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/

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/

Photography by Susan Bell

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 in chunks, warm with spread and a cuppa. I’ll make true chocolate chip brioche another day, but this is no apology – I’ve stumbled on something heavenly. Bliss!

Makes 1 small loaf

275g self-raising flour (or 275g plain flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder or bicarbonate of soda), plus extra to knead the dough
a 7g sachet of fast-acting dried yeast
50g sugar
200g white chocolate
25g butter, plus extra to grease the loaf tin
150ml boiling water with a tea bag steeped in it and allowed to cool (Trust me on this one!)

Measure the flour, yeast and sugar into a large mixing bowl.

Break the chocolate into chunks. It’s up to you how you do this; I put mine into a freezer bag and bash it with the flat end of a rolling pin, or you could use a wood mallet in a similar set- up, or chop the chocolate on a work surface with a big sharp knife if you’re cheffy and adept at that sort of thing. Tip the chocolate chunks into the bowl with the flour, yeast and sugar.

Add the butter to the bowl and pour in the black tea, then stir together with a wooden spoon until well combined and the mixture has turned into a pliable, soft, sticky dough.

Tip out the dough on to a generously floured work surface and knead for a good 10 minutes. I always notice when I’ve got oil or butter in a bread dough because it has a beautiful silken texture and eminent pliability. If you’ve made bread before, you’ll notice the difference.

When kneaded, pat the dough into a rugby ball shape, cover and leave on the side for 20 minutes to rise.

Once the dough has risen, transfer it into a lightly greased 1lb loaf tin (approximately 17 x 7 x 6cm) to prove. Cover with oiled cling film or a tea towel and leave in a warm place for a further half an hour. A little before the end of the proving time, put on the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 to preheat.

When the dough has risen again, put the tin into the preheated oven for 40 minutes to bake, and wait for the smell of chocolate and bread to permeate your house. If the top of the loaf starts to brown before it’s done, remove from the oven, cover the tin with tin foil and pop it back in for the remainder of the baking time.

Remove the tin from the oven, allow the loaf to cool on a wire rack and turn out ready to slice and eat.

Tip: To make a proper buttery- type chocolate brioche bread, fold in the chocolate chunks when kneading the dough instead of earlier on.

Photography by Susan Bell

Photography by Susan Bell

‘White Chocolate Tea Bread’ from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

Twitter: @MsJackMonroe Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

Sunshine Bread (Carrot, Pineapple & Sultana Loaf)

The quantity given for the tin of pineapple chunks is approximate. Some tins are 200g, some are 227g, so don’t worry about weighing and measuring – just throw about half the tin in! you can put the remaining pineapple chunks from the tin into an airtight container with just enough juice to cover and pop into the fridge to snack on or use in another recipe. For a portable breakfast for me and Small Boy, or as a snack to keep in my drawer to chipmunk away on in the busyness of my day, I like to make individual buns – see the tip below.

Makes 1 small loaf:

350g plain flour, plus extra to knead the dough
a 7g sachet of fast-acting dried yeast
1 carrot
30g sultanas
1⁄2 x 200g tin of pineapple chunks and the juice from the whole tin
oil or butter, to grease the loaf tin

Weigh the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast.

Finely grate in the carrot and add the sultanas. Mix everything together then make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.

Strain the pineapple pieces over a measuring cup or bowl, reserving the juice to use in a minute. Tip the pineapple chunks into the centre of the dry mixture. Add boiling water to the pineapple juice to make it up to 160ml. Pour into the well in the centre of the ingredients on top of the pineapple chunks, and combine everything together to make a soft, sticky dough.

Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly. As you knead it, the pineapple pieces may break down and make the dough wetter. If this happens, sprinkle some extra flour over the dough and knead it in. Leave to rise on the work surface for approximately 15 minutes.

Transfer the risen dough into a greased 1 lb loaf tin (approximately 17 x 7 x 6cm), cover with cling film and leave to prove (the second rising process) for half an hour. A little before the end of the proving time, put on the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 to preheat.

Pop the loaf tin into the preheated oven for 45 minutes, until the bread is risen and crusty on top. It should feel light when you lift it from the oven and sound hollow when you tap the bottom. This is quite a moist bread, so can be left to cook a little longer if you prefer.

Allow to cool slightly, then tip out from the loaf tin. Slice, butter and eat.

