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.

Carrot, cumin & kidney bean burgers, 10p (VEGAN)

Photography by Susan Bell.

Photography by Susan Bell.

This burger is where the media storm began, and dubbed ‘the 9p burger’ because of the low cost of the ingredients used to make it, it’s one of my most popular recipes. A can of value range red kidney beans is a cheap but excellent source of protein and I built a lot of my early cooking around it, and they became a firm staple in my household. I triple the recipe to make a batch of them, and freeze them in patties to whip out at a moment’s notice and fry on a low heat. I’ve updated the price list on this recipe to reflect the sad rise in the cost of basic and budget ingredients over the last two years, they’re not 9p burgers any more, but they are still incredibly cheap. I like mine best in a pitta bread (22p for 6) and a dollop of mango chutney or mayo…

Makes 4 generous burgers at 15p each or 6 good sized ones at 10p each*:

1 x 400g tin of kidney beans, 30p
1 smallish onion (150g approx), peeled and finely chopped, 9p
1 large carrot (150g approx), grated, 8p
1 teaspoon (1.5g) ground cumin, 4p
a stem (1g) of fresh coriander, finely chopped (optional, replace with parsley if you don’t like coriander), 3p
1 tbsp veg or sunflower oil, plus 2 tablespoons to fry the burgers, 6p
1 heaped teaspoon flour, plus another to shape the burgers, 1p

Drain the kidney beans and rinse in cold water to wash away the ‘tinned’ taste. Put into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes to really soften.

Put the onion, carrot, cumin and coriander into a medium saute or frying pan. Add the splash of oil and cook on a low heat to soften. When the kidney beans have softened, drain well and add to the carrots and onion. Remove from the heat and mash together until you have a smoothish puree, like a mashed potato consistency. Stir in the flour to stiffen.

Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan on a medium heat. With floured hands, take a quarter of the burger mixture and roll it into a ball. Make three more balls with the remaining mixture. Place one in the oil and flatten gently with a fork to make the burger shape. Depending on the size of your pan, you may be able to cook all the burgers at once or need to do them in batches – unless you’re freezing some of the uncooked patties. Cook for a few minutes on one side, before turning. The burgers need to be handled with care as they can be quite fragile before they’re done! When cooked and slightly crisp on both sides, remove from the pan and serve.

Tip: Make the burger mixture in advance and pop into the fridge for a few hours – it firms up nicely and is less fragile when cooking. It will keep, covered, for 2 days so can be made well in advance.

*Prices are worked out at Sainsburys because that’s where I currently shop, 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 kidney beans 30p/400g. Basics bag of onions 95p/1.5kg. Basics bag of carrots 85p/1.5kg. Ground cumin £1/42g. Fresh coriander 80p/28g. Sunflower oil £4/3l. Basics plain flour 55p/1.5kg. Correct on 31 Jan 2015.

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

…and if you like this, you might like one of my books, available to order over at Hive, who will ship it to your local independent book store, or your house! Check it out here: http://www.hive.co.uk/search/Jack+monroe/mediatype/all/

A soup that's like a great big comforting hug... Yes please.

Roasted carrot, chickpea and garlic soup, 26p (VEGAN)

A soup that's like a great big comforting hug... Yes please.

A soup that’s like a great big comforting hug… Yes please.

I woke up this morning craving a carrot soup – it’s all rock and roll round here these days. I’m a bit snuffly around the edges at the moment, sore throat and generally feeling a bit sorry for myself, and still limping around tragically on a still-broken left foot. This may be the most self-pitying recipe introduction to date. But basically, I fancied something warm, and sweet, and comforting, and easy to do. Something I could fling in the oven and forget about, and get something good inside. Carrot led to roast carrot, and garlic, and some chickpeas for protein and good measure – and the result is a subtly spiced, hearty, sweet and delicious soup. It’s like the soup equivalent of a cuddle, this one. And suitable for all my lovely vegan readers, too. Hurrah.

Serves 4 at 26p each:

300g carrots (approx 3 medium ones), 17p
240g tinned chickpeas (that’s the drained and rinsed weight of a 400g can), 60p
4 fat cloves of garlic, 7p
2 tbsp oil (vegetable or sunflower), 4p
150g onion (one small one or half a large one), 9p
1/2 tsp cumin (1.3g), 3p
a pinch of dried chilli flakes, 2p
800ml weak vegetable stock (1/2 stock cube will do), 1p

First heat your oven to 180C. Wash your carrots and slice thickly, and toss into a roasting tin. Drain and thoroughly rinse your chickpeas and add to the tin, with the whole garlic cloves. Pour over the oil and give it all a shuffley-shake to lightly coat it, and pop it in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and finely slice your onion, and set to one side. When your first 20 minutes is up, remove the roasting tin from the oven, scatter the onion over, and the cumin and chilli, and give it all another shake. Cook for a further 20 minutes, until it looks like this:

Yummy roasty goodness. And yes I leave the tops on my carrots - waste not want not!

Yummy roasty goodness. And yes I leave the tops on my carrots – waste not want not!

Remove the garlic cloves from the roasting tin, and tip the rest of the contents into a blender – keeping some chickpeas aside to garnish if you like that sort of thing. Squeeze in the soft garlic (don’t put the skins in the blender, they end up like tiny bits of wet tissue that stick to the roof of your mouth. We learn from our errors, round here, and pass the wisdom on – though in my defence that was many years ago…). Add the stock and blend until smooth.

Remove from the blender and warm through, garnishing with reserved chickpeas to serve.

*Prices are worked out at Sainsburys because that’s where I currently shop, 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 carrots 85p/1.5kg. 400g tin of chickpeas 60p. Basics garlic 35p/2 bulbs. Sunflower oil £4/3l. Basics onions 95p/1.5kg. Ground cumin £1/42g. Dried crushed chilli flakes £1/32g. Basics vegetable stock cubes 25p/10 cubes.

