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/

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.

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

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Oh My God Dinner, 28p

Oh My God Dinner (or, ‘I Was Going To Make Pasta Alla Genovese And Then I Remembered That Sodding Courgette Rolling Around In My Fridge…’) 55p for 2 portions, or just under 28p each.

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Ingredients:*

70g bacon, 11p (£1.09/670g)
1 chilli (free, grows on my window ledge)
80g spaghetti, 6p (39p/500g)
Fistful each parsley, mint, basil (free, grows on my window ledge)
10ml lemon juice, 2p (60p/250ml)
50g green beans, 7p (£1.40/kg, frozen)
20g Brie, 11p (£1.09/200g)
1 garlic clove, 3p (46p for 2 bulbs with average 8 cloves each)
1/2 courgette, 15p (£1.80/kg, 6 in my bag)

How To:

1. Chop the bacon into small pieces and add to the sauté pan with the lemon juice (10ml is 2 teaspoons), diced courgette and chopped chilli. Cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally to turn.

2. In the meantime, break the spaghetti in half and add to a pan of boiling water with the green beans. Leave to boil according to packet instructions, usually 7-10 minutes.

3. Add the herbs to a teacup, bowl or other small receptacle and chop finely with kitchen scissors. Crush the garlic in and stir.

4. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and tip into the sauté pan with the bacon and courgettes in. Stir the herbs and garlic through, and add chunks of diced Brie. Remove from heat and toss together, the Brie will melt slightly to form an almost-sauce.

Makes enough for two but, er, I ate this all myself….

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.)

COURGETTE & MINT FRITTERS

Photography by Susan Bell: www.susanbellphotography.com

Photography by Susan Bell: http://www.susanbellphotography.com

The humble courgette – you either love it or you hate it! However, courgettes are cheap and abundant in the summer months, and extremely versatile. These fritters are great as a standalone snack with a home made raita dip, or served with sausages and ketchup.

Makes 4 chunky or 6 thin fritters:

1 large courgette
a fistful of fresh mint
a fistful of fresh coriander
a fistful of fresh parsley
1 egg, beaten
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons oil
50g natural yoghurt

Finely grate the courgette into a large mixing bowl. Chop the herbs and add around three-quarters to the courgette in the bowl, and set the rest aside for the yoghurt dip.

Mix the beaten egg into the courgette and the herbs with a fork. Add a tablespoon of flour and mix until it has formed a batter. You may need to add a little more flour to make the batter thicker than a pancake batter. Ideally it will stick to the prongs of your fork but come loose with a shake.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and dollop a level tablespoon of the batter in. Flatten with the back of a spoon and shape the edges quickly to form a rough circle. Repeat until you run out of space in the pan, with a small gap around each for ease of turning. You may have to cook them in batches! Fry on a low heat for a few minutes, until golden and crispy on the underside. Turn over with a spatula or fork and cook on the other side. Repeat until all the batter is used up.

Stir the remaining herbs into the natural yoghurt and serve with the fritters as a dip.

Tip: Add cheese to make these extra special – for the recipe above, 50g of cheddar or a Greek cheese would complement the flavours perfectly.

Courgette and mint fritters recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe. Available to order from The Hive to support your local independent book shops. Also available from major retailers and supermarkets.

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