Tips: Sunshine bread is best eaten freshly cooked and warm, but if there is any left over for the next day simply lightly toast it to enjoy.

This recipe can also be made into Sunshine Buns, by shaping the dough into approximately 8 individual rounds or cutting into scone shapes with a large cookie cutter and putting into greased muffin tins. Reduce the baking time to around 18 minutes.

‘Sunshine Bread’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

Twitter: @MsJackMonroe Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

Photography by Susan Bell

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 back in again, and I like simple solutions. I often start preparing my bread last thing at night so I can take the frustrations of the day out on it as I knead, which gives the additional bonus of being able to leave the dough overnight to rise for extra light and fluffy bread. This bread is delicious sliced and toasted with butter (or whatever spread you have) and marmalade, or simply eaten warm by the handful.

Makes 1 small loaf

1 small courgette
300g plain flour, plus extra to knead the dough
a 7g sachet of fast-acting dried yeast
50g sultanas
zest and juice of 1⁄2 a lemon or 1 tablespoon bottle lemon juice

Grate the courgette finely into a large mixing bowl. Add the flour and yeast to the courgette, and then tip in the sultanas. Combine everything with a wooden spoon, making sure the courgette doesn’t all just clump together.

Pour the lemon juice into a measuring cup, grate in the zest and add recently boiled water to make it up to 150ml of liquid (less than usual for this amount of flour because of the wetness of the courgette). Make a well in the centre of the dry mixture and pour in most of the lemon-water. Mix to form a sticky dough, adding the rest of the liquid if required.

Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Leave the dough to rise for half an hour, with a tea towel over the top to keep the heat from the water in.

When the dough has risen, knock the air out of it, and pop into a lightly oiled or silicone 1lb loaf tin (approximately 17 x 7 x 6cm). Cover with cling film and leave to rise again (this is called proving) for at least another half an hour or. A little before the end of the proving time, put on the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 to preheat.

Score the top of the dough lightly. Put the tin in the preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes; the loaf should be golden and crisp on top, feel lightweight and sound hollow on the bottom when tapped. Take out of the oven, remove the loaf from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack, then slice and devour.

Photography by Susan Bell

Photography by Susan Bell

‘Courgette, Sultana & Lemon Bread’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe, available to buy now.

Twitter: @MsJackMonroe Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

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RHUBARB & GINGER SODA BREAD

 

 

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Here’s the Rhubarb and Ginger Soda Bread recipe I made for my first ever FoodTube video…

Ingredients:

300g flour
1 rounded tsp bicarbonate of soda
200ml milk (semi skimmed, soya, UHT, any milk will do)
Juice of half a lemon, or 2 tbsp bottled lemon juice
100g fresh rhubarb
1 tbsp sugar
Small piece of fresh ginger

First, pour the milk into a jug and squeeze in the lemon juice. Leave to stand for a few minutes to curdle. This replaces the buttermilk in traditional soda bread recipes, and can be done with any milk or milk substitute, and any citrus or acid, like vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and bicarb and briefly mix through. Thinly slice the rhubarb and add to the bowl with the sugar, and grate in the ginger. In the video, I use the edge of a teaspoon to remove the thin skin from the ginger, but if you think life is too short to peel ginger, you can leave it on – but it has a different, woody taste to the tang of peeled ginger. Use the edge of a spoon, or a vegetable peeler, to peel thin strips of ginger into the bowl.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients (a small rough hole in the middle) and pour in most of the curdled milk and lemon. Mix briefly with a wooden spoon, adding more liquid if you need to. It should be a slightly tacky, but malleable, dough. If you accidentally make it too sticky, just add an extra generous tablespoon or two of flour to bring it back.

Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface and knock it into a bread shape – you can pop it in a loaf tin if you have one, or knock it into a round and pop it straight in the oven.

Lightly dust your loaf tin (if using) and pop the bread in. Dust the top with extra flour and cut a crease down the middle of your dough – Irish folklore says that this is to let the fairies out, so respect your fairies and set them free. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes, until crusty, risen and golden and rustic looking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing.

Serving suggestion: The bit you don’t see on the video, is me layering it up with mackerel and honey for the production crew, who were initially suspicious, and then devoured the lot! But it’s also great plain, warm from the oven, toasted and spread with butter or crean cheese, and of course rhubarb and ginger are natural bedfellows for all sorts of delicious cheeses – try it with Brie, mature cheddar, or anything with a bit of bite…

And enjoy! Thanks to all the lovely feedback, I will be doing more videos with FoodTube in the future – so thankyou all so much for being so lovely and encouraging.

