parsley in this one, but the Chief Herb Buyer in our house accidentally bought a ton of dill last week for a cooking project, and I’m reluctant to buy anything else until I’ve made a dent in the dill mountain in the fridge. Turns out it’s really yummy with dill, but if you don’t have it in or won’t use it in a week or two, don’t buy it specially – stick to a failsafe herb that’s easier to use up, like parsley! The breadcrumbs on top can be swapped for hard strong cheese, for my non vegan readers, and leave out the pinch of salt – although I hear rumour that vegan cheeses are available quite widely these days…

Serves 1 at 30p

75g spaghetti, 5p
1 carrot (mine weighed 100g), 5p
a handful (2g) of fresh herbs, 6p
30ml oil (I used sunflower), 4p
2 tbsp lemon juice, 7p
2 tbsp breadcrumbs (I smash up the crusts I cut off for the kids, and the ends of the loaf, the stale badly-wrapped piteous pittas, etc, and store them in a jar next to the bread bin with a teaspoon of salt shaken through to keep them dry, for things like this), 2p
a good pinch of salt and a grind of pepper, <1p

First grab a bowl that’s microwave safe and doesn’t have any metal embellishments on (sorry to nag, but you might be new round here).

Break the spaghetti in half so it fits in the bowl, and place it in the bottom. Cover it with cold water, half-filling the bowl. Pop a plate on top, or cover with clingfilm, and pierce a couple of holes in it with a sharp knife (the clingfilm that is, not the plate). Cook on FULL power for 2 ½ minutes. Stir and leave to stand for a minute. Cook on FULL power for another 2 ½ minutes. Stir and leave to stand for a minute. It *should* be just cooked, but not all microwaves nor spaghetti are created equal, so if it is unpleasantly crunchy, give it another two minutes – but you don’t want it flobby and sticky, because it will have another minute yet….

Meanwhile, while the microwave is doing its thing, make the green dressing for your pasta. Finely chop the herbs (I put mine into a teacup and attack them with scissors, containing them all in one place and it’s pretty satisfying, too…). Add the lemon juice and oil and salt and stir well. Stand to one side. (The dressing, not you.)

To make the carrot ribbons, use a vegetable peeler to strip the carrot into long, thin ribbons, then stack them up and slice them carefully into thinner pieces. Or you can grate them, that’s cool too.
Pop the carrot ribbons in with the pasta for a last minute of cooking, then drain and toss in the green sauce. Top with breadcrumbs or hard strong cheese, a grind of pepper, and serve. Voila.

For a portable lunch, you can either make the whole thing in advance and pop it into a jar or container and take it with you, reheating it in the microwave if you like – but it’s yummy cold too. The dressing stops the pasta from clumping together when it’s cold, although it might need a quick ping to bring it to room temperature. Or make the dressing and ribbon the carrots, and combine the two in one container. Pop the pasta in another container and cook it at lunchtime, then toss the carrots/sauce/crumbs through. Hurrah.

And if you’re feeling super healthy, try it with wholemeal pasta, and add some ribboned courgettes, too. And sultanas. And basically do what you like. Veg is fun, kids. At least, that’s what I tell mine.

Happy eating!

Prices based on my most recent Sainsburys shop as it’s nice and close and handy and they sell all the usual useful things. Basics spaghetti 35p/500g. Basics carrots 75p/1.5kg. Fresh dill 80p/25g. Sunflower oil £4/3l. Lemon juice 55p/250ml. Basics table salt 25p/750g. Basics pitta breads 22p/6.

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe and find me on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

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Simple mushroom soup, 37p (MICROWAVE) (VEGAN)



I love making a mushroom stock when I have a few shrivelling up in the drawer of the fridge, cooking them long and slow with some garlic and onion and some dried or fresh herbs, before freezing it to use as the base of a flavoursome risotto or stew… Pungent and almost truffley, at just a fraction of the cost. But, my most recent fistful of wrinkly mushrooms were destined for the microwave project, along with some more of that large green passive-aggressive cabbage still rolling around in the fridge, which may make an appearance in the next ten recipes. So without further ado, allow me to introduce my very simple mushroom soup… Slightly salty, reminiscent of miso without any actual miso in, and so good I made it two days running.