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

…and if you like this, you might like one of my books, available to order over at Hive, who will ship it to your local independent book store, or your house! Check it out here: http://www.hive.co.uk/search/Jack+monroe/mediatype/all/

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Leftover-Porridge Pancakes

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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 always, always some leftover. I’ve now given up, and instead incorporate the leftover porridge into the next day’s panful – but this morning, something more exciting happened… (And credit where it’s due, these were my wonderful Mrs’ idea, an out-loud musing of ‘I wonder if we could make pancakes out of the leftover porridge…’ and subsequent breakfast glee at realising that yes, we can…)

You will need:

Leftover porridge (I make mine with oats and water – don’t tell the children – with a splash of milk at the end – for the vegans among you a little almond milk or soy would be delicious…)
A little flour for dusting
A little oil to cook them

Allow your leftover porridge to cool, and pop into a bowl, cover with clingfilm, and store in the fridge overnight. It will set, thick and gelatinous, and ready to be turned into delicious pancake patties the next morning…

Remove from the fridge, lightly flour your worktop and hands, and break a chunk off the porridge-lump. Flatten with your fingertips to press it together – don’t try to roll it out as it will just cling to your rolling pin! I cut mine into rounds with a cookie cutter, but that’s because I like the pictures to look nice – it’s not essential!

Lightly flour each side to stop them sticking to your pan. Heat a little oil in a frying pan until hot hot, then add the patties. Cook for a few minutes on each side, turning the heat down to medium so they don’t burn. Cook until golden and crispy around the edges, and serve.

Delicious with bacon, or honey, or brown sauce and sausages, or dipped in ketchup, or with an egg on top, or any other way you can think of.

And – hoorah – I now have a solution to the leftover porridge problem, and a very very exciting one at that.

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

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.

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 cheese. I have collected novelty cookie cutters over the years, so Small Boy often asks for ‘duckie pizza’ or ‘lorry pizza’ – resulting in a frantic delve through my kitchen to find the right one.

Makes 14 mini-pizzas (using an 8cm cookie cutter)

250g plain flour, plus extra to knead the dough
a 7g sachet of fast-acting dried yeast
optional: a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon oil, plus extra to oil the baking tray
200ml warm water
3 tablespoons tomato purée
optional: a sprinkle of dried mixed herbs

Topping ideas: mozzarella cheese, any grated cheese, chopped onion, ham and pineapple, ham and sweetcorn, leftover Bolognese sauce or leftover chilli . . . The possibilities are endless!

Measure the flour and yeast into a large mixing bowl and add the salt, if using. Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the oil and most of the water, and stir together with a spoon to make a soft, sticky dough. Add more water if required.

Tip the dough on to a floured work surface, lightly knead for a few minutes and shape into a round. Pop it back into the mixing bowl, cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave for an hour to rise, or until doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, tip out on to the floured work surface and roll out with a rolling pin. I make mine less than 0.5cm thick but it’s up to you. Bear in mind when rolling out the dough that the bases will double in thickness when cooked.

Cut out dough circles or shapes using your choice of cutter, transferring these mini pizza bases on to a lightly oiled baking tray as you go. (You may need to do them in batches!)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Top each dough pizza base with a thin spread of tomato purée, the dried herbs, if using, and your topping of choice. Pop the baking tray into the oven for 10 minutes, until the mini pizzas are slightly crisp around the edges. Larger pizzas may need longer cooking time.

Tips: The penny pizzas will keep in the fridge, covered, for 2 to 3 days, making them ideal for little lunches. Allow to cool completely and freeze any leftovers. They will keep for 3 months in the freezer, and can be reheated in a low oven.

To make a large pizza traybake, roll out the dough into a rectangle the size of your baking tray instead of cutting into individual mini pizzas.

For quicker pizzas, halve a pitta bread, spread with tomato purée and top with a topping of your choice. Cook for 10 minutes at 180°C/350°F/gas 4 for a speedy snack.

Photography by Susan Bell.

Photography by Susan Bell.

‘Penny Pizzas’ 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

Photography by Susan Bell

Peach and chickpea curry

This is my favourite curry, my go-to, easy but perfect comfort food. I sometimes make it with turkey, so feel free to chuck a fistful of it in with the onions if you fancy it. Serve it with plain boiled rice.

Serves 2 for dinner, with leftovers for a light lunch.

250g canned chickpeas (drained weight)
1 onion
1 fat clove of garlic
1 chilli
a splash of oil
1 rounded tsp cumin (ground or seeds)
1 x 400g tin of peaches (or apricots or mandarins)
1 x 400f carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
a handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 stock cube, veg or chicken

First drain your chickpeas and rinse them vigorously to get rid of the stagnant water that they’ll have been sitting in. Pop them in some fresh water in a saucepan and boil rapidly for 10 minutes to soften (and get rid of any toxins…there’s differing beliefs about toxins in canned pulses and I’m of the ‘a good boil won’t hurt them’ school of thought…)

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, and chop the chilli. Pour a little oil into a medium, heavy bottomed pan, and add the onion, garlic and chilli, then the cumin, and cook gently on a low heat for a few minutes to soften the onion. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up – burned onions will permeate your whole curry, whereas sweating them will add a delicious sweetness.

Drain the peaches, reserving the juice, and chop into small pieces. Add to the onion mixture in the pan, along with the reserved juice. By this time, the chickpeas should have finished boiling, so remove them from the heat and drain them, and tip them into the peaches-and-onion pan.

Pour the chopped tomatoes in, add the coriander, and crumble over the stock cube, then stir everything together. Reduce the heat to a low setting, and cook gently for 30 minutes. You may need to add a cup of water to the sauce if it starts to get a bit thick. Stir well, and serve.

‘Peach and chickpea curry’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe. Available to buy here.

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

Photography by Susan Bell

Photography by Susan Bell

Photography by Susan Bell.

Courgette, Tomato & Brie Gratin

This dish was born of a sad-looking courgette in my fridge, half of a very large onion that was starting to dry out, and some bits and pieces from my cupboard. The rice makes this filling and comforting, and the cheese, tomato and slightly crisp courgettes have me reaching for a second portion even when I am pleasantly full. If you have always been a bit disdainful about courgettes, this simple supper might just change your mind… You can double the recipe quantities to serve 4 people, in which case, use a roasting tin rather than individual ovenproof dishes.

Serves 2:

1 onion
150g rice (I use standard long grain but wholemeal is really good in this)
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 200ml boiling water
1 x 400g carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
a few sprigs of fresh basil
a few sprigs of fresh parsley
1 large courgette
50g Brie cheese or to taste (I admit to using much more than that at times…)
a drizzle of oil, plus a little extra to grease the ovenproof dishes

First, preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Peel and dice the onion and toss into a medium pan with the rice. Pour the stock in a little at a time on a low heat, stirring frequently until each addition is absorbed, and then adding the next. You may need to add more or less liquid until the rice is just cooked, but water to top up will be just fine if you run out of stock.