Jack xx

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CHICKPEA & CHORIZO BURGERS

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Chorizo is one of those ingredients that I buy rarely, but a little goes a long way. For a cheaper or vegetarian burger, you can omit it completely and just add the garlic and paprika for a similar smoky, spicy taste.

Ingredients (makes 4 generous burgers):

3 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped, or pinch of dried
1 carrot, grated
400g canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
100g chorizo, finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 free range egg
2 slices of bread
1 tbsp flour

To serve:
1 pitta bread and handful of spinach.

Pour one tablespoon of oil into a medium sauté or frying pan on a low heat.

Add the chopped onion, crushed garlic, grated carrot, chopped chilli, paprika and chorizo and sauté all together on a low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to disturb.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the chickpeas, and mash them thoroughly in a mixing bowl or saucepan until soft and pulpy. Soak the bread in water, squeeze out with your hands, and mash into the chickpeas. When the onions have slightly softened, tip the contents of the pan into the chickpea and bread mixture, add the egg, and mix well to evenly distribute.

Test the consistency with a wooden spoon – if it sticks to the spoon and holds together well, it’s good to go. If it does not hold its shape well (in my experience, not all chickpeas are created equal!) then add a heaped tablespoon of flour to thicken.

Pour the remaining two tablespoons of oil back into the original pan – which will be streaked with spicy chorizo juices – don’t waste them! Shaping the mixture into six balls with lightly floured hands, flatten each into the pan. Cook for around 7 minutes on each side on a medium heat, or until golden and crispy.

Serve in a pitta bread with salad – or with vegetables and rice for a more filling meal.

Tips: This burger mix also makes great falafels, which can be shallow fried or baked in the oven for a healthier alternative.

The burgers can be frozen, uncooked, by laying on a baking tray and freezing uncovered. When frozen, they can be transferred to a freezer bag. The process of ‘open freezing’ keeps them separate and easy to use one at a time, without all sticking together.

Leftover chorizo will keep for up to a month in the fridge. Try a few slices simmered in a pan of canned chopped tomatoes with a chopped onion for an easy but delicious pasta sauce.

Jack Monroe.
Twitter: @MsJackMonroe
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

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Mandarin & Poppy Seed Loaf

I like to make this bread in the evening to wind down and de-stress. Kneading the dough for 10 minutes may sound like a long time but it’s very therapeutic to do at the end of the day, and those 10 minutes will go faster than you think! This recipe uses half the mandarin segments from a standard 300g (or thereabouts) sized tin. You can keep the remaining half of the fruit in an airtight container in the fridge to use another day.

Makes 1 small loaf
1⁄2 x 300g tin mandarin segments in juice and the juice from the whole tin 300g plain flour, plus extra to knead the dough a 7g sachet of fast-acting dried yeast 1 tablespoon poppy seeds oil to grease the bowl and loaf tin optional: extra flour to top the loaf
Drain the mandarin segments and reserve the juice in a measuring cup. Chop the segments into 1cm pieces. (I put them in a mixing bowl and attack with kitchen scissors, rather than messing about slipping all over a work surface.) Add the flour, yeast and poppy seeds to the bowl and combine.
Add lukewarm water to the reserved mandarin juice to make up 160ml of liquid. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the mandarin water gradually, working the mixture in with a wooden spoon. Continue until you have a slightly sticky dough. Lightly flour your work surface, and tip the dough on to it. knead and stretch the dough for about 10 minutes.
Lightly oil the inside of the bowl, put the dough back into it, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size. This takes about half an hour, but the time varies depending on the temperature of the room, etc.
When the dough has risen, knock the air out by tipping it back on to a lightly floured work surface and gently shaping into a rugby ball shape. Lightly oil a 1lb loaf tin (approximately 17 x 7 x 6cm), then lovingly place your rugby ball of goodness into it, pop the tea towel back on top and leave for another half an hour. This process is called proving.
A little before the end of the proving time, put on the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7 to preheat. Score the top of the loaf, sprinkle over some optional extra flour on the top for a rustic look and pop the tin into the preheated oven for 30 minutes. When it’s done the loaf should sound hollow on the bottom when tapped.
Remove the tin from the oven, tip out the loaf and allow to cool on a wire rack. Then slice and eat!

