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Leftover-Porridge Pancakes

I never seem to get the porridge quantities quite right in the mornings, and have recently embarked on a series of experiments with teacups and measuring cups, trying to work out the exact amount of oats and water and milk needed to make two small bowls of porridge for two small children – but no matter how carefully calculated, there’s […]

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Lardy Buns, 16p.

I had my first lardy cake this summer, picked up from a surprisingly baked-goods-laden petrol station on the way home from Kent, and subsequently slept all the way home in the passenger seat off the back of a few mouthfuls of fat-laden, soft sweet carbohydrates. I set about researching how to make my own; half a block of lard still […]

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Britain Isn’t Eating.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to collaborate on a film project with the Guardian, Royal Court theatre, playwright Laura Wade (who wrote ‘Posh’, recently released as the film ‘The Riot Club’, about the notorious Bullingdon Club) and director Carrie Cracknell, on a microplay film project based around current affairs. I was asked to be part of the food […]

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My shopping essentials (and how I calculate recipe costs)

I’m often asked how I cost my recipes – so thought that it would make sense to list the products I buy in one place, as a handy storecupboard or shopping guide. Obviously this os tailored to my household, our budget, what we buy and use – we are two adults and two children after all! But I hope it helps as a rough idea as to where those 6p carrots and individual cloves of garlic come from… I also thought it would help to track prices – as when I started writing this blog, stock cubes were 10p for 10, and this morning as I type this, they are 25p for 10 – so the prices on my recipes date quickly, but are correct at the time of going to print. All prices are Sainsburys own brand or Basic range where available, unless otherwise stated, and this list will be updated with every new budget, costed recipe I add. I’ll go back through the archives and compile it from older recipes too, and update their prices where necessary, but that is weeks of work – over 200 recipes to edit and recalculate – so bear with me! Here’s what I buy and in what quantities, to try to get the most out of my shopping: Fruit and vegetables: Onions, 1.5kg bag (average 15 onions): 95p (Nov 14) Garlic, 2 bulbs (average 10 cloves per bulb): 35p (Nov 14) Carrots, […]

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Minestrone Soup, 19p [VG/V/DF]

I often receive letters and emails from friends, family and readers asking for ideas for cheap lunches. Aside from the ubiquitous cheese sandwich or home made scone-muffin-type-thing and an apple, banana or pear, one of my favourite staple lunches for this time of year is A Good Hearty Soup. And nothing says hearty soup quite like one packed with pasta and beans and chunky vegetables! I’ve been making minestrone soup for so long, I’m amazed it didn’t make it into either of my books – but I guess I’d never taken the time to write the recipe down and think about it too much. It’s one of my staples for a leftover half can of beans or chopped tomatoes, a scraggy little carrot or half an onion in the bottom of the veg drawer, tired greens, and those little broken bits of pasta in the bottom of the bag, or odds and sods of pasta that aren’t quite enough to do anything with. I keep all the last few bits of pasta, and the broken bits, in a large jar, smashed to smithereens – perfect for tossing into soups like this one. Why buy specialty tiny pasta, when you can make your own?! Makes six mug-sized portions or four generous bowlfuls: 1 onion, 6p 2 fat cloves of garlic, 4p 1 carrot, 6p 1 tbsp oil (sunflower or vegetable), 3p 400g tin or carton of chopped tomatoes, 40p 600ml stock […]

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Pumpkin and bacon carbonara, for Rob (and everyone else)

“My pumpkin dream always has smoked streaky bacon and Swiss cheese in it…” my friend Rob mused aloud as he carved our family pumpkin at the kitchen table on Friday morning. “Like, in a sandwich… Or pasta…” “Or carbonara?” I offered. “Oh carbonara… Pumpkin carbonara…” We sat there silently, grinning, two food-obsessives salivating at the thought of rich egg yolks, […]

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Punkin’ Aioli

Last week at the restaurant, I spent what felt like most of a shift rescuing split things – joking on Twitter that I felt like a Relate counsellor for aioli and custard… And to be honest, I was very excited by the whole thing, because although I’ve made a hundred custards in my little life so far, I’d never ever […]

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Punkin’ (Pumpkin) Jam

The smallest girl in our household calls pumpkins ‘punkins’ – hence the name ‘Punkin Jam’! If you think carving pumpkins are bland and boring and inedible, this might just be the thing to change your mind… I’m typing this with some hot buttered toast between my teeth with some soft, sweet jam on top… And that handsome chap in the […]

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DON’T THROW AWAY THAT PUMPKIN!!!