Add the chopped tomatoes, tear over the fresh basil and parsley leaves, and stir through. Remove the pan from the heat.

Finely slice the courgette into approx 1mm slices and dice the Brie into small pieces.

Spoon the rice-and-tomato-and-onion mixture into two small greased ovenproof dishes, ramekins or bowls. Scatter the Brie on top. Then lay the courgette slices over the cheese so that they overlap, and brush or drizzle with a little oil.

Cook in the oven for 15 minutes until lightly toasted on top. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and serve.

TIPS: If, like me, you are a big cheese fiend, add grated Parmesan or another hard strong cheese on top of the courgette before popping it in the oven.

‘Courgette, tomato and Brie gratin’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Photography by Susan Bell.

Photography by Susan Bell.

Creamy Greek cheese and courgette pasta

This classic combination of Greek cheese and courgettes crops up again in a simple pasta dish that is perfect for lunch all year round. Eat cold in the summer, or warmed through in the winter to melt the cheese into a soft, delicious sauce.

Serves 2

1 courgette
a fistful of fresh mint, plus extra to garnish
a fistful of fresh parsley
1 tablespoon oil
zest and juice of 1⁄2 a lemon or 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled
50g Greek cheese (goat’s cheese or feta)
100ml natural yoghurt, plus a little extra to taste
70g fresh or frozen green beans, trimmed
160g pasta

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Chop off the stalk and end from the courgette. Dice and toss into a shallow roasting tin.

Pop the mint and parsley into a teacup and chop finely with kitchen scissors. Pour the oil over the herbs, add the grated lemon zest, squeeze in the juice and press in the garlic. Stir well and pour over the courgette in the roasting tin, shaking to coat it in the mixture. Pop the dish into the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes to roast.

When the courgette is cooked, tip out into a bowl, pouring in all of the juices from the roasting tin. Crumble the cheese over the roasted courgette, and mash roughly with a fork. Stir in the yoghurt, and set to one side.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and put in the spaghetti. Cook according to the packet instructions – usually simmering for around 8 to 10 minutes. After about 4 or 5 minutes, add the green beans to the pot, crank the heat up and cook them in with the pasta until soft but still a vibrant green.

Drain the spaghetti and green beans, and tip the cheesy courgette sauce in. Mix well to coat, adding extra yoghurt if you want a runnier sauce. Serve in deep comforting bowls, with additional mint leaves to garnish.

Tip: If you are short of time or don’t want to use the electricity/gas for roasting, simply grate the courgette instead of dicing it, mix with the rest of the roasting marinade ingredients and let them sit together whilst the pasta cooks. The flavour will be less intense but still utterly delicious – and super quick!

‘Creamy Greek Cheese And Courgette Pasta’ from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Roasted courgette and feta potato salad

Like many of my recipes, this was a toss-together of some ’fridge stuff’ – some rogue Greek cheese and a courgette that was kicking about. harking back to my Cypriot roots for what was initially going to be a tzatziki, this ended up as something else entirely. The sauce or dip, or whatever it should be called, is immensely versatile, but my favourite thing to do with it is toss it with pre-boiled tinned potatoes as in the recipe here. These quantities are easily halved for smaller households, or doubled for parties and potato fiends.

Serves 4 as a snack or 2 as a main meal

1 courgette
a fistful of fresh mint
a fistful of fresh parsley
1 fat clove of garlic or 1⁄2 an onion
1 tablespoon oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
50g Greek cheese (feta-style or goat’s cheese)
120ml natural yoghurt
500g tinned potatoes (drained weight)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Chop the stalk and the bottom from the courgette. Dice and tip into a shallow roasting dish.

Pop the mint and parsley into a tea cup and chop finely with kitchen scissors. Peel the garlic or onion. Pour the oil over the herbs, add the grated lemon zest, squeeze the lemon juice in and press the garlic in. If you don’t have any garlic, then very finely chop the onion and add it to the dressing. Stir well and pour over the courgette pieces, shaking to coat them in the dressing. Pop into the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes to roast.

When the courgette is cooked, tip into a bowl, pouring in all of the juices from the roasting dish. Crumble over the cheese and mash roughly with a fork. Add the yoghurt and mix well.

Drain the potatoes and toss through the sauce until coated, then serve.

Tips: If you are short of time or don’t want to use the energy heating the oven, simply grate the courgette and mix with the rest of the dressing ingredients. The flavour will be less intense but still utterly delicious. This dish is very similar to the Creamy Greek Cheese and Courgette Pasta, so why not roast your courgettes at the same time and make both.

‘Roasted Courgette And Feta Potato Salad’ from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Brie and bacon risotto, 26p

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While testing recipes for my book this week, it was inevitable that I would start to put leftover ingredients together to come up with accidental dishes. This speedy and satisfying late lunch was born of some scraps of cooking bacon left over from Spring Piggy, and some sad looking Brie from the Courgette and Brie gratin.

I have been criticised in the past by online commenters for using ‘posh cheese’ on a limited budget, but at £1.09 for 200g, a rich flavour, and creamy versatility, I find a hunk of Brie far more satisfying for my stomach and my wallet than plain old cheddar any day. Besides – I can’t get £1.09 of cheddar from my local supermarket anyway…

(Serves 2 at 26p/portion. Prices Sainsburys Basics, July 2013)

100g cooking bacon, 16p (£1.09/670g)
1/2 an onion, red or white, 6p (11p each approx)
40g Brie, 22p (£1.09/200g)
140g rice, 6p (40p/1kg)
1 chicken stock cube, 2p (15p for 10)
500ml boiling water
Fistful of parsley , free (grows in the garden)

Optional: cranberry sauce to serve

Method:

Chop the cooking bacon into small pieces – 1cm approx. Place into a colander and rinse under cold water for five minutes to remove some of the salty taste.

Put into a shallow frying or sauté pan. Peel and finely chop the onion, and add to the pan with the bacon. Bring to a low heat. No additional fat is required: the fat will ‘leak’ from the bacon as it heats slowly, so make the most of it!

