Sort-of-Paella, from A Girl Called Jack, photographed by Susan Bell.

Sort-of paella, 67p

Sort-of-Paella, from A Girl Called Jack, photographed by Susan Bell.

Sort-of-Paella, from A Girl Called Jack, photographed by Susan Bell.

The star of the show in this paella is the simple coloured rice, cooked al dente, accentuated with bright red tomatoes and little green peas. This recipe is delicious on its own, or can be used as a base. Feel free to add chopped peppers, seasonal vegetables, any meat or fish of your choice, a glass of white wine, a splash of sherry – whatever your budget or your cupboard will allow. But for me, nothing beats a fistful of tiny little prawns, half a cup of peas and a spoon to eat it with.

Traditional paella uses saffron strands to colour the rice, but I use bright yellow turmeric powder instead. This is a fraction of the cost and much more versatile, as it can be used in Saag Aloo, Spiced Potato Soup and many, many curry recipes besides. Traditional paella also uses a fat short-grain rice, but I use the ordinary long-grain store cupboard stuff because it’s what I have to hand. And a rice is a rice is a rice, as far as I’m concerned.

Serves 2 at 67p each*

2 tablespoons oil, 4p
1 onion (around 180g), 10p
2 cloves of garlic, 4p
500ml chicken or vegetable stock, 3p
a scant 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 3p
200g tinned chopped tomatoes, 18p
150g rice, 7p
1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs, 1p
70g fresh or frozen peas or green beans, cut into lengths, 8pea (couldn’t resist!)
100g fresh or frozen cooked prawns, 77p

Heat the oil in a medium frying pan or sauté pan. Peel and finely slice the onion, peel and finely chop or crush the garlic, and put both into the pan to soften for a few minutes on a medium heat. Take care not to brown them, as the slightly burnt taste will permeate through the whole dish.
Meanwhile bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a separate small saucepan and shake in the turmeric.
Add the chopped tomatoes and the rice to the frying pan with the onion and garlic and stir.
Chop the thyme, add to the pan and stir again briefly to combine. Pour a cup of the hot stock into the pan, then stir well to stop the rice from sticking.
When the stock has been absorbed by the rice, add another cup. Repeat until all the stock is used up, or the rice is soft. unlike risotto, you do not need to stir paella constantly, but a little stir every now and again is helpful to stop the rice from sticking to the pan.
When the rice is almost cooked, add the frozen peas or beans and the cooked prawns, stir and cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the prawns are warmed through.

Remove from the heat and leave to stand for a few minutes before serving, to allow the flavours to settle. Traditionally you’d drizzle a little extra oil over the top, to serve. And maybe a pinch of salt.

‘Sort-Of Paella’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe, available to buy from lots of lovely places but my fave is Hive, supporting local independent bookshops. The lovely photo is by Susan Bell.

I calculated the costs based on my most recent Sainsburys shop, but most other supermarkets and local shops sell rice and onions and stuff like that, at similar prices. If you find anything at a Super Bargainous Price, comment below and let us all know!

Sunflower oil £4/3l. Basics onions 80p/1.5kg. Basics garlic 35p/2 bulbs. Basics chicken stock cubes 25p/10. Turmeric £1/42g. Basics chopped tomatoes 35p/400g. Basics rice 45p/1kg. Basics mixed dried herbs, 40p/14g. Basics frozen peas £1.40/1.2kg. Basics frozen prawns, £2.30/300g.

On Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe

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/

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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Pumpkin, lentil and spinach daal

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Serves around 4, depending on appetite.

150g dried red lentils
4 fat cloves of garlic
1 large white or red onion
1 tsp cumin (seeds or ground)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 red chilli (the general rule is the smaller they are, the hotter they are) or pinch of the dried stuff
A grating of fresh ginger or pinch of dried
1 tbsp oil
100g pumpkin purée
100ml coconut milk or natural yoghurt
100g spinach (fresh or frozen)
Zest and juice of a lemon

First rinse your red lentils thoroughly under cold running water, and set to one side.