I read with some horror in this week’s Independent that in the UK we will throw away 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin flesh this week (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/save-our-pumpkins-uk-wastes-18000-tons-of-food-while-carving-halloween-jack-olanterns-9820896.html) while carving out Jack O Lanterns. I eyed the one sitting on the kitchen table with suspicion and dread and the stirring feeling of a mission bubbling away in my little brain… So this morning, […]

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No-eggs little dollar pancakes

Yesterday morning we woke the toddlers with a promise of pancakes for breakfast, one of the small pleasures of the half term holidays being that breakfast can be a more leisurely family affair, rather than a melee of cereals and juice while trying to make packed lunches and brush hair and keep uniforms clean, one eye on the clock watching […]

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Happy book-birthday, hurrah!

Happy book birthday! And so the day is finally here, and true to form on publication day, I’ve spent most of my waking hours on various radio stations and chatting to journalists, not to mention signing a pile of 503 quite large and heavy books in the Penguin offices on the Strand. And now, finally collapsing in a quiet corner […]

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Cauli Mac-N-Cheese, as seen on ITV!

This is part mac ‘n’ cheese, part cauliflower cheese, and deliciously golden and moreish with some crispy bacon thrown in for good measure. Baking it at the end to melt the cheese isn’t essential, but oh, it’s so good. It’s a quicker method than the traditional ‘melt some butter and flour to make a roux then thin with a little […]

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That OFM award: A thanks to Nigel, Nigella and Allegra…

The highlight of the Observer Food Monthly awards last Thursday, for me, was being able to personally thank two of the people whose recipes I learned and loved over the last decade, to the point where, in my bleakest times of staring at a few white-labelled value range groceries and some frozen or canned vegetables, I could recall good recipes from my repertoire that – with a little tweak here and a substitution or two there – would form the basis of good, nutritious, cheap meals. Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson might not have known it, but their books and their food instilled in me a love of cooking, and the confidence to explore, experiment and create, with what little I had. My pasta alla genovese was based on a recipe from Lawson’s ‘Kitchen’ (albeit with sunflower oil instead of olive, tinned potatoes and cheap spaghetti) as was my Spanish chicken. Nigel Slater’s words, his columns, his books, took me through a looking glass into a wonderland of technicolor sensuality – from bleak desperation to tentative exploration of smells, tastes, flavours, in-season fruits and vegetables and the transformative effects of lots and lots of gorgeous garlic. I remember watching his Simple Suppers series, some years ago, always with a notebook and a pen in my hand, and digging out that notebook when times got tough. He unknowingly taught me about herbs, flavours, excited me, delighted me, talked to me about […]

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This week’s Guardian recipe: Black pudding hangover hash…

There’s a thing that happens when your better half runs a pork restaurant – you start to incorporate all things piggy into all meals of the day in the same way that you used to use onions, or garlic, with gay abandon and without question. It starts with lardo on toast, bacon sandwiches for lunch, porchetta for dinner, bacon in ice cream (you’ll have to pop down to Blackfoot for it if you’re curious), and emergency sausages in the meat drawer for the kids, the pasta, the ribollita, the essential top-up of the ‘Vitamin P’. The meat drawer that might as well be called the pork drawer, because it sees nary a sniff of anything else. And then – once you have a reputation as a pig obsessive – people shower you with porcine presents: where they might have once bought flowers, or a card, you get a packet of sausages or a fennel rub instead. A particularly memorable piggy gift recently was from my German friend Lea, who left London a few weeks ago with a trail of Blutwurst in her wake. Soft, dense, meaty and delicious, Blutwurst is black pudding for black pudding obsessives – and so the morning after her boozy leaving lunch-into-dinner the night before, this happened. Hangover food at its finest, with no more foggy-headed incompetency required than to grate some stuff, blearily mash it together, and dollop it into a frying pan. Bliss. And […]

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Marie Claire Women At The Top Awards

