Jack Monroe. Echo/Gazette 31st Jan 2013. Photograph by AL UNDERWOOD.

Jack Monroe, ‘Chef For Less’: Echo & Gazette 31st Jan

After a day spent cooking for the Telegraph, I sit down to relax with my local rag and…


“I have a tiny kitchen and a tiny budget, and a tiny boys mouth to feed on a daily basis. I grow herbs on my window sill (currently coriander, rosemary, parsley, thyme and mint, wedged in rusty loaf tins) where they topple off when I turn the tap on in my sink to do the washing up.

I spent a year unemployed from 2011-2012, and with a budget of around £10 per week for food for myself and Small Boy.

As phrases like ‘double dip recession’ ‘austerity’ and ‘fiscal cliff’ graced the news headlines and hit the wallets of the nations, I moved from shopping online and having swanky organic fruit and vegetables delivered in a recyclable cardboard box, to living out of the orange and white livery of the Basics range at my local supermarket.

The ardent foodie in me was utterly miserable. Cheap processed ready meals and a lack of fruit and vegetables led to poor sleep patterns, a constantly hungry child, and for the first time in my life, my skin broke out in big angry spots. Something bad was going in, and nothing good was coming out of it.

I decided to dust off my gingham apron and cook meals from scratch, as cheaply as I possibly could. I cut down on meat and dairy products, out of necessity, and fell in love with home cooked food again.

The results were, and continue to be, surprising. I have found that my £10 a week budget extends to home baked breads for breakfast, thick wholesome protein-packed soups, winter warming casseroles and curries and stews, home made burgers and piles of fruit and vegetables.

Small Boy and I are healthier, happier, still a bit soft around the edges, with three meals a day and a supply of bread and snacks as and when we want them. Cooking for one and a half people used to feel pointless and laborious; now it’s quick, delightful, with minimal preparation and washing up. All my recipes listed can be made easily for one hungry person, or one person and a child, or in multiples thereof.

Being a single parent means I don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen, so most of my recipes are quick and simple. There’s no tarting about, no fancy expensive ingredients, but still, when I call my friends and invite them over for dinner, I manage to fill a table and they manage to clear their plates with compliments and smiles and disbelief that I do it so cheaply. In January 2013, my Pasta Alla Genovese cost just 19 pence per portion to make, when a leading restaurant would charge £15 for the same.”

(Accompanied by recipes for Pasta Alla Genovese at 19p per portion, and Tomato And Haricot Bean Soup at 15p per portion. Also pictured is my Mandarin And Poppy Seed Loaf at 38p per loaf.)

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe


Garlic, Herb & Lemon Bread

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

Makes 1 small loaf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warm Spicy Daal by Jack Monroe

Warm Spicy Daal

There are many different recipes for daal, made with different types of split peas, lentils and even chickpeas, so here is a simple basic one to get you started. From here, feel free to customize to your own taste by adding plain yoghurt, coconut yoghurt or different herbs and spices. I like to eat mine from a deep bowl with a toasted pitta bread or two – or a naan bread if you can stretch to that.

Serves 3

100g dried red lentils
1 onion
1 teaspoon ground cumin
a splash of oil
1 chicken stock cube, dissolved in 1 litre boiling water
1 x 400g carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander, plus extra to serve

Rinse the lentils in cold water and drain. Place in a saucepan, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that rises with a spoon.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion into small pieces and place into a small frying pan with the cumin and oil. Fry gently for a few minutes to release the spice’s flavour and soften the onion. Then add to the saucepan containing the lentils along with the stock, chopped tomatoes and coriander.

Reduce to a low heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are swollen. Check towards the end of cooking and add a little more water if required.

Stir well, then serve garnished with more chopped coriander.

Tip: If you’ve got some, use coconut milk instead of the chopped tomatoes and substitute ground turmeric for the ground cumin for a rich, sweet, creamier tasting version.

‘Warm Spicy Daal’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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




This definitely doesn’t class as a recipe. More something cheap, fun and edible to do with the kids. Cornflakes and peanut butter were staple ingredients of my original £10 a week shop, and these treats were the product of a rainy day at home with a toddler and a desire for something sweet and delicious. Small Boy called them ‘My Cakeys’, hence the name.

Makes 30 small cornflake cakes:

100g white chocolate
1 heaped tablespoon peanut butter
50g cornflakes, crushed

Break the chocolate up into a microwaveable bowl. Add the peanut butter. Put the bowl in the microwave on a low or defrost setting for 2 minutes to melt. Do NOT be tempted to put it in on a higher heat to rush it – white chocolate burns easily, stinks, and curdles. It’s just two minutes, tough it out.

Stir the melted white chocolate and peanut butter together until well mixed and an even beige colour.

Crush the cornflakes into the bowl, adding a handful at a time, and stir in. Keep adding cornflakes until you can’t coat them all any more in the peanut butter and chocolate mixture. Spoon heaped teaspoon-sized dollops onto a very lightly greased baking tray or onto baking paper.

Allow to set. If you want them RIGHT NOW, pop the tray in the fridge for 10 minutes.

My cakeys recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe. Available to order from The Hive, to support your local independent book shops. Also available to buy from major retailers and supermarkets.

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





This simple, delicious mushroom casserole is perfect easy comfort for cold evenings. Serve with a heap of fluffy mashed potatoes, or atop some plain rice, for a delicious dinner.

Serves 2:

1 onion
2 fat cloves of garlic
400g mushrooms
2 tablespoons oil
a fistful of fresh thyme or a shake of mixed dried herbs
100ml red wine
1 x 400g carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube

Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Gently clean any excess earth from the mushrooms with a clean tea towel and break them up, or slice them.

Pour the oil into a medium frying or saute pan, and add the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Pick the thyme leaves and scatter on top, and cook for 10 minutes on a low heat to soften the onions and garlic.

Pour in the wine, stir in the chopped tomatoes and crumble in the stock cube, and bring to a bubbling boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. (Alternatively, to use less energy when cooking, blast on a high heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning and sticking, then remove from the heat, cover and leave to stand for an hour – which will meld the flavours together and thicken the sauce without using so much gas or electricity. Simply heat through before serving.)

Mushroom chasseur recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

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


Chickpea & Tomato Best Brunch Loaf

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

Makes 1 small loaf:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pasta Alla Genovese by Jack Monroe

Pasta Alla Genovese, 19p.

Pasta Alla Genovese: Serves 2 adults at 19p per portion (or in my case, 1 adult, 1 small boy, and 1 next day lunchtime snack portion!)

Pasta Alla Genovese by Jack Monroe<;


100g spaghetti (8p: 40p for 500g)
50g fine green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1cm pieces (7p: £1.40/kg, frozen)
200g potatoes, cut into 2cm chunks (8p: 15p for 540g can)
Handful of basil leaves (Free, growing on my window ledge!)
Handful of mint leaves (Free, also growing on my window ledge!)
Pinch of grated parmesan cheese to serve, 10g approx (9p, £2.30/200g)
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed (3p: 46p for 2 bulbs, average 8 cloves per bulb)
Splash of vegetable or sunflower oil, 20ml approx (3p: £1.69/1l)

1. Break the long spaghetti in half for ease of cooking, serving, and eating, especially if you are intending to feed your children with it. It’s personal preference, but I prefer that I can just throw my spaghetti in the pan and let it do its thing. Cover with water, bring to the boil, back down to a simmer, and allow to simmer for ten minutes.

2. While the spaghetti is cooking, take the frustrations of the day out on your basil and garlic. I have a lovely bright red pestle and mortar that was a gift from a friend, but if you don’t have one, finely chop the basil and mint and crush the garlic. I find the best way to do this is to pop it in a bowl andc go some with the kitchen scissors, if you haven’t got Gordon Ramsays chopping technique down pat. If you do have a pestle and mortar, add the basil and mint leaves and garlic, and pound away until well combined into a satisfying mush. Add the parmesan and four teaspoons (20ml) of oil. Set to one side.

3. Add the potatoes and green beans to the pan. Twiddle thumbs for five minutes, or have a glass of water, or half-heartedly tidy the kitchen. It’s only five minutes, for goodness sake. I usually just stand and watch, flick a dishcloth around, and fiddle with my pesto a bit. Add a splash of the pasta/potato cooking water to the pesto to make a runny sauce, and by now it will all be ready to drain.

4. Drain the pasta/potato/green beans, and toss back into the saucepan. Spoon the pesto over, work it through the pasta quickly with a fork to coat it, shake it all up a bit and serve. If you want to be seriously carb-happy with your dinner, a nice buttered crusty roll goes down a treat with this. Add some extra parmesan to the top if you like, some black pepper, and eat. Proper winter comfort food, all carb-happy and filling and delicious…

If you have a little more money than me to spend in your weekly shop, you can separately fry pancetta pieces or crispy bacon, and toss in at the end with some spooned-in chunks of goats cheese in place of the parmesan. You know, if you have some rogue pancetta or bacon lying about that you don’t know what to do with, you could make this seriously special. With a smug sort of smile that it took you ten minutes at most…

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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