Peel and finely chop your garlic, and peel and finely slice the onion, and toss them into a saucepan or frying pan – ideally with a non stick bottom, but if you don’t have one don’t worry, just use a little extra oil and be very vigilant about stirring it so it doesn’t all stick! Add the cumin, turmeric, finely chopped chilli and grated ginger, then stir in the oil and turn on the heat, low and slow to soften the garlic and onions and so as not to burn the spices.

When the onions have softened (and turned a brilliant yellow colour from the turmeric), add the rinsed red lentils, water, pumpkin purée and the lemon juice, and bring the heat up to medium for 8-10 minutes to soften the lentils. You may need to add more water, depending on how ‘wet’ your purée is.

When the lentils are soft and swollen, add your coconut milk or yoghurt to sweeten and add a soft creamy texture. If you’re using coconut milk, you can add it while the daal is still on the heat. If you’ve opted for yoghurt, remove the daal from the heat and add it slowly, a tablespoon at a time, stirring to stop it from splitting.

Tear up the spinach and stir through to wilt before serving, and garnish with the lemon zest.

And enjoy! I like mine with fluffy rice on the side, and leftovers in a sandwich or pitta bread the next day…

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

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Lots and lots of mini onion bhajis! (RECIPE)

Today, the children’s school were having a party in their classroom to celebrate Eid – and somewhere last week in a fit of madness, I’d enthusiastically offered to make something savoury for them to take in to share with their class, like samosas or something. That enthusiasm had wilted by half past seven this morning, as I realised I hadn’t done it, and there was no space in the morning uniform-teeth-breakfast flail to start mucking about stuffing tiny little triangles of filo pastry with whatever bits of veg were in the fridge. So. A quick root around in the bottom drawer yielded a world of onions, and a batch of little onion bhajis. These have no chilli in, as I was making them for a class of 4 and 5 year olds, but feel free to add one or two finely chopped red chillies for a bit of spice. I also used a mix of red and white onions, for extra sweetness. And Allegra tossed some cinnamon in at the eleventh hour, for even more sweetness. Most cooking exploits are a joint effort these days! Makes 30 mini bhajis:

100g gram flour
50g plain flour
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
A pinch of cinnamon
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter, melted
Juice of a lemon (or 3 tbsp bottled lemon juice)
2 tbsp mango chutney
3 large onions
Oil, for deep frying.

First weigh out your flour and tip into a large mixing bowl. (If you’re in a rush or don’t have scales, 1 rounded tbsp of flour is equal to around 15g, so you want about 7 rounded tbsp of gram flour and 4 rounded tbsp of plain.) Add the fennel, turmeric, cinnamon and cumin, grate in the ginger, and finely chop the garlic and add to the mix. Give it all a good stir to evenly distribute the spices so you don’t end up with one seriously interesting bhaji and 29 slightly boring ones…

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Melt the butter and pour into the middle, and squeeze in the lemon juice. Mix well, and add a splash of cold water to loosen the mixture until it resembles a thick batter – it should stick to your spoon but be loose enough to stir.

Peel and halve the onions, and slice very finely. Add them to the bowl with a couple of tablespoons of mango chutney and give it all a good stir, until the onions are coated in your spicy yellow batter. Take a teaspoon of it and dollop it into your palm – if you can form a loose ball with it, it’s good to go. If it’s too sloppy, add a tablespoon or two of flour, and if it’s too tight, add a small splash of water.

Fill a saucepan a third full with oil for frying, and place on a medium-high heat. When it starts to gently bubble (that’s little tiny bubbles sizzling to the surface, not great big rolling scary oil bubbles), drop a blob of batter in. If it sizzles and floats, turn the heat down a little so it doesn’t get carried a away, and you’re good to go. Dollop a teaspoon at a time into the oil, shaping with your hands if you want neat little rounds ones. Each mini bhaji takes around 4 minutes to cook, so keep an eye on them – when they’re golden brown and floating, lift them out with a slotted spoon and drain them on some kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. Repeat until all the batter is used up.

I let the oil cool on the back of the hob, then strained it through a mesh sieve, poured it into a bottle, and labelled it ‘Frying – Spicy!’ – I figured I could get another turn out of it. When I was writing my first cookbook I included this as a tip in one of my recipes, and was told by my publishers that for health and safety reasons they had to take it out. Obviously I’m not making any recommendations here about cooling and reusing oil, I’m just telling you what I did, wink wink. (And what most restaurants, fast food joints, and fish and chip shops that I’ve had the pleasure of working in do too. Honestly, the world has gone health and safety mad.)