Tips: This loaf will keep for 3 days in an airtight container or for a month if frozen. I wrap mine in cling film once it has cooled and it’s still absolutely fresh and delicious the day after. Shape the dough into 12 small balls instead of one loaf and pop the balls into lightly oiled muffin tins to make scones. Adjust the cooking time accordingly, depending on the size of the muffin tins – around 12 to 15 minutes should be fine.

‘Mandarin and Poppy Seed Loaf’ from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe. Available to buy now.

Twitter: @MsJackMonroe Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

Airy Fairy Easy Peasy Soda Bread

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Think you can’t make bread? Or that you need a fancy pants bread maker to do so? RUBBISH. You have a natural, free bread maker in your palms and your knuckles – and this easy recipe with no proving or rising time is a great place to start.

A lot of soda bread recipes use whole meal flour, salt, and yoghurt – but true to my usual style, I’ve pared it back to the basics – but basic doesn’t mean disappointing. Gorgeous warm with red fruit jam, or butter, or dunked into hearty soups and stews. It goes without saying that this is one of my favourite and most tried-and-tested recipes, doesn’t it?

Ingredients, Serves 4:

200g self raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200ml milk (soya or almond for vegans, cows milk if you’re not)
Juice of half a lemon

Method:

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon, or 2 teaspoons bottled lemon juice, into the milk. Stand to one side to allow it to sour.

Meanwhile, weigh the flour and add the bicarbonate of soda, and mix through.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mix, and pour most of the milk-and-lemon in. Mix well with a wooden spoon to form a sticky dough. Use your judgement, if it looks dry, add the remaining liquid.

Tip onto a floured work surface and pat into a round shape, kneading ever so lightly. The trick to amazingly light soda bread is not to fiddle with it too much.

Pop it into a loaf tin, score it across the top in three places, and place in a 180C oven for 40 minutes. It should sound hollow on the bottom when tapped, and feel ridiculously light.

Break into chunks and serve warm with butter, or allow to cool completely and wrap in clingfilm to keep fresh.

Jack Monroe. Follow me on Twitter @MsJackMonroe

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Beer & Sultana Bread

This recipe uses only part of a can or bottle of bitter, but don’t worry – pour the rest into a glass and pop it in the fridge to go flat, because you can make a Beery Berry Crumble out of that later. Waste not, want not! I use a cake tin to make this loaf in because I haven’t got any baking trays for some bizarre reason, but that works really well in keeping the lovely ’round’ shape. Serve the bread warm cut into chunks like a scone, with butter and plum, fig or a jam of your choice. Mmm!

Makes 1 small loaf

200g plain flour, plus extra to knead the dough
a 7g sachet of fast-acting dried yeast
a small knob of fresh ginger, peeled, or a pinch of dried ginger
50g sultanas
160ml bitter, beer or ale

Weigh the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast. grate in the ginger, add the sultanas and mix through quickly with a fork or wooden spoon. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add a generous splash of bitter. Mix the liquid into the flour and keep adding the bitter little by little until it forms a sticky dough.

Tip the dough on to a well-floured work surface and knead and stretch for 10 minutes. Form it into a rounded lump shape then leave to rise for at least half an hour, uncovered.

knock the excess air out of the risen dough – but keeping the rounded shape – and place into a lightly greased cake tin, Victoria sandwich tin or on to a baking tray. Cover with cling film and leave the dough to rise in the tin for 1 to 2 hours until it’s doubled in size.

A little before the end of the rising time, put on the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 to preheat.

Uncover the dough. Score the top with two lines each way like you’re going to play noughts and crosses on it, and pop the tin into the middle of the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Take the bread out of the oven, turn out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. Then cut into thick slices and devour with butter. I start eating mine as soon as it’s cool enough to touch!

Tips: The best way to peel ginger is by scraping away the skin with a teaspoon.

Add a heaped tablespoon of oats to the flour and yeast mixture, and sprinkle some more on top of the
dough before putting it in the oven.

Use finely chopped fresh plums or dried prunes instead of the sultanas.

‘Beer And Sultana Bread’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

Twitter: @MsJackMonroe Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

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Garlic, Herb & Lemon Bread

If you want to be really traditional and a little bit messy, you can get stuck in and use your hands to mix together the ingredients and form the dough. you need a good swirling motion, but I’ve made a lot of bread and never quite got this right. It’s good for the homespun warm feeling, not so great for trying to get out the little remnants of dough from under your fingernails and in the creases of your knuckles afterwards!