To make a more substantial meal, you could add 50-70g uncooked rice, and an extra 50ml water, and cook it for an extra 2-4 minutes. Basic plain white rice would work well, but if your budget stretches to it, brown would give a nutty, delicious flavour. I’m going to try it later in the week with pearl barley, myself… 

For a quick and easy work lunch, you could prepare all of the ingredients and cover with water, and simply ping it in the microwave to heat through. I carry soups around in jars with screw-on lids to be on the safe side (and no soupy paperwork) – just take the metal lid off before putting it in the microwave! Zzzzt!

Serves 1 at 37p each*

1 fat clove of garlic, 3p
30g onion, 1p
100g mushrooms, 24p
a handful of dark green leafy veg – I used cabbage, 8p
½ a vegetable stock cube, 1p

First peel and finely chop your garlic, and peel and finely chop your onion. Pop them in a microwave-safe container (NO METAL) and add a scant tablespoon of water. Cook on HALF power for 90 seconds, until softened but not burned, you just want to lose that raw edge to them.

Slice your mushrooms and thinly slice your dark green leafy veg, and add to the onions and garlic. Crumble over your stock cube. Cover with 250-300ml water, and stir well. The stock cube won’t dissolve until the water heats through, so don’t worry if it looks a little gross at the moment, it will all come together shortly.

Cover with clingfilm and pierce a few holes in the top to let steam escape and stop it from bursting/splattering your microwave with soup. Some people like to put a small plate on top instead, which works well too – use what you have and are comfortable with, there are many roads up the culinary mountain.

Cook on FULL power for two minutes, leave to stand for a minute, then repeat. And voila, a miso-y mushroom soup, ready in a flash, with very little effort. And huge amounts of deliciousness.

I worked out the cost of this recipe based on my most recent Sainsburys shop, because its my nearest big supermarket and where I do my weekly shop. Similar items are available at all the major supermarkets for around the same price – and things like loose mushrooms and onions may be cheaper at local shops or markets if you have any available in your area. Prices correct at the time of blogging but are subject to change. If you see any super offers on any of these ingredients at your local supermarket then please comment below as it’s good to share the bargain info. Basics garlic bulbs 35p/2. Basics onions 85p/1.5kg. Basics mushrooms 96p/400g. Savoy cabbage 80p. Basics vegetable stock cubes 25p/10. 

I’ve given up my oven for Lent and am blogging recipes here – it’s a world of discovery but I hope it will be useful for people with limited cooking facilities, whether at home or at work, and if you’re looking to save money on your energy bills. You can follow the journey atwww.agirlcalledjack.com/microwave-recipes/and on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/msjackmonroe and on Instagram atwww.instagram.com/msjackmonroe and on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

And finally, if you like my recipes, there’s around 200 for free on my blog that can be searched for in the ‘Search’ bar, either at the bottom of each post or on the top right hand side of the page, depending on whether you’re reading on a phone, tablet or computer. Just type in something you have in your cupboard or fridge, and see what it suggests! 

Books are available to buy online at Hive Stores, supporting your local independent book shops – http://www.hive.co.uk/by/jack-monroe/21868634/

Thanks!

Jack xx

Hot sweet soft delicious goodness. I make no apology for this, it's atrociously delicious, especially considering it's next to no effort. This is dangerous knowledge, proceed with caution.

Quick ‘n’ Hot Banana Pot, 18p (MICROWAVE) (VEGAN)

Hot sweet soft delicious goodness. I make no apology for this, it's atrociously delicious, especially considering it's next to no effort. This is dangerous knowledge, proceed with caution.

Hot sweet soft delicious goodness. I make no apology for this, it’s atrociously delicious, especially considering it’s next to no effort. This is dangerous knowledge, proceed with caution.

It would be remiss of me not to include this ‘not really a recipe’, as I have eaten it almost every day since the microwave project began. It came around by accident, like so many of these things do – I was trying to make banana chips in the microwave and ended up with a hot banana mush… Undeterred, I scraped it up with a spoon and sighed to myself in a small blissful moment, at my accidental mid morning dessert hot, sweet, meltingly soft banana. The next day, I sliced the banana straight into a ramekin dish – all thought of banana chips banished now, I had to have this again. By day three, I was stirring in two squares of dark chocolate. It’s quick, simple, naughty, delicious, virtuously vegan and a dessert I definitely wouldn’t mind feeding to the kids…if only I can relinquish my sudden fierce ownership of Every Banana In The House…

Serves 1:

1 banana, 13p
2 squares dark chocolate (or milk or white if you prefer), 5p

Thinly slice your banana and pile into a ramekin dish or small microwave proof bowl. It doesn’t matter if you have more banana than bowl, as it sinks down when it’s hot.