Anyway. BHAJIS! Allow them to cool, then nosh on. Or send them into your children’s class in a Tupperware and wave them sadly goodbye…

Jack Monroe (with a starring role from Allegra McEvedy!)

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

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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

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SUMMER BROAD BEAN SALAD

 

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Broad beans can be bought frozen for around £1.50 for a 750g bag – much cheaper than their fresh counterparts, and no prising them from fiddly little pods either – although I do love thumbing the velvety lining of fresh pods to pop them out… Whether you choose fresh or frozen beans, this salad uses a lot of storecupboard basic ingredients, like lemon, garlic, herbs and cheese. It takes just minutes to knock together, and I think it tastes like summer’s coming…

140g broad beans
40g hard strong cheese
50g leaves – I used rocket on special offer, but try spinach, watercress, pea shoots, lambs lettuce, anything fresh and crunchy will do
a fat clove of garlic
1 tbsp oil
Juice of half a lemon
A fistful of mint
Salt and pepper

First bring a pan of water to the boil. Drop in the frozen broad beans for two to three minutes to defrost and slightly soften. Drain them and tip into a bowl, and grate the lemon zest over the top.

Roughly chop and crush the garlic clove, using the flat blade of a chunky sharp knife if you have one, or the back of a spoon and some elbow grease if you haven’t. Scoop the smashed up garlic into a jar, squeeze out the lemon juice, add the oil, screw the lid on, and shake well to make the dressing.

Toss the beans with the salad and whole mint leaves, dress, season with salt and pepper, and top with hard strong cheese to serve.

Tip: For a more substantial salad, and for you omnivores out there, top with crispy bacon to serve.

First published in The Guardian, May 2014. Photograph by Graeme Robertson for The Guardian.

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

Photography by Susan Bell: www.susanbellphotography.co.uk

MIXED BEAN GOULASH

 

Photography by Susan Bell: www.susanbellphotography.co.uk

Photography by Susan Bell: http://www.susanbellphotography.co.uk

I never tire of this quick, simple meal. Originally adapted from a beef goulash recipe, but tweaked and tampered with in the way that all recipes are, it has become a sweet and spicy staple in my household and doesn’t disappoint. I use cheap baked beans in place of haricot beans, as they are simply haricot or borlotti beans slathered in sauce – but usually for a third of the price of a tin of plain haricot or borlotti beans. Eat warm on toast, with rice, or stuffed in a pitta bread with lashings of cheese for lunch. Eat from the bowl, water it down and eat it as a soup, or eat it straight from the pan in the name of ‘testing’. Or, for a slightly Mexican twist, have it with tortillas, some grated cheese, sliced red onion and lettuce, with some lime or lemon to squeeze over.

Serves 4-6:

1 x 400g tin of red kidney beans
1 x 400g tin of baked beans (or borlotti, canneloni, etc)
1 onion
1 fat clove of garlicf garlic
4 tablespoons of oil
3 teaspoons paprika
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon marmite or similar
1 vegetable or chicken stock cube
1 teaspoon sugar

First, drain and rinse the beans. Empty the kidney beans and baked beans into a colander, and blast under cold water to get rid of the tinned taste and the sauce from the baked beans. When well rinsed, set to one side.

Peel and chop the onion and peel and finely slice the garlic. Place in a frying pan with the oil anf paprika, and cook on a low heat until the onion is softened. Add the chopped tomatoes, marmite, crumbled stock cube, sugar and half a tin of water (using one of the bean tins as a guide), and stir well. Simmer gently for 15 minutes until the sauce is thick and glossy.

Tip in the colander of rinsed beans, stir to mix well and heat through for 10 minutes. Serve, devour, have seconds, and enjpy!

Mixed bean goulash recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe. Available to order at The Hive, supporting your local independent book shops. Also available to buy from major retailers and supermarkets.

