Cooking on a Bootstrap – Basic White Loaf – 40p a loaf.

COOB - 1A.jpgBack to the real spirit of the blog: good food on a very tight budget. Obtained a copy of Jack Monroe’s new book, Cooking on a Bootstrap, and started with recipe no. 1: “basic white” bread. The recipe is as simple as one can get, even simpler and cheaper than my previous bread post.

Cooking on a Bootstrap – Basic White Loaf


  • 400 g plain white flour.
  • 1½ level teaspoons dried yeast.
  • Pinch of salt.
  • 250 ml warm water.
  • Teaspoon of oil.

What to do:

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Mix the flour, year and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the water, stirring everything together to make a dough.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Jack suggests rubbing a teaspoon of oil onto the palms of your hands first, and it does work well, stopping the fresh dough sticking to you.

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Let the dough rise under a tea-towel for 1 hour, then into the over at 180°C for 40 minutes.

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The result is an uncomplicated plain white loaf, which, including electricity and washing-up, cost about 40p a loaf using a mini-oven, or 4 pence per thick slice. (Baking it in a large, high wattage oven would, of course, raise the cost by 10p or more.)

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Jack’s Carrot, Cumin and Kidney Bean Burger (20p)

Facebook post 16 Mar 2016.


This is arguably the recipe that brought Jack Monroe into the limelight and the first one that I tried.

1202340The original 2013 blog (superseded by in late 2015) where this and other recipes were originally posted are archived here, and a BBC Business article featuring Jack a couple of weeks later here. I discovered the recipes in 2015 and their simplicity and low cost got me interested in cooking for myself.

I did a bit of basic cheffing many years ago, and it was these articles that promoted me to ‘take up the knife’ again.

Astonishingly, discovered a single ‘web ghost‘ showing the place I used to work, although the date stamped on the photograph (2003) is impossible – the business was dissolved in 1997 (I was there a few years earlier) and has changed hands and names several times since. Mixed memories, but mostly great fun and window into a world I could never have imagined.


For my version of the CCK burgers I finely chopped an onion, grated three smallish carrots, and then located the dustpan and brush and swept up all the bits of onion, peel and carrot chippings which had appeared on the kitchen floor and elsewhere.

Drove to Tesco to buy a proper can opener because the budget one I got from there didn’t work and was grinding bits of metal into the tin of kidney beans I was trying to open. Spent a few pounds on a decent one, and successfully opened the tin.


Rinsed the goo off the beans, covered them with water in a saucepan, brought to boil then simmered for 15 minutes. Meanwhile soft fried the veg.


Mashed everything together with a heaped teaspoon of flour and teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder, then with floury hands made burger shapes and browned them off in the frying pan.


Toasted some brown bread and made a burgerwich. With a dash of tabasco it was excellent.. There was enough mix left to make 4 more. Cost as a meal (inc. bread, butter, tea and electricity, but not petrol to get to Tesco and get the new can opener), 20p.


Cheese on toast (22p)

The next few posts are ones originally posted on my Facebook page, which I’m going to copy to Cooking for Nothing so it’s easier for me (and others) to find them. This means there’ll be several posts in rapid succession – apologies if this temporarily floods anyone’s email inbox or blog reader with my recipes, but it’ll only happen this once.

Two slices of homemade bread (click here for recipe) with a sprinkle of grated cheese and cup of tea – a meal for 22p.


Nutella addicts’ substitute


Addicted to Nutella? Someone at work mentioned that during the war people made a cheap chocolate spread from condensed milk and cocoa powder. Tried it – a couple of teaspoons of cocoa mixed with a tin of condensed milk – and it works! It also tastes surprisingly like Nutella, which makes one realise that it’s the sugar (57% in Nutella) and chocolate that’s the addictive bit, not the nuts particularly.


Homemade v. the other.

Nutella costs something between 50p and 75p per 100g. A Tesco tin of sweetened condensed milk is £1 for 400g and cocoa powder is £1.99 for 250g, but the latter lasts a long time as only used in small amounts. Estimated cost per 100g of spread … 28p, half the price of Nutella.


The jar is 58% sugar and 30% fat and oil, plus some milk solids, cocoa, lecithin (a smoothing/thickening agent) and synthetic vanilla flavouring. The ingredients label states “13% HAZELNUT” in bold, not mentioning that hazelnuts themselves are 60% fat and oil. For ‘health’ one would do better eating a handful of real nuts, drinking a glass of milk and going for a walk.

Nutella‘s reputation has been struggling recently due to the palm oil content. Palm oil plantations are one of the biggest causes of deforestation globally and it may also be carcinogenic when heated. The first claim is incorrect – Nutella use only oil from sustainably-managed plantations and the company has been praised by Greenpeace for its environmental work. Carcinogenic? Possibly, but nothing compared to a charred burger at a garden barbecue or the alcohol and chemicals in a bottle of wine. The claims are wholly disproportionate.


After multiple taste tests, I actually preferred my own version. A small pot kept in the fridge comes in very handy for those ‘craving-something-sweet’ moments or a quick fix when looking for something to put on a slice of bread. Enjoyed experimenting with this, but I don’t think chocolate spread is going to be a big part of my future diet, having seen the amount of sugar one is casually consuming.


Savoury mushroom pancakes (23p)

The meal

The ingredients:

  • 120 g plain flour
  • 2 eggs (small or medium)
  • 210 ml milk
  • 90 ml water
  • 1 tbs cooking oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 300 g mushrooms
  • Small red onion (or half a big one!)
  • salt and pepper – grated peppercorns, not the fine powdery stuff.

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Mix the flour and salt, mix in the eggs, add the milk and water, kept mixing until it is smooth. Then leave it for half-an-hour while you cook the other bits.

Fine-chop the onion and fry until it is soft and put it on one side. Thin-slice the mushrooms and pile them into the pan.


Cook on a medium heat (i.e., if your dials read the typical 1-6, cook on 3). The moisture comes out of them and they cook in their own juices until they’ve shrunk to about one-third of the original volume. When the pan starts to dry and some of the mushrooms start browning they’re done. Mix the onion back in.


Now for the pancakes! Stir the tablespoon of oil into the pancake mix. You don’t need any oil in the pan, just get it really hot, add a small ladle-full of the mixture (about 70 ml to be pedantic) and off you go. Have a go at tossing the things to turn them over. The occasional one does end up on the deck or concertinas itself up in the pan, but that’s all part of the fun. I find each pancake takes about three minutes. Makes six, less casualties.


The frying pan’s the important thing – got to be in good condition. Don’t put up with one that’s losing its non-stickiness, bin it and get a new one.

Spoon the mushroom-onion mix along one side of each pancake and roll the things up. Eat immediately or reheat in the frying pan – I like them best this way, browned on either side and slightly crispy – and with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I’ve even eaten them cold.


Two with a cup of tea and a wedge of good bread makes a meal for 23p.

There’s always variations: could add some bacon bits, or alternatively cook the mushrooms with a good shake of all-purpose seasoning, although this takes away the essence of the dish – that you can taste the mushrooms.