Microwave on full power for 30 seconds, leave to stand for 30, and microwave again for 30. Remove – it should be soft and hot and juicy. If it isn’t, give it a stir and ping it for another 30 seconds.

Give it a good stir to make a hot, smooth-ish puree. Pop your chocolate on top and stir gently to melt it in. Find a comfortable chair, and a teaspoon, and devour.

I calculated my costs at Sainsburys, based on my most recent shop, but bananas and chocolate are widely available from other shops at other prices. Kids Fairtrade bananas £1.05/8. Sainsburys basics dark chocolate 35p/100g (15 squares). Correct at time of blogging.

Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe

…and if you like my recipes, there’s two whole books of them available to buy, so far! This blog is free and always will be, but please consider helping me make a living too – and supporting local independent book stores – by checking them out at http://www.hive.co.uk/book/a-girl-called-jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes/18105011/ – thanks!🙂

Chillaf. Silly name but hey, we all need a little more silliness in our lives.

Chillaf aka Chilli Pilaf, 50p (VEGAN) (MICROWAVE)

Chillaf. Silly name but hey, we all need a little more silliness in our lives.

Chillaf. Silly name but hey, we all need a little more silliness in our lives.

I’m a few days into the microwave cooking project since I gave up my oven for Lent and I have to say, I’m having a blast. I’ve set up a test kitchen in a corner with a fridge, microwave and kettle, and it’s like learning to cook all over again. Today I poached an egg for lunch, and mucked it up – I am completely out of my comfort zone and learning new things all the time, but what I’m hoping to achieve at the end of it is a useful resource for people to take into their offices, workplaces and kitchens and cook simply, cheaply, and with a microwave. It’s nothing new, microwave cooking was big recipe book business in the 1970s, and I have a few rather old and slightly hilarious microwave cookbooks that I’ve spent the last few days reading – anyone for defrosted hash browns with Campbells soup and crunched up cornflakes on top? It’s a real recipe from Easy Livin’ Microwave Cookin’ by Karen Kangas Dwyer, called ‘Elegant Potatoes’… Hmm.

My 'new' kitchen! I've taken over a corner of the house with The Microwave Project, so this is my test kitchen - it's so much easier to clean...

My ‘new’ kitchen! I’ve taken over a corner of the house with The Microwave Project, so this is my test kitchen – it’s so much easier to clean…

One thing I’ve noticed from microwave cooking is that flavours change – it’s not as simple as flinging a recipe that I would normally cook on the hob, into the microwave. Garlic retains a tang of its raw taste if not cut up really finely, as does onion. Spices don’t have a long development and infusion time, so some need a little more than before, and some need less. Cumin seeds are basically a no, as they stay hard and crunchy with the short ping time as opposed to a long softening in a pan. Dishes retain a lot more moisture, so rice needs far less liquid to cook. Like I said, learning new things every day with this – and loving it. I’m also trying to strip the ingredients list back to be as simple as possible while staying as yummy as possible – some of my readers who have got in touch to say they only have a microwave to cook with, aren’t in a position to fill up their storecupboards, so I’m knocking out things that could be considered extraneous… And besides, these are meant to be quick and simple!

So with no further ado, here’s my microwave chilli pilaf – the chocolate lovers among you will be pleased to note it’s got extra chocolate in!

Serves 1 at 50p*

¼ smallish onion (about 40g), 2p
1 small clove of garlic – makes a change from me stipulating a fat one but the small ones have to go in something, 2p
70g rice (about an espresso cup sized), 2p
¼ tsp ground cumin, 1p
½ tsp paprika (sweet or smoked, depends on preference and storecupboard), 2p
200g chopped tomatoes, 17p
130g canned kidney beans (half a 400g can drained and rinsed), 18p
½ a vegetable stock cube, 1p
2 squares of dark chocolate, 4p
150ml cold water
a splash of vinegar (malt will do) and a pinch of salt to serve <1p

I cooked this twice, the first time without rice and by flinging all the ingredients in at the same time. It was delicious, but there was a very slight tang of raw garlic. When I cook chilli on the hob, and indeed lots of other recipes, I’d start by gently sauteeing the garlic and onion to soften first, then adding the other ingredients. So, I tried again, gently cooking the garlic and onion on a low setting in the microwave first to soften them, the same way I would when cooking on the hob. Seeing I was making it again, I decided to add rice to my chilli to make it a true one pot meal, and thus the chillaf was born. You can choose to throw all the ingredients in together if you like, but you might like to leave the garlic out, unless you don’t mind it super strong.

Finely chop your garlic and onion and pop them into your vessel of choice – I cooked mine in a jug and it worked really well, but think a tupperware or a bowl would work too. Remember, no metal, metal in microwaves sets fire to things, even the smallest amount of metal embellishment on a plate could be disastrous. Add a tablespoon of water to stop them from sticking, cover with clingfilm and pierce in a couple of places. Turn your microwave to around HALF power. Cook for 90 seconds, and leave to stand for a few more. Carefully peel back the clingfilm, starting with a side piece so you don’t get steam burns – rare but seriously painful.

Add the rest of the ingredients, crumbling the stock cube in to it dissolves rather than sits at the bottom in a lump, and add the water. Re-cover with clingfilm (remember to pierce it if you’re using a new bit), and cook on FULL power for 3 minutes. Remove, carefully uncover and stir really really well, cover again and pop back in for another 3 minutes. Remove, carefully uncover, and leave to stand for a minute before serving. If your rice isn’t cooked (just nibble a piece to check), then pop back in for two more minutes – not all rice is created equal. Basic white rice cooked in 6 minutes in my microwave with a 1 minute rest in the middle and a 1 minute rest at the end, but brown rice takes longer and black rice and red rice are somewhere in between. Add a tiny splash of and vinegar and a pinch of salt to serve, it just makes it.

Jug it. Cover it. Pierce it. Ping it. Stand it. Ping it. Stand it. Eat it. Simple.

Jug it. Cover it. Pierce it. Ping it. Stand it. Ping it. Stand it. Eat it. Simple.

Prices based on my most recent Sainsburys shop and correct at time of blogging. Other supermarkets offer similar products at competitive prices and if you find anything at a super bargain price please comment below and share the info so we can all rush there instead!🙂

Basics white rice 45p/1kg. Basics onions 85p/1.5kg. Basics garlic bulbs 35p/2. Ground cumin £1/42g. Paprika £1. Basics chopped tomatoes 35p/400g. Basics kidney beans 30p/400g. Basics vegetable stock cubes 25p/10. Basics dark chocolate 30p/100g.

I’m on Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack. If you like my stuff, check out my books on Hive, supporting local independent bookshops, and little me: http://www.hive.co.uk/book/a-girl-called-jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes/18105011

A tale of two chillis, Chilli Mk 1, and Chillaf. Chillaf won, despite its slightly silly name.

A tale of two chillis, Chilli Mk 1, and Chillaf. Chillaf won, despite its slightly silly name.

Mushroom and Tea Bourgignon-that's-not-a-bourgignon-at-all. Tea in stew is one of my favourite discoveries so far this year. I'm so happy I could do a cartwheel, but I was never very good at those.

Mushroom & Tea Bourgignon, 41p (VEGAN)

Mushroom and Tea Bourgignon-that's-not-a-bourgignon-at-all. Tea in stew is one of my favourite discoveries so far this year. I'm so happy I could do a cartwheel, but I was never very good at those.

Mushroom and Tea Bourgignon-that’s-not-a-bourgignon-at-all. Tea in stew is one of my favourite discoveries so far this year. I’m so happy I could do a cartwheel, but I was never very good at those.

Now don’t freak out, but here’s a recipe for tea bourgignon. Like bourgignon for tea, but a little more exciting. The pedant in me thinks I can’t exactly get away with calling this vegan heap of deliciousness a ‘bourgignon’, given that it doesn’t have any beef or wine in it, but the rebel in me is shrugging her shoulders and recalling the hundreds of recipes I’ve cooked so far on this journey that deviate deliciously from their traditions and origins, and besides, ‘mushroom stew’ just doesn’t have the same oh-no-she-didn’t ring to it.

For a while now, some of my readers have been asking what they can replace wine with in my recipes; either they don’t have it, or it’s too much of an outlay to go and buy a bottle just to use a splash here and there (and if anyone understands that, I do!). Well, my science head said one day that maybe strong black tea would give the same effect, and then by happy coincidence someone suggested it on one of my recipes a few days later and sealed the deal. Tonight, with a glut of mushrooms escaping all over the vegetable drawer, I decided to make a bourgignon, and just as I reached for the wine I remembered – TEA! And it’s a very, very happy discovery indeed. I can’t wait to use it in lots of other recipes now! Of course, it’s not the first time, I made a banana and tea curry a while ago that made it into my second book, but that was as a flavour of its own, not replacing my beloved red wine. This, this use for it, is just divine. And so much cheaper. Oh, I love a bargainous discovery.

