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/

20140530-145934.jpg

KERALAN AUBERGINE CURRY

20140530-143237.jpg

One of my favourite restaurants in Southend specialises in Keralan cuisine – and when I couldn’t afford it but really wanted a rich, spicy curry, I decided to make my own version. Aubergines are comparitively expensive to buy individually, so look out for the bags of three or four, and eat them all week!

Serves 2:

2 aubergines
a pinch of salt
1 onion
a fat clove of garlic
2 tablespoons oil
1 red chilli or a pinch of the dried stuff
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tsp cumin (ground or seeds)
1/4 tsp English mustard
zest and juice of half a lemon, or a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice
1 x 400g carton of chopped tomatoes
a fistful of coriander, to serve

Cut the stems from the ends of the aubergines, and pierce the skin all over with a sharp knife or a fork. Pop into a mixing bowl or saucepan, and cover with cold water and a pinch of salt to draw out the natural bitter flavour. Leave to stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, and toss into a medium pan with the oil. Sweat the onions on a very low heat, stirring to ensure they don’t burn or stick. Finely chop the chilli and add to the pan, or pinch in your dried flakes. Add the turmeric, cumin and mustard, and stir to cook the spices a little.

Remove the aubergines from the water, cut into chunks and add to the pan. Stir in well to coat with the now-spicy oil, add the lemon juice and zest (if using), and turn the heat up to medium to brown the edges of the aubergine. Pour over the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes, until the aubergines are tender.

Finely shred the coriander and scatter on top to serve.

 

Keralan aubergine curry from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe. Available to buy from The Hive, supporting your local independent book shop. Photography by Susan Bell for A Girl Called Jack.

 

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

20140311-124546.jpg

GRANDADS STUFFED CABBAGE LEAVES

20140311-124546.jpg

This is my take on Greek dolmades. I first had stuffed vine leaves at my grandad’s guesthouse in Southend, and deeply regret not pilfering his recipe before he passed away. I wrap mine in cabbage leaves, which will no doubt have him swearing at me from beyond the grave, but these go down well in my house.

(Makes 20) at 30p each
1 large savoy cabbage, 80p
100g rice, 4p
1 tbsp oil, 3p
1 onion, very finely chopped, 9p
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped, 6p
400g minced meat (pork or lamb is best but turkey is good too), £4.50
1 tbsp parsley, chopped, 8p
1 tbsp mint, chopped, 8p
Pinch of cinnamon, 1p
140g tomato puree, 34p

Remove the leaves from the stalk of the cabbage and simmer them in a saucepan of boiling water for a few minutes.

When they’ve softened, remove with a slotted spoon and leave to dry on a clean tea towel or kitchen roll.

Bring the water back to the boil, add the rice and cook for 15 minutes, or until soft and fluffy.

In a separate pan, heat the oil on medium and add the onion, garlic and mince, until the onion has softened and mince has browned. Mix in the rice, parsley, mint, cinnamon and tomato puree and cook for another minute or two.

To make the stuffed leaves, place two teaspoons of the rice and mince mixture into the centre of a leaf, fold in the sides and roll up tightly. Eat them hot with yoghurt, mint and cucumber dip, or cold with a squeeze of lemon.

Jack’s tip
For a more substantial main dish, put the stuffed leaves seam-side down into a roasting tin or casserole dish, pour over a tin of chopped tomatoes or 400ml chicken stock with a few tablespoons of tomato puree stirred in, and bake in the oven at 180C/350F/gas mark four for half an hour.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

First published in The Guardian, Weds 26th Feb. Photography by Graeme Robertson for The Guardian.

20140311-100557.jpg

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…😉

20140221-082749.jpg

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

20140218-211417.jpg

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.

20140218-211417.jpg
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!

20140205-193616.jpg

CURRIED EGGS.

20140205-193616.jpg

I’ve had a hankering for Curried eggs for the past couple of days, I’m not sure why… So tonight, I knocked this one together. Rich and simple, cheap and easy, this is set to become a Major favourite in my household…

Ingredients: (Serves 2)

4 free range eggs
1 onion
1 tbsp oil
1 fresh red chilli or pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin
400g chopped tomatoes
100g frozen or fresh spinach
100g natural or Greek yoghurt

First, pop a pan of water on to the boil for the eggs, and carefully drop them in. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 8 minutes to hard boil them. We’ll come back to those in a minute.

In a separate pan, add the oil and spices, and dice or slice the onion according to preference. Cook on a medium heat for a few minutes to soften the onions.

Carefully remove the eggs from the pan when they are done, and set to one side. Add the rice to the ‘egg water’ – saves you boiling another pot!

Pour the chopped tomatoes over the now-spicy onions, and add the frozen spinach. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer while the rice cooks. (To save energy, you can turn the heat off and cover with foil, a lid or a large plate – the curry sauce will carry on cooking itself but will need a quick blast of heat again before serving.)

Peel and halve the eggs and add to the sauce with the yoghurt, stir in, heat through, and serve with rice. Mango chutney is a great addition to this dish too – I just don’t have any in the fridge. Booooo.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @msjackmonroe

20140122-193423.jpg

CHICKEN LIVER & LENTIL BOLOGNESE

20140122-193423.jpg

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

20131205-004342.jpg

MUFFIZZAS

20131205-004342.jpg

It’s sort of a muffin, sort of a pizza, sort of a ridiculously named open topped toasted sandwich bun thing. I don’t care what you call it, it was my late night munchy snack after 12 hours of travelling today, and it occurred to me that it would be a fab lunchbox alternative to sandwiches, a quick snack, or great for fussy households or involving the kids in cooking because different people can add what they like to theirs. Radical, I know.

I used some of that pesky kale pesto that was rolling around in the freezer, but see below for other suggestions. Pesto of any kind is of course entirely optional, but utterly delicious.

Ingredients, makes 12:

6 white breakfast muffins, halved
400g chopped tomatoes or 140g tomato purée
2 balls of mozzarella
2 tbsp kale pesto (see this recipe here: http://agirlcalledjack.com/2013/10/11/nut-free-super-kale-pesto-15p/ ) – or substitute with finely chopped basil, whole basil leaves, or spinach. Just something green and leafy will do.

This one is easy peasy but a great quick snack, and can be frozen or left to cool and popped in lunch boxes, etc.

Halve the muffins, one muffins will make two muffizzas (ha ha ha, I can’t even type that with a straight face!) Spread a dollop of chopped tomatoes on top or a little tomato purée, right to the edges. Add slices of mozzarella and a dollop of pesto to cover, and toast under the grill for a few minutes or bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 180C. Voila.

Experiment with toppings, mine is loosely based on the classic Italian ‘tricolore’ because I always have some cubes of pesto rolling around in the freezer, cheese in the fridge door and chopped tomatoes in the cupboard… Leftover chilli would be immense on these with a layer of cheese on top, for example…

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

PS: sign my petition at change.org/foodbanks – thanks!!

Reader recipes: Andrew’s spicy lentil and tomato soup

I had this lovely email yesterday, with a delicious soup recipe that sounds perfect for winter lunches or light suppers… If I was making it with what was in the cupboard, i’d use a veg stock cube instead of bouillon and trusty chopped tomatoes, but only because I usually have them kicking around! Thanks Andrew for sharing, I hope you all enjoy this one.

Love your website and what you do for budget cooking and food poverty awareness. I made this the other day and it was lovely (and cheap):

Spicy Tomato and Lentil Soup

One small onion
One leek
One small carrot
Tsp olive/sunflower oil
6 medium fresh tomatoes
1 tsp dried organo
Tablespoon tomato puree
Half tsp cayenne pepper
Tablespoon veg bouillon powder (low salt)
200g Red lentils

Method

Put tomatoes in boiling water.
Gently fry finely chopped onion, leek and grated carrot until soft but not brown.
Use water from tomatoes to make up veg stock, skin and chop toms.
Add toms, oregano, cayenne pepper and puree to pan and fry the mix until soft but not sticking to the pan (about 5 mins).
Mash down and bit with potato masher (you can blend if you like smooth soup, I don’t).
Add veg stock and bring to the boil.
Wash lentils until water is clear and then add to soup.
Cook gently until lentils are soft but still intact, add more water, seasoning as necessary.
Great with fresh homemade wholemeal bread.

Don’t know how much it costs but not much, tastes delicious and makes absolutely loads.

Love

Andrew

If you have a favourite frugal recipe you would like to share, please email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk – thanks!

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

Reader recipes: Gill’s potatoes, tomatoes and cheese.

I had this email and recipe from Gill earlier this week, and it’s my kind of recipe – with no strict quantities or weighing or measuring! I have all of these ingredients at home so after what promises to be a busy day today, here’s what I’m having for my dinner…

Hi Jack, love your blog and your tips!

Here’s a great recipe, it’s cheap, filling, and everybody loves it!

You need (in whatever quantities will suit your needs)

Potatoes
Cheese
One tin of tomatoes (chopped, if cheaper, or chop own)
Onion
Salt & Pepper

Slice the potatoes and the onions thinly.
Layer in a lidded dish, interspersing with the cheese (can be grated, cheese that has gone a bit hard, even blue cheese works, so just whatever cheese you have, in whatever quantities you have).
Season each layer.
Half way through tip half of the tinned tomatoes in.
Continue layering and seasoning.
Finish with the rest of the tinned tomatoes.

Bake for a couple of hours or so on a medium (about 170/180) heat. Or can be microwaved if you are in a rush. This dish is very forgiving in terms of how you cook it.

Tasty enough to serve alone or have as an accompaniment to sausages, chicken thighs, etc.,

It’s a great standby ‘store cupboard’ dish!

Hope it’s useful!

Gill

If you have a favourite frugal recipe or tip to share, email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

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

Ready Meal Revolution: Ready meal lasagne, 75p, vs home made free range pork lasagne, 69p.

20131028-165507.jpg

So I’m home from a much-needed rest in Brighton and back in the kitchen with my sleeves rolled up…

One of the most popular dishes I’ve been asked to take on is the humble lasagne – and I’ve been putting it off, firstly, because I’ve Never Made Lasagne Before. Ever. But, i’ve eaten enough of it to know it’s made up of a meat ragu, a white sauce, and some layers of pasta – how hard could it be?

The ready meal version I based it on was made with beef, and cost 75p per 300g portion.

My lasagne was made with free range pork, and this recipe made 6 portions at just under 69p per portion. (If you use the equivalent ‘basic’ mince, it reduces the cost to 42p per portion.)

In the interests of fairness, both of these meals were cooked before photographing. I’m not sure you can tell with the white one…

Ingredients:

1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp skimmed milk powder
200ml water
1/2 a mozzarella cheese ball
450g free range pork mince
1 onion
2 tsp mixed herbs
1 small tin double concentrated tomato purée
1 stock cube diluted in 150ml water
9 lasagne sheets

Some people like to cook the pasta sheets first to reduce the cooking time in the oven, I decided immediately that I am one of those people. Lasagne can be cooked from frozen if the pasta sheets are uncooked, but will take around 40 minutes to an hour in the oven from frozen. I decided to cook my pasta sheets first and finish them off in the oven at the end to crisp up, so put them in a large shallow pan of water to boil without sticking together. Lift out with a wooden spoon or one of those egg turner things that probably has a more technical name than that.

While the pasta cooks, make the ragu! Add the onions, mince and herbs to a medium saucepan and cook on a medium heat to brown the mince and soften the onions. (I didn’t add oil as it seeps out of the mince, but add a splash if you want.) When the mince is brown, not pink, add the tomato purée and stock, and bring to the boil. Boil for a few minutes to ensure the mince is cooked through, then transfer to a large bowl to stand, to develop the flavours.

Rinse and dry the saucepan, and make the white sauce by mixing the oil, flour and skimmed milk powder in a saucepan. Stir together on a low heat for a minute or two until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add a splash of water to make a paste. Stir well to eliminate any lumps, add a splash more water, and repeat until only half the water is left, stirring continuously to stop lumps from forming. Tear or cut the cheese into small pieces and add to the pan, and bring to the boil to melt in. Reduce back to a low heat and stir well.

Make the lasagne by layering ragu sauce in the bottom of each foil tray, or one large roasting/Pyrex style dish. Lay the pasta sheets on top (I used 3/4’of a pasta sheet per layer for the foil tins, if making a large lasagne then use half the available sheets). Spread a thin layer of the mozzarella sauce on top.

Add a second layer of ragu, then pasta, then a thick layer of the mozzarella sauce.

To eat immediately: blast in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 200C, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.

To freeze: allow to cool completely and pop in the freezer. To cook from frozen, pop in the oven at 200C for 30 minutes.

Ingredients cost breakdown, all prices Sainsburys and Sainsburys Basics, correct at time of writing:
1 tbsp oil, 3p (£4/3l). 1 tbsp flour, 3p (65p/1.5kg). 2 tbsp skimmed milk powder, 5p (£1.01/400g). 200ml water. 1/2 a mozzarella cheese ball, 25p (50p each). 450g free range pork mince, £3 (2 for £6). 1 loose onion, 11p. 2 tsp mixed herbs, 3p (30p/jar). 1 small tin double concentrated tomato purée, 35p. 1 stock cube diluted in 150ml water, 2p (20p/10 cubes). 9 lasagne sheets, 25p (39p/14 sheets).

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

Jack vs Ready Meal: Liver and Mash.

20131023-165836.jpg

Jack versus the ready meal, take two. (Mine’s the one in the silver container!!)

Today’s challenge was to make liver taste nice. Yeah, I know. My only experience of liver was as a childhood dinner, and I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to this one bit. But onwards – perhaps my palate has changed…

The ‘ready meal’ version, in it’s most basic form, retails at 75p for a one-person, 300g meal. I decided to see if I could do the same, using similar ingredients…

The ready meal version contained: Potato, water, liver, onion, milk, cornflour, double cream, rapeseed oil, flour, sugar, salt, tomato purée, malted barley extract, black pepper, thyme, white pepper.

I’ve knocked out the milk, cornflour, cream, flour, sugar, salt, malted barley extract, and both types of pepper for a start – and I still reckon mine will taste better. (This is how I started cooking on the cheap, by scanning through ‘celebrity chefs’ ingredients on their recipes and simply eliminating the ones that had no real purpose. Works for me!) So…

Jacks Ready Meal Liver and Mash, 44p.

Ingredients (serves four, costs below):

Around 1kg tinned potatoes (not drained weight)

500g chicken livers, thoroughly rinsed
1 onion
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mixed herbs
400g chopped tomatoes

First, place the potatoes in a pan of boiling water and simmer gently to soften. Depending on where you buy them, tinned potatoes will already be quite soft, but not quite ‘ready to mash’.

While the potatoes simmer, dice the onion and liver and add to a frying or sauté pan with the oil and herbs. Sauté gently on a medium heat for around 8 minutes, and stir to disturb on occasion to prevent them from burning.

Pour the tomatoes over and crank the heat up to high to boil and thicken. Stir well for a minute or two, then remove from the heat.

Drain and mash the potatoes, keeping a little of the water (around 2tbsp) in the pan for a creamy mash consistency.

Top the mash with the liver and sauce, and serve.

Make it better:

To make it better, and go even further, add an equal amount of chopped bacon to the liver while it is frying. You can also add a splash of milk to the mash if you like it creamy, and serve with green veg.

The supermarket ready meal was 300g for 75p- my recipe made 4 x 400g portions at 44p each – result!

And… I scoffed the lot. So hooray for liver – it’s a great source of iron, B vitamins and protein, too.

Ingredients costs based on Sainsburys and Sainsburys Basics:
1080g tinned potatoes, 38p (19p/540g can). 500g chicken livers, £1 (50p/250g). 1 onion, 11p. 1 tbsp oil, 3p (£4/3l). 1 tsp mixed herbs, 3p (30p/jar). 400g chopped tomatoes, 35p. All prices correct at time of writing.

20131023-170129.jpg

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe.

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).

20130904-095403.jpg

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

Spiced chicken and mandarin tagine, 68p.

20130819-211231.jpg

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

Baked trout in best tomato sauce, with lemon and herb rice. 33p.

20130711-070215.jpg

People often ask me why I don’t buy items from the Reduced chiller at the supermarket: well I do, I just don’t tend to blog about them, on the basis that they aren’t dependable, and price reductions vary from supermarket chain to supermarket chain, and even store to store. However, on finding a packet of trout in my local supermarket for 70 pence this evening, it was too good not to share.

You can substitute the trout in this recipe for white fish fillets: Sainsburys do a frozen bag of white fish for £1.75, for 520g, which would make the fish in this recipe 81p for a 240g portion, so only 2-3p more expensive per head than my bargain trout.

Ingredients: (Served 4 at 33p each)

240g trout, (normal price £2.41, reduced 70p) or 240g white fish fillets (£1.75/520g)

1 tablespoon sunflower oil, 3p (£4.50/3l)

400g chopped tomatoes, 31p (31p/400g)

1 onion, 11p (each)

1 chilli, free

200g white rice, 8p (40p/1kg)

Fistful of parsley and basil, free

Juice and zest of half a lemon, 8p (84p, bag of 5 fruits)

Method:

Firstly, prepare the tomato sauce. Peel and dice the onion and add to a saucepan with the chopped tomatoes. Place on a low heat and allow to simmer.

Pop the herbs into a tea cup (my preferred method of chopping them!) and chop into them with kitchen scissors until they are finely chopped. Grate the lemon zest in, half the lemon and squeeze the juice from one half in. Tip most of the herbs and lemon mixture into the tomatoes and onions, and reserve some for the rice.

While the onions are gently softening in the tomatoes, and the herbs infusing the sauce with their own special wonderfulness, now would be a good time to pop the rice on to boil. Bring a saucepan of cold water to the boil, add the rice, and reduce to a simmer.

Set the oven to 150C, pop the trout on a baking tray skin side down with a smudge of oil to prevent it from sticking, and bake for 10-12 minutes until opaque and pinkish. By this time, all being well, the rice should be nice and fluffy…

Drain any excess water from the rice, and tip in the remaining lemon and herb mixture. Spoon onto plates or into bowls. Break up the trout into large chunks with a fork, (tip any excess juice or oil into the tomato sauce and give it a quick stir). Serve the trout next to or on top of the rice, and top generously with the tomato sauce. Garnish with extra herbs if available, and enjoy the melty goodness…

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Photography by Susan Bell

Mexican Chocolate, Chilli & Black Bean Soup

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

Serves 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by Susan Bell

Photography by Susan Bell

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

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

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.

20130304-200438.jpg

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.)

Really Tomatoey Basilly Soup

This is so simple that I feel cheeky calling it a recipe, but it’s one for all those folks that say to me, ‘Oh I’d love to make soup but I don’t know where to start.’ well, start here and see where it takes you. There’s even some chopping of vegetables involved, so brace yourselves. Tinned soup contains among other things modified maize starch, whey powder, ascorbic acid and other things I’m not entirely sure what they are – so make my own and get something good inside you.

Serves 2

1 onion
1 large carrot
1 potato
1 vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 400ml boiling water
1 x 400g carton or tin chopped tomatoes
a generous handful of fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil

Peel and slice the onion, and wash and chop the carrot and potato into small pieces. (I make mine 0.5cm thick or less so they cook faster and blend more easily. I also leave the skins on for all the extra goodness.)

Put all the vegetables into a saucepan and pour in the stock to cover. Tip the chopped tomatoes over the top, add the basil and bring to an enthusiastic boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to its own souper-duper devices for approximately 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Test by poking a fork into one of them – if it goes through easily, then they’re done.

Blend in a food processor until smooth, and serve hot.
Tip: This will keep in the fridge for about 3 days – but use your discretion, I keep my fridge extra cold so food lasts longer. Cool and freeze in an airtight container for approximately 3 months.

‘Really Tomatoey Basilly Soup’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Photography by Susan Bell.

Mumma Jacks Best Ever Chilli

This chilli is adapted from a beef chilli recipe by Gordon Ramsay. I simply left out the beef and halved the wine to make it cheaper – plus, of course, Mr Ramsay doesn’t use a tin of cheap baked beans in his version! I’ve tweaked and fiddled with it so much over the years that now it’s not Gordon’s chilli, it’s Mumma Jack’s.

Serves 4

1 x 400g tin of red kidney beans
1 x 400g tin of baked beans in tomato sauce or plain haricot beans
1 onion
1 small chilli, chopped
a shake of paprika
a shake of ground cumin
a splash of oil
75ml red table wine
1 x 400g carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
3 squares dark chocolate

Tip both tins of beans into a colander and rinse thoroughly. If you are using baked beans in tomato sauce, make sure to rinse it all off. Pop the beans into a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, then reduce to a gentle simmer.

Peel and dice the onion and put into a large sauté pan along with the chopped chilli, paprika and cumin. Add the oil and cook on a low heat until the onion softens into a spicy sweetness. Pour in the wine, add the chopped tomatoes and crumble in the stock cube, then simmer all together on a low heat.

When the beans have softened, drain and tip into the sauce. Add the chocolate and stir until the beans are mixed through and the chocolate is melted.

Tips: This chilli will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days if allowed to cool and stored in an airtight container. Delicious eaten cold stuffed in pitta breads or wraps for next day’s lunch.

Photography by Susan Bell.

Photography by Susan Bell.

‘Mumma Jack’s Best Ever Chilli’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Spiced Lentil Soup

This spiced lentil soup is comforting winter food – I keep tinned carrots, tomatoes and a bag of lentils on standby for those evenings when the Small Boy is already tucked up in bed and snoozing and there’s not much else in the fridge or kitchen cupboard. I’ve used red lentils here, but brown lentils or green ones are just as delicious. Take this recipe as a guide to start experimenting with.

Serves 4

1 onion
2 fat cloves of garlic
1 small red chilli or a pinch of the dried stuff
2 carrots or 300g tinned carrots (drained weight)
1 tablespoon oil (vegetable, sunflower or groundnut)
1 teaspoon ground cumin or cumin seeds
a handful of fresh coriander or parsley
1 x 400g carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
200g dried red lentils, rinsed

Peel and slice the onion, peel and finely chop the garlic, finely slice the chilli and wash and slice the carrots. Put the oil into a medium heavy-based saucepan, add the vegetables plus the chilli and cumin, and cook on a low heat, stirring to soften. Chop the coriander or parsley and add to the pan.

When the onions have started to soften, pour over the chopped tomatoes and add the lentils. Add 1 litre of water (that’s four cups of water for every cup of lentils). Stir and turn the heat up to bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils have swollen.

Serve chunky or pulse in a blender until smooth.

Tips: Thicken leftover soup with extra cooked lentils to make a pasta sauce, or simply use less water in the first place. Toss with pasta and grate some cheese on top for added deliciousness.

For a richer-flavoured soup, add a glass of red or white wine and reduce the amount of water slightly.

‘Spiced Lentil Soup’ from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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

Photography by Susan Bell

Use-Me-For-Anything Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce is exactly what its name says – a wonderfully versatile sauce for all occasions. It was inspired by a basic tomato sauce in Economy Gastronomy by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett – which is a brilliant guide to cooking fantastic food on a budget. With mine, I make a batch, eat some, fridge some, and freeze some for later. This makes 6 small portions.

2 tbsp oil (sunflower, vegetable or groundnut are my favourites)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chilli, chopped and deseeded, or a pinch of chilli flakes
2 tbsp red wine or red wine vinegar (optional)
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree or tomato ketchup

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the chopped onion. Stir in the garlic and chilli and cook on a medium heat until the onions are translucent and sweet.

Measure the wine or wine vinegar into the pan and stir for a few minutes on a low heat until the pungent alcohol or vinegary smell subsides. Then add the remaining ingredients to the pan – the chopped tomatoes and the puree or ketchup. Cook gently, stirring occasionally to disturb and prevent it from burning – for 20 minutes, by which time the sauce should be thickened and a gorgeous glossy red.

Remove from the heat and serve, or divide into portions and either put into the fridge, or allow to cool completely before freezing.

TIPS: I usually eat some immediately over 75g of spaghetti (cooked, 75g is the dried weight!). The remainder can be stored in small Tupperware containers, or if you have children, an ice cube tray makes for handy portion sizes for a quick dinner.

Use it as the base for a sort-of ratatouille, by adding any veg from the bottom of the fridge or freezer drawer.

For a lovely savoury flavour, try adding 6-8 anchovies, broken into chunks, with a tablespoon of sliced black olives and a handful of chopped fresh basil stirred in at the end.

‘Use Me For Anything Tomato Sauce’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe, available here.

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

Photography by Susan Bell

Photography by Susan Bell