Soften the onions in the bacon fat. When they are almost translucent, add the rice and stir in well to toast the edges.

Make up 500ml of chicken stock. When the ends of the grains of rice have started to turn clear, add half of the stock and stir in. Keep adding the stock gradually as it is absorbed by the rice. (You may find that you do not need all of it – a good risotto should have a soupy texture, but be slightly al dente).

Just before serving, chop the Brie and stir through until it is mostly melted, and scatter chopped parsley through to lift the flavour.

Enjoy! If you have any apple or cranberry sauce kicking around in the cupboard, a teaspoon on top would be divine.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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

Simple Spiced Potato Soup

This is one of my go-to recipes, a whatever-happens-to-be-in-the-cupboard special. I sometimes add a chopped chilli to the onion, and some coriander from my window ledge herb box, but I have given the basic recipe below – feel free to customize it as you wish. when it comes to my lunch, I can be an impatient oik so I tend to chop the tinned potatoes into small cubes. It makes no difference to the final product, just means that they cook quicker. I like to serve this soup with pitta bread.

Serves 2

1 onion
a splash of oil
a few generous pinches of ground cumin or turmeric (whichever you have available)
1 x 500g tin of potatoes (approximate drained weight)
1 chicken stock cube, dissolved in 200ml boiling water
150ml natural yoghurt

Peel and chop the onion and put into a saucepan with the oil and cumin. Cook on a low heat for around 10 minutes to soften the onions into a spicy sweetness.

Drain the tinned potatoes, cut into small cubes and tip into the saucepan. Pour in the stock and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft.

Tip everything into a blender along with the yoghurt and blitz until smooth and creamy. Add more water if necessary – I find different tins of potatoes come up differently.

Serve and enjoy!

Tips: I sometimes like to add spinach to this soup and a tiny dab of mustard, to make it a bit more exciting. If there are any Spiced Spinach Potatoes left over (see Saag Aloo recipe), this is a brilliant use for them. Just add in place of the tinned potatoes.

‘Simple Spiced Potato Soup’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Red Wine And Mushroom Soup

Mushrooms are one of my staple products, being both cheaply available at supermarkets and greengrocers, and simple enough to grow at home. I’m a tactile cook, so I like to break them up with my hands instead of slicing them, but it doesn’t make a difference to the end result of the recipe. If you like this and you have red wine and mushrooms left over, try making the Earthy Red Wine and Mushroom Risotto…

Serves 2

200g mushrooms
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 300ml boiling water
50ml red wine
a handful of chopped thyme, plus extra to garnish

Gently clean any excess earth from the mushrooms with a clean tea towel, and break or slice them up. Peel and chop the onion and peel and crush the garlic. Put the mushrooms into a saucepan along with the stock, wine, thyme, onion and garlic.

Bring to the boil, then reduce down to a simmer for 20 minutes for all the flavours to meld. Remove from the heat and pulse in a blender.

Serve with extra chopped thyme to garnish.

Tips: Replace the red wine with white wine and add a tablespoon of natural yoghurt just before blending for a lighter, more traditional creamy mushroom soup. garnish with some grated strong hard cheese.

Mix any leftover soup with a carton or tin of chopped tomatoes and some cooked red or brown lentils for a hearty pasta sauce that can be frozen in portions, and defrosted for a quick and easy dinner.

‘Red Wine And Mushroom Soup’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Lemon Curd Sponge Puddings, 24p.

Lemon Curd Sponge Puddings, 95p for 4 or 24p each.

Luckily for me, as I shop very carefully, I have most of the ingredients for this in the cupboard at all times. Unluckily for my jeans, that means I’m never more than thirty-two minutes away from a cake…

This is a simple, classic, sticky treat, that Small Boy and myself enjoy every now and again. They also freeze well, so I make four – we have one each, and pop the remaining two in the freezer.

If you don’t have pudding tins, then a deep muffin tray will do the job just as well, but may make six smaller desserts instead.

Lemon Sponge Pudding. Jack Monroe, April 2013.

Lemon Sponge Pudding. Jack Monroe, April 2013.

Ingredients:*

100g self raising flour, 4p (65p/1.5kg)
70g butter, 34p (£1.20/250g)
2 eggs, 44p (£2.65/12 free range)
50g sugar, 5p (89p/kg)
Splash of lemon juice, 2p (60p/250ml)
8 heaped teaspoons of lemon curd, 6p (22p/411g)

How To:

1. Place the butter in a microwaveable dish and heat on the defrost setting for 30 seconds until soft. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the sugar and a few shakes of lemon, and mix together until well combined. Break the eggs in, and add the flour.

3. Mix well with a fork or wooden spoon to create a smooth, glossy batter.

4. Lightly grease each of your pudding tins with a little extra butter to stop the puddings from sticking to the sides – which will ruin a seriously good dessert!

5. Dollop a generous blob of lemon curd in the bottom of each pudding tin.

6. Divide the batter between each pudding tin, spooning it on top of the lemon curd until each tin is approx 2/3 full.

7. Cook in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes at 170C. They should be risen, light and golden, and should come away from the tin easily to serve.

8. Tip into a bowl to serve. Can be served with additional lemon curd, warmed through to make a sticky sauce – that’s how I eat mine!

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

*(All prices quoted are Sainsburys or Sainsburys Basics where available, correct at time of publication. Costs checked against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials ranges. Some variation between spermarkets but most items widely available at similar prices.)

School Dinner Days Jam Sponge, 23p

School Dinner Jam Sponge, 90p for 4 at 23p each.

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Ingredients:*

100g self raising flour, 4p (65p/1.5kg)
70g butter, 34p (£1.20/250g)
2 eggs, 44p (£2.65/12 free range)
50g sugar, 5p (89p/kg)

4 heaped teaspoons of jam, 3p (29p/454g)

How To:

1. Place the butter in a microwaveable dish and heat on the defrost setting for 30 seconds until soft. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the flour and sugar, and break the eggs in.

3. Mix well with a fork or wooden spoon to create a smooth batter.

4. Lightly grease each of your pudding tins with a little extra butter to stop the puddings from sticking to the sides – which will ruin a seriously good dessert!

5. Dollop a generous blob of jam in the bottom of each pudding tin.

6. Spoon batter on top of the jam until each tin is approx 2/3 full.

7. Cook in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes at 170C. They should be risen, light and golden, and should come away from the tin easily to serve.