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

 

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BOLOGNON

Faced with a leftover hunk of beef last night to stretch between two grown women with fairly healthy appetites, I started making bolognese, changed my mind and wanted bourgignon, and changed it back again halfway through. This is my first dinner cooked for Someone Very Special (who doesn’t like white chocolate, so Headrush Spaghetti was out, and who cooked for me the evening before, hence the leftover beef!)
Cue one mild flap about what to do and subsequent messing about with it at every stage. The result, however, is a chunky, obscenely rich, heady, bloody delicious big butch dinner that I’ve christened Bolognon, in honour of its roots. And god, it’s good. And she thought so too…😉

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Ingredients (served two adults, with a big bowl of leftovers):

2 onions (told you, I’m stretching this one out)
2 fat cloves of garlic, or three or four inferior ones
1 carrot
2 tbsp oil or a knob of butter
250g beef
150g bacon – smoked and streaky is good!
100ml milk
400g chopped tomatoes
200ml red wine,
4 tbsp tomato purée dissolved in 400ml chicken, beef or vegetable stock
2 tsp chopped woody herbs – I used a mix of thyme and rosemary
Huge handful of chopped parsley
2 tbsp double cream (or 1 rounded tbsp natural yoghurt with 2 tsp sugar)

Finely slice the onions and chop the garlic, and grate the carrot, and toss into a large sauté pan or heavy bottomed casserole dish with the oil or butter. Sauté on a low heat for a few minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, finely slice the beef and chop the bacon, and add to the pan. Turn up the heat to seal the meat, stirring to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Pour in the milk and stir well – it will turn brown from the meat juices and softened onions – don’t panic! Pour over the tomatoes, purée, wine and stock, toss in the chopped herbs, and stir well. Crank the heat right up to bring to the boil.

Transfer either to a slow cooker on a low heat, a lidded casserole dish in the oven at 140C, or cover the sauté pan with foil/a plate/a lid on a very low heat. Cook for one hour for ‘soft enough’ beef – as I’m going all out to impress, I cooked mine for four, for meltingly soft beef and thick, rich sauce. (For a cheaper version, bring it to a furious boil, cover tightly, and remove from the heat. Leave to stand for an hour, bring to the boil again, and repeat. The covering will retain heat and continue to cook it, without needing a constant supply of gas or electricity.)

Stir through the cream or yoghurt-and-sugar before serving, and serve atop a heap of spaghetti for an attempt at an elegant dining experience, or with a chunky fat pasta to complement the big tender beef and thick, rich sauce…

Cheese optional. As we’re going for full on punchy knock-your-socks-off delicious here, I tossed chunks of it on by the handful, and a good grind of pepper to finish up.

Jack. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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CHOCOLATE, CHILLI & BLACK BEAN SOUP

It’s just a matter of days until my book launch on the 27th, so I’ve decided to blog one of my favourites from the book, featured in last weekend’s edition of the Observer Food Monthly magazine…

First up, Chocolate, Chilli And Black Bean Soup.

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Photography by Susan Bell.

I knocked up this soup last winter. It combines onions and garlic for detoxifying goodness with chillies to fire you up, tomatoes and carrots for essential vitamin C, beans for protein and chocolate because it’s a solution to almost everything.

(Serves 2)
100g dried black beans
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
small red chilli 1 or a pinch of chilli flakes
A shake of paprika
A generous shake of ground cumin
A splash of oil
1 carrot
30ml red wine
400g chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
dark chocolate (3 squares, approx 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 clingfilm. 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. Serve hot, garnished with a sprig of fresh parsley and a slice of red chilli in each bowl.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

A Girl Called Jack is available to order from The Hive, a website that finds your local independent book store. Also available on The Hive as an e-book!

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SPICED SPLIT PEA & YOGHURT SOUP

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This recipe came about after I bought a bag of yellow split peas on a whim to make a daal, and never quite got around to it. Fishing them out of the back of the storecupboard this week, I was determined to finally put them to use, so I asked my blog readers what they thought I should make out of them. Several people enthusiastically suggested soup – so with a little trial and error and a lot of surreptitious tasting along the way, here’s what I ended up with. Thick, creamy, comforting and delicious – I’ll never be at a loss what to do with a bag of split peas again.