Serves 4 at 41p each

1 medium onion (mine weighed 200g, but don’t worry too much), 11p
4 fat cloves of garlic, 7p
2 tbsp oil, 6p
pinch of table salt, <1p
400g chopped tomatoes, 35p
2 tbsp (21g) tomato puree (optional but I like a nice tomatoey taste), 10p
300ml strong black tea, <1p
1 tsp (0.5g) mixed dried herbs, 2p
400g mushrooms, 90p

First boil your kettle and find the largest mug you have. Pop a teabag in, and fill it to the top with boiling water. Let it stand to one side to stew, properly stew, while you do the next bits.

Peel and finely slice your onions, as thinly as you can – when one of my friends taught me to make curries many moons ago, he told me to chop the onions so finely that eventually they melt into the sauce with a long slow cook; it’s a principle I apply to most stews these days. Your onions might not vanish, but that’s okay too, mine don’t always. Not all onions are created equal.

Peel and chop your garlic, and toss into a large pan with the onions. Pour the oil over, stir, add a pinch of salt and bring to a medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, to soften the onions and lose that raw acerbic edge to them.

Pour over the chopped tomatoes and stir in the puree, and add the herbs. Remove the teabags from the mug and pour the strong black tea into the pan, and give everything a stir. Slice your mushrooms and toss those in too, then bring it all to the boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 20 minutes to let the sauce reduce and thicken and all the flavours meld together in a super delicious way.

The next bit is up to you. You can leave it simmering away for another half an hour in the traditional fashion, or you can turn the heat off, pop a lid on (or large plate or tin foil if you don’t have a lid) and let it slowly cool down – it will carry on cooking itself with the heat trapped inside, but cost you less in gas or electricity to achieve pretty much the same effect – it just won’t reduce as much, so you’ll need to strain some of the liquid off to serve, or eat it like a soup, which is equally yummy.

Season to taste, and serve. I like mine slopped onto white fluffy rice or a pile of mash, but if you’re a low carb person, a pile of spinach or steamed greens would be yummy too.

To make it go further, you could sling a can of cannelini beans (or rinsed off baked beans) into it when you put the mushrooms in, which adds a hit of protein too, for people who worry about that sort of thing.

Enjoy!

I calculated these recipe costs at Sainsburys based on my most recent shop. Other shops sell onions and mushrooms so check out what’s available near you. Prices were correct at the time of blogging but those sneaky supermarkets put them up all the time, so if any of them are wildly wrong by Tuesday let me know and I’ll amend them. If you find any Super Brilliant Bargain Prices on any of these ingredients then comment below, as my readers and friends love a bargain and it’s nice to share.

Prices were based on: 1.5kg Basics onions, 80p. 2 bulbs Basics garlic, 35p. Sunflower oil, £4/3l. Basics table salt 25p/750g. Basics chopped tomatoes 35p/400g. Tomato puree 35p/142g . Basics tea bags 20p/40. Basics mixed dried herbs, 40p/13g. Basics mushrooms 90p/400g.

I’m on Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe – and you can find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

And if you like my recipes and want MORE, there are two whole books of them available to buy from lots of places but my favourite is Hive, see here for details: http://www.hive.co.uk/book/a-girl-called-jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes/18105011/ (If a few of you buy my book, then that keeps me fed and watered and my blog free for the people who can’t afford to buy the books, I like to think it all balances out but I do, er, have to make a living somehow…)

Here greeny greeny greeny greeny things... And kids, if you're reading this in years to come, I told you I was smarter than you...

Raw broccoli and courgette pesto, 17p (NUT-FREE) (VEGAN)

Here greeny greeny greeny greeny things... And kids, if you're reading this in years to come, I told you I was smarter than you...

Here greeny greeny greeny greeny things… And kids, if you’re reading this in years to come, I told you I was smarter than you…

So, the two delightful four year olds in residency have both announced recently that they ‘don’t want school dinners any more’ ‘because they make us eat lots of VEGETABLES.’ News to me, this one, as they have both been fairly consistently good Vegetable Eaters throughout their childhood – albeit *different vegetables*, which means we have a list stuck to the front of the fridge to remind us that one of them will happily nosh on peppers but not peas, and the other one likes carrots and broccoli and ‘sometimes’ cauliflower. One thing they are both very sold on, however, is broccoli. And pesto.

So, I opened my fridge this evening to mull over the tired scrappy bits in the vegetable drawer, and found exactly 67g of drying, wilting -broccoli. (I’ve rounded it up to a round 100g in the recipe, as I don’t expect anybody to weigh out 67g of anything!) The sneaky mum in me decided to ‘extend’ it into something I could pass off as ‘broccoli pesto’ – and here we are. And kids, if you’re reading this in a few years time, I told you I was smarter than you.

It’s only raw by virtue of laziness – there was a small someone-treading-on-my-broken-toe incident over the weekend and thus my recovery has been unceremoniously flung back to what feels like square one. Today I have mostly been working from my duvet. You can steam or saute or boil and cool the component parts if you like, but, licking the bowl as I type this is testament to the fact that you just don’t have to. I proffered a spoonful to my small boy, told him it was ‘broccoli sauce’, and he demolished it. Win all round.

Makes enough for six bellies at 17p each* – I split mine into three pots of ‘kids plus a snack for me’.

100g broccoli, stems and all, 14p
250g courgette, 50p
50g spinach, fresh or frozen and defrosted (up to you whether to refreeze it if using defrosted spinach, I’ve been doing it for years with veg and never caught vegetable lurgies, but health and safety scaremongerers abound…), 7p
100g bread, stale or otherwise, 13p (or 7p for two white pittas) – to give it that nutty texture that’s so great about pesto, without any actual nuts
100ml oil (I used sunflower), 13p
30ml lemon juice – the bottled variety is fine, 6p

The adults might like to add a clove or two of garlic and a pinch of salt, and non-vegans might want to lob in a load of hard strong grated cheese, but it’s perfectly delicious the way it is…

Finely shop your broccoli and courgette, and roughly chop your spinach. Tear up your bread, and put the whole lot in the blender – pulse until it resembles a pesto. The wetness of the courgette should help it along, but if your blender is struggling, add the oil and lemon juice, and if it’s still struggling, a small slosh of water. The breadcrumbs will soak the liquid up anyway.

Divide into jars or containers and store one in the fridge and one in the freezer for a cheat dinner for a later date. Serve over hot pasta, and enjoy.

If you’re seriously suspicious about your kids eating ‘raw’ veg, then you can tip this into a pan and cook it off for a few minutes before tipping it over their pasta – but I find a good grating of cheese goes a long way in getting kids to eat anything (vegan cheese for vegans, obviously, and not so much for everyone else).

And enjoy! You can play with the vegetables, and veg proportions – I just include enough broccoli to pass mine off as ‘broccoli sauce’ – and the Smalls are none the wiser. Hoorah for a penchant for pesto, in my household at least…

* Prices are worked out at Sainsburys because that’s where I currently shop, but things like courgettes and broccoli are widely sold in many other places for similar prices. If you happen to find them ludicrously cheaper, please comment below as I’m sure my readers would love to know where the bargains are. Prices are also subject to change but are correct at the time of blogging. I worked them out like this:

Loose broccoli £1.35/kg. Frozen broccoli £1.40/kg but more florets than stems, so use what you prefer. Loose courgettes 20p/100g – am very cross that the Basic courgettes appear to have vanished as they were once a staple on my very low budget and I based a lot of my early recipes around them! I digress. Frozen spinach £1.40/kg. Giraffe bread £1/800g loaf. Basics pitta breads 22p/6. Sunflower oil £4/3l. Bottled lemon juice 50p/250ml.

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/msjackmonroe) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/msjackmonroe) if you like, and find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

…and if you enjoy my recipes, you might like one of my books – I like to direct people to the Hive, as they deliver to your local independent book store, or your house. They’re available in other places too, but I think the Hive is just great: http://www.hive.co.uk/by/jack-monroe/21868634/

Penne pappa al pomodoro. Soaked bread crusts in tinned tomatoes are having their moment in my kitchen this week.

Penne Pappa al Pomodoro (VEGAN), 21p

Penne pappa al pomodoro. Soaked bread crusts in tinned tomatoes are having their moment in my kitchen this week.

Penne pappa al pomodoro. Soaked bread crusts in tinned tomatoes are having their moment in my kitchen this week.

After yesterday’s culinary adventure with old bread crusts and tinned tomatoes (which turned out to be one of the nicest, bowl-lickingly-good things ever), I spooned the leftover portion of soup into a jar and stored it in the fridge, intending to make a soupy lunch out of it today. I opened the fridge about 12 o clock to find the bread had sucked and soaked up all the tomatoey soup base, and what was in my jar was a fat mass of soft and soggy bread, full of succulent tomato and garlic juices. It looks a bit like red pesto, I thought to myself, and decided to treat it like the pesto it so obviously wanted to become. I tipped it into the blender to whizz it up, thinned it out with a little oil, spooned it over pasta and had it for my lunch – and OH MY. Sitting overnight, hanging around in its own juices, the flavours had developed and intensified to a head-rushingly mouth-pleasing deliciously satisfying lunch… out of leftovers…

For those that didn’t or haven’t made the soup, here’s the recipe optimised as a pestoey style pasta dish. And for the pedants, I know it isn’t really a pesto, having no nuts or cheese or lemon juice or olive oil in it, but yah boo, it’s what it looked like. And my leftover-soup-portion made enough for two very very generous portions of pesto, making the whole thing even cheaper than yesterday’s lunch. I’m swapping the rosemary for basil in this recipe, as I added fresh torn basil to the top, and it was fresh fresh yummy yummy. And there’s a bit more oil in the sauce than there was in the soup. Slimmers, dieters, and other waistline-watchers might want to halve the oil and add a splash of water to thin it to the desired consistency instead.

Serves four at 21p each*

2 fat cloves of garlic, 4p
a pinch of salt, <1p
5 tbsp oil, vegetable or sunflower, 10p
400g carton of tomatoes, 35p
1 stalk (2g) fresh basil, 6p
60g bread, crusts are best but any bread will do (approx 2 slices medium cut bread), 7p
300g penne pasta, 21p (or cook 75g pasta per person, and store the rest of the not-really-pesto in the fridge)

First finely slice your garlic and add to a saucepan with the salt. Pour over half of the oil and turn the heat on very very gently.

After a minute, pour over the chopped tomatoes and add 250ml water and the herbs, and bring to the boil. Stir well, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, until it thickens and concentrates. It might seem like a lot of water, but trust me, it needs it, and it’s going to have even more in a minute…

After 15 minutes, tear up your bread and fling it in. Add another 250ml water (if you’re sceptical, add it a little at a time, but the bread sucks a lot of water up as it swells from bland boring crusts to soft and soggy pieces of deliciousness). Bring it to the boil again, then cover it to retain as much heat as possible (a lid, a plate, some tin foil) and turn the heat off. Leave it to stand for as long as you can bear it – I managed half an hour before I dived back in, but it’s one of those that improves the longer it stands around doing its thing, hanging out on the hob, developing its flavours…

When you’re ready to go, fling it in a blender and blitz it up. Dip your finger in and give it a quick taste – depending on your tomatoes it might be a little sharp – if that’s the case, just stir in a teaspoon of sugar to adjust it. Spoon it into a jar, stir in the oil to thin it – if you aren’t using it straight away the bits of bread bread will greedily soak up the juices – and store in the fridge until ready to use. Again, a good overnight rest will do wonderful, wonderful things to it, but if you can’t wait that long, pop your pasta into some water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer for 8-10 minutes. Drain it, spoon over your sauce, warm through and serve.

*Prices are worked out at Sainsburys because that’s where I did my shopping this week, but things like carrots and onions are widely sold in many other places for similar prices. If you happen to find them ludicrously cheaper, please comment below as I’m sure my readers would love to know where the bargains are. Prices are also subject to change but are correct at the time of blogging. I worked them out like this:

Basics garlic 35p/2 bulbs. Basics table salt 25p/750g. Sunflower oil £4/3l. Basics tomatoes 35p/400g. Fresh basil 80p/28g. Giraffe bread £1/800g. Basics pasta shapes 35p/500g.

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/msjackmonroe) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/msjackmonroe) and find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

…and if you enjoy my recipes, you might like one of my books – I like to direct people to the Hive, as they deliver to your local independent book store, or your house. They’re available in other places too, but I think the Hive is just great: http://www.hive.co.uk/by/jack-monroe/21868634/

And there's still this much of this batch left! I might share it with the kids tonight... I'd better move it off my desk because I'm idly eating it with a spoon..!
Pappa al Pomodoro, or in other words, Bread-Crust-And-Tomato-Soup...

Pappa al Pomodoro (Italian Bread Crusts And Tomato Soup), 32p – VEGAN

Pappa al Pomodoro, or in other words, Bread-Crust-And-Tomato-Soup...

Pappa al Pomodoro, or in other words, Bread-Crust-And-Tomato-Soup…

I love a good tomato soup, and quite often with the humble tomato, simplicity is key. So imagine my delight, yesterday evening, idly leafing through the iconic River Café Cookbook (Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers), and finding a recipe for Pappa al Pomodoro. I’d never heard of it, but fell in love instantly – garlic, salt, herbs, tomatoes and a little bread. Of course, the original calls for fresh tomatoes in late summer, and ‘open-textured white bread made with olive oil, such as Pugliese’, given that The River Café is famous for tremendously good Italian cooking (and was home to a fledgling Jamie Oliver, Sam and Sam Clark of Moro and many many other great chefs of our time). Alas, although my other half (also a River Café chef in her youth) is fond of the odd Pugliese, I’m not about to go and buy a loaf to tear up and fling into soup, nor recommend that you do on a budget cooking blog. I decided to see if I could make my own version, from my basics.

Firstly, who has a toddler or fussy teenager or even adult in their household that doesn’t eat their crusts? I used to battle with my four year old boy in the morning about the crusts on his toast, until I gave up – if he doesn’t like them, he doesn’t like them, and giving his toast a quick trim is easier than ten minutes of parrying – me insisting that he eats them, him nibbling and giving me looks out of the corner of his eye and grimacing and whining, oh it’s just not worth it, is it? So now I trim them off, and fling them in a bag in the freezer. I blitz them into breadcrumbs when I need a small amount of them, rather than waste a whole loaf of bread, but today I dug some of them out for this soup. Bread crust and tinned tomato soup, given a fancy Italian name. Stay with me, it’s utterly delicious…

A selection of bread crusts recently rejected by the Small Boy, now cunningly smuggled into soup. Hooray for toddler fussiness after all...

A selection of bread crusts recently rejected by the Small Boy, now cunningly smuggled into soup. Hooray for toddler fussiness after all…

Serves 2 at 32p each

2 fat cloves of garlic, 4p
a pinch of salt, <1p
4 tbsp oil, vegetable or sunflower, 8p (The River Café Cookbook uses olive oil, but it’s gone the way of the pugliese in this recipe, i.e. NOT HERE)
400g carton of tomatoes, 35p
1 stalk (2g inc stalk) fresh rosemary, 8p or 1 tsp mixed dried herbs
60g bread, crusts are best but any bread will do (approx 2 slices medium cut bread), 7p

First finely slice your garlic and add to a saucepan with the salt. Pour over the oil and turn the heat on very very gently – I do garlic then heat, because quite often I’m doing a gazillion things at once in my kitchen, and the oil gets too hot because I decide to quickly wash something up and the garlic goes in and burns and I have to start the whole thing again. It just needs a gentle soften here, so garlic, salt, oil, gentle heat. Burnt garlic stinks. In all kinds of ways.

After a minute, pour over the chopped tomatoes and add 250ml water and the herbs, and bring to the boil. Stir well, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, until the soup thickens and concentrates. It might seem like a lot of water, but trust me, it needs it, and it’s going to have even more in a minute…

After 15 minutes, tear up your bread and fling it in. Add another 250ml water (if you’re sceptical, add it a little at a time, but the bread sucks a lot of water up as it swells from bland boring crusts to soft and soggy pieces of deliciousness). Bring it to the boil again, then cover it to retain as much heat as possible (a lid, a plate, some tin foil) and turn the heat off. Leave it to stand for as long as you can bear it – I managed half an hour before I dived back in, but it’s one of those that improves the longer it stands around doing its thing, hanging out on the hob, developing its flavours…

Warm through to serve. Depending on your tomatoes, it might be a little sharp (although it shouldn’t be after all that cooking and hanging around, but not all tomatoes are created equal. If that’s the case, just stir in a teaspoon of sugar as it warms through to adjust it). After me – nom nom nom nom nom nom nom…

*Prices are worked out at Sainsburys because that’s where I did my shopping this week, but things like carrots and onions are widely sold in many other places for similar prices. If you happen to find them ludicrously cheaper, please comment below as I’m sure my readers would love to know where the bargains are. Prices are also subject to change but are correct at the time of blogging. I worked them out like this:

Basics garlic 35p/2 bulbs. Basics table salt 25p/750g. Sunflower oil £4/3l. Basics tomatoes 35p/400g. Fresh rosemary 80p/20g. Mixed dried herbs 35p/14g. Giraffe bread £1/800g.

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/msjackmonroe) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/msjackmonroe) and find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

…and if you enjoy my recipes, you might like one of my books – I like to direct people to the Hive, as they deliver to your local independent book store, or your house. They’re available in other places too, but I think the Hive is just great: http://www.hive.co.uk/by/jack-monroe/21868634/