Last night I was proud to have been invited to the Women On Top Awards, hosted by Marie Claire. I was given an award for activism and anti-poverty campaigning, and as I said in a few short words, I was both humbled and slightly bewildered to be counted among such trailblazing and inspiring women. Women who were given awards included Laura Richards, who founded the Paladin service for victims of stalking and harrasment; Pip Lines, a Major with the Sixth Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers; Kathryn Parsons, co-founder of Decoded; Dr Alice Bunn, the UK Space Agency’s Director of Policy in the Civil Service; Polly Stenham, playwright; Emma Hopkins, who worked with Angelina Jolie and William Hague on the Preventing Sexual Violence In Conflict campaign, Daniela Cecilio, CEO and founder of the shopping app ASAP54; Shabana Mahmood, one of the first female Muslim MPs; and Jennie Dawson, founder of ethical chutney brand Rubies In The Rubble, repurposing unwanted fruit and vegetables. Read more at http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/blogs/547446/our-2014-women-at-the-top-winners-share-their-top-career-advice.html#sfxqbMvSIdEwBVDg.99

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Cauliflower Pasanda

Over the past few years, I’ve hosted regular all-you-can-eat charity curry nights at my place. It is based on the home restaurant concept – people pay a set price, turn up, I cook huge bowls of curry and the money goes to neighbourhood charities, such as our local food bank and homeless shelter. This was one of the most popular dishes I ever made. You can pan-fry the cauliflower, but roasting it brings out a deep, earthy flavour that’s just too good to miss… (Serves 4) 1 head of cauliflower Oil for cooking (I like sunflower or groundnut) 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated 1 tsp turmeric 2 large onions, finely sliced 4 fat cloves of garlic, roughly chopped 1 red chilli, finely chopped 1 tsp cumin seeds 1 tsp garam masala 300ml natural yoghurt 300ml double cream Fistful of fresh coriander A handful of sultanas Chopped almonds (optional) Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark four. Get your thumbs into the middle of your cauliflower and prise it apart. It falls into florets, looks better, makes less mess and is faster than chopping. Put the pieces in a roasting tin, splash with oil, scatter with ginger and turmeric, and roast in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes, until slightly crispy and browned around the edges. Put the onions and garlic into a large pan with another splash of oil. Add the chilli, cumin seeds and garam masala, and […]

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White Chocolate Tea Bread

This came about because I LOVE chocolate chip brioche – so I decided to try to make some chocolate chip bread as a replacement. Unfortunately, though, the chocolate chips all melted into the dough as I added my usual boiling water and I ended up with this Chocolate Tea Bread instead – but it was still delicious! I eat mine […]

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Penny Pizzas

I make penny pizzas as way of using up leftovers such as Mamma Jack’s Best Ever Chilli or Lentil Bolognese – but they are just as good topped with a dollop of tomato purée and some grated cheese. Or they are a good way to use up sliced mushy tomatoes that have passed their best and the dry ends of […]

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Courgette, Sultana & Lemon Bread

Courgettes give off quite a bit of liquid when you grate them but don’t worry about draining it off in this recipe because the courgettey water will help to flavour the bread and add moisture. when you will be adding water to a recipe later anyway, it doesn’t make sense to fanny about taking liquid out only to put it […]

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Nutty seedy half-n-half bread.

Regular readers will know that I used to bake a lot of bread, but for one reason or another my bread-baking has fallen by the wayside in recent months. Working away from home a lot, writing a large book, and a very busy work schedule meant it somewhat slipped a few notches down the priority list. But as I made […]

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Garlic jam [VG/V/DF/GF]

This started out as a curious thought in the back of my head – I know garlic softens and sweetens the longer you cook it, so could I make garlic jam? I scribbled some notes based on what little I know about jam making, dug out an old onion marmalade recipe to use as a rough guide, and promptly forgot […]

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I love… RADISHES.

This year, we grew ‘family radishes’ in the garden in a little patch of soil, scattering a mixture of Bright Lights and French Breakfast seeds from the garden centre for a mixture of long fuschia delights, and tiny red and purple and yellow balls of crisp, fresh goodness. I wanted to firstly grow something that would keep my attention span […]

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Radish fattoush

A fattoush is traditionally a bread salad, made from toasted or fried pieced of pitta bread, mixed with seasonal vegetables and a sour dressing. The best fattoush I’ve ever eaten was at Palomar in Soho, where it came with generous dollops of creamy home made labneh (yoghurt cheese), which has set off an ‘I-must-learn-how-to-make-labneh’ alarm in my head… In the […]

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