INGREDIENTS (MAKES 4 PORTIONS)

100g dried yellow split peas

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 carrots

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp each cumin and turmeric, or 2 tsp garam masala

100g yoghurt

Handful of parsley or coriander

First, pop the dried yellow split peas into a bowl and cover with water. Cover with clingfilm or a plate, and leave to soak for at least eight hours, or overnight.

Then, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, and slice the carrots. Pop into a medium sized saucepan with the oil and spices, and saute on a medium heat for five minutes to soften.

Drain and thoroughly rinse the peas, and tip into the pan. Cover with water and stir well. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the peas and carrots are soft.

Pour the mixture into a blender, tip the yoghurt in, and pulse until almost smooth. I like to leave mine a bit rough and chunky for a great texture, but it’s up to you.

Serve hot, with bread to dunk in, and torn parsley or coriander to garnish.

**VEGANS** Replace the yoghurt with soy yoghurt, or almond or rice milk for a real treat.

**MAKE IT GO FURTHER** Freeze leftovers in small portions to use as a spicy, chunky pasta sauce, or the base for a curry for leftover chicken. Just defrost in a saute pan with a little water, stir in the chicken and any green veg you have to hand, and you have a pretty instant curry. It works just as well without the chicken, too. I’m thinking green beans, broccoli, peas – a colourful, healthy, sensationally quick dinner.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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CHICKEN LIVER & LENTIL BOLOGNESE

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Tonight’s dinner came courtesy of some chicken liver at the back of the freezer, and some veg left over from a photoshoot yesterday. Idly flicking through my cookbook collection to find a new chicken liver idea, I came across a bolognese in Save With Jamie. Mine’s not identical – I’ve left out the bacon and mushrooms and chicken stock for a start, and replaced the balsamic vinegar with white wine vinegar, and added frozen spinach for some greens and to lift the flavour… And far more tomatoes than his recipe, because I like a good tomatoey ragu sauce. The result? I ate a good portion of this from the pan, and proclaimed it the best bolognese I’d ever eaten. Between me and Jamie, this is a job jobbed. Cheers.

Chicken liver and lentil bolognese, serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 carrot
1 onion
2 fat cloves of garlic
1tbsp oil
200g chicken livers
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 red chilli
400g chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp vinegar – red wine or white wine
100g red lentils
100g frozen spinach
300g spaghetti

First slice the onion, carrot, chilli and garlic and add to a large sauté or frying pan with a tablespoon of oil, the vinegar, herbs and fennel. Rinse the livers and toss them in too. Fry everything together on a medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes until the veg starts to soften and the livers are sealed.

Carefully pop the veg and livers into a blender with the chopped tomatoes, and blend until fairly smooth.

Pour the contents of the blender back in the pan on a medium heat, and add 200ml water, and stir well.

Thoroughly rinse the lentils and add to the pan, add the spinach, and stir in. Add a further 200ml of water if the sauce starts to dry out. Stir occasionally to help the spinach defrost and wilt.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil and add the spaghetti to cook, simmering for around 8 minutes or according to the packet instructions.

It should all come together around the same time; the lentils should be soft and swollen, the spinach wilted throughout the sauce, and the pasta nice and soft but not bloated and claggy. Drain the pasta, toss the sauce through, and top with a generous handful of cheese to serve.

I served two portions of this, and froze four more – your portion sizes might vary but it is very rich and filling!

Enjoy!

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @msjackmonroe

READER RECIPES: TOM’S CORNED BEEF BOLOGNESE

I just received the following email and I haven’t managed to test this as I’m in Tanzania right now, but the combination of corned beef and red wine and tomatoes makes it a winner in my book! Thanks Tom!🙂

“Hi Jack

My wife is a big fan of yours and told me to drop you a line and see if you want to add this simple recipe to your site

Very simple

Corned beef
Onion
Tin of tomato
Pepper
Garlic granules
Splash of left over red wine or Worcester sauce if you have it
Spaghetti Pasta

Simple spaghetti bolognaise that costs little and tastes great!

Hope you like🙂
Tom”

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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FISH KORMA

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The first of my recipes from my charity curry night to make it onto the blog (it’s probably fair to say that it’s been a very busy week) – I half invented this, half recalled a vague korma recipe from the depths of my overcrowded brain, so it’s not really traditional, but I like to surprise myself. And surprised I most certainly was, this was the undisputed hit of the evening!

Ingredients, serves 4-6:

2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 small red chilli, or pinch of dried chilli
1 tbsp oil
2tsp cumin
2tsp turmeric
200g creamed coconut
1 mug of water
100g sultanas
420g white fish fillets
500ml low fat natural yoghurt
Handful of coriander

Peel and finely slice the garlic, and chop the onions. Add to a large saucepan or sauté pan with the oil, finely chopped chilli, cumin and turmeric. Sweat on a very low heat for 10 minutes until the onions are softened.

Add the block of creamed coconut , sultanas and a mug of water, and turn the heat up. Melt the coconut into the pan, stirring to dissolve it and absorb the spices. Add an extra half a mug of water if you feel it needs it – your mugs and my mugs might be different sizes!

Finally when the coconut is melted, add the fish and cook through for five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir the yoghurt through to serve to prevent it from splitting. Garnish with coriander to serve.

Tip: adjust the spices according to taste. I like this mild, sweet and creamy, but it could take an extra teaspoon of cumin and another chilli for a kick.

Pad it out of make it cheaper by adding diced new potatoes and/or a couple of handfuls of frozen green beans.

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

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CHICKPEA & CHORIZO BURGERS

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

Ingredients (makes 4 generous burgers):

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

To serve:
1 pitta bread and handful of spinach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banana, chickpea and tea curry (trust me on this one, it’s amazing.)

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This is my take on a banana curry I had in the Isle of Wight after the literary festival. It’s not a traditional Kashmir curry, as I used what I had in the cupboard, but it is utterly delicious. The tea is the twist, but trust me, it works, lending a slightly smoky, sweet flavour. I love tea, I must use it in more recipes…

(I’ll cost this up tomorrow – I’m knackered!)

Ingredients (serves 4, if served with rice):

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 red or green chilli, finely chopped, or generous pinch of dried
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
400g canned chickpeas
200g canned mandarins (peaches or apricots would work too)
300ml strong tea
2 bananas
200ml natural yoghurt
Handful of coriander, or mint, or parsley, chopped

First, add the onion, chilli and garlic to a sauté pan or frying pan. Drizzle the oil over, add the cinnamon and cumin, and sauté gently on a medium heat to soften the onions for 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the kettle and brew the cuppa! (And make one for yourself while you’re there!)

When the onions are softened, drain and thoroughly rinse the chickpeas, and tip into the pan. Slice the bananas and add to the pan. Pour the mandarins over, add the tea (without the teabag) and most of the herbs, and turn the heat up high. Boil vigorously for a few minutes, then reduce to a medium simmer. Simmer for around 20 minutes, until the chickpeas have slightly thickened the sauce. ***To save energy, you can turn the heat off completely here, cover the dish with foil or a lid, and leave it to cool. The retained heat will continue to cook it gently, amalgamating the flavours beautifully.***

Stir the natural yoghurt through before serving, and top with the remaining herbs.

I had mine with rice and a basic pitta bread, with extra natural yoghurt on top.

And I loved the dimension the tea gave this so much, I’m going to try it in other curries in place of the stock. At 27p for 80 Teabags, versus 20p for 10 stock cubes, it’s a saving!

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

Roasted beetroot, red wine and Brie risotto,

As featured on Great British Chefs: Jack Monroe’s budget friendly Beetroot, Brie and Red Wine Risotto.

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In some supermarkets, ready cooked and prepared beetroot is cheaper than buying it in bunches, not to mention quicker to cook! I’ve used the pre-packed variety in my recipe, but feel free to use fresh beetroot if you prefer, but it will need at least an extra 10 minutes in the oven. This recipe uses some of my staple ingredients that I always have to hand: chicken stock, garlic, and long grain rice – yes, long grain rice in risotto. It’s how my mother makes it!

Ingredients (serves four):

2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp oil
300g rice
500ml chicken stock
250g beetroot
3 tbsp red wine
2 tsp mixed herbs
50g Brie

First, preheat your oven to 200C, and pop the kettle on to boil.

Next, prepare the beetroot. If you are using fresh beetroot, peel it, rinse it, and dice into 1cm chunks. If you are using pre-packed cooked beetroot, simply rinse it and dice it. Place it in a roasting dish, toss in 1tbsp oil and the mixed herbs, and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges start to slightly char.

While the beetroot is roasting, prepare the risotto. Finely chop the garlic, and add to a large frying or sauté pan with the other tablespoon of oil. Sauté on a very low heat, until the garlic starts to soften.

Tip in the rice and stir to lightly coat in oil. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the ends of the rice are translucent. Add the wine and stir well.

While the wine is absorbing, make up the stock. Crumble the stock cube into 500ml of boiling water, and stir well to dissolve. Add a generous splash of stock to the pan, and stir well to disturb the rice and prevent it from sticking. When the stock is absorbed, add another splash. Continue until there is around a quarter of the stock left.

Remove the beetroot from the oven and mash well with a fork or masher. Tip the mashed beetroot and any oil, juices and herbs from the pan into the risotto and stir well.

Continue to add the stock until the rice is al dente and the risotto is slightly soupy. Crumble the Brie on top and fold in before serving to melt slightly.

Serve with green salad as a light lunch, or crusty bread and green vegetables for a hearty warming dinner.

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

Ingredient costs: all Sainsburys, correct at date of publication. 2 cloves of garlic, 5p (50p/2 bulbs, avg 10 cloves each). 2 tbsp oil, 5p (£4.50/3l). 300g rice, 12p (40p/1kg). 1 chicken stock cube, 2p (20p/10). 250g cooked beetroot, 80p (80p/250g). 2 tsp mixed Italian herbs, 6p (30p/42g). 45ml red wine, 21p (£3.50/75cl). 50g French mild Brie, 27p (£1.09/200g). Total: £1.58/4 servings.

Ultimate Feisty Soup

Based on my original Feisty Soup recipe, I’ve made myself a batch of this this afternoon to try to combat a very heavy cold. It normally works very well; the chilli blasts the sinuses, the lemon and ginger eases that accompanying stomach ache, the onion and garlic are packed with antioxidants and the carrots and tomatoes deliver a hefty dose of vitamin C… I’d rather have this than Lemsip any day.

Ingredients (Makes 4-6 portions)

1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger or 1cm fresh
1 tbsp lemon juice
200g sliced carrots
800g chopped tomatoes with juice
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
Pinch of dried chilli or 1 fresh chilli

Peel and chop the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger and add to a large saucepan with the lemon juice. Cook together on a low heat, stirring frequently to disturb and stop them from sticking.

When the onion has started to soften, add the tomatoes and drained carrots, and pour the stock over the top. Simmer for 10 minutes to combine the flavours and heat through.

Remove from heat, and blend using a hand blender or jug blender.

Serve hot!

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

Readers Recipe: Valentina’s polenta with spinach, soft cheese and tomatoes.

I woke up to find this recipe in my email inbox this morning, from Valentina, a reader in Uruguay. It looked so delicious that I couldn’t resist sharing it. I would make this with a Greek cheese (S*insburys do a Basics Greek style cheese that is a close match to feta, which would work well).

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This is my own creation, which is cheap and nutritious, and delicious too. I’m sending a photo. It’s basically polenta, raw spinach, soft cheese, tomato and garlic sauce, oil and black pepper on the top.

The secret is to make a soft polenta, and when it’s almost ready, you add fresh and raw spinach leaves that you have just washed. Yes, totally raw. You just need to have them previously cut in smaller pieces (with your own hands, not with a knife), and you add them to the polenta. I use a lot, so it has a lot of spinach and is more nutritous. Then, you just mix it all and the leaves get soft immediately. And it´s ready!

Now, make sure to have some soft cheese in cubes that you put at the bottom of your plate, and then just serve the polenta with the spinach covering them. After that, you need a bit of oil on the top of all, and a tomato sauce made just with garlic, salt a bit of sugar, and orégano. Not with onions! Just garlic. And I love to add some black pepper on top of it, that you can grind at the end. And you can also add some grated cheese on top, if you want. A stronger, more salty cheese. That’s optional.

Valentina, Uruguay,

Got a favourite recipe that you want to share? Email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk to see it featured here!

Jack Monroe. Follow me on Twitter @MsJackMonroe. Find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

A Girl Called Jack is available to order at Waterstones: https://m.waterstones.com/BookDetails.aspx?bookId=10013935 or on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Girl-Called-Jack-Monroe/dp/0718178947

Easy peasy garlic bread.

I’m so addicted to airy fairy easy peasy soda bread, I thought I would see how it translates into a quick and easy garlic bread to accompany the mountain of pasta-and-tomatoes I eat….. I’m pleased to say it works beautifully, with a quick spread of butter. Wrap well after cooling though, as it will stale quickly – but if it does, never fear, I’ll put a recipe up for that!

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Ingredients, Serves 4

200g self raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200ml semi skimmed milk
Juice of half a lemon
2 garlic cloves
Handful of parsley

Method:

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon, or 2 teaspoons bottled lemon juice, into the milk. Crush or finely chop the garlic and add to the milk and lemon. Stand to one side to allow it to sour for approximately five minutes.

Meanwhile, weigh the flour and add the bicarbonate of soda, chop the parsley and toss in, 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 – but it *should* be more like a thick batter than a dough. This is normal!

The trick to amazingly light soda bread is not to fiddle with it too much.

Pour 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. Find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

A Girl Called Jack is available to order at Waterstones: https://m.waterstones.com/BookDetails.aspx?bookId=10013935 or on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Girl-Called-Jack-Monroe/dp/0718178947

Spiced chicken and mandarin tagine, 68p.

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This spiced chicken and mandarin tagine will serve us for two nights in a row – the chicken legs were a rare treat in this week’s shopping but I’ll get two nights dinner from them, plus a stock base for a soup or risotto on Wednesday. I still rifled through the bottom shelf to find the cheapest pack, and thought I had it at £1.92, but then found one for £1.88 instead! (I’ll do something with the half a can of mandarins tomorrow too…)

Ingredients (Serves four):

4 chicken legs, £1.88 (Sainsburys Basics)
1 large onion, 11p (loose, Sainsburys)
2 fat cloves of garlic, 5p (£1.90/10 bulbs avg 8 cloves each, Sainsburys)
400g chopped tomatoes, 35p (Happy Shopper)
1/2 can broken mandarin segments, 12p (23p/312g, Sainsburys Basics)
15ml white wine vinegar, 3p (£1.15/500ml, Sainsburys)
15ml lemon juice, 4p (60p/250ml, Sainsburys)
1 vegetable or chicken stock cube, 2p (20p for 10, Sainsburys Basics)
1 tsp cumin, 5p approx (£1/jar, Sainsburys)
1 tsp turmeric, 5p approx (£1/jar, Sainburys)
1 tsp paprika, 5p approx (£1/jar, Sainsburys)
1 small red chilli – herb garden
Handful of fresh parsley – herb garden
Handful of fresh mint – herb garden

First, place the chicken legs skin side down in a large non stick pan (I used my ‘everything’ sauté pan that I’ve had for an age and literally do most of my dinners in…)

Bring the pan to a very gentle heat to seep some of the fat from the chicken, or add a splash of oil to speed things up.

Brown the chicken on both sides on a medium heat.

Peel and slice the onion and garlic, and finely slice the chilli, and toss into the pan with a teaspoon each of paprika, turmeric and cumin. Crumble in the stock cube.

Add the wet ingredients: chopped tomatoes, mandarins and juice, the white wine vinegar and lemon juice, and stir well to combine.

Throw in the herbs, and bring the pan to the boil, then reduce to a medium simmer for around 20 minutes to cook the chicken through. Top up with half a cup of water if it starts to dry out.

Meanwhile, boil some plain rice to accompany.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and serve with the rice.

To make it much cheaper, replace the chicken with chick peas and start from the ‘onion and garlic’ stage…

Jack Monroe. Follow me on Twitter @MsJackMonroe. Find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

A Girl Called Jack is available to order here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Girl-Called-Jack-Monroe/dp/0718178947

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

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

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.)

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.

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.)