8. Tip into a bowl to serve. Can be served with custard, but I don’t bother. In fact, I just devour it. *chomp!*

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

*(Prices calculated at Sainsburys, using the Basics range where available. Costs checked on date of publication against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials. Some variation between major supermarkets but most items widely available at similar price.)

Leek, Savoy & Cheese Pasta, 43p

Well, Lent is over and save a few hiccups, accidental and weakness, I managed to add quite a lot to my vegan recipe repertoire over the past month and a half.

However, a week ago when I was clearing out my fridge, I came across a piece of smoked cheese i’d bought from the reduced counter at my local supermarket a long time ago. I’ve been in this game too long to throw it away, so I thought I would make something out of it.

The result, is the best thing I have ever put in my mouth. This didn’t even make it to my dining table – I stood and scoffed it in the kitchen, and had to be very disciplined about the second portion, which is tomorrows lunch!

I have made vegan alterations below for my vegan readers, and those that don’t have teasing, tempting cheeses loitering in their fridges…

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Ingredients, Serves Two at 43p each*.

100g leeks, 25p (£2.50/kg loose)
2 Savoy cabbage leaves, 8p (80p/cabbage)
100g pasta, 8p (39p/500g)
1 garlic clove, 3p (46p for 2 bulbs, avg 8 cloves each)
1 onion, 5p (from a 1.25kg veg pack, £1)
Tablespoon of flour, 1p (65p/1.5kg)
15ml tablespoon of vegetable oil, 2p (£4.50/3l)
100ml soya milk, 6p (59p/1l, Unsweetened Soya Drink)
30g Smoked cheese, 23p (75p/100g)

1. Firstly, put the pasta water on to boil at the back of the stove.

2. Add a little oil to a saucepan. Finely chop the leek, peel and crush or finely chop the garlic, and finely chop the onion. Add to the pan on a low heat.

3. Cut the thick stems away from the middle of the cabbage, shred finely, and add to the pan.

4. When the vegetables have softened, tip into a bowl to one side and reserve.

5. Using the same saucepan, add a little extra oil, and the flour. Stir together quickly to make a paste.

6. Add a little soya milk (or ordinary milk, I used soya as I never have cows milk in the fridge these days) and stir constantly to make a smooth sauce. Use a wooden spoon or a fork to mix. Keep adding until you have a sauce of medium thickness.

7. Chop the smoked cheese into cubes; the rind is edible, so you can throw that in, or discard it if you wish. Add the vegetables back to the sauce and stir until the cheese has melted.

8. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the now-boiling water and cook for a few minutes until soft.

9. Drain the pasta, and serve with the sauce on top. Enjoy!

Variations:

To make it vegan, omit the smoked cheese. Instead, add the vegetables to the white sauce with a splash of lemon and a pinch of nutmeg, and allow to cook for longer on a lower heat to infuse the flavours together.

If you’re a carnivore, this would be delicious with some cubes of bacon cooked in with the vegetables at the beginning.

Also going to try to make a beetroot and balsamic dip/chutney/accompaniment for this at some point in the future…

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

*(Prices calculated at Sainsburys, using the Basics range where available. Costs checked on date of publication against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials. Some variation between major supermarkets but most items widely available at similar price.)

Photography by Susan Bell

Mexican Chocolate, Chilli & Black Bean Soup

I knocked up this soup when I had a piteous cold last winter. It combines onions and garlic for detoxifying goodness with chillies to fire me up, tomatoes and carrots for essential vitamin C, beans for protein and chocolate because it’s a solution to almost everything. Plus dark chocolate and red wine are good for you, don’t you know? But putting all the science to one side, this is delicious, filling and surprising – so even if you don’t have a cold, make this soup!

Serves 2

100g dried black beans
1 onion
1 fat clove of garlic
1 small red chilli or a pinch of chilli flakes
a generous shake of paprika
a generous shake of ground cumin
a splash of oil
1 carrot
30ml red wine
1 x 400g carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
3 squares dark chocolate (approximately 20g)
fresh parsley, to garnish

Put your beans in to soak the night before, or early in the morning if you’re going to be cooking that evening. Place them in a bowl, cover with fresh cold water and then some, and cover the bowl with cling film. Leave for a minimum of 8 hours to soak.

When soaked, drain and thoroughly rinse your beans. Put them into a saucepan with fresh water and bring to the boil for approximately 10 minutes, then turn down to a simmer.

Meanwhile, peel and slice the onion and garlic, and chop the chilli (reserving a couple of slices for a garnish), then put them all into a saucepan along with the paprika and cumin. Add the oil and cook over a low heat until the onions and garlic soften.

Wash and chop the carrot, and add to the saucepan. Pour the red wine and tomatoes in, and stir through. Crumble in the stock cube, then add the dark chocolate and 400ml boiling water. Drain the beans and tip into the pan. Stir and leave to simmer for 20 minutes, or until the carrot is tender.

If you like, pulse the soup in a blender until smooth. (I prefer to leave mine just slightly chunky, but if pulsed thoroughly, this makes a deliciously silky texture.) Serve hot, garnished with a sprig of fresh parsley and a slice of red chilli in each bowl.

Tips: Grill pitta breads with cheese inside – until it melts –and serve these dunked in the soup for a seriously tasty treat!

Swirl cream, natural yoghurt or crème fraîche on top before serving.

This recipe uses almost identical ingredients to Mumma Jack’s Best Ever Chilli, so why not make them together?

Photography by Susan Bell

Photography by Susan Bell

‘Mexican Chocolate, Chilli And Black Bean Soup’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Breakfast Sunshine Buns, 6p each

Breakfast Sunshine Buns – Pineapple, Carrot and Sultana) – 49p for 8 at 6p each.

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Ingredients:*

250g flour, 11p (65p/1.5kg)
1 sachet fast action dried yeast, 11p
30g sultanas, 6p (99p/500g)
1 carrot, 5p (part of a 1.25kg vegetable pack, £1)
1/2 can pineapple chunks, 16p (32p/227g)

How To:

1. Weigh the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast. Finely grate the carrot in, and add the sultanas. Mix in together and make a well in the centre of the dry mixture.