Makes 1 small loaf

250g plain white flour, plus extra to knead the dough
a 7g sachet of fast-acting dried yeast
2 fat cloves of garlic
2 handfuls of fresh parsley
zest and juice of 1 lemon or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra to grease the bowl and loaf tin

Put the flour and yeast into a large mixing bowl. Peel the garlic cloves and finely chop or crush. Finely chop the parsley into a small bowl or tea cup using kitchen scissors. grate the lemon zest. Add the garlic, parsley and lemon zest to the flour and yeast with a flourish and stir to mix.

Measure the lemon juice into a measuring cup and add the oil. Pour in lukewarm water to make up to 180ml. Make a well in the centre of the flour/yeast/herb mixture and add the liquid gradually, working the mixture in with a wooden or silicone spoon, or your hands.

Lightly flour your work surface and tip the dough on to it. knead and stretch the dough for about 10 minutes. Lightly oil the inside of the bowl, put the dough back into it, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size. This takes about half an hour, but varies depending on the temperature of the room.

When the dough is risen, knock the air out of it by tipping back on to a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape into a round and pop into a lightly oiled or silicone 1lb loaf tin (approximately 17 x 7 x 6cm). Cover with cling film or a clean plastic bag over the top like a tent and leave for 30 minutes to prove. A little before the end of the proving time, put on the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7 to preheat.

Score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife and pop it into the preheated oven for 30 minutes to bake.

The loaf should sound hollow on the bottom when tapped. Remove from the oven, tip out of the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack. Then slice the loaf and eat!

Tips: If doubling the quantities to make a 2lb loaf, the timing will be slightly different. After the first 15 minutes turn the oven down to 170°C/325°F/gas 3 and allow to cook for another 30 minutes.

Will keep for 3 days in an airtight container, or 1 month if frozen.

‘Garlic, Herb & Lemon Bread’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

Twitter: @MsJackMonroe Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

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Chickpea & Tomato Best Brunch Loaf

This loaf is a favourite weekend recipe of mine, which is easily adapted to personal tastes and what you have in the cupboard. Sometimes I like to thoroughly mash the chickpeas for a smoother bread, and sometimes I chuck them in whole for a knobbly, crunchy texture. Delicious toasted or grilled with butter, or bacon, or an egg, or all three…

Makes 1 small loaf:

240g canned chickpeas (drained weight)
300g plain white flour, plus a little extra for kneading
a 7g sachet of fast acting dried yeast
a handful of chopped fresh rosemary
zest and juice of half a lemon, or a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice
1 large tomato, chopped into small chunks

Drain the chickpeas, thoroughly rinse them, and tip them into a large mixing bowl. Mash with a potato masher to loosen the skins, and pick them off as the chickpeas separate (not an essential step but definitely worth it if you want a smooth bread – if you’re leaving the chickpeas whole then don’t worry about this!)

Add the flour, yeast, chopped rosemary, tomato, and finely grated lemon zest (if using), to the chickpeas, and stir together.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a measuring cup and add lukewarm water to make up to 160ml of liquid. Make a well in the middle of the chickpea and flour mixture, and pour in half of the liquid, mixing together. Gradually add as much of the remaining liquid as you need until a soft, sticky dough is formed – but firm enough to shape. If it’s too sticky-tacky, never fear, just add an extra shake of flour and work it in.

Lightly flour your work surface, then tip the dough out and knead and stretch it for 10 minutes. Pummel the dough, pound it, mush your knuckles into it – it’s like a stress ball but much more satisfying! Pop the dough back into your mixing bowl, cover with a clean tea towel or cling film and leave to rise for 2 hours. This sounds like a long time but the end result is a gorgeous light loaf with a proper crust around it.

Knock back the risen dough (a fancy term for tipping it onto a floured worksurface and quickly shaping it a bit) into a rugby ball shape, and pop it into a lightly greased loaf tin, then cover and leave to prove for half an hour. A little before the end of the proving time, put the oven on to 220C to preheat.

Place the tin into the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes until the bread is risen and golden. Remove the loaf from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

‘Chickpea and tomato best brunch loaf’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe, available to buy here.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack