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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 […]

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5 minute thing with Tom Cruise Dressing*, 60p

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 […]

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Feed a family of 4 for less than £9/week: The Shopping List

   Shopping list – based on Sainsburys, prices correct at time of publication. Other major supermarkets have similar products available at comparable prices. TOTAL: £35.42 or £8.86 per person Meat/Dairy/Protein: £13.80 1kg boneless pork shoulder joint, £3 670g cooking bacon, £1.15 500g frozen white fish, £1.70 1 tin of sardines, 40p 6 mixed weight free range eggs, £1 400g dried […]

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Extra-Wholesome Banana Bread (VEGAN)

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 […]

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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. I’ve been making vegetarian sausages […]

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Thinking of applying for Britain’s Hardest Grafter? Read this first.

TwentyTwenty productions are looking for applicants for a new television show that has been described as ‘Benefits Street meets The Hunger Games’. Are you thinking of applying for the chance to win that staggering £15,000 sum? Here’s what you should know first – and I am probably doing myself out of ever getting another job in television by writing this article but you know what? Fuck it. Because I wish someone had told me. 1. Only one of you will win that £15,000. It’s also classed as ‘earnings’, so you will have to pay tax on it, and National Insurance contributions. 2. The rest of you will be ‘recompensed’ ‘not less than the National Minimum Wage’ for your time on the show. Bear in mind that the people you will be surrounded by, the presenters and camera crew and the ubiquitous ‘celeb’ they’ll roll out here and there, will be being paid hundreds, if not thousands, every day. You will be surrounded by people whose ‘wage’ will be worth dozens of yours, and some of them will treat you accordingly. 3. The media will trawl through your social networks and dig up and store any photographs they can find as evidence to fit the ‘character’ they will invent for you. Take my advice and remove completely any pictures of you with a beer in your hand, and DEFINITELY any champagne bottles or glasses. It doesn’t matter to the picture desk […]

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Tummy tea, 3p

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 […]

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Post election post mortem.

It’s Sunday already. I’ve started writing a blog post about the election so many times since Thursday evening, and Friday morning, but they were stilted, words slowly forced onto a page as my shocked and scrambled head for once didn’t know what to say.  It started with a heavy, sinking feeling as the exit poll data was announced. Based on 22,000 people of the some 41million who voted, and putting the Conservatives in the lead, I prayed it was wrong. For a start, it was the data from 0.0005% of the total number of people who voted. The margin for error was enormous, I told myself, not in denial – as I have been a politics nerd for long enough now to know that nothing should come as a surprise and nothing should be taken for granted – but in hope. Hope that a couple of the digits were slightly here or there, hope for a slight shift of margins, hope for something other than the desolate prediction rolling across the bottom of my television screen. “It’s another bad result for Labour”, Andrew Neil said of one early announcement of a Labour-won seat. I furrowed my brow. Dimbleby was proclaiming from the off that the polls were right, as the Lab-Con scorecard read 7-2. Bit premature, I thought. The 12th result was deemed ‘the last Labour stronghold’. Strewth, I thought to myself, there’s 638 more results to come. Sports commentators […]

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Please go out and vote – who else can speak your truth but you?

Have you lost your polling card? Me too. I have two children under five, so I’ll find it in a few months stuffed down the back of the sofa with wobbly portraits of me scrawled across it in blue felt tip, or pictures of spiders and imaginative beasties. I can barely tell the difference. The good news is, if you’re registered to vote, you don’t actually need it, spiders and beasties or no. It’s a curiously British thing, a card dropping through your door with a footnote on it saying it’s surplus to its own requirement, but I suspect it serves as a reminder that there is an election coming up, for those not permanently embroiled in the inner scandal and machinations of the Houses of Parliament. To vote without your polling card, simply find your nearest polling station (link here), turn up, and state your name and address. If you had a postal vote that you haven’t posted, just complete it and hand it in. I was advising people to take some form of identification with them yesterday, but was widely assured that it wasn’t necessary – however I get asked for ID for everything from cider to hotel bookings, so I always carry my Provisional Driving License to be on the safe side. Not being a car driver, I suppose it cheers me to give the small piece of green plastic some purpose. But polling card or no […]

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