2. Strain the pineapple pieces over a bowl, reserving the juice to use in a minute. Put half of the pineapple pieces into the centre of the dry mixture, and put the other half into an airtight container and pop into the fridge to snack on, or to use in another recipe!

3. Add boiling water to the pineapple juice to make up to 160ml.

4. Pour into the well in the centre of the dry mixture, and combine to make a soft, sticky dough.

5. Tip out onto 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.

6. When kneaded, break the dough in half. Break each half in half, then each piece in half so that you have 8 pieces. Lightly knock each of your 8 pieces into a ball shape.

7. Lightly grease 8 cups of a 12 cup muffin tray. Pop a ball of dough into each.

8. Leave to rise for an hour, uncovered, in a warm place.

9. Pop into the oven at 180C for half an hour, until they are risen, crusty on top and light to touch. It should feel light when you lift one from the oven, and sound hollow when you tap the bottom. It is quite a moist bread, so can be left to cook a little longer if you prefer.

Allow to cool slightly, cut in half, butter, and eat.

I’m going to allow the other seven to cool, and I’ll pop them in the freezer….

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

*(Prices calculated at Sainsburys, using the Basics range where available. Costs checked on date of publication against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials. Some variation between major supermarkets but most items widely available at similar price.)

Earthy Red Wine & Mushroom Risotto, 36p.

Earthy Red Wine & Mushroom Risotto, Serves One. 36p.

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Still needing easy but comforting food with this cold, I decided to go for carbs and wine and goodness… I’ve never known anyone else to use red wine as a risotto base before – that’s not to say its not been done, I’ve just not seen it – but this works beautifully. As far as comfort food goes, I had finished this, from a bowl on the sofa wrapped in a heavy blanket, before I had finished typing the recipe…

Ingredients:*

30ml Red Wine, 14p (Table Wine, £3.48/750ml)
50g Mushrooms, 12p (97p/400g)
50g rice, 2p (40p/1kg)
1/2 Vegetable Stock cube in 400ml water, 1p (10 for 15p)
Clove of Garlic, 3p (46p for 2 bulbs, avg 8 cloves per bulb)
Tsp Mixed herbs, 1p (14p for a jar)
Tomato purée, 2p (49p/200g)
Splash of oil, 1p (Vegetable oil £4.50/3l)

How To:

1. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a small frying pan, the one I used was 20cm across but I was only cooking for me!

2. Peel and finely slice the garlic and add to the pan. Chop the mushrooms into small chunks and add to the pan. Shake the herbs over and allow to cook together for a few minutes.

3. Add the rice, and stir to coat in the oil. When the rice starts to turn translucent, add the wine and tomato purée, stirring constantly to prevent any of the rice sticking to the pan.

4. When the wine is almost all absorbed, start to add the stock, a ladle at a time. Stir in until almost all absorbed, and repeat until either the stock is gone or the rice is cooked.

Add some additional herbs to taste and serve with crusty bread if you wish.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe. Email: jack.monroe@nqe.com

*(Prices calculated at Sainsburys, using the Basics range where available. Costs checked on date of publication against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials. Some variation between major supermarkets but most items widely available at similar price.)

Feisty Soup

I make this for myself whenever I feel as though I am coming down with a cold. you know – when you’ve got that shaky, exhausted feeling and general self-pity. Instead of spending a fortune on various over-the-counter paracetamol and lemon drinks, I drag myself into the kitchen and cook myself a cure. This is called feisty soup for a reason: it’s a bit like hot and sour Chinese soup in a way, and if this doesn’t help shift whatever is wrong with you, I’m not sure what will. I’ve combined lots of natural goodies that have antioxidant and other nutritional qualities – garlic for goodness, chillies to fire up your system, tomatoes for vitamin C and lemon and ginger to cleanse and revitalize.

Serves 2

1 onion
1 fat clove of garlic
a thick slice of ginger
1 red chilli
a splash of oil
1 x 400g carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 200ml boiling water
juice of 1⁄2 a lemon or 2 teaspoons bottled lemon juice
a handful of parsley

Peel and chop the onion, garlic and ginger, chop the chilli, and put them all into a medium-sized saucepan with the oil. Cook on a low heat until the onion is softened. Tip in the chopped tomatoes, pour in the stock and add the lemon juice.
Chop the parsley and add to the saucepan as well.

Simmer away for about 20 minutes, until the onion and ginger have softened.

Blitz in a blender to achieve your desired consistency, I leave mine a bit chunky but it can be blended smooth.

Eat, and feel better soon!

Tips: If making this soup for little mouths, do not chop the chilli or use the seeds inside. Instead, halve the chilli down the middle and rinse it under a cold tap to remove the seeds, then add to the soup whole during cooking. Remove before blending.

Any remaining soup will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days, or in the freezer for 3 months.

The soup can be left whole and chunky as a fiery sauce to form part of a more substantial meal. Omit the stock, stir through a few handfuls of cooked prawns and some green beans, and serve with spaghetti or noodles.

‘Feisty Soup’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Photography by Susan Bell.

Gigantes Plaki

Gigantes Plaki literally means ‘Really Big Beans’! I’m heading back to my Mediterranean roots with this simple but delicious dish. I can have it for dinner, then lunch the next day and pulse any leftovers into a soup. It makes me chuckle to see these spicy butterbeans retailing for almost £5 per pot in certain supermarkets, when they’re really just bigger, better baked beans. you can either soak dried beans overnight in cold water – which means they will need to be drained, rinsed and boiled vigorously for 10 minutes separately to the sauce in order to get rid of any toxins – or use a tin of ready-prepared butter beans, which is more expensive but more convenient. If cooking with dried butter beans, use only 150g. I like to serve this dish with rice and green beans as a vegetarian meal, or it is great with baked chicken or fish.

Serves 2

1 onion
1 fat clove of garlic
a splash of oil
a pinch of ground cinnamon
1 x 400g carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
a splash of lemon juice
1⁄2 a bunch of fresh basil, plus extra to garnish
1 x 400g tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 vegetable stock cube
75g Greek cheese (such as feta), crumbled

Finely chop the onion and garlic and put into a large saucepan along with the oil and cinnamon. Cook on a low heat until the onion is softened, then add the chopped tomatoes and continue to simmer on a low heat for a few more minutes.

Chop all the basil stalks. Add the lemon juice, chopped basil stalks and half the basil leaves (leaving the other half aside for a garnish) and stir in, continuing to simmer.

Stir in the butter beans and crumble in the vegetable stock cube, with a little water if necessary. Stir well to dissolve.

Simmer all together on a low heat for approximately 20 minutes.
Ladle into bowls and serve garnished with the crumbled cheese and remaining basil leaves.

Tips: Gigantes Plaki can also be eaten cold as a mezze or snack, or mixed with leftover rice and stuffed into a pitta bread for next day’s lunch – it’s delicious cold and perfectly portable.

If you don’t have any basil, this is also very good made with parsley or mint…

You can make fab burgers from this mixture. Just strain off the tomato sauce, crush and add an extra clove of garlic and a pinch of dried chilli flakes, then gently mash the beans and shape into burgers with floured hands. Fry for a few minutes on each side.

Photography by Susan Bell.

Photography by Susan Bell.

Bubbles And Squeaks, 7p each.

Bubbles And Squeaks. Makes 10 bubble and squeak patties at 7p each, eat one or two or five, depending on how hungry you are. I was really hungry, so didn’t even get a picture of these. However I have half the mix left in the fridge for tonights dinner, so will fry it up and snap it later. In the meantime, here’s a recipe for ridiculously cheap food.
Ingredients:*
2 potatoes, 10p (5p each, from a 1.25kg vegetable pack, £1)
1 carrot, 5p (5p each, from a 1.25kg vegetable pack, £1)
1 onion, 5p (5p each, from a 1.25kg vegetable pack, £1)
¼ cabbage, 20p (Savoy Cabbage, 80p)
1 egg, 23p ( free range medium eggs, £1.40 for 6)
Tbsp flour, 2p (65p/1.5kg)
Tbsp lard, 4p (49p/250g)
Vegetable stock cube, 1p (10p for 10)

How To:
1. Bring the vegetable stock to the boil in a medium sized saucepan.
2. Dice the potatoes and carrots (I don’t peel mine, but this is optional) and add to the stock. Simmer for 20 minutes or until they are soft. I find prodding a knife into the saucepan is a good indicator; if it slides through a chunk of potato smoothly, you’re good to go.
3. While the root veg is boiling, take a separate saucepan and add a little lard or oil to it. Some of you may balk at the thought of using lard – I was brought up cooking eggs and bread at my grandfathers guest houses along the seafront, and we used the stuff all the time. Feel free to use some sort of oil if you’d rather, but I find slicing off a chunk of lard is a much better indicator of fat content than a nice slosh of oil. To be blunt – I use less lard than oil simply because of how it looks! Anyway… Finely slice the onion and cabbage and add to the saucepan, and fry gently until the onion is soft, stirring occasionally to allow it all to cook.
4. When the root veg is cooked, drain it and tip back into the saucepan. Add the onions and cabbage and mash together thoroughly with a masher.
5. Add the egg and flour and stir.
6. This is an optional stage but keeps it together more successfully, however if you’re in a rush and willing to keep an eye on it, it’s not essential. I scoop the mash into a bowl and refrigerate it for an hour or two to allow it to set a little. As I said, optional, but I use this setting time to wash up the pans!
7. Heat some oil/lard/fat in a frying pan, and dollop a spoon of mashed veg mixture into it. Flatten slightly with the back of a fork or spatula, and cook on a medium heat until golden and crisp on one side (depends on your hob, but mine takes about 7 minutes). Turn over and cook the other side. You may need to do these in batches, but cook until all the mixture is used up.
Variations:
You might like to add cheese to the mix, if you like that sort of thing.
Also, you can use pretty much any vegetables you like in bubble and squeak. I likt to make a posh version with parsnip and red onion, when I have them both lying about. Sweet potato is also a good base, extra carrot will make it sweeter and peas will sneak extra veg into your kids. Play with it and see what you come up with.
Oh, and I had mine with a fried egg and some ketchup, but depending on your budget and preferences, you can have bubble and squeak with sausages, or roast chicken and veg, or on its own as a lunch or snack… Do what you like.

They keep cold for a few days to have with bacon and an egg as brunch, too. Or you could be a heathen, like me, and snack on them from the fridge.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

*(Prices calculated at Sainsburys, using the Basics range where available. Costs checked on date of publication against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials. Some variation between major supermarkets but most items widely available at similar price.)

Photography by Susan Bell.

Chickpea, Carrot & Coriander Falafels

This recipe uses tinned chickpeas, but can also use dried chickpeas if you have them available. Dried chickpeas work out cheaper but will need to be soaked in cold water for at least 8 hours before starting the recipe, and then need to be cooked (put in a pan, cover with water and boil vigorously for at least 10 minutes before draining and using). If you have dried chickpeas, use half the quantity of tinned, i.e. 200g. I like to serve the falafels accompanied by couscous made up with vegetable or chicken stock, lemon juice and coriander, and with green beans or another green vegetable.

Makes 12ish falafels (4–6 per person)

1 onion
1 carrot
a generous shake of ground cumin
1 tablespoon oil, plus 2 tablespoons to fry the falafel
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly
a handful of chopped parsley
a handful of chopped coriander
1 tablespoon flour, plus extra to shape the falafel

Peel and finely chop the onion and wash and grate the carrot.

Put in a frying pan, add the cumin and fry together in the 1 tablespoon of oil over a low heat for a few minutes until softened.

Tip the cooked onion and carrot into a large mixing bowl along with the chickpeas, add the chopped parsley and coriander and stir in the flour. Mash it all together with a potato masher or fork until the chickpeas have broken down into a mush. The oil from the carrots and onion will help combine the chickpeas together, but you may need to add up to 2 tablespoons of water so the mixture can be shaped.

Flour your hands and mould the mixture into about 12 golf ball shapes. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the sauté pan and fry the balls until golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside – this will take about 10 minutes.

Tip: Instead of making falafels, shape the mixture into 4 burger patties and fry on each side. These are delicious with mango chutney or ketchup.

Photography by Susan Bell.

Photography by Susan Bell.

‘Chickpea, Carrot And Coriander Falafels’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Vegetable Masala Curry, 30p.

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Proper Vegetable Masala Curry, 89p, serves 3-4 at less than 30p each.

This isn’t vegan. I tried but my pre-first-work-pay-packet budget just couldn’t stretch to £1.99 coconut milk versus 32p of natural yoghurt. I’ve failed my Lent experiment but I’m happy to hold my hands up and say ‘have a fabulous curry recipe’ while I feel a bit guilty about succumbing to yogurt. It was that or miss a couple of meals, and I’m sure nobody will hold it against me. Much.

Ingredients:*

1 onion, 5p (part of a 20pc veg pack, £1)
1 carrot, 5p (part of a 20pc veg pack, £1)
1 potato, 5p (part of a 20pc veg pack, £1)
1 garlic clove, 3p (46p for 2 bulbs, avg 8 cloves per bulb)
1 carton chopped tomatoes, 35p
1/2 pot natural yoghurt, 32p (65p/500g)
1 vegetable stock cube, 1p (10p for 10)
Fistful of parsley and coriander, free
Shake of garam masala, 3p approx (£1.19/42g)

How To:

1. Peel and chop the onion, and peel and finely slice the garlic, and place in a large sauté pan on a low heat with a splash of oil.

2. Chop the potato, carrot and onion (I dice mine into half inch cubes) and add to the pot, stirring. Halve the chilli and rinse the seeds out (quicker than faffing about with a knife) and add in, so it can be lifted out whole at the end to prevent little mouths getting a hot surprise. You can slice it extremely finely if you want, but life’s too short.

3. Chop the herbs and throw in, with a liberal sprinkle of garam masala.

4. Add 200ml vegetable stock, the carton of chopped tomatoes and 250g of natural yoghurt, stir through, and leave to simmer on a low heat.

5. The trick with curry – good curry – is to allow it to cook slowly and gently in order that the flavours infuse and meld together in an amalgamation of spicy goodness. I let mine simmer gently for about forty minutes, checking and adding stock or water if it starts to dry out.

Serve with plain boiled rice at around 3p per person for 75g Sainsburys Basics.

Make it posh and variations:

1. You can substitute the yoghurt for coconut milk if your budget allows for it, for a sweeter, creamier taste, or if you’re a vegan.

2. Add fennel seeds and crushed cardamom pods for sweetness – I normally would but I don’t have any to hand and this weeks budget wouldn’t allow for an extra ‘spice’ in the spice rack. I try to buy one a week to build the collection up.

3. When cooking the boiled rice, add a shake of turmeric, half a vegetable stock cube, a star anise, some scraped-out cardamom pods and a handful of sultanas for a seriously special accompaniment. Again, I’m surveying my spice rack sadly, and might put one of them on next weeks shopping list!

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

*(Prices calculated at Sainsburys, using the Basics range where available. Costs checked on date of publication against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials. Some variation between major supermarkets but most items widely available at similar price.)

Posh Mushroom, Spinach & Walnut Pasta, 34p

Mushroom, Spinach & Walnut Pasta, 67p for 2 at 34p each.

This came about as most of my recipes do, by a head in the fridge and a ‘hmm, what am I going to do with that?’ I’d bought the spinach in a fit of expense, as I start my new job and will be up earlier and to bed later, I wanted something to snack on straight from the fridge when I get home, and I can eat spinach by the handful. Some of it ended up in here, and as they say the rest is history. This doesn’t sound fancy, but it’s one of my favourites so far…

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Ingredients:*

80g Spaghetti, 6p (39p/500g)
100g mushrooms, 24p (97p/400g)
1 onion, 5p (part of a 20pc vegetable pack, £1)
Garlic clove, 3p (46p for 2 bulbs avg 8 cloves each)
Splash of lemon juice, 2p (60p/250ml)
Handful spinach, 10p (£1.50/200g)
Splash of oil, 2p (£4.50/3l)
2 walnut halves, 15p (£2.84/100g – which in my packet was 36 halves)
Fresh thyme and parsley, free (window ledge)

How To:

1. Break the pasta in half and put into a saucepan of water. Bring to the boil.

2. Finely peel and chop the onion and garlic. Add to a separate saucepan or small sauté pan with the oil and lemon juice, and cook gently over a low heat until translucent. Break the mushrooms by hand and add to the pan with the chopped parsley and thyme.

3. Check the spaghetti – if it comes to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer.

4. Finely chop the herbs and spinach together – I put mine in a bowl and go at it all with scissors to save my poor worktop and also because it’s therapeutic at the end of a working day. I like my cooking physical and de-stressing, as well as cheap and simple and nutritious.

5. Drain the pasta and toss through the spinach, herbs, mushrooms, onion and garlic with any juices from the mushroom pan. Serve in two bowls and scatter the walnuts on top, and enjoy.

Variations:

My non vegan friends would love this with either shavings of Parmesan on top, or crumbled goats cheese, or chunks of Brie, and on all three counts I would be highly jealous of my non vegan friends!

For the carnivores among you, add bacon for a seriously sensational dinner – can you tell I’m missing my meat a bit on this vegan-for-Lent stretch?

You can also experiment with different mushrooms, add a splash of white wine to the onions and garlic as they cook if you have any lying about, and serve this with chunks of home made garlic bread.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

*(Prices calculated at Sainsburys, using the Basics range where available. Costs checked on date of publication against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials. Some variation between major supermarkets but most items widely available at similar price.)

Carrot And Coriander Soup

Carrot and coriander soup is a classic fresh soup that crops up everywhere – from inside cardboard cartons in the supermarket to on smart restaurant menus. here’s my simple recipe for making your own. I often substitute the fresh potato and carrot for their tinned sisters, for an even easier version.

Serves 2

1 onion
4 carrots
1 potato
1 vegetable stock cube
a fistful of fresh coriander, chopped
a fistful of fresh parsley, chopped

Peel and chop the onion and place into a medium-sized sauce- pan. Wash and chop the carrot and potato (without peeling), and add to the pan. Pour in cold water to cover (approximately 500ml), crumble in the stock cube and bring to the boil.

Add the parsley and coriander. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are tender and yield easily when prodded with a fork.

Remove from the heat and blend in a food processor until smooth. Serve hot.

Tips: Add a scant 1⁄2 a teaspoon of ground cumin or turmeric for a spicy soup. use less water (only 300ml) to make a lovely carroty pasta sauce instead of a soup.

‘Carrot & Coriander Soup’ from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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